8 Types of the Best Wood for a Dining Table Top

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Do you find yourself stressed by the constant worry of scratches, watermarks, and heat damage affecting the appearance of your dining table tops? With numerous types of wood available, picking the right one can seem daunting. 

But don’t worry. Our pro woodworkers have researched and shared their picks for the best wood for dining table tops, so you can enjoy long-lasting, attractive dining table tops.

Durability and Hardness of Wood Species

Every kind of wood has its own distinct characteristics, and some are stronger than others. With the use Janka Hardness test, the most reliable method to determine the hardness of wood, we can easily identify the hardest and the softest wood. 

The hardest or toughest wood on the Janka hardness scale is Australian Buloke, registering a score of 5,060 lbf. Meanwhile, balsa wood is considered the softest, with a Janka hardness rating of approximately 70 lbf.

Wooden furniture that sees frequent use, such as coffee tables, dining tables, and desks, must be tough enough to resist dents, marks, and scratches. This makes hardness a crucial factor to consider. 

wooden table

However, durability isn’t the only factor to consider here when choosing wood. Workability and environment are also crucial considerations, as these determine the longevity of your furniture.

For example, softwoods are more adaptable to screws and nail attachments, which results in tougher joints. And some woods, despite having higher density, can warp in the long run when exposed to highly humid environments.

To help you decide which is the best dining table wood option for you, here is a detailed review of each:

Recommended Wood Types for Dining Table Tops

#1: Walnut

Walnut wood texture

Walnut trees have multiple varieties, but only a few are indigenous to North America, with the Eastern Black Walnut being the most popular. This specific type of Walnut is famous for its gorgeous pattern which can make your kitchen dining table a one-of-a-kind and captivating item.

It stands out due to its unique color scheme and contrast, the reason why it is a preferred option for contemporary furniture or modern dining table furnishings. It can also enhance the look of a modern styles farmhouse dining table.

Walnut’s contrasting features allow for easy coordination with home decor and other furniture pieces. Its hardness and durability as a hardwood can last for years, but it is one of the pricier options for top-quality wood for a dining table.

#2: Maple

Maple wood

Maple is a type of hardwood native to North America, known for its hardness and light grain. If you prefer wood that can be sanded to a smooth silky finish, Maple is the best wood for dining your table tops.

Brown Maple is favored for its sleek design, refined texture, longevity, and straight grain patterns and is often utilized in modern furnishings, but also commonly selected for traditional, formal dining room table sets.

#3: Oak

quarter sawn Red Oak

Oak is a highly durable hardwood often used as a kitchen table and is a popular choice for farmhouse-style wood tabletops. In particular, red oak is preferred due to its open medium-grain texture and slightly orange-toned grain. 

The open grain pattern of the white oak gives it a lot of texture, making it difficult to achieve a smooth finish even with sanding, so it may require filling in before repainting.

Oak office table

Despite this, oak is highly functional and resistant to scratches and dings, providing a strong wood surface for your wood tabletop. 

White oak is a hardwood species that is often mistaken for being lighter in color due to its name, but it is actually darker and still has red and orange undertones. Its pattern is more uniform compared to red oak, creating a more consistent look for a dining room table.

Quarter-sawn white oak is another option for a dining table with a unique appearance. White and red oak have comparable durability.

#4: Cherry

Cherry wood color

This wood is sturdy and easily accessible and its hue tends to darken with exposure to light and heat. But due to its warm hue, cherry wood can be challenging to coordinate with a cooler-toned farmhouse or contemporary decor.

To prevent conflict in design, consider selecting a cooler stain with gray undertones or going for Rustic Cherry, which has more mineral deposits that create a natural texture and a classic appearance.

Cherry wood also evokes memories of family gatherings around a solid wood dining table so it is frequently utilized in premium furniture, like formal dining room sets [1].

#5: Pine

Pine log

Pine wood is a popular and cost-effective option for furniture making due to its abundance in the United States. It is also easy to work with, takes nails and screws easily, and has a pleasant scent. 

Pine may not be the hardest of the options, but according to our wood expert, a high-quality clear coat can fix that. Moreover, Pine is known for its knot holes, which can add to its rustic charm or be covered with a faux stain for a more polished look. 

With its low cost and ease of refinishing, pine can be transformed into a high-end hardwood-looking dining table without breaking the bank.

