When it comes to home entertainment that involves the whole family, there’s nothing like a pool table.
Whether it is pool, snooker or billiard, the game played with cues and balls on a flat green table is something people of all ages and abilities can enjoy.
And while a pool table may be a significant investment, it appears increasingly good value as the price of other home entertainments – such as big-screen televisions – rises sharply.
Sturdily but simply constructed, it also lasts forever. Pool tables are often passed down through families and enjoyed by successive generations. Like any solid furniture, with age and loving care a billiard table may even increase in value.
No wonder the phrase “that’s going straight to the pool room” denoted only items of great value to the Kerrigan family in the movie The Castle.
Choosing a pool table
Pool tables and equipment have changed little over the years. There seems little room for high technology except in the precision manufacture of perfectly balanced balls and the use of graphite for lightweight cues.
But there are pool tables – and there are pool tables. Buyers must be aware of the different types, sizes and quality levels available.
Traditionally, pool tables are based on solid timber frames, topped by a layer of more wood, then a layer of slate and finally, the playing surface of English wool worsted.
Cheaper pool tables may delete the slate, stretching the wool over MDF sheeting with a smooth Melamine surface.
The best frames are hardwood, but the important thing to check is the quality of the joinery holding everything together – slate tops are very heavy but easily cracked. Good finish is important, too.
Billiard tables are available in several sizes to suit most rooms. They are still measured in feet and inches and the width is always half the length.
Standard sizes are 6 ft x 3 ft, 7 ft x 3 ft 6 in, 8 ft x 4 ft (popular with home users), 9 ft x 4 ft 6 in, 10 ft x 5 ft and 12 ft x 6 ft.
And the bigger the snooker table, the thicker the slate (usually sourced from Italy or China) – from three quarters of an inch to two inches.
Installing your pool table
Bigger, thicker slate tops are likely to come in sections, so special care is needed to ensure the base is on a firm, level footing and then that the assembled playing surface is seam-free, using fine metal shims if necessary.
Because of the fragility of slate, pool tables should be transported and installed only by specialists.
This is especially so if the table is sold with a lifetime warranty on the slate – it will be conditional on correct handling.
When buying a pool table you should also ensure the room – or more particularly, the floor - chosen for the pool table is suitable, as tables may weigh 200 kg or more.
Pool table price range
Pool table prices range from $795 for a timber-topped table, to between $1,500 and $2,700 for a 7-footer with slate, $1,600-$5,000 for 8ft and $5000 for a special outdoor model with fiberglass frame and all-weather top.
However, there’s really no limit on price if you want the biggest table and the finest materials.
Finally, allow money for equipment such as pool cues (pool, billiard and snooker) and racks, balls, triangles, scoreboards, lights, covers, a book of rules and the obligatory cube of blue chalk on a string.
A pack comprising all the items needed for four players of pool, billiard or snooker can be bought for $450.