Billiards Basics: Bringing New Life to Old Tables

Billiard tables are still a great way to promote good family fun in the home. But many people who already own a pool table will stop using their run-down and damaged pool tables, thinking that the pool table has gone past its prime. It is easier than you think to restore a pool table right now. Today, owning a restored pool table just makes sense. Here are some tips on what you need to know to manage and successfully completely restore your old and damaged billiards table at home. 

Assess the Current Condition of Your Pool Table

Pool tables are important in the world of billiards. Owning a pool table is in a way owning a part of history. It is important to know what needs to happen before taking on the project of revitalizing an old or neglected pool table. You will start with using a critical eye to go over the pool table and determine the worn areas from the parts that can be kept on for now. If there are any cracked, peeling, worn, or buckling areas on your current pool table, these areas need the most attention as you restore them. Also, it is easy to document the existing damage and wear on your pool table by taking a photo of the table with your mobile phone camera and looking carefully at the areas that need refreshing with an objective eye. The benefits of restoring your old tables will give you huge cost savings over buying another new pool table today. You can also feel proud to be a part of preserving the heritage of your current pool table.

 Tools and Materials Needed for a Pool Table Restoration Project 

You will need the following materials to restore your pool table:

  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Drill (and power charger)
  • Wrench
  • Mat for your back
  • Eye protection
  • Thin gloves
  • A level (for reassembly)

First, you will use the flathead screwdriver to remove the staples and fasteners holding the pockets to the table. Next, you will want to unscrew the pool table side railings, with your wrench pulling out the bolts that keep it snug to the table. You will need to remember to keep the screws handy, and they can be saved easily in a labeled plastic tub with a lid for future use to put them back on once restoration is completed. You will remove the felt cloth covering, which will expose the slate underneath. If your felt is glued down to the slate, start peeling it off on one corner, until you have peeled it all back away from the pool table slate. This is a good time to inspect the slate for any irregularities, to determine if it needs to be replaced as well. 

It will be possible to look online to resource where to find higher quality restoration supplies, that will be used to refurbish your pool table. You will need to lie on your back for the underbelly work on your restoration project, and a mat that you can place under your back will help make it more comfortable for you to stay on the floor. Your eye protection can ensure that your eyes will be safe from any flying staples or other wayward materials, as you are restoring your pool table at home. 

Disassembly of the Pool Table Can Take Time, But Doing It Right Is Well Worth the Task

You will want to disassemble your pool table, once you are ready to start the process of repairing the pool table and its components. Remember, everything that you take off your pool table to disassemble it, must go back on exactly the way you found it. You can make notes of what you take off and when, or even videotape yourself taking off the pool table parts as you disassemble the pool table for restoration. It is easy to make one area of the room where you will carefully lay out the materials, pool table parts, and other items needed for the restoration project. It is better if this room is in a low-traffic area for the duration of your project. You will need to use a flathead screwdriver to remove any staples that keep the pockets secured to the table and take these out. You will have taken off the felt cover, and you will next you will remove the slate. Slates on pool tables can be heavy to life and are usually several hundred pounds. Therefore, you may need to hire pool table moving help. You will take off the slate screws with the drill using a screwdriver bit, and if they are covered in beeswax you can just scrape the area gently to get to the screw to remove it. Once the slate is unscrewed on all sides, you can carefully lift the slate and put it safely in the room where it will not fall. You can put these screws into a plastic tub with a lid and label the tub appropriately. This will aid in the reassembling of your pool table later. Finally, the legs of the pool table need to come off. They are usually screwed to the underside of the pool table, and nuts can keep them securely in place. Remove the legs carefully, and put them in a safe area of the room on the floor perpendicular to the floor, to prevent them falling and getting cracked. 

 Cleaning and Refinishing the Pool Table Takes Patience and a Firm Hand

You will want to start cleaning and preparing the pool table surfaces after the project is disassembled. You can clean the sections of the disassembled pool table with mild soap and a small amount of water, then you can go online to review what you need to use for a deeper cleaning if necessary for your pool table surfaces and materials. It will be necessary to refinish the wood by sanding out the rough or damaged areas, then staining and finally sealing the wood components of your pool table. You can find the best finish for your pool table wooden areas, by going to a paint supply store or hardware store with a photo of your pool table wood. That is the time that you can look at the stain finishes available and decide if you want to stay the same color, go darker, or provide a richer finish. 

