CUSTOM CONFERENCE TABLE FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Find the Answers You’re Looking For
We apologize in advance for the lengthy responses – many of the custom conference table questions involve technical aspects of woodworking and a single sentence answer just won’t do. If you would like a further explanation of any of these points, please call us or fill out our contact form. We love to talk about our work, so don’t be shy.
It depends on the design. Pricing is driven by three factors: Size, complexity, and materials. Large tables and complicated designs take longer to build and cost more than smaller and simpler tables. Complex finishes take more time than simple clear coats. Material costs vary depending on whether the table is made of wood or laminate, and what power/data units are used. The shape of the table also contributes, and whether we are producing one table or multiple copies of a single design. All of our conference room tables are made in the same shop by the same craftsmen, to the highest standard of quality.
Here’s a quick formula for single tables that will give you some numbers to think about:
- For most of our tables, prices start at about $600 per foot of length, i.e. a 10 foot long table will start at about $6000. That would be for a table with simple features, made of laminate.
- Prices rise as the table gets fancier. By the time we get to $1200 a foot, you can have a very complex and impressive design. The most expensive tables end up in the neighborhood of $2000 a foot or more.
- The formula applies to odd-shaped tables, like V-shapes, open squares, and circles, if one takes the overall length of the table, unfolded or unwrapped into a straight line, and multiplies by the price per foot.
Round tables and square tables have a similar pricing structure. Use the diameter in feet for round tables, and the length of a side in feet for square tables. (See common sizes for round and square tables.)
This formula doesn’t cover every possible type and configuration of conference room table we make, but it does work for most of our choices. To further clarify, we’ve sorted our portfolio by price group. STANDARD GRADE ($600 – $1000 a foot) are the lowest cost. PREMIUM GRADE ($1000-$2000 a foot) represent great value. They have a good combination of features and materials, making for an impressive table without too many extras. And ULTRA GRADE tables are designed to dazzle, with the finest materials and most imaginative design.
Modular Table Costs: Modular tables are made in quantity, and tend to be much smaller than our other tables. This changes the standard pricing equation. It’s hard to give a simple formula that covers every option, but here are some numbers to consider:
- The simplest tables we make start at about $1200 each, when ordered in quantity, and consist of laminate tops with simple, non folding metal legs.
- Most of the folding and rolling tables we make will fall in the $1400 to $2400 range for each table, again ordered in quantity.
- Our more substantial and elaborate tables will cost more than that. Keep in mind that we’ll work with you to identify designs that fit your budget.
Contact us and we’ll help you make prudent choices about what features to include or omit to meet your budget.
Building custom conference tables from scratch takes time. Your delivery dates will be confirmed when you place your order, and will reflect our backlog at that moment. We ship most of our tables within 8 to 12 weeks of receiving an order. When we are exceptionally busy, it can take longer. If you need it faster, tell us and we’ll see what we can do. Our promise: if we say it will be there on a particular day, IT WILL BE THERE. We understand tight deadlines and we never mislead our clients about timing.
Since our roots are as a woodworking shop, most of our tables are made of wood. (We also use lots of other materials – see the other FAQs for more information.) Wood comes in three types: solids, veneers, and engineered panels. All of these come from a tree. After felling, logs are processed into chunks of solid lumber, or sliced into thin sheets of veneer. Some parts of the log are unsuitable for either lumber or veneers – these are made into engineered boards, which we use for the internal structure of the table. Each type of wood is best used for a particular task:
- Solid wood: We use solids in places where we need to cut a complex shape, carve a molding, and wherever a piece is likely to be banged during its ordinary use. For conference room tables, that means the edge of the table and parts of the base.
Unfortunately, solid wood has some inconvenient properties. It will change dimension whenever the weather changes: humid weather makes it get bigger and dry weather makes it shrink. This can cause warping and cracking, and limits the size of panel that can be made entirely out of solid lumber. Solid wood also has variable appearances and structures. Each tree’s grain responds to its local environment, so there are wide variations in appearance and strength in any pile of lumber. And there are always knots. Lots and lots of knots.
- Veneers: Many people do not know what veneers are. Both solids and veneers are wood – they are just cut from the tree in different ways. Think of solids as being like a pork chop and veneers as something like prosciutto – same stuff, just cut much thinner. Veneers are sliced off of a log using an enormous knife. We use them for 3 reasons: 1) The most spectacular trees get cut into veneers, so if we want the coolest wood we have to use them; 2) You can get a lot of veneer off of a single tree, so when we want to cover a large area in a consistent way, veneers are the way to go; and 3) large veneered panels are much more stable than large solid panels, which are prone to warp and crack.
