Wood Veneer against Decorative High Pressure Laminates

by Johan Watson

Learning about how office furniture is made will go a long way in helping you make a decision about what to buy for your specific needs. In this article we will be highlighting the differences between two products that can look similar on the surface, but are quite different underneath. Then we will guide you in determining which of the two is best suited to your office.

Veneer Furniture

Wood veneers are thin slices (about 1/8th of an inch) of hardwood that is bonded to less expensive wood or wood composite such as plywood or fibreboard. If the slice of veneer is thick enough you can sand and refinish it should you desire.

Veneers have a softer surface material than laminates, which means that it can be scratched, get water or heat marks (from those those pesky coffee mugs), and also go through general wear and tear. It is not uncommon for veneer to start peeling off in places that are frequently used, such as drawers and the side of the desk where you sit and rub against. That is why choosing an exceptional manufacturer is essential with veneer furniture, as the likelihood of cracking and peeling is far lower, especially if you take care of it. The most common form of damage is due to extensive water leaks in the office.

Wood veneer is a natural product and is actually made of wood. If you can’t afford solid wooden desks (and very few of us can), then veneer is a smart choice because you can only tell the difference if you examine it really closely.

There are a number of different types of lumbar that can be used, and depending on how it was sliced each veneer surface has its own characteristic grain and texture. A single log from a tree can provide many sheets of veneer, which makes this type of furniture economical and environmentally friendly.

The various colours of veneer on the market are due to the different types of trees they are made from. This can be stained into non-natural colours, however, should you need that for your specific brand and office design.

Solid wood and laminates cannot be cut and bent into shape as easily as veneer (and some forms are entirely impossible), so this is an excellent option for custom designs and arrangements. Veneer furniture is more expensive than melamine or laminated alternatives, but much more affordable than solid wood, with a similar appearance.

High-pressure  Decor Laminated Furniture

Wood laminate is a manufactured layer that has been printed with a wood grain pattern. Usually this is on a layer of plastic, paper or foil. These printed surfaces are then bonded to a composite base, such as plywood. High-pressure laminated furniture is moulded and cured at up to 2000 pounds per square inch. This creates a smooth, tough and durable surface that can take a good few knocks.

You need to be sure that your laminated furniture is manufactured at high pressure, because low-pressure laminate (at 300 to 400 pounds per square inch) is less durable. For daily office use this is not recommended. Don’t be fooled by the low price and similar appearance, because the lifespan of essentially plain old melamine is short.

Although laminated office furniture looks like real wood, it is essentially just a picture of the grain, and not from a tree. There is an easy way to recognise it too – wood laminate’s grain will not follow through on your item of furniture like veneer that is actual wood.

Unlike veneer surfaces, laminated desks and cabinets cannot be stained. They can, however be painted or manufactured in a variety of designs, patterns and colours. You can also select a matt or gloss finish according to the overall look and feel of your office. That means you can match it easily to furniture that you already have.

High-pressure laminated office furniture has a harder surface than veneer, and tends to be slightly more durable with everyday use. However, if severely damaged, they cannot be refinished or retouched, whereas veneer can be.

Cleaning a laminated surface is easy, and often requires only a damp cloth. This is because it’s essentially plastic, so is very hard-wearing and doesn’t easily show scratches and marks.

Which one is best for my needs?

Determining whether your office is best suited to veneer or high-pressure laminate, is entirely a personal choice. You should consider functionality, durability, and aesthetics.

You may wish to purchase your more expensive furniture first, such as conference room furniture and executive offices. These are often best suited to veneer surfaces. However, less expensive and more durable laminated desks and cabinets are more practical for high usage areas. Remember, you can blend these in to match your higher priced veneer items really easily.

Here are some quick tips to help you make a final decision about your office furniture:

Veneer provides the following:

  • A professional, executive appearance that looks like solid wood
  • High quality and detail and each piece is unique in terms of grain
  • Less durable and more prone to damage, so best in low-traffic areas
  • Ideal for established businesses that are able to invest in furniture with a real wood finish

High-pressure laminate has this to offer:

  • Affordable price point
  • Low maintenance and high durability
  • Many more styles and finishes to choose from
  • Doesn’t look as elegant as a real wood finish (veneer)
  • Works particularly well in high-traffic areas
  • Best suited to growing companies that need professional looking furniture at low cost

Whether you opt for veneer or laminate, the good news is that both are much more affordable than solid wood, and can in fact be more durable. Solid wood cracks and warps more easily, and proper cleaning and maintenance of these desks and other furniture in an office environment is not always feasible.

Fortunately, both veneer and laminated furniture offer a simpler and more affordable alternative. No matter which option you choose, you can be sure that with proper selection and care, you will have an office that looks highly professional.

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