Veneer Vs. Solid Wood Furniture — The Choice Is Clear!

November 28th, 2017 Blog

Just off the top, it’s pretty clear where we at Woodcraft stand on the issue of veneer vs. solid wood; after all, we’ve been in the business of handcrafting solid wood furniture for over 40 years. It’s helpful, all the same, to compare veneer to solid wood, looking at its attributes, the reasons for its popularity and, ultimately, the ways in which it makes an inferior piece of furniture. We’ll also take a quick look at laminate and reclaimed wood, two of the other popular choices for furniture these days (spoiler: we’re fans of the latter, not so much the former!)

First off, it would be helpful to define the two terms, “veneer” and “solid wood”. Veneering is when you apply a very thin panel of wood – about 5mm thick usually – on top of another type of wood with adhesive. The wood underneath is an inferior quality of wood, usually either particleboard, medium density fibreboard, or a low quality solid wood. This is done to cut costs usually, and the process of veneering has been around for a surprisingly long time, with evidence of its use dating all the way back to ancient Egypt. It was used on the pharaohs’ sarcophagi, which is actually pretty cool, so veneer does have that going for it!

Solid wood, on the other hand, is a lot easier to define: it’s solid wood. To elaborate a little bit, unlike veneer, the solid wood furniture from Woodcraft is the same wood all the way through, so if you’re getting a live edge coffee table or solid wood bedroom sets made from oak, for example, you know that it’s just oak. Furthermore, at Woodcraft, we pride ourselves on using top quality Canadian wood for our furniture, giving it that extra special something.

As for the other two: laminate is basically just plastic that’s painted to look like wood, and is more common in floor than it is in furniture (though if you do come across a piece of laminate furniture, don’t buy it unless you’re really going for that kitsch factor). And reclaimed wood, like the kind we use for our reclaimed wood dining table and coffee tables, is good quality wood that’s been taken from its original application (like say, a barn or a barrel) and made into something more modern. It’s a very chic and fun way to give your home a little rustic accent.

The main problem with veneer furniture, seeing as it’s made with only a thin layer of quality wood, is that it is liable to peel and blister. Once your veneer furniture peels or blisters, which it will do if exposed to too many temperature changes, it essentially becomes worthless, as it has lost the only valuable part of it. Veneer can also chip easily, and if it’s dented there can be no buffing it out.

With solid wood on the other hand, if you get a dent or chip, you can simply repair it, since it’s all the same wood all the way down. The same goes with water stains: if you need to sand it down, that’s no problem. Some proponents of veneer will tell you that solid wood can split, therefore rendering it useless, whereas veneer can handle dry and moist environments. It’s true that it’s hard to use a solid wood piece of furniture if it’s split, but in order to split solid wood you’d need to really put it through some tough weather; and there aren’t many solid wood bookcases kept in the backyard!

When it’s used in common speech, veneer means “a cover or disguise masking something undesirable”, which about sums it up. When you invest in furniture, you want to invest in the genuine article, which is why you should always stick with solid wood furniture.