Deciding where your pool table will live is one of the first things to think about when searching for the best one to buy. There are two main types of pool tables, indoor and outdoor and they vary in terms of the materials used. In this article, I’ll compare the features of both indoor and outdoor pool tables so you can decide which one is the most suitable for you.
The Quick Answer
Outdoor pool tables have weather-resistant frames, beds and cloths compared to indoor pool tables which must be kept indoors to prevent rain, sunlight or increased humidity from causing permanent damage. Outdoor pool tables often use acrylic cloths, metal frames and slate beds whereas indoor pool tables often have wool cloths, wooden frames and either slate or MDF beds.
|Outdoor Pool Table||Indoor Pool Table|
|Acrylic cloth||Wool, polyester or nylon cloth|
|Aluminium, stainless steel or fibreglass frames||Frames are usually made from wood|
|Slate beds||Slate or MDF beds|
|Weather-resistant||Cannot get wet|
|Playing surface feels slower||Playing surface feels faster|
Indoor pool tables have either a slate or MDF bed, whereas outdoor pool tables almost always have a slate bed. The bed of the table is very important as it dictates how level and hard the playing surface is. The bed sits on top of the frame and is then covered by the cloth.
Slate bed pool tables are more durable and offer a better playing experience than MDF tables, the only drawbacks are that they are more expensive and heavier. In most cases, a slate-bed pool table is the best option because the playing surface is far superior.
Slate does not absorb water unlike MDF which is made from wood. When MDF tables get wet or are kept in humid environments, the surface will warp and become un-level making the table un-usable if you want a fair game. That’s why you’ll never see an outdoor pool table with an MDF surface because even if it’s kept covered, the humidity levels will go up whenever it rains and cause the bed to warp very quickly.
Check out my article comparing the different types of pool tables to learn more about the pros and cons of slate-bed and MDF pool tables.
The cloth on an outdoor pool table is water resistant, whereas indoor pool table cloth will soak up water. Although outdoor tables should still be kept covered, the water-resistant properties of the cloth stop it from taking on water which can cause it to sag.
- Outdoor pool table cloth is usually made from acrylic (e.g. Sunbrella cloth)
- Indoor pool table cloth is made from wool, nylon or polyester
Outdoor pool table cloth is also treated so it is much less likely to fade in the sunlight. This means that outdoor cloth will stay looking vibrant for much longer. However it is still recommended that you keep the table covered when not in-use to prevent discolouration. Indoor pool table cloth is un-treated so will get bleached by the sun. This can be a problem if you are storing the table near a window inside, so again the table should be kept covered even if indoors.
The only drawback of outdoor pool cloth is that it can feel slower because it is usually not as smooth. The roughness of outdoor cloth creates more friction so the ball will not move as quickly, meaning the playing experience on indoor and outdoor pool tables will feel slightly different.
Outdoor pool tables usually have either stainless steel, aluminium or fibreglass, whereas most indoor pool tables have a wooden frame. The wooden frames of an indoor pool table are usually made from MDF on cheaper tables and solid wood on more expensive tables. Either way, wood absorbs water and does not do well in humid conditions which can cause the wood to swell and warp. This is why you won’t see outdoor pool tables with wooden frames.
Metal and fibreglass frames provide outdoor pool tables with a weather-resistant support that is durable in outdoor conditions. These materials will not warp in humid conditions like wood will.
Cushions and Pockets
Outdoor pool tables can sometimes come with interesting features such as pockets which have holes in to allow rain-water to drain out rather than fill up the pocket. The cushions are usually made out of rubber on both indoor and outdoor pool tables which is weather-resistant in both cases. Sometimes outdoor pool tables will have treated-rubber which means the dye is less likely to bleach in the sun.
Care and Maintenance
Since both types of table have different cloths, the care and maintenance process is a little bit different.
Indoor pool table cloth can be brushed to keep it clean but it is not recommended that you use any liquid cleaners on the surface as they are not designed to get wet. However, outdoor pool table cloth can be cleaned using sprayable cleaners and are likely to need cleaning more often since they will attract more dirt and debris.
Both indoor and outdoor pool tables should be kept covered when not in-use. Indoor pool table covers are fairly lightweight and are made from polyester fabric, whereas outdoor pool table covers are more heavy-duty and made from either thicker polyester or Oxford fabric. Outdoor pool table covers usually cover the entire table including the frame, whereas indoor covers usually only cover the top of the table.
Hence, outdoor covers are usually at least double the price of indoor covers.
What are the Similarities?
Now we’ve been through the main differences, here’s a quick list of similarities between indoor and outdoor pool tables.
- Outdoor and indoor pool tables are usually a similar price.
- Different cloth colours are available for both types of table.
- You can get different sized indoor and outdoor tables to suit different budgets and sized-spaces.
- The accessories e.g. balls and cues used can be the same but they should be stored inside.
- You can get coin-operated/ contactless commercial indoor and outdoor tables.
- Both types of table can come with either a drop-pocket or ball-return system.
- You can get pool-dining table versions for both indoor and outdoor use.
Can You Put an Indoor Pool Table Outside?
An indoor pool table should never be used outside because the materials are not designed to withstand the humidity and temperature changes. Indoor pool table cloth cannot get wet so is unsuitable for use outside, and bed and frame may also be made out of wood which will warp outside due to the humidity.
Here are some more articles you might find useful: