How to Choose the Best Dining Table and Chairs: Construction, Material, Finish

by Purvin Arshad

So you are in the market for top-quality dining tables and chairs. What type of construction, materials, and styles do you look for so you don’t end up regretting your big purchase? The first order of business is to determine a budget and go on from there. After all, why waste time looking at things you can’t afford to buy? When actually window shopping look for solid construction and finally pick a style that will be long lasting. These few factors should be your guiding principles.

Construction

Construction methods vary over a wide range. They go from designs that are meant to cut the cost to ones that give the greatest value. The best quality dining tables and chairs will employ construction techniques that take up more time. They usually use solid wood as their starting material.

Construction techniques take into account the natural swelling that solid wood undergoes as the temperature fluctuates. This aging process is time-consuming and adds to the cost. Good quality dining tables and chairs can be made from other materials. Those materials do not require aging so production is faster and costs less.

Regardless of the material, the best quality dining table and chairs should be sturdy and be able to tolerate heavy use.

The good quality dining table has a sturdy construction.

Take a close look at the joints, the parts where tops join the legs and corners. If there are wide separations, small pieces are joined together or gaps in table corners, the construction is poor. Try rocking the table and chairs one by one; if they are wobbly it is best to move on. The really cheap tables may seem attractive, but it is possible they are only stapled together or worse just glued! Not a good buy.

Finish

If opting for pure wood then the stains and varnishes used become important to the quality of the final product. The penetration of stains through the layers and varnishes gives the furniture a luxurious look. The process of staining, varnishing, and drying takes time. This slows production down.

Laminates and faux woods do not need to be treated with stains to the same degree. This saves time but then they don’t have that deep finish found in natural wood.

finish of dining table is very important

Quality of Materials

The best quality dining table and chairs can be purchased in a variety of different materials and their combinations. Obviously different materials have different starting prices, which sets the stage for the price of the final product. Just because the starting material is cheaper it does not translate to poor quality dining tables and chairs. By using heavy-duty screws, good quality glues, styling, and construction exceptional qualities can be achieved. The type of material you choose for your dining table is a matter of personal preference.

Wood

Solid wood furniture is the most expensive and also most popular. But with the ever-growing concern over deforestation, make sure your table comes from a sustainable forest. Pine, teak, and mahogany are some popular options. The aging of natural wood, because it is time-consuming is factored into the price. Wood reacts to humidity and temperature and over time picks up scratches. However, these are small issues that are fairly easy to repair. Tables and chairs crafted out of pure wood last generations and make great family heirlooms.

solid wood dining table and chairs

Stone

Stone tables make use of quartz, marble, or cast stone. Natural stone tables look beautiful, but they are porous. This means if you spill something like wine or curry, the stone will absorb it and become stained. Damage like this to a stone can’t always be repaired. Natural stone tables sometimes can be even more expensive than wood, running into thousands of dollars. They are also heavy and difficult to move around should you need to change your setting.

stone dining tabletop with wood base

Glass

Glass tabletops are among the cheapest options possible. The base can be solid wood or other material. Price will vary accordingly. Glass is not affected by temperature or moisture but it can develop scratches. If something very hot is placed directly on top it may also crack. Cleaning is a bit tacky as fingerprints are very visible. A good tabletop will last decades if looked after properly.

Metal

The metal options include brass, stainless steel, aluminum, and zinc. Painted variations or lacquering adds to the variety. Metal is a kind of practical base rather than tabletops. A metal base with a glass or stone top will look amazing. Painted metal tables reflect light, also show every single finger paint. Regular cleaning will make it stunning. If the paints get damaged, they may need some special materials.

stone dining tabletop

Plastic

Molded plastic quality tables and chairs are probably the cheapest possible option. They last a very long time are easy to maintain and with beautiful colors. These types of tables and chairs are very practical for a family with small children in an apartment setting. Heavy-duty plastic will give a solid look as the lighter-weight plastic may be wobbly.

multicolor plastic dining table and chairs for children

Veneer

Just like other laminate wood furniture, veneer makes use of a slender layer of real wood pasted on top of a pressed core. A high-quality veneer table is a more economical alternative to a solid wood table. The veneer table only lasts a few years. Humidity and direct sunshine exposure will destroy it.

But how to distinguish between the veneer and solid wood dining tables?

  • Smell. Solid wood has a natural wood smell but veneer has a sharp smell of chemicals. As the veneer is compressed with wood pieces and glue under high pressure.
  • Look. No two leaves are alike, nor are the textures of two solid wood boards the same. Solid wood generally has an arc-shaped texture presented by annual rings. The end edge of the same wood has a continuous texture.  But veneer has a discontinuous straight-line texture.  Real wood has natural knots and small flaws that the veneer doesn’t have.
  • Ask. Ask the seller what the table material is. An honest seller deserves your trust.

solid wood dining table has wood texture

Warranties

It is a good idea to seek out quality tables and chairs with a manufacturer’s warranty. A long-term warranty indicates that the manufacturer is sure his product will last at least that long. It shows that they stand by their product. Warranty is a good measure of the quality of the purchase you are making.

A table and chairs with a long warranty period show that the better the quality is. Just because a warranty is for a shorter duration, it does not mean the products will only that amount of time. Cared for properly, they last much longer than the warranty time indicates.

Style

The style of dining tables and chairs depends entirely on personal tastes and lifestyle. But beware that many fads come and go.

A lot of styles are produced and they just don’t take off as a manufacturer expected. Slowly they disappear never to be seen again. This is why it is not a good idea to get something too hip. The manufacturer will have sales, recover his investment you may be left holding the lemon. Don’t venture out too far beyond the time-tested styles.

If you purchase something with too many bits and pieces, then there will be more things that can break down.

Stick to basic styles and sturdy construction and you can’t go wrong.

There was a time when top-quality dining tables and chairs were purchased as a set. Nowadays people prefer to mix and match. Sometimes this is done to spread out the expenses over time. Other times you just do not like the chairs that go with a given table.

When purchasing chairs from a store, make sure to sit and see how it feels. Not every chair that looks good makes a comfortable seat.

The biggest problem with mix and match is ensuring that the chairs fit snuggly under your table properly. You will be surprised at the number of times people purchase chairs only to learn that they don’t fit.

If you have space limitations, you may look at styles that do double duty. When needed use them as dining chairs otherwise they function as extra seating in the living room.

Space

You can buy the most expensive best quality dining table and chairs, but if they don’t fit, they are useless. It is not just about the seating for six or eight. If your dining room can’t accommodate an eight-seat table, you have just wasted your money.

You must allow at least three feet of space beyond the table size to walk around. This space will also be needed when you pull the chair back.

A good way to decide the size of the table that will fit in your designated space is to measure the size of your room. Then subtract six feet from length and width. This is the space you have available to fit your table in.

To determine the size of chairs that the table will be able to accommodate, leave 22 to 24 inches for each setting. If you want to get larger, more comfortable chairs plan on leaving 26 inches per set.

Divide the length of the table by the size of a place setting to determine how many chairs will fit along each length. Then add one chair at each end.

Shape

The shape of the table you choose depends on a couple of things. How much space do you have, what kind of entertainment you will be doing? Rectangular tables are the most popular but square, oval, and round are common also. The oval and round tables cut out the corners, and this provides a little more space for movement around the table.

A round table is better suited to tighter spaces. They are also great for relaxed conversations as people are more together without there being a formal head.

round dining table

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