How to Know If You Are Buying Quality Wood Furniture

How to Know If You Are Buying Quality Wood Furniture

Wood furniture is a popular option among homeowners because of its natural beauty and durability.  Wooden rocking chairs, chests, china cabinets, and table and chair sets are prominently featured in many homes and can add a touch of elegance to the interior décor.  Many people also display antique wooden furniture which can make a great conversation piece.

Like other types of furniture, the quality of wood furniture varies widely from inexpensive plywood and composite wood furniture to valuable, sturdy wood furniture made from quality woods like oak and cherry wood.  If you want to purchase quality wood furniture for your home, it helps to be able to distinguish between furniture that is well made from good wood and wood furniture that is made with cheaper materials and construction.  In this guide, we will explain how to identify quality wood furniture including the type of wood and quality of the construction.  These tips will help you make a sound decision when buying new wooden furniture.

Types of Wood Furniture

How to Know If You Are Buying Quality Wood Furniture

When assessing the quality of wood furniture, checking the wood itself is a great place to start

When determining the quality of wood furniture, it is important to be able to tell what type of wood you are inspecting.  Solid wood furniture is better constructed and often worth more while plywood, veneer, and laminate furniture tend to be cheaper and of lower quality. 

When inspecting wood furniture, it helps to be able to distinguish between the following types of furniture:

  • Solid wood: Solid wood furniture is furniture made from nothing but wood. This type of wood furniture is more valuable and more durable than furniture that is partially made of wood.  Check unfinished edges of the furniture for layers.  If there are no layers, then the pieces is made of solid wood.
  • Plywood: Plywood consists of several layers of wood, resin, and glue. Furniture made from plywood can be quite durable as long as the plywood has enough layers.  Check out the exposed side of the furniture and if the wood has layers, it is plywood.  Plywood furniture should have at least 9 layers for durability.
  • Veneer: A veneer is a thin layer of quality wood that covers wood of a lower quality. Veneer furniture is cheaper and lower quality overall than solid wood furniture, but it can have a similar appearance as veneers can be made from quality wood.  The veneer layer can also be sanded and re-stained and it is more resistant to splitting than solid wood.  However, veneers can blister and peel up over time.  If you are choosing veneer furniture, look for furniture with a thin veneer layer as thin layers are less likely to split than thicker layers.
  • Laminate: Laminate is made from synthetic materials that are manufactured to look like wood. This type of furniture is cheaper and not as durable as the other types of wood furniture described here.  The one advantage that laminate furniture does have is that it is moisture resistant, unlike real wooden furniture.

Other Signs of Quality Wood Furniture

When assessing the quality of wood furniture, checking the wood itself is a great place to start.  While solid wood furniture is of the highest quality, plywood and veneer furniture can also be of good quality and appearance.  The choice of which type of wood furniture to get is up to you based on your preferences and budget.  However, whether you choose solid wood furniture or plywood or veneer furniture, you should look for the following to ensure you are buying quality furniture.

Furniture Finish

Inspect the finish of the wood furniture to see if the finish is even and has a uniform color.  You should also check for blemishes that are difficult to repair like burn marks.  If the finish is worn out but the piece is made from quality wood, the piece can be improved with professional wood furniture refinishing services.

Weight of the Furniture

Furniture made of solid wood is heavier than furniture made from plywood, veneer, and other materials.  If the furniture is heavy, this indicates that the furniture is made from quality wood and will be quite sturdy.  The heavier the furniture, the higher quality the wood.

Wood Grain

Checking the wood grain can help you identify the type of wood of a piece of furniture.  The grain pattern of real wood varies and is often not uniform.  If the pattern of the wood grain is uniform or a repeating pattern, it may be veneer furniture.

Ornate Features

Some wood furniture may have ornate designs carved into it.  If a piece of furniture has ornate features, it is likely made from quality wood because these features cannot be carved into plywood, veneer, or laminate furniture.


Whether a chair, table, or china cabinet, wood furniture should be stable.  Either sit on the piece or lean on it to see if it is stable.  If the furniture wobbles at all, it is most likely of lower quality.


Other Signs of Quality Wood Furniture

If you are looking at furniture at a retail store, ask the salesperson about the quality of the furniture, including the fabric and padding

When checking the construction of wood furniture, you should mainly focus on the joints.  High quality furniture will have joints that are either dovetail joints or mortise and tenon joints.  Dovetail joints are joints in which the pieces of wood come together as interlocking pieces and they are glued in place.  Mortise and tenon joints consist of a piece of wood carved to fit perfectly into a cavity on the second piece of wood and these pieces usually secured with a peg or glue.

If a piece of furniture has joints that are screwed or doweled, it is likely a good quality piece, though not as high quality as furniture with dovetail or mortise and tenon joints.  You should be especially weary of wood furniture joints held together by staples and nails.  These joints will come apart easily over time.


High quality wood furniture will also have high quality padding and upholstery fabric.  If you are looking at furniture at a retail store, ask the salesperson about the quality of the furniture, including the fabric and padding, and they should be able to tell you and help you assess the quality of the furniture.

When checking the quality of padding and upholstery fabric yourself, look for the foam density.  Foam density on quality furniture will be at least 1.8 pounds.  If the cushions can be unzipped, look at the padding inside.  Quality padding will be wrapped in fiber and may also have an additional protective inner cover.  If the back cushions have loose fill foam, make sure there are multiple internal compartments in the cushion.

Cracks and Knots

Make sure to check the wood for cracks and knots.  High quality wood furniture does not have knots in the wood, and it shouldn’t crack easily.  The presence of cracks indicates that the wood is lower quality, and the cracks could eventually lead to a split. 

Wood Furniture Repair and Refinishing from Furniture Medic by MasterCare Experts

If you are looking for quality wood furniture for your home or office, make sure you follow the above tips to tell if the furniture you are interested in is good quality.  High quality wood furniture may be more expensive, but it can last for decades with the proper care.

Our experts at Furniture Medic by MasterCare Experts can help take care of your furniture with our wood furniture repair and refinishing services.  We can effectively repair structural damage to wood furniture and remove surface damage such as scratches, watermarks, gouges, and stains.  We can also completely strip and refinish your wood furniture and our color matching services allow you to choose a wood stain or finish that matches the original or choose a different stain to give your furniture a new look.

Give Furniture Medic by MasterCare Experts a call at (630) 653-3131 or send us your project through our Submit Your Project feature to get started.

Posted by Rick Armstrong