Solid Wood, Wood Veneer and Laminate: What’s the Difference?

Solid Wood, Wood Veneer and Laminate: What’s the Difference?

When you’re comparing wood furniture options, you are likely to run into three types of materials: solid wood, wood veneer and laminate. These are all distinct options that come with their own advantages and possible disadvantages. In this article, we explain the differences between these options so you can make the best choice for you.

Solid Wood

Real wood, or solid wood, is a popular material choice for furniture, and it’s becoming increasingly popular in furniture made today. Solid wood furniture can be made from different species of wood — each of which comes with its own beautiful colors, patterns and qualities — but whatever the wood type, the furniture is composed of solid wood pieces. For example, a solid wood table would have a solid wood top, and the legs or base would also be made from solid wood.
As with the other options we’ll look at, solid wood furniture comes with both pros and cons.

 

Pros to Solid Wood

Here are some of the top advantages of solid wood furniture:

  • High-quality feel: Solid wood has an unmistakable feeling of quality. When you want your business’s interior to feel luxurious or traditional, solid wood furniture is an excellent choice.
  • Unique appearance: With real wood, each piece of furniture is distinctive, with its own wood grain, knots and natural beauty. A live edge table or countertop can provide an especially unique appearance.
  • Easy to repair: Solid wood is also durable, and if the surface gets scratched or stained, you can always repair it. You can completely refinish a tabletop by sanding, staining and sealing it.

Cons to Solid Wood

Of course, solid wood also has a few disadvantages:

  • Susceptible to atmospheric conditions: Solid wood naturally expands and contracts with changes in temperature and humidity. This can lead to problems like splitting, but this isn’t typically an issue in indoor settings with controlled conditions.
  • Higher cost: A downside to the luxurious, high-quality look and feel of solid wood tables is that they tend to come at a considerably higher price tag than veneer wood or laminate options.

Wood Veneer

The difference between solid wood and veneer wood furniture is that veneer furniture only features a thin layer of solid wood on the surface, typically somewhere from 1/32 to 1/16 inch thick.  Don’t let this fool you, some of the best furniture ever made in American History is built with veneers.  Furniture makers use a strong adhesive to bond the surface layer of wood to the substrate. This is done to create pieces of furniture that are not susceptible to wood movement or humidity.  More unique designs can be created with veneer instead of solid wood and more species are available. Because a lot of veneer can come from one tree, there are really cool designs and species available!
Furniture with a wood veneer has some benefits and some potential downsides.

Pros to Veneer

These are some of the many benefits of veneer:

  • Similar look to solid wood: Furniture wood veneer looks like solid wood because it is, albeit a very thin layer. Still, this means the surface of your furniture will mimic the natural beauty of solid wood furniture better than laminate.
  • Less susceptible to the environment: Because the majority of a veneer table or other piece of furniture is made of a stable substrate, veneer furniture is not as susceptible to environmental effects compared to solid wood.
  • More options: A great reason to consider veneer furniture is that there are more options for wood species.  Some woods are hard to find or don’t grow large or fast, with veneer there are hundreds of more options than solid wood.  We’re also able to build more configurations.

Cons to Veneer

Here are some of the major drawbacks to veneer:

  • Not as fixable: You may think you could sand and refinish solid wood veneer, but because the veneer is so thin, it can be difficult to repair. You can’t sand down the surface and refinish often it because you would quickly sand through the veneer to the substrate underneath.

 

Laminate

Laminate furniture is a bit more complex than solid wood or veneer wood. As with veneer wood, laminate includes a substrate at the core of the furniture, like particleboard or fiberboard. However, instead of a thin layer of solid wood on the surface, laminate is covered in a special veneer made from layers of paper that are hardened with resin. Furniture makers cover this veneer in a thin decorative surface, typically with a woodgrain pattern or solid color, and add a protective coating to finish it.

Laminate furniture also comes with some pros and cons.

Pros to Laminate

These are a few of the main advantages of laminate:

  • Exceptionally affordable: When comparing real wood vs. veneer wood vs. laminate, laminate tends to be the most affordable option. This is a great advantage for companies that want to furnish their facility on a budget.
  • Durable surface: Laminate furniture is impervious to environmental factors and is resistant to scratches and stains because of its durable, sealed surface. Laminate furniture is also easy to clean and maintain.
  • Highly customizable: Another reason to consider choosing laminate is that it opens up endless possibilities for the design. Because the surface is covered in a decorative design, you can choose a woodgrain pattern, a solid color, a metal, or another design.

Cons to Laminate

Laminate also has a few disadvantages, including:

  • Artificial copy: Laminate may resemble real wood, but some people feel that a replicated wood grain design can never match the beauty and authenticity of solid wood or a wood veneer.
  • Not fixable when scratched: Fortunately, laminate surfaces are scratch-resistant, but if they do get scratched or otherwise damaged, you can’t sand down the scratch and refinish the surface.

Contact Us to Request Pricing

At Greg Pilotti Furniture Makers, we offer beautiful furniture pieces in solid wood, veneer wood and laminate. If you’re not sure which material or style is right for you, we can offer guidance and can create completely custom furniture for your business. After a consultation, we can provide you with a quote and drawings of your furniture and then ship the finished product straight to you. Contact us today to get started.