 Reassembly and Leveling of Your Pool Table Is a “No Rush” Game

When your pool table is completely restored from the wood to the tabletop cloth, you will be ready to reassemble it. Here is where you need to take your time, to ensure that everything is put back together properly. Once you take out your tools, you can put the pool table back together again with ease. You will start by reattaching the legs to the tabletop of the pool table. You will secure and screw these in using all the nuts and bolts used in the disassembling of your project. Next, you will reattach the slate bed to the main body of the pool table. If you have several slate pieces, put the middle one in first, then the other pieces, and balance the legs. Here you will use a level to determine that the frame of the pool table is completely balanced, and not listing one way or another. The slate piece(s) go into place first, and next you will drill the screws back into the slate. If the felt cloth was replaced, you will put it back here, but if you saved your old felt, it will go back on now. Wipe down the slate before putting on the cloth, and you can use any mild cleaner to do that task. If the felt cloth was stapled on, you will re-staple it where it was originally stapled, smoothing it out as you put it back on. If the felt cloth has been glued before, you will want to buy a pool table felt adhesive glue, and spray it on one section at a time as you smooth it directly into place. Beware of any wrinkles or uneven areas, and re-smooth these as you reattach the felt cloth to the pool table top. Next, secure the side rails back on and bolt them into place. Finally, put in the drop pockets on the side railings, and you will need to be underneath the table to see where to attach it properly. Take out your mat again for this task to save pressure on your back. Use your level on the pool table last time, once it is completely assembled. If it is “off” on one side or another, you can use shims to increase the height of any uneven legs. 

 It May Be Time to Replace and Upgrade Your Pool Table Parts 

A pool table that is frequently used is going to need parts replaced sooner rather than later. The common parts that start to show the most wear and tear on a well-used pool table will be:

  • Pockets
  • Cushions
  • Rails
  • Felt tablecloth covering 
  • Table legs 

You can research online to see where the most cost-efficient replacement parts exist and order all parts to be received together before you start your restoration project for the pool table. As you look at your project, you can upgrade it now, because this is the best time to make decisions that you want to make fun changes to your pool table while it is “down.”

Pool Table Pockets Wear Out Over Time, Requiring Replacement Right Now 

A pool table pocket and liner can wear out over a relatively short amount of time, depending on how much the pool table is being used. Many times the pockets and liners withstand the stress of balls being forced into the pouch, and while the players are enjoying the game, the weight of the pool balls will increase the stress on the pockets during each game played. Similarly, the cushions will need to be replaced, to allow the smoothest collision between the ball and the cushions on the table. When there are irregularities on a pool table cushion, it will detrimentally affect your game. It is difficult to be accurate when there are tears and rips on a pool table cushion

The rails on an older pool table need to be replaced with regularity, once they become cracked, chipped, or suffer obvious wear and tear. Rail replacement is an art, considering that the railings are made up of various heights of rubber. Depending on whether you are playing for the family game night in your home, or practicing for high-level tournament play, the cushions on your pool table will make the difference to winning and the alternatives. In general, all the rails need to be replaced once one rail out of commission is redone. All the rails on a billiards table need to match and should be between a rail height of around 62.5% and 64.5% as related to the ball diameter. This is important to take note of, as if the rail cushion is banked too high, then the balls hit at the cushion will roll away from the edge with the proper force, to anticipate where the balls will go on the table. 

Felt Pool Table Cloth Coverings Do More than “Scratch” When They Get Worn Out

The felt pool tablecloth coverings need to be properly maintained to keep a smooth and wrinkle-free exterior covering on the table. The replacement of a pool table felt cloth will add years to the enjoyment and use of your newly restored pool table. There should be no excess cloth sticking out from the edges of the pool table, and the cloth should fit nicely around the corner pockets on the tabletop. Additionally, there can be no areas where there are puckered canyons near the pockets and the sides of the pool table. The cloth needs to be stretched tightly appropriately onto the top of the pool table, and not thinned out or bunched up in any areas to overcompensate for a job poorly done in this area. You will want to find quality replacement parts, and that will be easier accomplished when you research online outlets for parts related to restoring your pool table top. It is possible to upgrade to a better-quality cloth and even to purchase a better-made cue rack at this point. The extra attention that you put into these details will significantly improve your billiards game. Even if your game is still slightly suffering, you will enjoy the higher quality look and feel of your pool table and its accessories when you upgrade these items during the pool table restoration process. 

 Your Final Touches Can Include the Customization of Your Refurbished Pool Table 

If you have dreamed of adding your personal touches to a renovated pool table, then now is the time to do so. It is possible to add anything your heart desires to your pool table top, that can include custom graphics, your favorite professional team logos, or any type of branding that you prefer that can be added to the new pool table top. It is critical that you understand and adhere to a regular maintenance schedule, in order to prolong the table’s life after the restoration project is completed. Once you have restored your pool table, you will want to give it a good once over and conduct a final inspection before inviting players to enjoy the restored table.


There are many benefits of restoring old pool tables, including the cost-effectiveness aspect of owning a table that has many more years of life and contributing to preserving the heritage of a pool table that is years away from prime. When you revitalize a pool table and begin a pool table restoration project, you may be open to feeling the immense satisfaction of revitalizing a piece of gaming history. You can look over your old pool table, determine where you want to upgrade and repair it and get started on a fun project that will revitalize your pool table to new heights. It will be fun playing billiards on your new and refreshed pool table. You may even improve your billiards game, and owning a restored pool table will be the way you preserve your place in the overall billiards community going forward. You will even have well-deserved bragging rights to your friends and family. 


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