Years ago, in a much different environment than I work in now, a coworker said, "We spend more time with each other at work than we do with our families—I'm glad I like you guys." How true, I thought. I still think so today in my corporate office environment. Unless you work with your spouse or teach in your children's school, you likely spend more waking hours in close contact with coworkers than with your family. 

The same goes for your office furniture. Even if you sit in the same spot on the couch at home to put your socks on in the morning and watch a show before the news at night, you still can't top the number of hours you sit in your office chair or use your desk or filing cabinet. 

If you’re a decision-maker or influencer concerning office purchases at your workplace, there’s a lot to consider when you make the leap to new furniture. You'll be using it every day for years, so it needs to be aesthetically pleasing and functional for the long haul—not to mention durable. Even the graceful among us occasionally slam a drawer or roll their chair into the edge of their desk.

Most of your choices for wood desks come in veneers or laminates. You would be hard-pressed to find a solid wood desk (at a price most any of us could afford) these days. Despite its beauty, solid wood can warp or crack more easily than its veneered counterparts. Here are some facts about veneers and laminates that might help you choose between these 2 viable options. If you have already been desk shopping, you’ll know that veneers tend to be more expensive than laminates. Here’s why.

What Is Veneer?

Wood veneers are thin slices of hardwood bonded to a less expensive wood like birch or a wood composite like plywood, particle board, or medium-density fiberboard. Manufacturers can do marvelous things with veneers that give a beautiful appearance to furniture.  

What Is Laminate?

Laminates are printed surfaces often made to look like wood. Laminate is produced on tough paper, plastic, or foil and bonded to a composite base. High-pressure laminates are molded and cured at 1,200–2,000 pounds per square foot, resulting in a very smooth and durable surface.

Choosing Between Veneer and Laminate

Knowing the differences between furniture materials won’t necessarily help you choose between them. Some thin veneers will curl away from their core while good laminates stay firmly in place for years. There is a range of design, material quality, and craftsmanship within each of the material types. 

It can really pay off to look around, see what you like, and then investigate options in your personal range of design, craftsmanship, and price. Ask yourself the following questions before making your decision.

  • Where is the furniture manufactured?

  • Will shipping the furniture to your location be costly?

  • Is the manufacturer reputable; do they have a reliable history?

  • Is there a guarantee on the furniture? (Don’t worry—you’ll get a lifetime guarantee through NBF!)

  • How are the parts of the furniture held together? If joins and joints loosen, will you be able to fix them?

  • Does the manufacturer use wood or veneer from sustainably grown forests?

  • How thick is the veneer? Can it be easily sanded and retouched, if necessary?

  • If it’s a laminate, how is it produced and with what materials? Is the result durable?

  • Does your manufacturer supply a retouching kit or instructions on repairing any scratches or dents to your laminate?

If you’re still having trouble choosing between wood veneer and laminate, consider turning to a professional for help—NBF offers free space planning and design services. You can also check out our guides to learn how to clean laminate and how to clean wood veneer.


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