#6: Hickory

slab of Hickory wood

Hickory wood is a good choice for those seeking furniture, especially a dining table with a rustic or farmhouse aesthetic. It has medium beautiful grain patterns and a natural appearance with neutral tones that blend well with other home decors.

While it is very sturdy, Hickory wood is also heavy and dense, which can cause cracking and warping in humid environments. Therefore, it is not ideal for outdoor furniture.

#7: Mango

milling mango lumber

Mango wood has a hardness level similar to oak. Its unique grain patterns become even more prominent when finished and it has a golden brown hue, making it ideal for traditional furniture to achieve a classic appearance.

#8: Acacia

cutting down an Acacia tree

Acacia is a flexible wood that is frequently utilized in outdoor use dining table furniture. Its hardness makes it a durable option for both indoor and outdoor settings. 

If you ask how hard is acacia wood, its strength exceeds that of hickory, with a rating of 1820 on the Janka scale. 

Though durable, it may not be the easiest wood for DIY projects; one of the cons of acacia. However, its strength makes it an ideal choice for households with active kids as it can withstand rough use. Besides, staining acacia wood is easy for a more customized look! 

Top Considerations for Your Dining Table

Before investing in a dining table, it’s important to consider various factors to ensure that you get a quality piece of furniture that will last for years. 

You should focus on durability and practicality, especially for high-use furniture, and think about your current and future needs. This will ensure that you get the most value for your money.


First, measure the area where you plan to place the dining table and allow 3 feet of space for enough room so you can comfortably walk around it. 

round dining table

You can use painter’s tape to visualize the dining table size in the space. Then, consider the shape of the table, as rectangular tables are common, but an oval or round dining table can also work well in smaller spaces.

The leg supports of the dining table will also impact the number of seats available, with pedestal bases being a popular choice for round tables as they provide more space for chairs. 

Trestle tables have more open space in the interior but may be limited at the ends, affecting the number of seats.


The intended use of your dining table should be considered when deciding on its size and shape. If you plan on hosting large family gatherings or just keeping them for immediate family, this will affect the perfect choice for your dining table. 

dining room furniture made of walnut wood

Additionally, quality construction and affordability should both be taken into consideration when choosing a dining table, as the material it’s made of impacts both its quality and cost.

Hardwood vs Softwood

When choosing a wooden dining table, it’s important to consider the type of wood used as it affects the dining table’s durability. An item of solid wood furniture is a good option for durability and a sophisticated look, but there are many wood types to choose from. 

The Janka Scale of Hardness is a way to measure the hardness of the wood, with higher ratings indicating a harder and more durable wood. 

Therefore, softer woods like pine are easier to work with for DIY projects, but harder woods like hardwood are more durable and fire-resistant, but also more expensive and harder to work with. 


So if you plan on making a hardwood dining table, it’s important to have knowledge of woodworking and be prepared for a larger budget.

Wood Style and Room Aesthetics

When selecting the best wood for your dining table top, durability and hardness rating are not the only factors to consider. 

You can also opt for a dining table made of composite wood, which is more affordable than solid wood dining tables but may show more signs of wear and tear.

A composite dining table often has a wooden base, but the tabletop is made of laminate or veneer layers instead of solid wood. In contrast, solid wood table tops are more durable and have a more expensive price tag.

sanding table top before applying poly

The best wood type you choose can also influence the style and overall color of your dining table. Different woods have unique grain patterns and produce varying shades of colors, such as red, blonde, mahogany, cherry, or gray. 

The style of your own table, such as a rustic table in a farmhouse or a more modern one, is also related to the type of wood used, with rustic wood styles requiring harder wood, more expensive, and modern styles being able to use a less expensive wood such as pine.

Making Dining Tables: What’s the Problem in Using Traditional Stain?

Staining newly finished dining table furniture using traditional stain can be challenging as it might not absorb evenly, resulting in streaks or a finish that is uneven.

This can happen because various types of wood may have different moisture levels, leading to uneven absorption and creating light and dark parts in the stain. High-end furniture shops use gel stains, which are semi-opaque, to avoid this issue.

Cherry wood table

However, when building dining table furniture yourself, it’s challenging to predict the uniformity of stain absorption beforehand. Applying a second coat of stain can help mask the unevenness but it may also reduce the visibility of the beautiful grain pattern.

