When shopping for pool tables for sale, you’ll often come across different construction styles, including slate pool tables, MDF, and slatron.
While you may be more concerned with a pool table's frame and playing cloth, the playing surface will impact your shots more than any other factor. For example, slate pool tables allow precise leveling and tolerance adjustments within .00001-inches to provide precise shots that roll straight every time.
That’s why slate pool tables remain the gold standard in pool table playing surfaces and tend to be a big selling point among high-end brands. It’s also why slate pool tables tend to cost thousands of dollars more.
While you may be able to save money with synthetic slate (accuslate) alternatives like MDF and slatron, you may end up sacrificing quality for the price, and your game will suffer.
With that in mind, we’ve provided this brief guide about everything you need to know about purchasing slate pool tables and why they remain the best material for pool table surfaces.
A slate pool table consists of a flat mineral playing surface underneath a table cloth, designed to provide accurate leveling and tolerance for precise shots. Slate ranges anywhere from 19mm to 1-inch in thickness.
Slate itself is composed of very fine minerals (Chlorite, Plagioclase, Quartz) extracted from mines which are then machined together, ground down, and polished to provide a flat playing surface. During construction, slate surfaces can be machined and leveled to allow for proper surface tolerance within 0.0001-inches of precision.
The corners of a slate are cut off to accommodate for pockets, and each plate is cut to a specific size for a 7 or 8-foot pool table.
Slate pool tables may come in either 1-piece or 3-piece construction. Most bars and pubs typically feature 1-piece slate pool tables, while many high-end brands use 3-piece slate for better performance, which we will discuss in a different section.
The massive weight of slate combined with its surface tolerance allows for precise shots without fear of too much ball stray. You want a ball to land where you shoot it and expect it to land. This allows you to take more difficult shots and control where your ball lands for strategic gameplay.
Unfortunately, on many cheaper pool tables made of slatron or MDF, you’ll notice balls tend to stray further from shots than you intended. As a result, your game suffers, although you might not be aware unless you’re used to playing on a slate pool table.
For professional games that require precision tolerance and leveling, slate offers the best material to allow pool players to deliver accurate shots. Slate ensures balls don’t travel further than they should and land in the positions intended by professional players. It’s one of the many reasons professional billiards players are capable of making such impressive shots, back to back.
In addition, slate tends to stand up to moisture, frequent use, and impact much better than many cheaper alternatives. For that reason, investing in a slate pool table is typically a lifetime investment.
A 1-piece slate surface is a single piece of slate cut, polished, and ground down to the size of your pool table, while a 3-piece slate table comes in 3-separate sections of slate. As a result, 3-piece slate pool tables are much easier to transport, typically thicker, and easier to level for a smooth playing surface.
While 1-piece slate pool tables are still quality investments, they may be difficult to transport and could end up damaging the seams of your table if you’re not careful. Additionally, a 1-piece slate pool table may be difficult to level and have imperfect spots across the table that impact shots.
Opting for a 3-piece slate set is much more efficient if you plan to move your pool table.
Depending on their size, most slate pool tables weigh anywhere between 700-1000 pounds. For example, a typical 7-foot pool table weighs around 700 pounds, while an 8-foot slate table could weigh around 800-900 pounds.
A basic slate pool table may hover around $1500-2000, while a high-end slate pool table could cost up to $10,000. Generally, 3-piece slate pool tables cost more than 1-piece pool tables.
Slate pool tables are natural rock, often referred to as a metamorphic rock. Non-slate pool tables consist of artificial materials, such as fiberboard, that are lighter but don’t provide a perfectly level playing surface.
Slate is typically heavier and has a smoother playing surface. Slate pool tables also offer better surface tolerance, allowing balls to stop naturally without rolling effortlessly.
A medium-density fiberboard (MDF) pool table consists of lightweight fibers compressed together with a special resin and then flattened to create a smooth playing surface. MDF fiberboards typically cost around $500-$1200 and weigh between 100-250 lbs.
MDF pool tables are ideal for people who will be transporting their table a lot, want a cheap starter table, or don’t require a professional feel.
Unfortunately, MDF pool tables are very susceptible to wear and warping caused by moisture. For that reason, MDF tables cannot be played outside and should be placed in a climate-controlled setting.
A slatron pool table is composed of particle board surrounded and flattened by two pieces of tough plastic. Slatron is considered the best alternative to slate and the most durable synthetic slate table. Unlike MDF, slatron won’t warp or fall apart due to water exposure or humidity.
However, slatron is not nearly as sturdy as slate. While slatron offers better surface tolerance than MDF, slatron cannot compete with the playability of slate.
On the other hand, slatron does offer the best alternative to slate and is just as lightweight as MDF. Additionally, a slatron pool table costs less than slate and more than MDF, hovering between $700-1500 depending on the quality of its construction.
Slate pool tables offer the best playability and durability when shopping for pool tables. If you’re looking for that professional feel, be sure to browse our selection of slate pool tables for one that best meets your needs and style.
We offer slate pool tables and slate alternatives in several different styles and sizes, whether you want an indoor or outdoor pool table.