Selecting a suitable tabletop in the best wood material isn’t an easy job. Sometimes you have to hunt for months to find that one piece, and you still can’t be sure of the quality of your purchase.
Simple yet trendy and always in demand, wood is the material most people like to use for their table tops. Over the years, we have seen many different materials commonly used to make tables. But natural, solid wood is still preferred for its versatility, availability, and natural beauty.
So, what is the best wood for table tops? The best wood for tabletops is hardwood that is durable and long-lasting yet easy to work with, like oak, ash, maple, teak, walnut, and cherry. You will also want to consider the weight, grain, and overall look of the wood.
While it is true that wood gets affected by temperature and humidity, you cannot ignore the fact that it is the easiest material to repair and reconstruct. We’ll explain what the most important properties of wood are and what else you should consider before you choose a wood species for your table below. Let’s dive in!
Important Properties Of Wood
Sure, you could choose any type of wood, but when you’re searching for wood that lasts longer without losing sheen and appeal, you must invest your time and money into only the best wood on the market.
The wood should be tough enough to withstand wear and tear over time and last longer to qualify for building your table tops. Here are various characteristics that make wood suitable for woodworking projects.
The grain of wood determines the direction of the fibers and can impact the look, texture, and workability of wood. These are the three types of grains:
- Straight grain: the fibers grow in a parallel direction to the length of the tree trunk. So, when we say fine-grained structure, we mean that the fibers are closely knit together.
- Coarse grain: the fibers are wider, giving a coarser look to the wood.
- Cross-grain: when the fibers do not grow parallel to the trunk and look twisted, spiral, or are interlocked, it is termed cross grain.
2. Moisture Content
By nature, wood is hygroscopic. They are porous and therefore absorb moisture from the atmosphere. Also, this is the reason cell cavities of various wood species are stretchable.
Note: 12-15% moisture content is considered safe for constructing any furniture type, including table tops. It must also be noted that wood laying out for an extended period loses moisture to the atmosphere.
3. Shrinkage And Swelling
When wood loses its moisture content, it is prone to some shrinking. The cells lose their water content and shrink. At the same time, dry wood drenched in water or wetted by rain swells up quickly.
With too much water, the cell wall becomes saturated, and then the water enters the inner cell cavities, causing the cell to swell up. Wood with thick walls is prone to high shrinkage. Deformation happens when the wood is cut in the wrong direction of the wood grain.
4. Color and Odor
Wood does have a distinct odor or color specific to their species. For example:
- Walnut – dark brown color
- Teak wood – freshly cut teak wood has a golden yellow shade
- Pine – smells like resin
- Teak wood – has an aromatic smell
What Types Of Wood Are Used For Table Tops?
Based on their source, grain, and density, wood is divided into three distinct categories.
Hardwoods are derived from deciduous trees. These produce seeds and leaves that fall off every year only to make place for new leaves. Each year they grow and add more fibers to the wood. As a result, they are strong and are known for their unique wood grain.
Hardwoods ideal for building table tops are maple, oak, cherry, walnut, and mahogany.
The Janka scale measures the hardness of the wood. It calculates the amount of force needed to move a steel ball having a diameter of 0.444 inches into a specific wood till the ball is half immersed. The higher the Janka rating, the harder the wood.
Softwood comes from evergreen trees. They are lighter in hue and generally have needle-like leaves. This wood grow faster, is softer and easier to work with, and is cheaper than hardwoods.
Softwood examples include fir, pine, spruce, cedar, and larch.
7. Engineered Wood
This kind of wood is not found naturally in the environment. Although the wood boards are made up of wood, these are manufactured to acquire specific features they do not possess naturally. They are either treated with chemicals or made to undergo a heat process to meet specific requirements.
For instance, plywood. Plywood is made by combining layers of veneer using heat and pressure and moisture-wicking durable adhesives. Other types of engineered wood include oriented strand board, medium-density fiberboard, and composite board.
Hardwood is the best wood to make furniture. These types of wood are beautiful, strong, and have significant longevity. Softwood, too, is attractive but cannot match the strength and durability of hardwood.
As for engineered wood, using this material is entirely a personal choice. You must confirm all parameters before making a choice. However, this type of wood isn’t known for being as durable, beautiful, or long-lasting and often requires coatings or coverings to make them look like real wood.
Choosing Wood For Table Tops
Before you decide on wood material, there are a few things you should know. We have penned them down below.
Like other natural materials, wood is also prone to decay due to various environmental and physical factors. But long term performance depends on the natural durability of the wood species.
This long-lasting factor is dependent on wood species, geographical location, environmental factors while growing, and even different zones within the same species of tree. In addition, they are often treated with some chemical preservatives to increase longevity.
Wood is available in different colors, textures, and stains. Each can transform a space differently. So whether you are aiming for a traditional look or a more modern and contemporary look, everything is possible with the proper selection of wood.
You may also choose a two different and distinct species and be surprised by how well they both blend into the same room.
