A Buyer’s Guide To Choosing The Perfect Table Top
With so many different sizes, shapes and materials to choose from, it can be hard knowing where to start when you’re choosing your perfect table top. The size of the table you need, the aesthetic you’re trying to achieve in the home and what the table will be used for are all important factors to consider.
That’s why we’ve pulled together our buyers guide to choosing the perfect table top. You can also read more about dining tables in our dining table buying guide.
- Table Top Shapes
- Table Top Materials
- Table Top Sizes
- Table Top Bases
- Table Base Types
- Other FAQ’s
Table Top Shapes
When you think of a table top, many people automatically think of a square, rectangle or circle. In reality, there are many different shapes you can opt for including ovals, semi circles, and more irregular shapes.
Rectangular Table Tops
Rectangular table tops are perhaps one of the most popular choices when it comes to picking a table. The simple, linear shape of a rectangular table easily fits into most rooms, allowing for ease of movement when walking around the table.
They are practical, functional and perhaps most importantly, a comfortable option to have in the home. The long, narrow design lends itself to large-scale entertaining; you can often fit more people round the table compared to other shape tables. In a small room, a rectangle table can be easily pushed up against the wall to save space, and pulled out when you have guests over, especially if you opt for bench seating. Rectangular tables are also extremely versatile; you can easily add eaves to create an extendable table top.
Square Table Tops
Another popular choice when it comes to tables is the square table top. Ideal for those with a smaller living space, square tables are a great way to maintain balance and proportion in rooms that are symmetrical.
Typically seating four to eight guests (depending on the size), square tables often aren’t as big as their rectangular counterparts. Nonetheless, as each person is seated equal distance from one another, conversation is always comfortable and relaxed. In addition, if you ever require more table space you can always push two square tables together.
Round/Circular Table Tops
Circular dining tables are perfect for small spaces. They allow you to move freely around the space without bumping into any sharp corners.
A big pro of round tables is that their seating capacity is not as rigid as rectangular or square tops; you can always squeeze a few additional people around the table. It’s also probably one of the most sociable shaped tables as the round shape creates a more intimate and “equal” setting.
Nonetheless, round tables can be tricky to place in the home as they can’t be put into a corner or sit against a flat wall. So, if you’re going to opt for a round table, make sure you choose a spot for it first.
Oval Table Tops
A modern take on the circular table top, oval table tops are becoming an increasingly popular choice in the home.
An oval dining table combines the linear simplicity of a rectangular top, but with the intimacy of a round one; it’s the best of both worlds! Oval tops are often similar to rectangular ones in terms of size, so you can generally fit more people around it. However, the curved nature of the top visually appears to occupy less space so to the naked eye it makes the space look bigger.
Similar to a circular table, due to its round edges an oval table doesn’t have a predefined number of seats. That means whenever you get a last-minute guest turn up, it’s really easy to add another chair.
D – Shape/Semi Circle Table Tops
A D-shaped (semi-circle) table top is a great way to furnish spaces of all shapes and sizes.
Although D shaped tables are more commonly used associated with console tables or office desks, they provide a number of benefits when used as a dining table too. The flat side of the table is able to sit flat against a wall whilst the round side provides an aesthetically pleasing finish with ample space. Furthermore, they’re often sold with a “butterfly top” that can fold up into a full circle giving you more table space when required, without compromising on space.
Irregular Shaped Table Tops
For those who really want to be different and get a dining table that is sure to stand out, opting for an irregular shaped table top is the perfect way to achieve a one-of-a-kind look. Choosing a custom made table top means you can add your creative flair to your home, and get a table made to measure for your space.
The downside to having a bespoke irregularly shaped table is you really need to make sure you have the space to accommodate it. Otherwise, you run the risk that the table will make the space look cramped and small which will take away from it’s wow-factor.
Table Top Materials
Choosing the right material for your tabletop is another important consideration as you’ll need to factor in what the table is being used for and how you want it to look. For example, we wouldn’t recommend a nice oak table in an orangery unless you were willing to keep it covered when not in use as the sun will likely discolour the wood.
Solid Wooden Table Tops
Solid wood table tops are perhaps one of the most popular choices when it comes to dining tables. Beautiful but also hard-wearing, it’s a great option for those looking for an investment piece of furniture. When choosing a solid wood table there are various wood types to consider depending on budget and desired style.
Oak is a beautiful and generally hard wearing wood. As oak trees need a longer growth period, the wood produced is dense which means, when cared for properly, the table will last a long time. Oak can come in many colours and variations so you’ll be able to get quite specific in your choice of style. However, stain can overly darken and exaggerate the grain so it can end up looking two-toned.
Ash is not only beautiful in appearance, but also incredibly hard wearing too. Light brown in colour, the wood typically has a straight grain giving it a uniform and attractive look. Ash tends to be slightly cheaper than other hardwoods as it’s widely available around the world, so is an affordable option. However, open holes can be found on the surface of the wood due to the nature of the grain which often need to be filled and it is prone to bending if exposed to moisture for a prolonged period of time.
