When shopping for furniture--such as tables, cabinets and chests--you may encounter the choice between a wood veneer and solid wood. Some traditionalists may consider veneers less desirable, but the reality is that both options can be attractive, and each has benefits.
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Solid wood furniture is constructed of 100 per cent softwood or hardwood lumber. Such furniture uses no veneers or particleboard fillers. The grain of the wood will be visible and the piece of furniture will likely feel heavier.
A wood veneer is a thin layer of wood that is applied in a sheet over plywood, particleboard or some other less expensive inner material. Furniture made with a veneer can be very attractive while also being lighter and less expensive.
Benefits of Wooden Veneers
Most furniture today uses a combination of solid wood and wood veneers. Veneers are more affordable, make furniture lighter, and can allow for unique style treatment--such as special design on a table top. Veneers benefit the environment and may give you the option to use a rare wood--such as rosewood--as part of a design. Using veneers can help prevent warping and other problems that may occur to solid wood as humidity levels change.
Benefits of Solid Wood
Solid wood furniture is preferred by many for its extreme durability; such furniture can last a lifetime and may become a family heirloom. You can sand, stain or otherwise refinish solid wood if it is damaged or you simply want to refresh a look. Solid wood furniture offers superior stability and reliability. It is more likely to be handcrafted and is generally of higher quality.
Advances in Veneers
Veneers have existed for centuries. In fact, the master furniture makers of the 18th century used veneering techniques to create many classic looks. The advent of mass production in the second half of the 1900s led to the use of veneer as a cost-cutting measure and it was often applied with poor technique. Peeling, bubbling and other quality issues led to the negative opinion of veneers that many still hold today despite significant enhancements in how this product is used.
Selecting furniture is not a matter of veneer vs. solid wood but rather of overall quality and construction. Any piece of wood furniture that you are purchasing for long-term use should have solid wood legs and supports. Look at drawers, hinges and other materials to assess overall quality. Anything that looks or feels flimsy should be avoided. Drawers with "guides" will hold up better over time. You shouldn't see any excess glue anywhere on a piece of furniture. You can push lightly on the doors of a piece of furniture to assess quality as well; furniture should not feel weak or overly flexible.
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