Table Tennis Table Buyers Guide
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OK, so you are interested in buying a table tennis table. There is a lot of choice, but that is because there are different types of buyer, plus their reasons and requirements vary. The purpose of this guide is to help you focus in on the right table for you and it is amazing how a little knowledge of the basics will really help make your decision easier.
Indoor or Outdoor?
Outdoor tables tend to be more expensive because they are constructed of weatherproof materials that will allow you to keep them outside overnight, rain or shine. That said, it is still a good idea to use a protective cover on an outdoor table when not in use especially during the winter.
Indoor tables can be used outdoors, you just cannot store them outside. So, if you have a dry garage or outbuilding that is not damp and you use a good quality table cover such as the Butterfly large table cover, then the table will be fine. However, never leave an indoor table outside overnight or let it get wet.
If you intend to use and store the table indoors, then we would always advise you buy an indoor table, for several reasons. First off, it is likely to be cheaper. Secondly, whilst outdoor tables have come on greatly over the past few decades with the introduction of melamine surfaces such as the one found on the Butterfly Garden 4000 or the polyurethane paint used on the Butterfly Compact 10 Wheelaway, the bottom line is that indoor tables will always perform better. Finally, there is more choice, especially towards the budget end of the scale.
Concrete tables are great for outdoor use. The question if considering one, is do you have the budget and do you have the space to leave them permanently in place. They are ideal for public places, such as parks & schools. They work great in large gardens too as a focal point.
Table tennis tables generally come in Green and Blue, although you will occasionally see tables in other colours. The colour itself makes no difference to the performance of the table so it really is personal preference.
The one thing worth noting is that green is generally a more accepted colour at elite level, with the majority of competition being played on green tables, so if you are buying a table for someone that has aspirations of playing at a reasonable standard, it is worth considering that when they play elsewhere in clubs or leagues, they will likely be playing on a green table.
First off, you need to treat indoor and outdoor tables differently when it comes to surface.
The general rule of thumb with indoor tables, is the thicker the surface, the better it will perform and the more it will therefore cost. In terms of which surface you should buy the reality is that this will likely be determined by your budget. If you are looking for a home table, try and get a 19mm if you can or better still a 22mm such as the Butterfly National League 22 would be fantastic, but it does cost a lot more than the say the Butterfly Fitness Rollaway, which has a 16mm surface, however, the difference in performance between them is significant. Ultimately, get the thickest surface your budget will stretch to.
Outdoor tables are different because they are manufactured in varying ways. The Butterfly Garden 6000 has a 6mm melamine surface, which sounds like it would be poor performing compared to the Butterfly Easifold 12, which has a 12mm surface, but you would be wrong. It is important to read the detail about the table surface when considering an outdoor table and where you are not sure, please seek our advice. We advise you to consider the Butterfly Garden range for outdoors. There are several in the range to suit your budget and are a fantastic table. The only downside is they only come in Blue, but the again you may see that as a positive.
The official size of a table tennis table is 152.5cm width by 274cm length and it should stand 76cm high. All the full-size tables we sell conform to this international standard.
We do also sell smaller tables, but this is by design, because let’s face it, not everyone has enough space for a full-size table and not everyone is an aspiring table tennis world champion. Also, if you are buying for small children, its not much fun when they cannot reach the net.
We see smaller tables as a gateway to the sport for children, ideal to get them started OR for those who simply don’t have the space for a full-size table. For those who fall into this category, we offer 3/4 sized tables such as the Butterfly Junior Compact, that are approx. 7’ x 5’ and starter tables that are approx. 6’ x 3’.
When considering what size to buy, you will want to consider the playing area you have available. At minimum you need at least 4 to 5 feet at each end of the table and at least 3 feet on the sides, so if you are buying a full-size table you need at least 17’ by 11’ of clear space, ideally a lot more. At competition level the playing area is normally at least 30’ by 16’ up to 46’ by 24’ at international level.
The undercarriage is the frame that the table-top sits upon and there are 2 types; detached & fixed.
A detached undercarriage simply means that the frame is not connected to the table surface. They are essentially 2 separate parts, but these are not very common and are often associated with cheaper tables. The one benefit is that you can store the table-top and the frame separately or in many case you may simply opt to buy the table-top only and use an existing surface such as a pool table or kitchen table and because the table-tops can sit flush together they take the minimum amount of space for storage. An example of this type of table is the Butterfly Table Top.