Interesting Read: A Guide to Staining Mahogany Wood 

Solution: Use a Faux and Pine Stain

Using pine is a cost-effective option for a dining table or any woodworking project due to its affordability. Its surface can be finished with a faux stain using latex paint to cover any blemishes. 

The appearance of costly hardwoods can be imitated at a lower cost with the use of a faux stain created from latex paint.

Pine is a popular choice for novice woodworkers as it is easy to work with and takes screws and nails well.

Pine’s Knots and Softness

Faux or fake stain effectively hides all knot holes of a dining table. Although pine is a soft wood, the clear coat is the final process in the faux staining process for pine.

Hickory dining room furniture

After thorough testing to determine the best clear coat for wooden furniture, the best solution for preventing drink rings on frequently used items, such as restaurant tables or any solid wood tables, has been found. 

The best clear coat for a dining table is Varathane’s Waterbased Polyurethane.

Finishes for Farmhouse Table Tops

Faux Raw Wood Finish

Looking to achieve a natural beauty wood finish without any knot holes? Creating a bleached look for your dining table is possible by making it more white.

Driftwood Finish

To achieve a rustic look or coastal appearance, you can apply a driftwood finish to your furniture pieces, which look great with farmhouse décor.

walnut table

What is the Recommended Wood for Dining Table for Outdoors?

For outdoor furniture, it is important to choose the best wood which is not prone to warping and is durable. For instance, hickory is strong but easily warps and cracks in humid conditions, making it both expensive and not suitable for outdoor use. 

Instead, treated pine is our preferred choice for outdoor furniture, along with a suitable clear coat for outdoor use.

What is the Recommended Wood Finish for Your Dining Table?

Our paint experts usually prefer most furniture with a satin finish, especially on dining tables. Although matte finishes are fashionable at the moment, but a shiny finish tends to be more long-lasting.

round table

Therefore, a satin finish is chosen as a compromise. If a brighter shine is desired, a semi-gloss finish will offer greater durability while a gloss finish will be too bright for a dining table surface.

What is the Strongest Wood But the Lightest?

Pine is the strongest yet a lightweight wood option. Although it is not as hard as other hardwoods, it can be protected with a clear coat to prevent surface damage. Its workability makes it easy for nails and screws to grip, resulting in stronger joints.


What is the most durable dining table top?

Pine is the most durable dining table top. It is essential to consider factors such as workability and the tendency to warp when making a selection. 

For these reasons, our experts prefer pine with a good clear coat. Additionally, a faux finish can be applied to achieve the desired appearance.

How thick should a wood dining table top be?

The wood dining table top should be at least 1.5 inches or 1 inch thick to ensure stability and prevent warping and cracking in a high-humidity environment.

What is the hardest wood for a tabletop?

The hardest wood for a table top is generally considered to be Brazilian Walnut or Ipe, followed by Bloodwood and Purpleheart. Other hardwoods such as Hard Maple, Rock Maple, and Jatoba are also frequently used for own dining table top.

What is the best board for a tabletop?

The best board for a tabletop are hardwoods like oak wood, walnut, or mahogany. They are a superior option for a dining table top compared to softwoods. 

They have a compact grain structure and are more durable, making them able to withstand the use and wear that a kitchen and a dining table undergo.

What is the most durable finish for a wood table?

The most durable finish for a wood table is urethane and polyurethane-based finishes due to their chemical composition and ability to form a hard, protective coating on the surface of the dining table. 

Polyurethane finishes can go without maintenance for several years.

Is poplar wood recommended to use as a dining table?

Poplar is a cost-effective and easy-to-work-with wood, but it is not visually appealing for a dining table due to its unusual pattern and pinkish color. As a result, it is often replaced with more attractive hardwoods or low-cost pine.

Additionally, it may not be able to handle moisture well, which is a significant concern in dining settings where spills are common.

What’s the most expensive type of wood for furniture making?

Acacia wood and mahogany are among the most expensive specialty woods. Mahogany is popular for use in musical instruments due to its rich, deep sound.

Other wood recommendations to check out: 


The best wood for a dining table top depends on various factors such as durability, stability, appearance, and cost. Each type of wood offers unique qualities and characteristics that make it suitable for different dining table styles and needs.

Ultimately, the choice of wood for your dining table will depend on personal preference and the specific requirements of the user.

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson
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