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Wood Veneer, Laminate and Steel Office Desks

How to select the best office desking material for you

What is wood veneer made of?

Wood veneer desks have thin slices of hardwood bonded to less expensive wood core like particleboard or fiberboard. The thin slice of real wood that is bonded to the economical core is referred to as the wood veneer. This type of desking material is your most expensive choice in office desking, but amazing results can be achieved through the complicated bonding and inlaying processes. The manufacture of veneer desks can achieve results akin to that of artists. The beauty of wood veneer lasts a lifetime and makes a bold statement. If your budget allows for the finest in appearance, quality and product lifespan, go for wood veneer office desking.

The Pros of Wood Veneer Office Desks

  • The beauty and craftsmanship of real wood.
    Achieve the quality and beauty of solid hardwood with a real, wood exterior but a smart and economical core.
  • Lifetime warranty.
    Wood veneer office furniture is typically backed by lifetime warranties.
  • Straightforward to restore.
    Because the exterior of veneer furniture is real wood, blemishes can be sanded down and refinished, restoring your unit to like-new condition!

The Cons of Wood Veneer Office Desks

  • Finish is easy to damage.
    These desks scratch easily with an instrument as simple as your fingernail! However, as mentioned above, they can be refinished depending on the depth of the veneer and the blemish.
  • High price.
    The complexity of producing veneer furniture paired with the costs of high quality materials, such as the real wood to create the veneer, makes this option quite pricey.

Resolute desk
An example of a fine veneer wood desk named "Resolute." In use since 1880. (POTUS Oval Office Desk) 137 years old. Still under warranty!

What is laminate furniture made of?

Laminate desks are made with durable printed plastic surfaces. These plastic sheets or paper are then bonded to a particleboard or fiberboard core. High-pressure laminates are printed on plastic and cured at 1,200 to 2,000 pounds per square foot. Low pressure laminates are printed on plastic paper and then thermally fused to the particleboard or fiberboard core. Since lamination it is a printing process, you can get these printed with just about any pattern or color you want. You are limited only by your imagination and pocketbook. Most manufacturers offer laminate desks in popular woodgrain patterns like mahogany, maple, walnut and cherry. However with upcharges, you can get your laminate office desk with any laminate color of your choice.

Advances in technology and design have enabled manufacturers to offer laminate office desks in both contemporary and traditional finishes and styles. You don't have to compromise on aesthetics when choosing laminate desking. With proper care and maintenance, you can get decades of use from laminate office furniture--and many come with lifetime warranties like their wood veneer counterparts!

If you want to create a beautiful office furniture ensemble with a woodgrain appearance on a tighter budget, laminate office furniture is for you.

The Pros of Laminate Office Desks

  • Save money.
    Laminate has come a long way in appearance and quality since it was first introduced to the market. With laminate, you can have the look of wood without its high price tag.
  • Easy to clean and maintain.
    Because the exterior of laminate desks are essentially plastic, you don't have to use special cleaners to keep them looking like new. Certainly avoid harsh chemicals like acetone, which would remove the shiny finish, otherwise laminate is resilient to most common cleaners.

The Cons of Laminate Office Desks

  • Some laminates are more vulnerable to heat and moisture than others.
    Unless your laminate office desking passes HON's Teapot Test, you might still want to use coasters with laminate desks as you would with wood veneer. Some of the lower grades of laminate, such as low pressure laminate, may not be able to withstand the heat from that double-shot latte.
  • Many blemishes cannot be repaired.
    Though high grades of laminate are very hard to scratch, if you do damage the laminate, you'll be looking at that ugly spot for the lifetime of your furniture piece. Although, there are clever ways to hide blemishes on your laminate furniture until you're ready for a new unit.

HON Laminate Desking
Image Source: The HON Company
An example of a laminate desk with credenza, hutch and bridge to bring them all together.

Wood Veneer vs Laminate

What are metal desks made of?

Most metal desks are made with a high quality steel chassis and have laminated tops for surfaces. Metal desks have come a long way from the 1950's and 60's when they gave off an institutional look that screamed, "Cold and stark!" Today's steel desks stand toe-to-toe with wood veneer desks and laminate desks.

What differs most between laminate desking and steel desking, aside from the obvious visual characteristics, is the variety of desk pieces and components offered in those materials. Laminate desking is manufactured to offer a sea of possible configurations made of multiple desking components. Laminate desks may be as simple as a straight desk with drawers or as complex as an entire office suite outfitted with lateral files, matching bookcases, or a U-shape desk with an overhead hutch. Metal desks are typically single, straight desks or L-shaped desks. Their design is simple, straightforward and practical. Metal desks are not typically manufactured to create more complex configurations for office suites, however many manufacturers are beginning to offer similar desking components in their steel lines as their laminate lines.

Much about the quality, durability and lifespan of metal desks and laminate desks is the same. Steel desks differ most in their use, reserved for small offices and work areas, though we may see a shift in that trend as more manufacturers offer blended options of metal and laminate office ensembles. Metal desks make great teacher's desks or administrative officer's desks.

The Pros of Metal Office Desks

  • Lower price.
    Like laminate desks, steel desks are more budget-friendly than wood veneer desks.
  • Easy to maintain.
    Also like laminate desks, metal desks are easy to clean and don't require unique cleaners or chemicals.

The Cons of Metal Office Desks

  • Laminate tops can be vulnerable to damage.
    Since many metal office desks have laminate tops, they are still vulnerable to the same potential shortcomings of laminate desking. However, with proper care and maintenance, metal desks can also endure year after year like laminate desks.

HON 38000 Steel Desk with Laminate Top
Image Source: The HON Company
An example of today's steel desk with laminate top selection.

Wood Veneer vs Laminate vs Metal Desks

Are you a lawyer, doctor, business owner, president, CEO etc. and are looking for "your" perfect permanent office desk? Consider veneer office desks or veneer office desking ensembles. You'll be glad you did. Lifetime warranties!

Do you work at an institution like a school, hospital or building where workers come and go and children abound? Will people be using their desktops at lunch as cafeteria tables? Go for a workhorse: High pressure laminate desks or steel desks. Some laminate desks and steel desks come with lifetime warranties, too.

Do you have a super tight budget that forces you into a spending corner and need something that will endure at least 5 years? Low pressure laminate is your answer! Many imported lines fill this need. And, just because you only get a 5 year warranty doesn't mean you can't stretch their lifespan for many more years to come. We've seen it first-hand. Low pressure laminates work well in home offices too, unless Junior hangs around there. Stock up on coasters.

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