Equipping your office with the right furniture can involve a delicate balance of choosing options that are durable, stylish and affordable. You might love the timeless look of solid wood furniture, but the cost could be well beyond your budget. On the other hand, while laminate furniture is more affordable, you may be left wondering if it comes with the level of durability you will need.
To help you make the right decision, we have compiled a comprehensive guide to laminate, veneer and wood furniture. Learn about the pros and cons of each type of materials and get the information you need to make the best purchasing choices.
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Laminate vs. Veneer vs. Solid Wood
- What is Laminate?
- High Pressure vs. Low-Pressure Laminate
- Pros and Cons of Laminate Products
- What is Wood Veneer?
- Pros and Cons of Veneer Furniture
- What is Solid Wood Furniture
- Pros and Cons of Solid Wood Furniture
- Final Thoughts
What is Laminate?
Laminate is a unique material that is durable, affordable and incredibly customizable. It is constructed by pressing together layers of heavy-duty paper with a compound known as melamine, which hardens into a resin. This creates a solid veneer, which can then be covered in a thin decorative layer. The beauty of laminate is that manufacturers can essentially print any type of decorative design. Typically, a wood grain pattern is used, but the possibilities are endless. As a final touch, a layer of a clear protective coating is applied.
To add structure and strength and create a final product that can be turned into durable furniture, the laminate is attached to what is known as a substrate. This usually consists of fiberboard or particleboard that forms the core of the pieces. Once all the layers have been added, you have a final laminate product that can be used to create furniture, countertops, etc.
High-Pressure Vs. Low-Pressure Laminate
You may have noticed that laminate products are classified as a high-pressure laminate (HPL) and low-pressure laminate (LPL). This designation refers to the process of attaching the laminate to the substrate core. With HPL products, the laminate is adhered using 1,000 to 1,500 pounds of pressure per square inch (psi). In addition, the product is heated to temperatures between 280 to 320 degrees Fahrenheit and adhesives are used to secure everything in place.
On the other hand, LPL products do not use adhesives and are heated to a higher temperature of 335 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, as the name implies, only 290 to 435 (psi) are used. Both processes produce a durable product, but low-pressure laminates tend to cost less because they are less expensive to manufacture.
Pros of Laminate Products
Laminate furniture is a popular choice for offices and for good reason.
- Laminate products are flame retardant and some have antibacterial properties. This makes them a great choice for high traffic areas like waiting rooms.
- They are easy to clean. All you have to do is dust the furniture with a damp, microfiber cloth on a regular basis in order to maintain your furniture. As long at laminate pieces aren’t placed in direct sunlight, they will continue to look like new for many years to come.
- Compared to solid wood options, laminate furniture is much more stain and scratch-resistant. The manufacturing process creates an incredibly durable product that can withstand a demanding work environment.
- When it comes to affordability, laminate furniture offers great value. You can get more for your money and enjoy stylish pieces that will make a statement.
Cons of Laminate Products
While laminates are quality products, they can’t compete with wood when it comes to several areas.
- Laminates can’t be sanded and stained.
- They aren’t as strong as solid hardwoods.
- Some also argue that replicated wood grain simply isn’t as beautiful as actual wood.
Ultimately, laminate furniture offers a more affordable alternative to veneer and solid wood options. While there are some trade-offs when it comes to durability, these products may be the best choice for your office and your budget.
What is Wood Veneer?
Creating veneer furniture is actually a centuries-old woodworking technique been used to create unique surfaces that can include complicated inlays of different types of wood. Some of the biggest names in furniture have used different versions of veneering techniques to produce museum-quality pieces that can come with impressive price tags.
Today, these same techniques are used to produce a wide variety of office furniture and upscale decorative pieces. For a craftsman, veneering methods offer flexibility and space for creativity that simply can’t be matched with wood. For consumers looking for cheaper alternatives to solid wood, veneer furniture can also offer an attractive price point.
How is Veneer Office Furniture Constructed?