- Engineered panels: Engineered panels have been developed to help wood do a better job in certain situations. These are made by taking the wood left over from cutting solids and veneers, and processing it into panels of consistent size and thickness. They are the hot dog of the wood world: inexpensive, and the best solution when consistency is an advantage. We use two types of engineered panel: 1) Plywood, made from interlocking layers of veneers, and 2) MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard), made from leftover parts of the tree. Plywood is good for structural elements, particularly in the table base, and MDF is an excellent substrate for veneers. Our table tops are made with a layer of veneered MDF on top of a plywood structural base, which receives the hardware that holds the table together.
We apply a solid wood edge to all of our table tops to keep the veneers from being damaged. Table bases are made from either a combination of solids and veneers, or, for a lower cost, entirely of plywood and MDF.
Our lumber pile: trees cut into large chunks.
Pieces of veneer, each chosen from a complete flitch.
Engineered panels. MDF in foreground, various types of plywood (and laminates) in the rack.
Yes, we can. We’ve made hundreds of dining tables from solid wood. We also make tables from large slabs, leaving the natural edges in place, but solid wood is not best for every situation. Solid panels larger than 4’x 8’ are prone to warping and cracking, because the wood changes size in response to weather changes. Accommodating that movement requires careful consideration. It’s risky to ship solid top tables to very dry environments (looking at you, Arizona.) It can also be difficult to incorporate a lot of power/data equipment into solid tops. We will discuss the particulars of your situation to see whether solids or veneers are best. All we want is for the table to be as well built and durable as it can be.
Paul Downs table & chairs made in 1993, photographed in 2017. All solid cherry.
Another dining set, made of solid bubinga in 2006. Photo taken in 2016.
An enormous slab of white oak used for a communal table. Happy architect for scale.
Veneered furniture has been around a long time. There were veneered pieces in King Tut’s tomb, which have survived 3500 years. Ever since then, many of the most expensive and spectacular pieces of furniture in history were made using veneers. Nowadays, veneered furniture occupies both ends of the economic spectrum. Industrial methods have made it possible to make cheap veneered panels, and techniques have been developed to build this into very cheap furniture. This is why veneer has a bad reputation. A lot more people have had a poor experience with lousy veneered furniture than have enjoyed owning very high quality work. We aren’t interested in making cheap furniture, so our veneered work is done with the techniques that stand the test of time. Think of veneer as you would beef: your dinner may be delicious or disgusting, but you don’t blame the cow. It’s up to the chef to use the ingredients properly. Same with veneers. Built properly, veneer furniture is as durable as solid.
Egyptian chair, made in 1450 BC with ebony and ivory veneer.
Veneered – and fit for a king! Louis XV’s desk, completed in 1760, took 9 years to build.
Ryan Bardsley assembling a veneered top with logo.
Plastic laminate (aka Formica) is an incredibly useful material for table tops. It’s inexpensive, extremely durable, and comes in a huge variety of patterns and colors. We use laminate when the table will receive hard use and/or the client is trying to keep costs low. When we use laminates, we can eliminate most of the finishing labor involved in producing a table, and that’s often a significant savings. About a third of the tables we make are built with laminate tops. Laminate tops can be combined with a solid wood edge and base for a more elegant look with enhanced durability. Our design engineers will discuss your situation with you and recommend whether wood, laminate, or another material is best for you.
A few of the laminates we carry. (That’s our sample board)
A laminate table on our shop floor. Very colorful!
U-shaped table with dark cherry base & top edge, laminate top panel to match.
We use them all. Let’s start with solid surface materials, AKA Corian. There are actually a lot of manufacturers making this stuff, and they each have their own sets of colors and patterns. All of these materials are excellent substitutes for marble or granite. They are almost as durable, more repairable, lighter weight (which facilitates shipping and installation), and we can fabricate them in our shop. And we can mix the solid surface with both wood and metal.
We also make conference tables with marble and granite. These materials are extremely heavy, and require careful engineering so that the base has sufficient heft. They are also hard to move. When we work with stone, we use local fabricators who are familiar with local delivery procedures to do our fabricating. We manage the project and take care of the structure of the table.