Beech wood is an extremely hard-wearing and durable solid wood. The nature of the wood means it will resist gouging and chipping better than some other woods, ideal for high-traffic areas of the home such as a kitchen or dining room. It’s also a shock absorbing wood, meaning it can bear a lot of weight and receive high-impact force without damage. Naturally light in colour, Beech wood has a fine and straight grain, giving it a beautiful uniform texture. Whilst Beech is a durable wood, it’s not suitable for outdoor use as it’s not resistant against the weather, and is extremely heavy which may make it difficult to move around the home.
Teak wood has a very high oil content, making it very weather resistant. This makes it a great option when it comes to garden furniture. The natural properties of the wood also make it resistant to light and heat, perfect for a dining table top. Teak is a tawny golden colour, with dark brown and gold streaks when freshly cut. Over time, this colour lightens as it dries, giving it a unique aged look. Teak is an extremely durable option when it comes to a solid wood table top, however tends to come with one of the highest price tags for that reason and therefore not suitable to those on a budget.
Categorised as a hardwood due to its dense grains, Mango wood is strong and super durable. The natural colour of the wood is most often golden brown, although there are also variations that have a more yellow tint or feature black or pink streaks. It’s also highly sustainable – Mango trees grow to maturity quickly for a hard wood which means they can be easily replaced, creating a sustainable cycle of plantation and harvest. Whilst Mango wood is extremely durable, the wood can be susceptible to fungus attacks so it’s important not to use the wood without finish, such as wax. During dry weather the wood is also prone to get dehydrated -if it’s exposed to heat sources or the sun, cracks can form relatively easily.
Walnut wood stands out for its darker and bold look, with shades varying from light brown to dark chocolate. It’s one of the most strong and durable woods you can use for a dining table, but it does require maintenance to keep it looking its best. As one of the rarer woods, Walnut can be slightly more expensive than its other solid wood counterparts so may not be suitable for those on a budget.
Pine is a slightly softer wood which is light in colour, ranging from creamy white to yellow. It’s a popular choice for those looking for a rustic or farmhouse design and is a great option for those who aren’t quite ready for the investment of the other wood types. However, pine isn’t as durable as other woods such as Oak or Ash so it’s prone to scratches and dents which is something to bear in mind.
Considering a solid wood dining table? Find out everything you need to know before buying a wooden dining table here
Veneered Table Tops
Veneer table tops refer to thin layers of wood which are applied to both sides of a strong surface, most often furniture grade MDF. Many people assume veneer tables are inferior to solid wood options, however if well made, they can be just as durable. A veneer table is environmentally kind as less wood is used, however it can blister or peel back at the edges so doesn’t last as long as other materials.
Quartz is a natural mineral composed of silicon and oxygen, with the table tops often made by grinding down natural quartz into dust and combining it with other natural and synthetic materials to make it hard and durable. If you’re looking for a table top that won’t crack, scratch or chip easily, whilst also being elegant in design, Quartz is an ideal choice.It is also non-porous which means it resists staining, standing up to the likes of juice, oil, wine, coffee and other common dining table spills. However, if you’re tight on budget you might want to consider alternative options as all the great aspects of Quartz come with a high cost. And, whilst Quartz is heat resistant, the other materials used to make the table table are not, which means hot cookware or hot drinks being placed on the surface could cause permanent discolouration or damage.
Ceramic finishes are a popular choice when it comes to dining tables, especially for those looking for a modern aesthetic. Ceramic is an artificial, man made material composed of clay, mixed with other inorganic materials which gives it the appearance of marble. It is then dried and glazed to form a finished surface that is completely sealed. It’s a strong and sturdy material that is resistant to spills, scratching and heat, which is very important for furniture such as dining tables. And whilst ceramic table’s are a great option for those on a budget, it’s important to consider that they tend to be very thin, approximately a quarter of an inch, which may not suit the look you’re going for.
Formed over millions of years from compressed molten rock under the Earth’s surface, granite is extremely hard and durable. Alongside amazing heat-resistant qualities, granite is super hard wearing so is very unlikely to scratch or chip. Granite is made up of interlocking mineral crystals, the most common being feldspar and quartz. But an array of other minerals can be included, and these make each piece of granite unique. As Granite is completely natural, the variations of colour and pattern in each slab are one of a kind. Similar to Quartz, Granite doesn’t come cheap so it may be worth looking into alternatives such as ceramic.
Marble is a natural material that is mined all over the world, with different areas producing different variations. Marble is not only stunning, but it’s also a very strong and sturdy material. However due to its natural properties it is very porous, so more care and maintenance is needed. Marble needs to be dusted and cleaned regularly and everyday spills such as coffee or orange juice may cause irreversible stains. As marble is a thick material, the table top will be extremely heavy and difficult to move which is worth bearing in mind if you’re planning on moving the table frequently.
