Are you looking at a dining table with a veneer top? Or are you looking at a solid wood dining set? It's an important decision that will cost you if you make the wrong one. Your lifestyle and environment will determine whether you should choose a veneer over solid wood, or solid wood over a veneer.
How to Tell Veneer from Solid Wood
One of the biggest myths is that solid wood is better than veneered wood - some of the nicest furniture is made with veneered wood. A veneer top dining table can have just as good quality as a solid wood dining table. A veneer is a covering that is designed to have the appearance of solid wood, and is glued to particleboard or fiberboard. You can spot it by looking at the edges and see where the covering attaches. Veneered wood ranges in thickness, and can be as thin as a slice of paper. Some lower-quality veneered furniture is made with particle board, which is thinner and absorbs moisture easily. Some higher-quality veneered furniture are made with medium-density fiberboard (also known as MDF) and is more dense, hence the name. Solid wood has the same grain pattern on all exposed areas. It is heavier than veneered wood for the most part. You'll likely see some signs of man-made distressing, like small dents and nicks.
Where Solid Wood Wins:
Ages Well: Solid wood will hold up better through normal wear and tear. When veneered furniture chips, the underlay will show through and make the damage look more obvious.
Natural Finish is Nice: Solid wood looks nice on its own, without needing a veneer to cover it. There are more options for solid wood finishes than there are for veneered wood.
Can Be Refinished: Solid wood can be sanded down after cracking, chipping or denting. It can even be distressed to disguise the marks. Since veneered wood is thinner, there's more of a risk of further damaging it while trying to repair it.
Where Veneer Wins:
Flawless Appearance: Veneered wood doesn't have natural flaws or knots on its surface like solid wood does, but that can be a drawback if you plan on owning it for a long time. Those natural flaws and knots blend in with new dents and scratches, making them appear less striking.
Not Prone to Warping With Temperature: Veneered wood won't change size in extreme environmental conditions, whereas solid wood swells in humidity and contracts in dry conditions. Solid wood also develops splits or cracks with natural weather changes.
Environmentally-Friendly: Veneered wood is thinner than solid wood, so one log creates more slices.