Laminated Wood vs. Real Wood: Choosing the Right Desk Top for Your Office

May 17, 2021

 Different wood types

With so many different types and materials for desks out there, it is natural to be confused about how to choose the right desktop for your office. There are so many considerations to make when choosing the best option, regardless of whether you have a regular or standing desk at home or office.

When you are ready to design a home office you love, the first consideration you will have to make will be in regards to the material of your desktop, with two of the most popular ones being that of laminated wood and real wood.

Of course, which one you choose will reflect directly on the desk’s price, durability, and most importantly, its life. Notice that we didn’t mention the aesthetic appeal of your desktop. This is because many laminates look just like wood from a distance – and quite an expensive piece of wood, at that. 

In this article, we will take a deeper dive into laminated desktops and real wood desktops, which themselves contain several subcategories to help you make an informed decision about the one that suits you best.

So, let’s begin!

Laminated Desk Tops

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When considering laminated desktops, you need to remember that this isn’t exactly wood, but is a form of manufactured and recycled wood. The material itself is manufactured in multiple layers and the layers are then glued together to give it the final shape. 

The blend of different material and layers on top of each other also give the laminated wood its durability. There are several different types of laminates, including;

● Vinyl wraps 

● Natural wood veneers 

● Melamine 

● Metals and more.

To create this type of wood, the wood shavings and other useless bits of wood are taken together and compressed together using pressure and temperature. Some resin and other chemicals are also added before compression to make sure everything binds well together. The recycled material then forms layers of “wood”, which is then combined with the help of adhesives. After that, the top and bottom layers are attached which are the “aesthetic layers.”

This final layer is responsible for giving the wood durability, rigidity, keeping the compressed material together, moisture protection, and most importantly, adds beauty to the final product. This final layer is pasted on top of the substrate and is known as Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF). 

To check whether the MDF you get is of good quality or not, simply lift it. If it is heavy, you know it has more wood fiber in it. Of course, since MFD is made out of recycled wood, it is much more cost-effective compared to real wood. 

However, MDF does have the benefit of not having any grains or knots, nor does it contract or expand because of temperature. It is pretty stable – to a point where you can paint it the way you like. However, MDF can’t be stained. For people looking for desks (or standing desks) with wood stain marks, knots, or grains, you should avoid laminated wood. 

Laminated wood has one primary weakness, though. While the top layer is not susceptible to water damage, if moisture makes its way underneath, chances are that your desk will start getting damaged pretty easily. All it takes is just one spilled cup of coffee to ruin the whole desk! This is particularly true if the grommet holes or other accessories aren’t installed properly. 

There are # different types of laminated wood you can get a desktop made out of;

Powder Coated Desk Top

These are considered to be the cheapest laminated wood options out there. Power is spray-painted on the wood, giving it the color you need but no protection from moisture or external elements at all. This type of wood isn’t hard enough and shouldn’t be used for your desktop.

High-Pressure Laminate (HPL)

This is one of the most popular types of laminate wood you will find today. From homes to shops, malls, and offices; they all use HPL. Here, a laminate layer is bonded on top of the substrate. The laminate is usually melamine (a plastic compound) at the top and bottom. The same can also be combined with high temperatures for the adhesives to bond the laminate. If heated, it becomes Thermally Fused Laminate (TFL).

Once the HPL is cut and shaped in the shape of your desktop (curved or flat), a banding is glued around its edges to close it off and make sure it is waterproof. The banding is either made out of the same laminate or PVC strips that match in color. 

When used for standing desks, HPL desktops often get dirty – not to mention the reddish line they leave on forearms when leaned against. 

3D Lamination

3D lamination is yet another common type of laminated wood that looks just like hardwood, offers greater durability, and is relatively inexpensive compared to wood. The substrate within is the same but the laminate used outside is a film or thermofoil. The plank is usually shaped before applying the wrap to ensure a smooth finish. 

These tops usually have rounded corners and are therefore more preferred for curved desks. It becomes very difficult to tell the difference between a 3D laminated top and a real wood top from a distance or in photos. 

A prime example of such a desktop is the Seiffen Laminated Standing Desk (Eco & Pro). While the 3D laminate is slightly more expensive than other laminates, it continues to be much more cost-effective than real wood, while giving you the beauty and sturdiness of the same. 

The desk also offers better wear resistance, doesn’t leave marks on your arms, and doesn’t peel off the edges like traditional edge-banding.

3D laminated desktops are available in a variety of different colors and designs. From wood grain images to the color combination (mahogany, marble grey, maple, and more), everything is completely customizable. 

Solid Wood Desktops

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For those of you who don’t mind spending a little extra but won’t settle for a substitute for real wood, you can also find desks that meet your demands. While wood options had started to die out not too long ago because of the introduction of laminate, the trend is now shifting back – especially when it comes to adjustable standing desks.

Real, solid wood can be an expensive hobby, though. Where a normal, 3D laminated wood desktop will cost you around $199.99, the same option in wood can be anywhere between $499 to $2000 – or even more for exotic species!

Not many sellers keep such wood stocked in a range of sizes and options as they do for laminated wood. This essentially means that you can get a laminated desktop much quicker than wood. 

When it comes to wood desktops for your office, they need to be sealed properly with the help of lacquer or sealant to avoid water damaged. However, using the same also means that the wood will become susceptible to scratches. Some woods are just stained, which makes them less prone to scratches but also mean that it should be protected against water. 

It is best to get the wood stained AND sealed to ensure a long life of the desktop since you can always refinish wood but you can’t refinish laminated wood. This is why real wood has a much longer life than laminated wood. 

There are different types of woods that you can go for when choosing a wooden desktop. 

Natural Wood 

Natural wood refers to wood extracted from trees naturally and hasn’t been chemically treated yet. The term natural wood is often used interchangeably with hardwood, but the two are very different. Natural wood can come from any tree, regardless of the species, and is a much broader term. 

Not every natural wood is good for creating a sturdy desktop. For example, desktops made out of pine wouldn’t be as smooth as you’d like them to be – nor as durable.

Hardwood

Hardwood comes specifically from dicot trees and is found in temperate and tropical forests. Hardwood is rather durable, which makes it a prime contender to be used for desktops. However, the wood is heavy, which could be problematic for some. 

No matter the type of wood used, it is essential that it be sealed to protect it from the weather. 

Cost of Laminated vs Real Wood Desk Tops for Office

Now that we know about the different types of wood available to us, let us consider how much each option costs. 

Material

Price Range

Pros

Cons

Powder Coat Laminate

$

Cheapest option

Least durable

HPL

$$

Cost-effective & Durable

Sharp corners, limited protection

3D Laminate

$$$

Numerous color and shape choices, durable, natural look, cost-effective

Only looks like real wood

Bamboo

$$$

Cost-effective, grain image

Bad for the environment, delaminates

Solid/Real Wood

$$$$$

Real wood, expensive outlook

Very costly, long delivery times

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are a lot of options out there, each looking to make its mark. While some of them are extremely costly, others offer a cost-effective solution to the same but might not be as durable. It’s a matter of personal preference and ultimately a bit of sacrifice. 

The perfect compromise, in our opinion, is the 3D laminate such as what is featured by Seiffen Laminated Standing Desk (Eco & Pro) and numerous other standing desks out there. 

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