How To Assess Quality in Wood Furniture Surfaces


When you look at wood furniture, you might quickly gauge it to be good quality because … well … it’s wood. Doesn’t wood always mean quality?

Not so fast. Here’s a handy guide that will help you look for the distinctions in wood furniture surfaces to ensure you’re getting the quality you want. These features are especially important for high-use environments such as camp grounds, health centers, senior residences and group living spaces.

Solid Wood
A solid wood surface is made up of planks of wood that are permanently fused together but still allow for natural expansion of the wood without splitting. It can be finished with stain, paint, lacquer or varnish to protect the wood and add the right color and sheen for your design preference. Solid wood can be repaired or refinished.

Here’s what to look for in a solid wood surface:

  • Natural wood grain visible and matches throughout the piece
  • No splices, cracks, gaps or splinters
  • No visible glue or adhesive
  • Finely sanded
  • Moisture content during construction kept between 5% and 7% to avoid defects
  • Two coats of lacquer or varnish to protect the wood
  • Surface coatings that meet environmental standards

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Veneer is a thin layer of wood or plastic that’s applied over top of the furniture’s surface. It’s a less expensive way to add the look and durability you want without the cost of all solid wood construction.

Here’s what to look for:

  • Natural wood appearance or consistent color throughout
  • Smooth surface with no warp or separation from the substrate
  • No gaps around the edges
  • No visible glue or adhesive
  • Wood veneer that meets construction standards

Laminate is a manmade surface covering. It can add color or other designs to the surface of the furniture piece, including the simulated look of wood. In many cases, it’s a plastic type of material with an image of the color or design, which is fused to the visible parts of the furniture surface. It can be very durable in high-use environments but cannot be refinished.

Here’s what to look for:

  • Smooth surface with no warp or separation from the substrate
  • No gaps around the edges
  • No visible glue or adhesive
  • Choice of designs or colors that are also consistent among separate pieces

Check out the rigorous construction standards for our TOUGH STUFF! line of casegoods. You’ll see that we use the best quality materials that meet industry specifications and promise to last in even the most challenging heavy-use situations. Plus, we offer a range of finishes and colors that fit any design strategy.

When shopping for furniture for your site, ask questions. Know what to look for to judge the real quality and value of wood furniture.

Download our Tough Stuff Catalog here.

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