The Debate Rages On: Veneer or Wood?


If you’ve stopped by our website to shop for office furniture, you’ve probably noticed we offer desks in two different types of material: laminate and wood veneer.

Knowing the difference between the two isn’t common knowledge; many times people use the terms interchangeably. Just knowing the difference between laminate and veneer is only part of the story. Which material functions best in different environments? How easy is it to clean and maintain laminate? Is it more difficult to maintain a wood veneer desk?

In the next few minutes we’ll break down each of these materials and answer popular questions about the two.

What’s laminate and what’s veneer?

Before we answer this question, it’s important to point out that laminate versus veneer isn’t just an office debate. These two materials are popular in the home, too. They’re used for cabinets, tabletops and all kinds of furniture.

Laminate

Laminate is a layer of plastic (in most cases) whose surface resembles real wood grain. Many times laminate surfaces are attached to particle board or medium-density fiberboard. DIY experts are familiar with the stuff, as many pieces of furniture use a laminate surface.

As one DIY maven pointed out on SalvagedInspiration.com, you can age laminate with light sanding but you can’t stain it. Now, you’re probably not going to spend a Friday night in your office distressing your desk. We get that. But in terms of differentiating the two materials, this is an important point.

Veneer

You could say that veneer is the natural version of laminate. Whereas laminate is a plastic version of a particular type of wood, veneer is a thin layer of real wood pressed onto a more substantial piece of wood that’s usually of a lesser quality.

For instance, an “oak” desk may have an oak veneer, but the wood underneath could be particle board, MDF or pine.

In terms of quality, wood veneer usually comes out on top because it’s real wood. In fact, many high-end pieces of furniture use wood veneer on top of solid wood.

The differences between the two: price and durability

One of the first things you’ll notice is that there’s a pretty substantial price difference between laminate desks and veneer desks. As you’ve probably guessed, a lot of that has to do with the fact that wood veneer uses real wood and laminate desks don’t.

Price

To give you an idea of what a laminate desk costs, take a look at our popular 6’ x 6’ L-shape desk. At $545, you get a solid desk with three choices of laminate: cherry, maple or mahogany. We use an excellent laminate that expresses everything you want in a wood desk while freeing up resources to invest in other office furniture.

The 6’ x 6’ offers a lot of storage space (two separate locking drawer files) and a lot of surface area.

veneer desk

A similar sized veneer desk is the Ruby L-desk. It measures 6’ 6” by 6 “, so you’re looking at an increased surface area. This particular model comes with a three-drawer locking file on one side and a handsome rounded desk end on the other.

The wood veneer looks sharp and provides a very smooth, very natural appeal. Among our veneer desks, the Ruby is an affordable option at $899.

ruby desk

When it comes to looks, the Ruby, in our opinion, has the edge over the laminate 6’ x 6’. The wood veneer has an elegant, refined aura. The laminate desk has excellent aesthetics, but the Ruby is more suited to the needs of an executive who is looking for a real-wood feel.

Durability

As we mentioned just a few seconds ago, veneer desks tend to be the more affordable option for an office. However, what you save in price you give up in a real-wood appearance.

But let’s say your main concern is durability and maintenance. Which surface is best?

Wood, in general, needs a lot more care than veneer. You’ve got several different things to watch out for.  A veneer’s finish is susceptible to scratching and you’ll always need to be wary of water stains or those annoying rings left by your morning cup of coffee.

On the other side of the surface coin, laminate holds up much better over time. The surface is much less susceptible to scratches and stains. Whereas your veneer desk will need refinishing at a certain point, your laminate desk can withstand water, coffee rings and nearly anything else you throw at it.

Final thoughts: veneer or laminate

If you’re the kind of person who values a more traditional look of real wood, then veneer is the obvious choice. If you’re more utilitarian and want the functional option that holds up well over time, laminate is an excellent option.

One other consideration is color. Veneer desks are typically limited to a certain range of colors while laminate offers you a wider range of options.


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