Glass is similar to stone in that it’s very heavy and hard to move around. When the client wants a table without any wiring, we can work with a local glass company, while we design the base and handle the project management. When glass is needed to cover a wood table that has power/data units, we bring the glass panels to our shop and fabricate the table, then ship the whole package together.
We use metal in many ways, both as a surface material and as a structural material. You can see many examples here: Tables with Metal
For more info, read about these and other conference table materials.
Three sample sets of solid surface materials: Dekton, Corian, and Meganite. There are a lot more.
Table with Quartz top and integrated power/data, made for Vanguard Group
Black Corian top with Bolivian rosewood center panel
Meganite top with brushed aluminum center stripe. Made for Los Alamos National Laboratory.
A marble table we made for a client in Manhattan.
Glass on top of a wooden table. Note the power/data hatches, integrated into the table top.
Wood finishing is an extraordinarily complex subject. We can choose from a multitude of types and processes. Our standard finish is a catalyzed polyurethane, as this gives the highest level of protection for commercial use. It’s been my experience that people want three things in a finish: 1) smooth; 2) waterproof; 3) a look that highlights the wood grain. Our urethanes do all of those. We are happy to discuss finish options if you have questions. Call us to describe your situation and we’ll help you figure out what will work best.
Yes, it can. Our conference tables are made in pieces, designed to be easy to move and assemble. Even the largest tables can be moved into any space. We have also developed an integrated hardware system which makes our tables easy to assemble.
We use commercial trucking services to move the table from our shop to you. This allows us to ship work anywhere on the continent quickly, at a reasonable cost. Conference tables are large and bulky, but we build and pack them so that they can be shipped without damage. Your table will be made in pieces, with a maximum size of 4 feet x 8 feet (the size of a standard sized sheet of plywood). All of the pieces will be wrapped in foam, and then enclosed in another layer of cardboard, with heavy duty cardboard corner protectors. Then, all of those pieces will put into a custom crate designed to provide superior protection during transit.
The pallets are large and heavy. Most of them are 4 feet wide, 8 feet long, and 4.5 feet high, and weigh between 500 and 1000 pounds. A loading dock and pallet jack, or a forklift, is required to safely remove the crate from the truck. Because of this problem, we offer two levels of delivery service:
Inside delivery: We will ship to a local furniture installer. We use Installnet to identify quality local installers, or we will work with whatever provider you prefer. The installer will be able to get the pallet off the truck, and then bring the wrapped pieces into your space, unwrap them, and assemble the table.
You assemble: If you have the ability to receive a pallet and move the pieces into your space, then we can ship directly to you. Our tables are designed to be very easy to assemble – any handy person can do it. We can offer discounts on our list pricing if you take over this part of the job..
Cost: Freight and delivery costs vary widely, depending on how far you are from the shop and whether you can receive freight. Most of the time the cost of moving the table to you is around 10% of the item cost. But not always. We will quote these costs along with the table, once the design is settled.
Yes. We’ve been making all kinds of furniture for years, and we can make credenzas, serving tables, equipment cabinets, coffee and end tables, and anything else you need. We can also provide chairs for your order, although we don’t make them ourselves.
You can see some examples of other pieces here:
We rarely have access to our tables after delivery, so most of our pictures are taken in the shop. Large tables are hard to photograph in the best of circumstances, and our shop lighting makes it more difficult. If we can’t get a good picture on the shop floor, we will use a rendering program to generate better views of the table, with chairs. The photos that you see with a pure white background are rendered.
Absolutely, we love visitors. And I’ll boldly state that we have the nicest shop on the East Coast. We have open shop tours on the second Tuesday of each month, at 9AM. Please contact us to tell us you are coming. If you can’t make that, we can schedule a custom appointment. We prefer to see clients during the weekdays, but we can sometimes meet on weekends and evenings. The tour usually takes about an hour, longer if you wish to discuss a particular project. We are located near Philadelphia. We’ll send you directions when you make an appointment.
The Paul Downs Difference
No mass-produced, cookie-cutter tables here. When it comes to custom conference room tables, Paul Downs is the pinnacle of craftsmanship. We design truly unique meeting and boardroom tables that are hand-crafted to your specifications, from power and data hatches right down to the grain of the wood we use. If you need a conference room table for your business, organization, or school, we’re just a click or call away. Someone from our team will be happy to answer any questions you may have.