Real Wood vs Veneer vs Laminate Furniture

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Finding a real wood desk, or any piece of office furniture made with 100% solid wood is becoming less and less common. Many pieces of furniture today are made with some version of engineered wood or laminate due to its durability in comparison to real wood. That's not to say that real wood is a bad option, but rather, that it's rare to find an entire piece of furniture made with 100% real wood today.

While real wood makes for beautiful furniture, veneer and laminate make for beautiful furniture as well. Even though they look quite similar, they also have some major differences. Below we're going to highlight some of the main differences between each with some pros and cons.

Real Wood Furniture

Some of the biggest appeals to real wood furniture is the obvious beauty of the natural wood grain and the craftsmanship that goes into it. While engineered wood or laminate can capture it's essence pretty well, nothing can really replicate the alluring beauty of a real piece of solid wood furniture.

A piece of wood veneer is more likely to capture the essence of real wood a bit more than laminate can because it's topped with a thin sheet of real wood, whereas laminate is not. Below is an example of one our solid wood tables, the Franklin Corner Table by Lesro.

Pros:

  • - Every piece of furniture is unique
  • - The natural beauty of the wood grain is exposed

Cons:

  • - Controlling moisture can be a problem
  • - Can be expensive

When it comes to different species of wood, there are some minute differences between woods like oak, maple, and cherry that are commonly used in furniture. Oak, for example, is a very wide grain wood, whereas maple and cherry are a closer grain wood. This means they are a slightly harder wood and tend to have less "imperfections."

One of the furniture manufacturers that we work with that produces furniture with solid wood pieces is Lesro. Some of the conference tables by Lesro are made with a solid wood top, while some of the reception tables and reception chairs by Lesro are made with a wood frame.

Having a solid wood table top allows manufacturers like Lesro to bring that real wood feel that customers love, while reducing costs. The base of the tables are typically a veneer combined with real wood for the trim to allow for a sturdy base and an attractive design.

Veneer Furniture

Veneer furniture is made with substrates, which is typically either plywood, particleboard, or medium density fiberboard - also referred to as medium density overlay, MDF, or MDO. The substrate is covered with a very thin layer of real wood. This is done by applying the wood veneer with an adhesive to adhere it to the substrate.

Below are a few pros and cons of choosing veneer over real wood or laminate:

Pros:

  • - Can offer more of a real wood look than laminate
  • - Not as susceptible to moisture
  • - Scratches can generally be sanded and fixed

Cons:

  • - Can still get damaged

Below is an image of one of our popular desks made with wood veneer, the Highland Executive Desk by Emery Park. We've laid out some more info on each substrate below, however, you can also find out more information about sustrates in this detailed article on joewoodworker.com on veneering substrates.

Plywood

Plywood generally offers a lighter weight and can be more sag resistant, whereas medium density fiberboard has a bit more weight to it and is typically used in more expensive pieces of veneer furniture.

Pros:

  • - Lightweight
  • - Sag-resistant

Cons:

  • - The face veneer can be frequently found to peel off. Make sure you find a tightly bonded piece
  • - Requires some sanding to get the veneer glue to adhere properly

Particleboard

Particleboard is probably your lowest grade option when it comes to choosing a substrate. It is still a good veneering substrate, but not as fine as medium density fiberboard (MDF), which we talk about a bit more about below.

Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF)

Medium density fiberboard is typically used in high end furniture pieces. It provides a uniform surface for the wood veneer to adhere to.

Pros:

  • - Flat surface
  • - Stable

Cons:

  • - Requires some sanding to get the veneer glue to adhere properly

Laminate Furniture

Laminate furniture is a very durable and affordable option for many. It's made with sealed plastics, making it highly resistant to scratches, stains, and heat. The Reveal Collection by Officient pictured below is one of our popular office desk sets, made entirely of laminate.

Below are some common pros and cons of laminate:

Pros:

  • - Cheaper than solid wood and most veneer pieces
  • - No effect to it when it comes in contact with water or heat

Cons:

  • - Can't get fixed when it's scratched
  • - Depending on whether the laminate is low, medium, or high pressure, it can be susceptible to water and other liquid damage. The higher the pressure, the less susceptible it is.

By now you should have a good understanding of the differences between solid wood, laminate, and veneer furniture. Each has it's own unique qualities and drawbacks to consider. If you have any questions about our products, don't hesitate to give us a call!

About the Author:

Rachel Howe Rachel is the SEO & Social Media Specialist for OfficeFurniture.com and OfficeChairs.com. When not working you can find her hanging out with her energetic Corgi, Gambit.


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