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How to Buy a Dining Room Table

how to buy a dining room table

Photo by JCPenney

The coffee table won't cut it for dinner parties. You've got some shopping to do.

Know Before You Go:
Repeat after us: hardwood, hardwood, hardwood. From this moment on, forget about particleboard or plywood models and focus on investing in a long-lasting, hardwood table. Does that mean pine is cut from the list? No way. The yellow kind is strong, but watch out for the white stuff: It's very soft and bends easily.

Do an In-Store Inspection:
Read the tag and knock on the wood to make sure it's not hollow. Test to make sure the table is stable and doesn't wobble -- lean on all corners. Use the sales associate as a resource...ahem, that's why they're there. If you've got dining chairs, sit at the table in a seat of the same height as your own and make sure it's comfy. If full-wood isn't your style, you've got metal frame and glass-topped options.

Pick the Right Size:
Plan to have at least five feet (four feet if you're really pinched for space) around the table on all sides to leave room for guests getting in and out of their chairs. Tables that can expand to fit more guests with an insert or drop leaves are a great option. Check out the chart below to figure out how many guests you can fit comfortably at various sized tables.

Keep a Few Things in Mind:
If you know you won't use your dining table often -- or ever -- don't let it hog valuable real estate! Look for a table that can fold down to save space.

-- Laura Fenton

See More: Buying Furniture