Shuffleboard tables are long-term investments that demand a lot of care while purchasing. Make sure you get a table that provides fun for you, your family and friends for a long time. And for that, there are a few attributes you have to pay attention to when buying a shuffleboard table:
- Size: Buy the longest table you can fit in your game room with a clearance of 3′ on all sides
- Scoring System: The three-level grid is the most common, but a triangular scoring grid is a good option
- Durability and Quality: Tables made of hardwood, with polymer poured epoxy finish and featuring climatic adjusters are strongly preferred
- Price: Prices vary wildly across table types, but a reliable table will last for decades without any need for restoration
Shuffleboard Table Size
Length and Width
The regulation size for a shuffleboard table is 22′ (6.7m) in length and 30″ (76.2cm) in width. These are the biggest tables you’ll find from almost any manufacturer, and the ones you’ll play on at tournaments. However, many more sizes are available.
If you want detailed information about shuffleboard table sizes, check out our post about the topic. Generally speaking, you want the biggest table you can safely take care of and store safely. The most common table sizes found today range from 9′ to 14′, as they meet most players’ needs perfectly.
Keep in mind that tables too short make for games you may find too easy. These are mostly good for occasional, recreative playing with many people. However, if you want to hone your skills, either as a hobby or for competitions, get a longer table. 18-foot tables might be ideal for you if that’s the case. They’re big, but still easier to handle than regulation size tables.
The same logic applies to the width of your prospective tables. The narrower your table is, the less strategic your games will be. Since fewer pucks fit on the table, a playfield too narrow will make them bounce around much more.
Chaotic games may be a blast, and I personally prefer them to have fun with friends. But these games don’t say much about anyone’s skill or strategic thinking. If you’re serious about in-depth shuffleboard, don’t settle for anything less than regulation size width.
Of course, this is only absolute as long as you have a room that can fit the table. Regarding the width, you also want a door through which you can move the shuffleboard table. So your reality has the last word — don’t push yourself for a big table you won’t use after all.
Shuffleboard Table Thickness
The thickness of the playfield is also an important measurement. Most manufacturers will advertise their playfields as 3″ thick. This is, indeed, the official height of the playfield.
However, this doesn’t mean the wood the manufacturer used is actually 3″ thick: the measurement includes the finish. Speak with the manufacturer to know if you’re acquiring a table with 3″ thickness in wood, plus the polymer finish. In particular, look for butcher block countertops.
This doesn’t mean tables with thinner wood aren’t good. The material, more than the thickness, dictates the reliability of a table. The important aspect of thickness is that you should be aware of how durable is the wood and the polymer finish.
There are many ways to play shuffleboard, and you can even experiment with the rules. However, the scoring system is unchangeable for each table. So pick the style you’re most used to or the one you’d like to play with. Don’t choose randomly, as this affects gameplay greatly.
The most common system is the 1-2-3, with three rectangular areas. It is the traditional layout and calls for the most commonly knows rules of the game. The other common system is the triangular system, with six scoring areas within a triangle at the end of the table. It’s slightly more unforgiving, all else constant, and generally used for outdoors shuffleboard.
Thus, the triangular system in table shuffleboard may be used as a good miniature field to test strategies for courts. Otherwise, shuffleboard is officially played with the three-level grid. You can learn how to play here and see which ruleset suits you best.
Durability and Quality
The material of which your table is made is the most important aspect of its quality and reliability. The best tables are always made of hardwood, such as mahogany, maple, birch, and oak. We have covered what shuffleboard tables can be made of in this post.
You can get away with cabinets made of less resistant wood, such as Poplar, or even MDF. The aesthetic choice is important, too, and cedar or pine tables are particularly good-looking. Applying veneer finish to MDF outer cabinets is advisable in order to make them more durable.
In addition, make sure you look for solid wood cabinets, not solid wood cabinet finishes. A table advertised with a maple finish refers to how it looks, not what it’s made of. Hardwood cabinets are heavier and help the table keep in place even if knocked during play.
What you absolutely can’t give up is a playfield made of solid, good wood. Wood, in general, is very susceptible to cracks and dents, and you always need to avoid these on the playfield. The most recommended material is the North American Maple, which, however, only grows in specific areas.
In particular, what you want to avoid is warping your playfield. Humidity will cause your table to swell or shrink over time, and this may bend your table, disrupting gameplay. This is why MDF is unacceptable for the playfield, as it’s way more prone to warping.
Every table has a finish to protect it, and most manufacturers nowadays offer a lifetime guarantee for polymer finishes. That’s because technology today allows much more durability than traditional finishes with lacquers.
Poured polymer finishes are superior to wax spraying. Poured polymer finishes can make a Poplar table almost as sturdy as mahogany when it comes to dents on the surface. You should still, of course, apply wax and silicone spray regularly to your table to ensure its best performance.
The reason why polymer finishes are so reliable is their resistance to plastic deformation. Because the polymers are melted and only take shape once, they always tend to revert back to their original shape. This also means most visible damage is irreversible, but you can still cover it with wax.
Another option for preventing chipping and denting, especially from pucks falling off the field, is to use a carpet. It’s an elegant choice that muffles the sound of a puck dropping onto the table. Besides, carpets are also easily replaceable.
Although you may think shuffleboard table playfields are perfectly flat, the truth is that they are slightly concave. This was established to avoid pucks from falling off and make it slightly harder to reach the best scoring areas.
To preserve this curvature, you need to apply all means to prevent warping. And even if you use the best possible wood, some bending will always occur. This is where climatic adjusters come in: they compensate for minimal changes in the playfield.
Climatic adjusters are bolted to the bottom of the board and can also be used to make a table level. Any sort of micro-adjustments to the table can be done with these tools. Height, curvature, and angle can be corrected with climatic adjusters.
Not all tables come with them, so if your pick doesn’t, make sure you buy them separately. This is especially crucial for people who live in areas with great climate changes over the year. A climate controlled house should also help keep your table mostly constant, so consider getting an AC or a heater.
Shuffleboard tables don’t come in cheap, especially if you factor in all the quality parameters listed here. So you may want to consider a great, but shorter table. In general, every two feet you add to the table of a single style you cost you $250.
This isn’t the bulk of the price, of course. The price of a new table varies from under $4,000 to almost $22,000, depending on many factors. From materials used to add-ons such as scoring units, there are a lot of aesthetic and gameplay options for you to choose from.
You have the option to trade price for labor. Building your own shuffleboard table might cost you less than $2,000 using average-to-good materials. However, you won’t have any guarantee that your table will be as reliable as those you could buy from manufacturers.
Since most manufacturers make tables according to order, it’s possible to get a better price depending on the playing conditions. However, you should always keep in mind the amazing craftsmanship involved in recreating classic tables or designing new ones.
It’s also not advisable to get a low-quality table, since restoring it will be very expensive. Restoring a cabinet can cost up to $5,000, with which you could buy a new table. Repairing the playfield comes at a better price — up to $1,500. However. it’s still a price you’d rather not have to pay.