It's easy to assume "you get what you pay for", and that the higher the price, the better the overall quality of the furniture piece. But price is not always the best guide. The low-end product from a medium - or high-end manufacturer may not be as well-made as a similar product from a less well-known competitor.
Solid vs. veneer. It's a common belief that solid wood construction is superior to that using veneers (layered wood laminates). However, we've found that some of the finest standards of construction are found in today's veneered pieces. And it's important to remember that veneer is only found on tops, sides and drawer-fronts. All other components of an item are solid.
Sometimes, a wood's beauty is better revealed when sliced as veneer sections rather than cut as solid sections. Also, solid lumber does not offer the strength or stability of matched veneered panels.
In general, we believe some of the benefits of veneered construction to be: Cross-grained lamination provides greater dimensional stability because movement is restricted by the other layers.
Five-ply or seven-ply construction offers more strength, stability and durability.
Modern glues and adhesives resist cracking, peeling, or splitting of the wood layers, common problems with earlier-generation glues.
Hand-matching creates beauty not found in solid wood construction and allows a great deal of creativity in arranging patterns.
Veneering allows the use of many different species of exotic veneers, often creating a highly dramatic look.
Quality checklist for wood furniture
Large cabinets, china cabinets, entertainment enters, sideboards, etc. should have leveling devices in the base. Keeping big items level helps keep their doors from sticking.
There should be sash locks on the table leaves and table base.
Drawers should work smoothly and should not bind when extended.
Drawer interiors should be smooth to the touch, sanded and sealed.
Glass shelves should be thick and have plate grooves.
Look for quality hardware; substantial pulls and durable hinges.
The back panel of the piece should be wood (on lesser quality pieces, it may be fiberboard, or even cardboard). Also, back panel should be inset into case for overall stability, not simply nailed to the back edges.
Drawer guides on the best pieces are wood lubricated with wax or metal. Center guides combining wood and metal, or wood and plastic, or plastic and metal are not found on higher quality goods.
When shopping for dining tables, put your hand on the corner and try to move it. If there's lots of wiggle, the legs are either not well-secured, or the leg assemble is poor.
Glass table tops should be made of tempered glass and should be between ½ and 5/8 inch thick. Glass inserts should be 3/8 inch thick.