Wood is, of course, renewable. It is an ecological option that is often sustainably sourced. Curling, heartwood, and rays are an inherent part of wood’s aging process and add a distinct character to each piece of wood.
There is a vast range of tones and colors available in wood for making table tops that are treated or dyed. Not to forget the structure and grain of different cuts and species. In addition, you will find incredibly different designs and styles with every furniture maker.
They may vary slightly, but all of them carry a certain uniformity, making them unique.
There is no shortage of styles you can achieve with wood. It can be round, rectangular, square, or completely irregular in shape. However, not all woods are elastic and as easy to shape.
6. Table Size And Thickness
Ideally, the thickness of a table top can be 1″ to 1 ¾”. That said, you may alter it as per your use and taste.
- Traditional table tops: < or equal to an inch
- Contemporary table tops: 1 3/4 inch top
- Transitional: 1″ to 1 ¾”
For building a big table, we’d recommend using harder types of wood. A good solution would be turning to hardwoods like mahogany and maple.
If your project is smaller but has an organic look that requires many small details and curves, birch or poplar would be the perfect choice for you. But, first, let’s make sure you have your options covered.
Best Wood For Table Tops
You now know that hardwood is most suitable for constructing your table tops. But exactly which wood species would do justice to your taste remains a dilemma.
We have drafted a list of all the best hardwood species. It also has an overview of what makes them suitable as table tops.
With usage dating back to pre-colonial times, oak is still a popular choice in wood material for people worldwide. A unique grain pattern makes oak wood easily recognizable. You may stain it or leave it in its natural hue; it looks impressive either way.
Different oak species have various features. For instance, white oak is a closed-grain wood and tends to be less porous and more water-resistant. Oak boards come in many different thicknesses and shades, so be sure to pick one that matches your room’s decor. Be aware that over the years, it may turn a little dark.
When picking out an oak board, try to get one without knots or cracks, as these will show up from the top of your table post. It won’t suffer dents or dings, making it an ideal option for table tops.
An attractive option for table tops, ash wood, is light, durable, and resistant to shock. In addition, it displays a beige-to-light-brown hue and straight grain and is an inexpensive option as compared to oak. The ash tree produces durable timber which is sustainable and of high quality.
Generally, straight grain shows some unique patterns occasionally. Again, with time, ash wood changes hue from light brown to darker shades. It is denser than walnut and white oak, making it a durable option. The Janka value of ash wood is measured 1,320 LbF.
When stained, it is challenging to distinguish ash from oak. Remember, ash is a long-lasting wood, but its craftsmanship will enhance its longevity, so pick your piece carefully. Also, remember these are available in different finishes and require distinct care.
Nobody can lend a contemporary look to your table tops better than maple. The unique fusion of white, tan, brown, and cream streaks makes it a very attractive addition to your home. This wood type is versatile and can be used to make table tops for any purpose.
Just like all other hardwoods, it is susceptible to color changes. So you can witness a light-colored maple change to a darker hue on exposure to sunlight and humidity.
Maple wood is lightweight but highly durable. The uniform and fine structure and an abundance of variations make it a perfect choice for customized table tops. However, it is relatively dense, with the Janka value of maple varying from species to species. For white maple, it is 1,450 LbF.
Teak has a compact wood grain and high natural oil content, making it one of the strongest and most durable wood materials for table tops. In addition, this low-maintenance wood is versatile and easy to work with. You may choose to leave it natural or paint, wax, or stain it for style.
You can use it for woodworking, including indoor and outdoor table tops due to its versatility. It is easy to cut and can be combined and polished after treating the surface with a mild solvent.
Teak is known for its resistance to acids, insects, and rotting, which makes it perfect for outdoor table tops. In addition, it has some solid natural oils that repel insects and protect it from rotting. Different species of teak have different hardness ratings; white teak has a rating of 1,155 LbF.
Walnut wood has a timeless appeal to it. Temperature and humidity make the wood contract and expand, respectively. Not only that, but sunlight, air, and wear and tear over the years bring beautiful aging changes in color.
While freshly cut walnut wood looks dark chocolate brown, they display a honey brown shade when old. To maintain the darker hue, you can stain it or apply oil. However, if you choose to go with it, oiling regularly is paramount.
The durable walnut carves well and is perfect for intricate woodworking. The straight and regular grain makes it easy to work with. However, it is pretty hard, and its Janka value is 1,010 LbF.
One of the most popular woods, cherry wood, enjoys attention like no other wood does. This is because the aging process in itself is so appealing; starting from a light pink hue, it transforms into a rich red-brown color with a shiny patina. You may witness the change within the first six months of light exposure.
However, this color, too, may vary from tree to tree and from board to board. And it may even be years before it attains the shade it is so famous for.
Cherry is robust and medium weight. Since it is elastic, it may shrink, but it becomes stable after drying. You must keep your cherry table top safe from external elements, as it is not as durable as other wood materials on our list.