It’s not always the most obvious choice, but a glass dining table can often be a beautiful, timeless addition to your dining space. As the glass is transparent, it doesn’t block the view behind its top surface and also reflects light, creating the illusion that your dining space is much bigger than it is. Glass is very easy to clean, if you spill anything a quick wipe will pick anything up without staining or leaving a permanent mark. However, due to the nature of the material, glass tables often need cleaning a lot more as even the smallest of marks such as a fingerprint is noticeable. Whilst glass tables are pretty durable, accidents can always happen so it may not be a suitable option if you have unpredictable kids or pets running around; if the glass were to break the consequences could be dangerous.
Perfect for those looking for an industrial inspired interior, metal table tops are more popular than you may realise. As you can expect, metal offers you incredible durability and strength. Being smooth and having no pores, metal table tops are extremely practical and you don’t need any special maintenance steps to keep it looking great. However it’s important to remember that metal is naturally temperature absorbing so coasters will always need to be used for hot plates. Unsurprisingly, a metal table top is one of the most expensive materials you can choose, so you need to make a huge investment if you purchase one. Many other materials come with cheaper, more affordable options, but unfortunately even lightweight metal comes at a cost.
Tiles are no longer just for floors or splashbacks, it’s also a great way to create a completely unique dining table too. Tiled table tops are a great way of injecting personality and style into a room, as well as some texture. Porcelain tiles are an ideal option as they aren’t porous and are highly durable. However, since the surface isn’t smooth as alternative table tops, tile tables can be tough to clean. Tiles can also chip easily which is something bear in mind, although individual tiles are a lot easier to replace than an entire table top. Tiled table tops aren’t easy to come by, so you’ll need to find a company that can do custom orders, or get handy with some DIY.
Table Top Sizes
When choosing the size of your table, you need to consider both the everyday and occasional use, so you can determine which table is right for you.
The general rule of thumb is to try and leave 36 inches from the edge of the table to the nearest wall or piece of furniture, ensure your guests have ample room to sit down and rise from the table with ease and leave approximately 24-30 inches per chair for comfortable seating.
For formal seating, try to leave 30 inches between each chair to ensure each guest has enough space. For everyday family seating, you should allow 24 inches between each chair. If you follow these rules, it’s a fool proof way of transitioning from informal to formal dining when needed.
The shape of your dining table will also affect how many chairs you can get around the table. Rectangular tables reign supreme when it comes to fitting more guests around the table, however round or circular tables are a great option for those short on space. We’ve pulled together this handy guide to help you decide what table is right for you.
Table Top Bases
Once you’ve decided on the shape of your new table and the material for your table top, you need to consider the table base. Long gone are the days when tables simply came with four legs, now there are multiple different table bases you can choose from, which each come with their own components.
Table Base Types
- Butterfly Base
Great for those looking for something a little different, but still sturdy, butterfly bases are becoming increasingly popular. Usually made out of steel, the sharp angular lines are perfect to achieve the industrial look.
- Bolt Down Table Bases
Bolt down table bases ensure the greatest stability in permanent table installations, and refers to when a table is bolted into the ground. Most commonly found in bars or restaurants, with a bolt down table base you can keep your floors from getting scratched and keep high-top tables from accidentally tipping over.
- Trestle Table Bases
Trestle tables are the oldest functional style of table ever recorded. A trestle table base refers to a table top laid on trestles. The trestles are usually made up of two sloping table legs, supported by horizontal beams, creating a rigid frame. Modern day trestle dining tables can be made in virtually any style and the stretcher between the trestles can take on many forms: large, small, plain, ornate, almost touching the table top.
- Square Table Bases
Square table bases refer to a square shaped iron frame in which a table top is placed and secured on top of. Rather than two legs just being added at either end of the table, the frame supports the whole table so it’s extremely sturdy. You can also get a modern take on the square frame, such as the splayed table base, to support rectangular tables too.
Is MDF good for table tops?
Typically, MDF is seen as a cheaper alternative to solid wood and is often perceived to be lower in quality. However, as MDF’s core ingredient is sawdust and small chippings of other timbers, the material cost is much lower than plywood and solid wood.
You can read more about the advantages and disadvantages of MDF here.
Which is better: a round or rectangular dining table?
There’s no right or wrong answer, it all depends on your space and what you plan on using the table for.
Round tables are great for entertaining as you can easily see everyone around the table, and it’s easy to add more seats around the table if needed. That being said, round tables can be tricky to place in the home as the circular shape of the tabletop means it can’t be put into a corner or sit against a flat wall.
Rectangular tables are perhaps the most practical table shape – the long, narrow design lends itself to large-scale entertaining and for those short on space, can easily be pushed up against the wall to save space.
What material can be used for table tops?
Gone are the days where tables were all made out of plywood, from solid wood, granite and glass table tops to quartz composite, ceramic composite and even marble, the options really are endless.
What is the most durable table top?
Most materials used for making tables are durable due to the nature of the furniture, but there are some that are slightly more durable than others. Solid wood and quartz are two of the most durable materials to use when it comes to tabletops.
Solid wood tables are renowned for their durability with Oak and Maple being extremely hard-wearing when looked after correctly.
A quartz tabletop is a great alternative to your natural stone slab option. Highly durable and resistant to scratches, quartz stands the test of time
The best thing to do is choose a tabletop best suited to your lifestyle.
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