Is this wood? Was this wood?

Congratulations! So you’re off to buy some furniture

for your master bedroom or to fill that space in a room where your kids have all their toys which most of us call a dining room. You realize you are on a budget and are definitely going to take advantage of that awesome financing promotion your friendly neighborhood furniture store is broadcasting on your phone every time you get online to play your favorite YouTube video but you have all kinds of other questions right?

How much should I spend? How long will it take to get it delivered? Does it come with a good warranty and don’t even get me started on the quality! Is it made in America? Is it ecofriendly? Are the chemicals in it going to make my dog meow? Is it even real wood, plastic or some other substance? Is there even any wood in it?  How can anyone tell?

Although we can’t address all of your questions in this one article, we do want to address one of the most frequent questions we get in our showroom each month about the furniture piece customers are shopping for, “Is this real wood?”

Many furniture manufacturers classify the furniture they design, build or import into one of three main categories; laminates, veneers or solid wood; we will get back to these classifications in a minute. Technical information provided by these factories tends to get passed down to retail store sales associates and then to you, the end-user, making the answer to the question, “Is it real wood?” very unclear. With such a large variety of manufacturers to choose from today, the processes each uses to make furniture, the available materials used and of course the target prices for a retailer to achieve, WHAT a piece of furniture is made of is a constantly moving target. Before we get to a better set of questions let’s first discover the basic categories of components used to build your new bedroom or dining room set. Let’s start at the core of a piece of furniture and work our way upward to the surface.

What lies beneath

“…there is a big difference between solid wood and wood solids.”

Substrates, or what is under the surface, in today’s furniture vary but by-and-large are only one of two materials classifications:

Solid wood- This is real wood and has no engineered wood products or by-products in it. Think of just cutting down a tree and sawing the wood straight from it. This method, although seemingly the best choice may, depending on your situation, not be the best choice for you. If you are an eco-friendly soul, you will surely be conflicted. No resins are used but there is a lot that goes to waste making this kind of furniture. When you think of solid wood furniture, think about handmade furniture built by the Amish. These pieces although solid, with a higher perceived value have their own shortcomings such as warping or cracking and when you spend that much money on a dining group, you may not have any change left over for things like groceries or rent. Which leads us to our second version of wood which most all furniture built today has some mixture of.

Engineered wood- As the term suggests, is man-made and does contain real wood, but is some version or mixture of wood by-products such as particle board, OSB (oriented strand board), furniture grade plywood, MDF (medium density fiberboard) or some variation of wood pieces or even fibers. These fibers are mixed with glues and  compressed under heated conditions to form a solid substrate made of wood yes, but not cut directly from one piece of wood or smaller solid wood pieces joined together.
But aren’t these actually real wood too you ask? Of course; they were a real tree at some point but are no longer one solid piece of wood in its original state so we would not identify this board as solid wood but instead as an engineered wood board. The benefits of this product lie in its mass production and lower costs to build. Also something to consider is that it usually will not warp or crack or fade like solid wood pieces, thereby giving you years of enjoyment as well. Please note and be aware……there is a big difference between solid wood and wood solids!! Listen closely when your furniture expert responds to your question, “Is this real wood?”.

One awesome example of an engineered, man-made bedroom is our B267 Willowton Collection which looks like solid wood but at a fraction of the cost of a solid wood group or even a veneered bedroom collection.

Willowton Panel Bed

The ultimate look for a beach cottage or shabby chic inspired retreat, the Willowton queen sleigh bed carries you away to a dreamy time and place. Driftwoody whitewashed finish is wonderfully easy on the eyes. Plank-style detailing incorporates a classically rustic touch, so homey and comforting. Mattress and foundation/box spring sold separately.

Surface Talk

Now that we know what is typically under the surface or at the core of a piece of furniture, let’s talk about what gets glued, yes glued on top. Although there are many types of materials which can be applied to the surface of furniture, the most common two are laminates and veneers.

In furniture, when makers laminate a substrate, they are usually covering an MDF (medium density fiberboard) board panel with a paper or vinyl laminate to make it look like a solid piece of wood. This material is usually nothing more than a photo image of a particular wood grain like oak, walnut or cherry that has been superimposed onto a roll or ream of thin paper or vinyl material to mimic the appearance of real wood. When applied properly, the finish looks great, costs less than veneers and with proper care will last for year and years like a wood veneer piece of comparable design.

Wood veneers on the other hand are ultra-thin layers of real wood (about 1/8th of an inch thick) which are glued to a substrate allowing for a more durable surface and have a more true, richer, deeper finish than any laminate. Another benefit of veneers is that they can be laid out in intricate patterns to add a design element not found in laminate groups or even solid wood sets. Additionally, once veneer is applied to a set, it can be further stained, colored or distressed in ways no paper or vinyl laminate ever could.

A great example of a wood veneer bedroom is the  Porter Collection B697 model   as seen in our featured image at the intro of this blog which has a rich dark finish and subtle burnished edges combined with a beautifully hand-rubbed finish.

Now that’s settled right?

Uhh, no. It’s probably not settled for you and after reading all that technical mumbo-jumbo you might have even more questions. Truthfully, with the fluctuations in today’s currencies, the sporadic availability of raw materials and labor plus the simple fact profit margins determine where and how your new dining room will be built, it is impossible to keep up with who is building which piece where and with what materials.

A better set of questions you should be asking is, which product is best suited to match my current needs, my fashion taste and my budget? A few other considerations to decide on before you buy might be:

Who is this furniture for?

  • Children tend to be rough on furniture and they grow out of it quicker
  • You may be choosing something your guests will be using
  • If the furniture is for you, you might be making a long term investment so this could be the last group you ever want to own

How long do I plan to use it or keep it?

  • Is the piece for your personal home?
  • Are you someone who loves to update every few years?
  • Will this piece be in an investment property?
  • Is this college furniture and I don’t plan on keeping it past graduation?
  • This will do for now and I will upgrade to better later on?

What features and benefits do I need?

  • USB charging ports for all of your gadgets?
  • Hidden or felt-lined drawers are a plus
  • Deep storage drawers because you are short on closet space

How We Buy Today

Today consumers shop more for the stage of life they are in than a particular style or fashion. Are you retiring and love to entertain family and friends then those veneered surfaces will clean up nicely? Are you just out of college or recently divorced, then you are surely starting out or starting over and on a tight budget, grab that laminate bedroom for now. Are you married with no kids and two incomes, then you can splurge and go for that higher dollar solid bedroom group or veneer pattered set.

Ultimately we all have lots of questions when we shop for furniture as it tends to be one of life’s largest investments and one we tend to make several times in our life. Don’t get too hung up on is it wood or was it wood, ask about quality construction, expect a minimum of a one year manufacturer’s warranty and also ask you salesperson about any protection programs they offer that will protect your new furniture from life’s unexpected accidents. It never hurts to ask about store delivery terms and policies on any service issues you might encounter. 

Serving Gainesville and surrounding areas since 1984, we at Furniture Country invite you to stop by and speak to any of our knowledgeable sales associates about your furniture and mattress needs. Now sit back and relax.