Sofa, love seat, coffee table , pool table . Hey, why not? Once banished to the basement or attic, pool tables are now finding places in main living spaces.
It's an excellent decorating strategy, says Ted Klonowski, owner of Klonowski's Bowling & Billiards Supplies in Schenectady. "The closer you can get the pool table to the dinner table , the more it's going to be used and the more fun it is," he said.
Despite the sluggish economy, pool tables are still selling. Local dealers believe that's because of pool 's nearly universal appeal. "You don't have to be 7 feet tall and you don't have to be like 400 pounds [to play pool ]. This is a game of skill, hand-eye coordination. It's for everybody," Klonowski said.
A pool table -- also known as a billiards table -- is an investment. Prices range anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 for the Brunswick Billiards tables Bob Daubney sells at his Latham store, Bob Daubney's Bowling and Billiards.
Brunswick's most expensive tables retail on the Brunswick Billiards Web site for just over $40,000; they sport luxurious features such as solid white oak legs, grained veneers, solid brass rosettes and rail sights made of Asian water buffalo bone.
Whatever your price range, purchasing a pool table is an investment you'll only have to make once, Daubney noted. "It'll easily outlast anybody if it's taken care of rather well," he said.
With no electronics to maintain and no moving parts to fail, a reasonably priced pool table provides economical entertainment.
"Once you install the table , you've got 10 years of good play before you put a penny into it, and then, all you'll need down the road will be cloth, and then someday, maybe cushions," said Klonowski, who has been in the billiards business since 1976. "There's Brunswick tables out there over 100 years old, and they're still playing."
Unlike the latest, greatest video game system, which will be outdated within months and worth peanuts when put up for resale, the appeal and the value of a well-made, well-cared-for pool table doesn't diminish. "I had a lady sell her table , almost 12 years old, for more than she paid for it," Klonowski noted.
Think before you buy
They come in different styles, different sizes and different levels of quality, so there's much to consider before buying a pool table .
First, you need to figure out if you have room for one in your house. Home tables measure 3 1/2 by 7 feet, 4 by 8 feet or 4 1/2 by 9 feet. " Tables go as big as 5 by 10," said Daubney. "We never sell them." Seven- and 8-foot home tables are the ones Klonowski and Daubney sell most frequently. "You need about 5 feet all the way around a pool table to play comfortably," noted Daubney.
If possible, you should position the pool table in the most-used part of the house, advised Klonowski, not just because it will be used more frequently, but because it will hold up better.
"A table that's been in the living quarters will be in much better condition 10 years from now than the one that was in the basement and relied on the dehumidifier," he said. "The one in the basement will be OK, but there will be a difference in the wood."
No room in the main part of the house? Look again. Billiards tables are versatile. There are dining tops made specifically for them, so when not in play, the table can do double duty as a dinner table .
A pool table is a massive piece of furniture that immediately draws the eye. So, especially if it's going to be sitting in the main living quarters, you should seek out one that will compliment your decor. Designs range from sleek, stainless steel, contemporary tables to elegant, carved masterpieces complete with intricate veneer inlays made from rare woods.
If you will have kids cutting their pool playing chops on the table , or if your buddies will regularly use the table 's rails as a place to rest their beers, you might want to opt out of the rare wood model and go for something more industrial. "I have veneer tables , like countertop," noted Klonowski. "That's a commercial finish, so if you have children, you want to have parties, and you want to not worry, you put a veneer table in."
Quality is an important consideration for whatever style table is chosen. Both Klonowski and Daubney deal exclusively in Brunswick Billiards tables , because they believe the brand offers the highest quality tables on the market. "There are a lot of littler companies, but Brunswick sets the standards for the industry," said Klonowski.
No matter what the brand, a hefty price tag doesn't always mean a better table , said Daubney, who has been involved with home billiards manufacturing, repairs and supplies for the past 45 years.
"The basic things in a pool table are that it be strong enough to hold the slates and keep them level. That's the frame. The other thing is the slate itself," he said. "What you're paying for all the time in these more expensive tables is the fancy legs and the fancy cabinet that holds those legs." A perfectly level slate playing surface "" called a bed "" is the ideal. Slate billiards table beds are made from natural stone, and are usually between a three-quarters of an inch and 1 inch thickness. "The 1-inch slates might play a little bit truer than the three-quarters, but the warranty on both of them [from Brunswick Billiards] is that they stay flat within ten-thousandths of an inch," said Daubney.
Bargain hunters beware: "There's a presence of imported tables in the market now, from China and Japan and other countries, and they sell cheaper," Daubney said. "Those tables are pretty good, but they sell for a lot less money than the Brunswick, so there's people that gravitate toward that to save the bucks."
The only problem, he said, is that if you have an issue with an imported table , it can be difficult to get the parts needed to repair it.
Some tables look great on the outside, but lack quality on the inside, cautioned Klonowski. "They're making a lot of import stuff today; it's not even wood, it's cardboard," he said. "They have the look, they sell them for about $1,000, and you get Chinese ground slates, which means they're not even flat." Billiards tables with wooden beds are also available, but neither Klonowski nor Daubney recommends them. "They don't play like a slate table . They're not true, but they're not expensive either. You can get them for like three, four, five hundred dollars," said Daubney.
One good, economical option is to purchase a used table , suggested Klonowski. "If the price is right and the table is a name brand table , there's nothing wrong with shopping for a used table ," he said.
Often, pool tables can be purchased inexpensively over the Internet, but those deals aren't always what they're cracked up to be, Klonowski cautioned. "Internet buying is the worst thing," he said. "People call us, they have a table in their garage, it was dropped off with a tractor-trailer. . . and they've got broken slates, they've got broken parts, and then nobody answers their calls."
Many of the pool tables sold on the Internet are seconds, he added. His advice: shop locally, and buy from a qualified dealer who specializes in billiards tables and installs what he sells.
Let pros install
Installing a pool table isn't like slapping together a new desk from the office supply store. It takes expertise, stressed Klonowski. "A lot of people are going to say they can do it and they're going to screw it up on you," he warned. Pool tables , he added, must never be assembled before delivery.
"There's two [hundred] to 300 bolts per table . We get a hardware box that weighs close to 30 pounds," said Klonowski, who estimated that it takes 11 man-hours to put a pool table together properly.
He feels so strongly about the subject that he's willing to travel great distances to ensure his tables are put together right -- Palm Beach, Fla.; Park City, Utah; and beyond.
"We took a table apart yesterday, a 60-year-old table . It's going to Syracuse for the guy's son. I told the father, 'I'll be willing to go to Syracuse and put this table together for you because it's an antique.' It's a nice table and it's got family sentimental value."
Once a billiard table has been assembled and properly leveled, it should stay put. If it ever needs to be moved, that's a job best left to the experts, to ensure it isn't damaged, and that it is properly leveled in its new location.
"They shouldn't be moved unless they're taken apart," said Klonowski. "It's not something the average person should do unless they've had experience, because it could be very costly for you."
Over the past few years, Daubney has observed more and more people trying to move their own pool tables . "I've seen people pick up tables , even though they were 1,000 pounds, and put them in trucks and take them places and then they put them in a new house or something and they don't get them level. It's a nightmare."
When properly installed, a pool table should provide years of fun and friendly competition. The table can offer a refreshing escape from electronic entertainment, and with 30-plus different game options, ranging from 9-ball to Cut-Throat to Honolulu, there's little chance of ever getting bored with billiards. Plus, a billiards table makes a lovely dining room table .
So start rearranging the furniture. If you can make room for a pool table , you'll have home decor that's both functional and fun.