Fixed undercarriage means that the table-top and the legs/wheels are fixed together. These tables are generally on wheels and there are 3 versions: Centrefold, 8 Wheel & Compact.
The Centrefold model type is where both sides of the table are fixed to a single undercarriage which moves as one piece. The Butterfly Centrefold is a great example of such an undercarriage. These tables tend to be very popular with clubs, where tables are regularly moved. Centrefolds are renowned for their ease of movement.
The 8-wheel model type is like a centrefold in that it has an undercarriage with wheels and can be put up and down by just one person. The difference is that each side of the table moves independently of each other, which is the reason why it is 8-wheel, because each side requires 4 wheels so it can be rolled away. The best way to understand the difference is to look at a picture of both types and it should be fairly obvious that the 8-wheel is designed to move in 2 pieces, versus the centrefold moving as a single piece.
The compact model type is very different to the centrefold and 8-wheel. Although the difference is only noticeable when they table is moved. The easiest way to understand is to look at a picture. When the table is put away you pull the 2 halves of the table away from each other and then lift each side onto its wheels, which are on the under-side, where the net would be. The table can then be rolled away to its storage location, which is where the compact really wins.
Centrefold & 8-wheel models are referred to as rollaways, where compact are referred to a wheelaways.
This is an often overlooked part of buying a table, you won’t be using the table all the time and when you are not using it, if you need to reclaim the space, where are you going to store it? All our tables have the dimensions of the table for storage.
If you have plenty of space for storage then ease of storage is probably where you should concentrate and in that case as centrefold or 8-wheel is going to be more convenient. However, if storage space is at a premium then the compact wins every time. Why? Because the frame folds into the under-side of the table and the 2 surface can sit flush against each other. The perfect example of a compact table is the Butterfly Compact 19 Wheelaway which in storage talks up only 6 inches against a wall, compared to the 28" required by the Butterfly National League 25. Storage is important and if you spoke with us directly, we would ask you about this, as the National League is a great table, but if you don’t have room to safely store it, then maybe its not right for you.
Storage is not just about size. A table tennis table needs to be stored somewhere dry with no damp. If you are going to store in a garage or outbuilding we would always recommend using a proper table cover such as the Butterfly small table cover.
Almost all tables fold-up, but the value in folding is not about storage it is about playback. If the table cannot stand independently on its own, then you cannot use it for playback. Centrefolds are the best option for playback as you can just leave one side in the upright position and play without a partner. You can achieve similar with the 8-wheel model type but you just have to put the other half against the table and it will work fine, as long as the table has wheel brakes. Compact tables cannot be used for playback because they do not stand-up independently.
Top Tip: If you go this far and maybe after everything you have read a compact looks most suitable for you, but you are now disappointed that playback is not an option… Buy a robot which is way better than playback anyway. Robots are a topic on their own discussed here, but if you are wanting to practice alone a robot offers tons of pre-written drills and can be very challenging even to really good players.
It is worth stating that buying a conversion top might be something you should consider. Essentially a conversion top is just the table, without the undercarriage. We previously referred to this in the undercarriage section, where we called them detached tables. They vary in size for example the Butterfly starter table top is only 6’ x 3’ and would be a great addition to sit on a small pool table. You just drop the 2 halves onto an existing frame and clamp together with the net.
This is often where people go wrong. Assuming you need a certain type of table based on your ability is likely going to lead you to make a poor decision. There are no hard and fast rules about what table to buy based on your playing ability, unless you are buying for a club or a player that is of national competition level, which despite what many people think is very few. Statistics from the English Table Tennis Association suggest there are less than 2000 players in England that would qualify as national competition level standard, yet it is reported that over 200,000 people play table tennis weekly across the UK.
The final word
We hope you found this guide helpful and if you have questions we are here to help. Give us a call, catch us on our live chat or send us an email.
Our final piece of advice is to decide first on indoor or outdoor, then pick a colour. This will cut down your choice by around 2 thirds. Then use the price range filter to find tables within your budget. Choose the table type that meets your storage requirements and go for the best surface type you can afford. By this time, you should be left with only a few choices, at which time you may want to consult with us if you are unsure which table to go for.
Thanks for reading and good luck with your search and remember if you want our advice we are here to help, anytime.