A Guide to Different Types of Furniture Materials

Before we start our introduction to the types of materials used in furniture, we must first define the term for you. Furniture refers to the objects which either support the human body once seated or laid on them, provide storage, or holds other objects horizontally on surfaces elevated above the ground.

What are the Characteristics of Good Furniture?

Good furniture is supposed to be functional. It is strong and not fragile, or doesn’t shake when used. Also, good quality furniture will not become weak or extremely damaged with normal use over long periods.

Aside from being functional, good furniture is considered to be a form of decorative art, since it is the product of artistic design. Moreover, it can serve a symbolic or religious purpose. Furniture which is made for homes aims to create a comfortable and cozy living space. This is achieved with the help of various textile materials, accessories, and lighting.

Finally, furniture often reflects the local culture, since each culture uses a specific variety of techniques, materials, and colors when making their furniture.  

What are the Properties of Good Furniture Materials?

Good quality furniture materials are often hard, dense, and durable. Additionally, they are usually recyclable, and efficiently and ethically resourced. For wood products, it is preferable to be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which means that the wood used in the product and the manufacturer that made it met the requirements of the FSC, a non-profit organization that sets certain high standards for ensuring that forestry is practiced in an environmentally responsible and socially beneficial manner.

Finally, well-made furniture is not expensive, it should be made by good material and affordable by most people.

What are the Different Types of Materials Used to Make Furniture?

The main structure of most furniture pieces is made from four families of materials, which are:

  • Wood
  • Metal
  • Plastic
  • Glass


  1. Wood:

Wood is the oldest material used in making furniture, and it is still the most used furniture material until now. The wood used for furniture is either:

  • Solid Wood
  • Plywood
  • Veneer
  • Hardboard
  • Particle Board
  • Composite Wood

What are the Characteristics and Uses of Different Types of Wood?

  • Solid Wood:

Solid wood often refers to the least processed kind of wood. It can be refinished many times if it is scratched or damaged. Also, depending on the type of wood and how rare it is, it can be generally more expensive than other types. Solid wood comes from different types of trees and each type has special qualities, such as:

Ash: light texture, flexible, soft to touch, and can be wiped clean without issues.

Beech: light-colored, strong, sturdy, resistant to shock, and easy to find.

Cherry: expensive (used in antiques), rare to find, and the color can darken with time.

Mahogany: popular, not that expensive, dark reddish-brown color, and easily shows dust and debris.

Maple: creamy color, heavy, durable, easily takes stains, and it has natural swirls and twists.

Oak: light blonde color, grainy, covered in shapes and marks, and is easily cut.

Pine: light yellowish and whitish brown color, lightweight, extremely cheap, easily painted, and less durable.

Walnut: chocolate-brown color, strong, costly, and stable.

  • Plywood:

 Most furniture contains some kind of plywood, which is a strong material that resists splitting and warping made of layers of thin wood glued together with the wood grain at the right angles.



  • Veneer:

Veneer is often used as a top layer on plywood. It is a very thin and smooth material, which comes in a range of colors. High quality and thicker veneer will most probably last better over time, and refinishing and repairing this material depends on the thickness of it. One can argue that veneers help save the environment by preserving wood since it provides the appearance of wood on the surface without using much of it.

  • Hardboard:

This type is made from wood fibers sealed together with an adhesive, and by using steam, and pressure. It comes with varying thicknesses and is often used in hidden parts of the furniture such as the back and bottoms.

  • Particle Board/Chipboard:

 This is a famous type of wood that is made from wood particles or flakes and a strong adhesive. The thickness of this wood varies, and it comes in several sizes. Chipboard has no grain so it is not prone to splitting easily. Also, it is often used in place of plywood and then finished with veneers or laminates. This type can easily be painted or coated.

  1. Metal:

There are many types of metal used in furniture, which include:

  • Steel
  • Aluminum
  • Copper
  • Brass
  • Bronze
  • Iron

Uses of Metal in Furniture

Usually, different types of metal are used to make furniture parts, like handles, legs, frames, and table bases. It is also used as the main material for office furniture, kitchen cabinetry, utility shelving, and storage units, because of its strong and durable qualities. You can see stainless steel being used in large amounts of furniture because it resists rust. And some sofas and mattresses have steel springs in them. And finally, aluminum is used mostly in the form of tubes and small furniture parts like legs and frames.

  1. Plastic

There are several types of plastic used in furniture, such as:

  • Plastic Laminate: it is composed of layers of heavy paper impregnated with melamine resin.
  • Polyethylene: a sturdy plastic, which could be remolded and melted to recycle the piece and make another one.
  • Nylon: it is a synthetic fabric that is fairly durable and can be utilized in several industrial uses. Moreover, this fabric can be clear, which is perfect for see-through tables and plastic seats.
  • Polycarbonate: this type is one of the strongest kinds of plastics, which makes it excellent for furniture. Polycarbonate is also recyclable.

The downside of using plastic in furniture is that it can easily break or fall apart, and it is not heat resistant, so it can melt easily in a fire.

  1. Glass

Glass is mainly used in furniture and accessories for its transparent qualities, therefore is it used in tables and windows. There is also a hybrid material made of glass fibers and polyester resin called fiberglass. It is used to make some furniture parts.

  1. Fabric

Fabric is a material known for its soft qualities, which is perfect for upholstery, especially for chairs. It is usually cheaper than other materials and can be made from natural materials like cotton and wool and more synthetic materials like lightweight plastic fibers. Note that leather is also used in the same way that fabric is used in furniture, which is mostly to cover sofas and chairs, or to add small details to a piece of furniture.