When it comes to office furniture that is manufactured on a larger scale, veneer products are typically constructed by gluing thin strips of wood that are about 3mm thick onto a substrate. Core materials range from particleboard and MDF to plywood and wood. Less expensive furniture options will use a less resilient core material.
Pros of Veneer Furniture
- A cost-effective option that provides the look and feel of wood. Even though the piece won’t be solid wood, you can still enjoy the beauty of natural wood grain.
- Can be sanded and refinished. While you have to be careful about removing too much material, you can give your veneer furniture an updated look. Whether you want to buff out some scratches and stains or completely change the color of the piece, veneer offers a versatile option.
- While there is no way to match the durability of solid wood, veneer furniture can certainly hold its own and is more resistant to warping than wood. For this reason, veneer panels are often incorporated into pieces that also include solid wood components.
- Unique designs. Using veneer allows a craftsman to match grains and create an entire surface from one tree. This is virtually impossible with solid wood. In addition, veneers offer the opportunity to use rare specimens and types of wood for truly unique furniture.
- Easy maintenance. All you have to do is regularly dust your furniture with a damp microfiber cloth and use furniture polish on occasion to maintain luster.
Cons of Veneer Furniture
- It’s not wood. Ultimately, veneer products can be beautiful, affordable and durable, but they will never be solid wood. For some consumers, it is hard to get over the idea that veneer products might be on par with wood furniture in a lot of important categories.
- Veneer is susceptible to water damage. Because veneer is glued to the core materials, it is possible for moisture to seep under the veneer and loosen the top layer. This can result in buckling and bubbles. This makes it important to prevent water from sitting on any veneer furniture.
Solid Wood Office Furniture
When it comes to office furniture, solid wood is the most expensive and often desirable option. Wood furniture conveys a sense of sophistication and authority that can be used to send a message to visiting clients. If you have a flexible budget and are looking for office solutions that will last for years to come, wood may be the best material for your needs.
Pros of Wood Furniture
- Solid construction. When it comes to durability, it is hard to match the longevity of solid wood furniture. Wood legs and joints are better able to receive nails, screws and glue in order to create a truly secure design that is also easy to repair.
- Practically limitless stain and color options. There are dozens of different ways to finish wood furniture and you can choose the right stain to accommodate your office and your personal style.
- Easy to refinish. If you want to change the look of your wood furniture or repair a blemish, it is easy to sand and stain.
- While wood might not be as easy to clean and maintain as laminate products, it is still relatively easy to keep in good shape. All you have to do is dust your furniture and touch it up with polish or wax every so often. With the right care, your wood furniture can last for generations to come.
- It is true that wood furniture does come with more upfront cost. However, when you consider that wood furniture won’t need to be replaced and it can be refinished time and again, there are clear advantages to investing in long-lasting wood options.
Cons of Wood Furniture
- Cost-effective. Although wood furniture does offer a clear value, the higher price may simply not be within the budget of certain businesses. Laminate and veneer options come with a lower price point that may be more accessible.
- Tends to be heavier and bulkier. Wood furniture is solid and sturdy, but this also means that it can be heavy. This might be something to keep in mind if you are planning on moving offices or you need furniture that can be easily rearranged as needs change.
- Susceptible to warping. No furniture is completely invincible, but wood does have more of a tendency to warp. This is especially true of flat panels.
There tend to be a lot of assumptions and myths floating around about the quality of different laminate and veneer products. The truth is that they offer many benefits that may make them a more attractive alternative to expensive pieces of wood furniture. It all depends on your priorities and your budget.
Additional Furniture Resources
- How-To Clean All Types Of Office Chair Upholstery
- Extend The Life Of Your Office Chair With These Maintenance Tips
- Wood Vs. Steel Frames: Which Is Best For Waiting Room Chairs?
- How Durable Is Your Standing Desks Surface? We Tested To Find Out.
- What Is The Strongest Standing Desk Surface? We Tested To Find Out.