Wood Veneer vs. Laminate: Which is Right for Your Workplace?
Deciding on office furniture can be a difficult task, often starting with the material you want to use in the pieces. Appearance, durability and price point are all key factors to weigh in when deciding the pros and cons of your furniture material choice. Two of the most common options are wood veneer and laminate.
What’s the Difference?
Laminate furniture is a man-made product manufactured from synthetic material used to look like wood. There are two types of laminates High-Pressure and Low-Pressure laminates. High-pressure laminates are more commonly used and are made of multiple layers of resin-treated paper fused together during manufacturing. Low-pressure laminate is made of a single-wear layer over a single decorative sheet. Since laminate is manufactured, it is a heat- and scratch-resistant material that makes it easier to care for than wood veneer.
- Lower cost: Laminate products are easier to produce, making them less expensive than wood veneer
- Easy to care for: Laminate can be cleaned with a number of countertop cleaners and is easily cleaned and maintained
- Resistance: Laminate is made to be resistant to heat and damage. Laminate can scratch with harsh abuse, however much more durable than wood
- Lower quality: Made from synthetic materials, laminate is lower quality than wood
- Manufactured look: Low-quality laminate lacks a realistic look because of the manufactured wood grain
- Limited lifespan: Laminate does not offer the longevity that wood veneer does
The Real Deal.
Wood veneer is a thin layer of real wood that applies to a plywood base. The appearance of the grain in wood comes from slicing through the growth rings of a tree and can vary depending on the angle at which the wood is sliced. Since wood is a natural material, it inherently is a softer material and susceptible to scratches. Depending on the type of finish used on top of the wood, some can prevent scratches or are stronger than others.
- Authentic look: Veneer is a thin layer of real wood with natural imperfections creating a unique look
- Stable: Being glued to a stabled structure means the surface is not prone to warping or splitting
- Refinishing: Since the veneer is made of real wood you can refinish it like a solid piece of wood
- Less scratch-resistant: While overall durable, veneers are susceptible to scratches more than laminate
- Light exposure: Exposure to UV light, both from the sun and artificial, can cause color change and aging in your veneer
- Susceptible to water damage: Prolonged expose to water and wet conditions can damage the veneer
What’s Do the Experts Think?
Senior Account Manager, Melissa Ailts, offers her opinion on what’s best for your office:
“In my 30 years in the commercial interiors industry, I have seen many changes in surface materials. When I first began my career, wood grain laminates were not pretty. They appeared to be very plastic and looked man-made as they were a “picture” of a slice of wood veneer and were very uniform. Over the years, we have seen huge advances in the appearance of laminate surfaces. The beauty of laminate is the durability, but the tradeoff was the appearance.
Veneers were always admired for their beauty with the sheen and natural graining, but after a few months of use, they would start to show damage and signs of wear. Today’s wood grain laminates now offer the best of both worlds, beauty, and durability.
When I work with my clients, I advise them to use laminate surfaces as it is a win-win for them.”
Things to Consider:
1. Length of Investment.
How long do you plan on keeping your office furniture? Are you looking to buy a temporary piece, or are you wanting to invest a higher-quality? If you are wanting a long-term investment, along with a classic look, wood veneer is your best bet. Wood veneer desks make a great statement piece in areas such as reception and executive offices, where clients often visit.
2. Location. Location. Location.
Will this furniture be located in an area that is intended for high usage? If so, this could play a role in the furniture you want to buy. Laminate is less likely to get damaged from office traffic than wood veneer and is often used in workstations and busy areas of the workplace for this reason.
Ready to consider buying new furniture? Will you choose a laminate or wood?