Did you know that the majority of the furniture stores in the greater Orlando area mainly sell “wood” pieces constructed of particle board imported from overseas? Particle board is a rigid sheet of material made from compressed wood chips and resin, which is not exactly how the bureau you inherited from Grandma was made! Particle board is mainly used as a core in low quality furniture. It is then covered with either a “picture” of wood (known as “finish foils” in the furniture industry), or a very thin layer of wood, (which is called veneer), which is a step up from the foil finish, giving it the appearance of real or solid wood. Most furniture constructed in this fashion is inexpensive to manufacturer and does not usually withstand the test of time.
To make matters even more confusing, the furniture industry often chooses to disguise this material with many different clever names or terms such as MDF (multi density fiber board), chip board, fiber board, engineered wood, and our most favorite description used for particle board… “All Wood”! Technically speaking, the chips of wood used to make the particle board are wood. With this thought process, we could say that a meatloaf dinner is the same as having a Ribeye steak!
There are many other aspects to consider when making the decision between an inexpensive piece of furniture and a more expensive piece of quality furniture. First, take a peek inside the drawers. The drawers on an inexpensive piece of furniture will typically have substandard construction using glue and staples to hold their form. The drawer bottoms are often constructed from Masonite, a type of thick cardboard. Again, they may try to fool you by having a picture of wood glued to the Masonite board, or they will flock the drawer bottom with “velvet”-like material. A quality drawer will include dovetail joints, a sturdy drawer glide mechanism, smoothly sanded interiors with a real wood bottom and most importantly, you’ll get the whole drawer. The whole drawer?…the drawers of an inexpensive piece of furniture will be considerably less wide and deep than the case or space that it resides in. Again, from the outside, it will look like the inexpensive piece has spacious drawers, but the factory will have cut corners, using less material, giving you less storage space. Yes it’s true; a quality drawer will hold as much as 30% more stuff! And that alone is huge when considering your furniture budget.
Some of the other things to investigate when deciding on which quality level of wood furniture you are thinking of purchasing:
- Does the piece include dust covers between the drawers? This feature helps protect your clothing from getting dirty, torn or jammed up between the drawers.
- Is the back panel a rigid wood material or flimsy cardboard? A rigid back panel aids in the stability of the piece.
- Is the dimension of the piece suitable to your needs? An inexpensive piece of furniture will typically be smaller in stature or scale than average.
Finally, in furniture it is fair to “judge the book by its cover”. A quality piece of furniture will be adorned with a multi step, hand applied finish giving the piece a deep, rich look and a durable exterior finish. It could be successfully debated that well-crafted, solid wood furniture, although initially more expensive, is a much greater value!