From the untrained eye, all furniture can, to some degree, look the same. We often get asked what the difference is between our furniture and that of other retailers, and how to tell higher quality items from the cheaper materials. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as easy as thinking that small price tags equal cheaper quality and high prices equal better quality. Today, we thought to share some insights into how to assess the quality of furniture you are buying. Obviously when it comes to purchasing furniture, in addition to aesthetics, quality is one of the biggest factors. Most furniture items are bought to last you 10+ years, so it is incredibly important that the furniture is high quality, durable and built to last.
The quality of wooden furniture can be generally divided into three key areas - the composition of the wood, how the item has been constructed, and how the product has been finished.
The starting point when determining the quality of your furniture is wood composition. There are generally three main types of wood found in furniture construction - solid wood, plywood and engineered wood (particleboard).
The strongest by far is solid timber. Many manufacturers have these days switched to cheaper plywood to reduce the costs of production, however it is still possible to find solid timber furniture at an affordable price. As an example, all B2C Beds are made using solid timber frames, and even our chest of drawers and bedside tables are fully manufactured using solid timber (you won’t find any cheaper plywood or particleboard even on the backing of our products!).
As a simple rule, the best wood is solid wood followed by plywood and then engineered wood or particleboard.
Look out for the different types of woods when you shop:
Image reference mcmahons.ie
This is an example of solid timber. The easy way to visually tell solid timber apart from both particleboard and plywood is the natural grains throughout. You won’t see a layered or particle effect - it’s literally just one piece of solid timber.
Image reference wikipedia.org
This is an example of Plywood. As you can see, plywood is made by layering numerous pieces to create a sturdier piece of wood. Never purchase the item if there is less than 9 layers - this is the minimum to ensure a solid and more durable piece of furniture.
Image reference pavcoind.com
Finally, an example of particleboard. This is by far the worst material to use when it comes to furniture. It is not as durable, and is more prone to dents and damages. The covering veneer is also prone to lifting and bubbling depending on temperature conditions. It’s easy to tell particleboard as the interior (beneath the backing veneer sheets) is made from lots of small pieces of timber.
Now that you have an understanding of the type of wood to look for, next you need to assess the construction of the furniture. As a general rule, you should rule out furniture held together with staples or glue (especially if you can see the glue!). The better types of joins will be made using dowels (wooden pegs) or screws.
When looking at storage units with backs facing the wall, the backing is just as important as the front of the unit. Solid timber again is a winner for a sturdy back. Look for a sturdy and well-fitted back. Also check any drawers fit well with glides that move smoothly and effortlessly. One simple way to test sturdiness is to gentle try to rock the piece. If you hear squeaks or if it twists or wobbles, the quality probably isn’t to the standard required for years of use.
Finally, look for a good finish. All good quality furniture will spend time ensuring the finish of their items is second to none. A good quality finish will provide depth of colour and accentuate the natural grains of the wood. Also important is a quality sealant with a top coat lacquer.
Why You Can’t Assess On Price
Traditionally, solid wood furniture held a much higher price tag and was therefore easier to tell apart from the cheaper manufactured plywood or particleboard. This is no longer the case. The reason behind this is best explained through an understanding of the manufacturing to customer process.
Most furniture retailers (particularly larger chain stores) purchase their furniture from overseas manufacturers. As they don’t manufacture the furniture themselves, to make a profit on any item sold, they need to first charge the cost of manufacture and then add their mark-up to sell to the customer. The numerous middle-men involved (shipping, storage, delivery etc) means that the mark-up needs to be substantial for the business to profit.
On the flip side, furniture stores such as B2C Furniture manufacture the furniture themselves and sell direct to public. While the quality of the furniture is often of a better quality than the more “mass-produced” furniture for chain stores, the prices are often on-par or even less as they don’t need to add the mark-ups on the furniture due to having “less hands in the pie.”
B2C Furniture uses solid timber in the construction of all our furniture. In addition to this, as we manufacture and sell direct to public, you can easily pick up a solid timber piece from us for the same price (or sometimes less) than the plywood or particleboard counterparts you’ll find at other furniture chains. As well as using sturdy solid timber in construction, our experienced craftsmen hand-apply our paint and stained finishes using a rigorous application process that provides depth of colour and enhances the natural wood grain of the furniture. For lasting protection, all of our furniture is then sealed and applied with a top coat lacquer.
When it comes to furniture, we believe that quality matched with beautiful aesthetics are key - and we’ve put these into every item produced. Take a look at our online store or visit our showroom; you won’t be disappointed!