A significant consideration in buying a pool table is the quality of the pool table bumpers. You certainly do not want to get pool table side rails that wear out so soon. The pool table rail cushions are generally not meant to be repaired or replaced for a very long time.
How long do pool table bumpers last for? A pool table bumper of high quality usually lasts between 25 to 50 years if properly maintained. If the pool table rail is of a lower quality, the bumper starts wearing out in less than 5 years. Others could last between 5 to 10 years of use.
Pool table bumpers last longer when they are properly used and cared for. Certain practices can affect the lifespan of a pool table bumper. The lifespan is drastically reduced if the table is misused in different ways.
One way a table can be misused is by exposure to the extreme temperature of moisture. These extreme conditions are not suitable for the materials in the pool table bumpers. This situation causes them to wear out faster and have a shorter lifespan.
One quick way to protect your table bumpers is by investing in a pool table cover. This will help not only protect your pool table bumpers but also the table its self. Another way would be to clean your table felt and not allow too much dust and dirt to build up. Keeping your table in the best possible condition will certainly help make your bumpers last and table too.
Pool table bumper replacement might only cost a couple of hundred dollars to buy and replace the bumpers but it’s money you won’t need to spend for a while if you look after your table correctly.
How to test the rails of your pool table
The pool table side rails of your table can be tested regularly to know whether the pool table rail rubber is still in good shape or not. If you need to replace them then check out my articles explaining which bumpers you need and how to replace them.
If you haven’t used your pool table in a while, you should check if your pool table side rails are in good condition. There are about five different tests that you can undergo to know how good your rails are.
- Listen to the sound of the ball.
The sound of a shot ball into the rail is a determinant of how right the rail is. When you shoot the ball into the rails, the ball should rebound from each rail with average or fast speed. You should also check that the same sound is heard as you shoot the ball around the table.
- Squeeze the cushions
You can check how good the cushions are by using your fingers to apply pressure on them around the table. The cushion should not be too hard or too soft. Hence, they should be able to go in an average distance of 1/8” to ¼”.
- Feel the rails
You want to check if the rails are worn out. To do this, run your fingers under and around the rails. You check under the felt for worn grooves and tracks.
- Spin the ball into the rails
You can use a moderate topspin and highspeed to shoot the ball into each rail. Once the ball jumps about an inch, the rail cushion are ready to be replaced.
- Observe the rebound
Another test is checking how the ball rebounds from the rails. To do this, you need to roll the ball slowly at each rail, and if the ball stops, the rails are no longer acceptable. But if the ball springs back, the rails are in good condition ready for a pool game.
You can also use the angles of rebound to check. If the angle of incidence and the angle of rebound is equal, you’re good to go.
How to tell if your pool rail is dead
When shooting pool, it is easy to detect that there is a problem with the pool table side rails while playing when there are some terrible rebounds from any of the rails. A pool rail is said to be dead due to different problems. These problems include:
- Improper installation of cushions or rail cloth
The pool table rail cloth (also known as felt) usually does not come installed from the factory; the pool table technician installs it. Because of this, there may be some installation errors. The height of the cushion rubber may be too low (making the ball rebound haphazardly), or an incorrect cushion may have been installed. This issue is usually observed with second-hand tables put in place by craigslist technicians. The solution to such improper installation is getting the work done again by a pool table mechanic that is certified.
- Loose Rail Bolts
During pool table assembly, the table rails are usually bolted down to the three-piece slate surface. When there is vibration, the bolt gets loose. The bolt can also get loose if the technician did not initially ensure that the bolts were well torqued down. With loose rail bolts, the ball does not come off the rail with a constant speed, and the rails are said to be “dead”. To solve this issue, all you have to do is carefully tighten down the bolts.
- Low cushion rubber
Some pool table manufacturers do not use pool table rail rubber of high quality. This issue is a huge one, and it is advised that before you buy a pool table, bounce a ball and play a bit before buying. If you are buying the table online, then ensure that there is a guarantee on the rubber compound from a verified manufacturer.
- The degraded Rubber compound in the cushion
Even with quality cushions, degrading occurs after a considerable time of about 25 years. It is observed when the rubber is spongy or rock hard and does not spring back after being pressed firmly. Other conditions can also make the pool table rail rubber degrade much faster. These include; using a heat vent or pellet stove near the table, direct sunlight, little or no temperature control and using a bad quality dust cover.
How to maintain pool table rails
High-quality pool tables can be used for more extended periods if they are well maintained. To maintain your pool table, here are some things you can use for that purpose.
- Pool table cover
Use a good table cover to keep the table from dust and other stuff. Whenever the pool table is not in use, ensure that it is covered.
- Horse hairbrush.
This tool is another one you should use for your pool table maintenance. Use the horsehair brush to clean the table felt regularly. It is recommended that you use a horsehair brush and not a synthetic bristled brush because the horsehair brush is softer and gentler for use with the table felt.
A vacuum is also vital for keeping the pool table clean. It would be best if you used a low suction vacuum to clear debris on the surface of the table.
- Soft towels.
Towels are also crucial in pool table maintenance. Use soft towels to clean the balls after use. It prevents excess wear due to the balls being dirty. Clean the balls with hot water and a soft towel.
What We Learned
So, how long do pool table bumpers last for? Obviously, there are different types of pool table bumpers. And with everything, their lifespan will largely depend on its quality. Another way to prolong the life of your bumpers is by properly maintaining your pool table.
In general, cheap bumpers may only last a few years before the balls stop responding as they once did.
Medium quality bumpers can last between 5-10 years while higher quality pool table bumper cushions will last a couple of decades if you treat them right.
Once they start to deteriorate then it’s always best to get them replaced.
Rob is an avid player and fan of all cue sports, particularly 8-ball, and snooker. He has competed in a few local 8-ball tournaments and although he is not a professional, he can compete with the best of them.