Updated: 03/03/21 •  7 min read
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Charlie Nguyen, Ping Pong Professional & Site Founder

A veritable ping pong master, with 20 years of experience, Charlie strives to educate and empower people through getting the right sports gear and skill

How and When Should I Change My Pool Cloth?

Pool tables are fairly simple little beasties; it’s a 7 to 10 foot long slate table with some felt cloth on top and a few holes cut in the corners and longest sides. You could build one at home with a bit of knowhow and the right materials (the trial and error required with the fairly delicate slates makes this a risky prospect, though).

You would think that their maintenance would be just as simple as the concept, but surprisingly, that’s not true. Changing out a pool table’s felt cloth top is a fairly involved process that needs to be done with a fair amount of precision.

So, it’s a process you definitely won’t want to undertake without needing to.

When to Change the Pool Cloth?

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Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to figure out when you’re supposed to change your pool cloth out. Simply take a close look at the cloth. Are there any loose threads, or lint? Is the fabric bunching up or shifting around when you run your fingers over it? Does it feel rough and bristly? Also look for tears because we can be sure own durable pool cue sticks but the felt may have small tears when the stick hits it. All of those things mean it’s time to get a new cloth.

So how do you put a new one on? Well, that’s a bit more complicated. Honestly, the easiest way to do it is to call a professional. Especially if your table is still under warranty from the manufacturer. They can come out and get the job done with a practiced hand.

If your table’s not under warranty though, and you can’t spare the money, the process is something you can do at home with minimal tools.

Prepare the Tools and Measure the Cloth

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The first items you’ll for this refelting project is a hammer, a good pair of fabric scissors, a screwdriver (powered or unpowered) and a staple gun. Also, you’ll need to buy the pool felt cloth from a supplier. Keep in mind the cloth itself is fairly expensive, so be prepared to shell out either way, and remember to be very careful with the cloth so it doesn’t tear.

Lay the cloth out on your table. This will give you a sense for where the excess cloth is. Either one side should hang down way longer than the others, or all of the sides should be a bit long. This excess cloth is NOT to be wasted; it’s what goes on the rails.

Not all tables are the same in fact in a comparison between a pool and snooker you’ll find that the measurements are different. So, you should measure the width and length of your railings carefully, and cut matching sized strips. These will usually be about 6 inches in width. Make sure you’re leaving enough for the felt to fully cover the slate on every side.

Tips on Removing the Pool Table Felt

Remove the railings from your pool table. This can be a bit finicky, so don’t be afraid to get a little rough with it using a rubber mallet or some such to drive it up and over. Just make sure your doing it the right way so you do not damage the table in the process; use your best judgment here.

The importance of chalk for cues can’t be denied it may cause the cloth to be dirty when you remove it, so you’ll need to wear a mask. Remove the feather strips underneath (the thin square wooden rods) and make sure to keep them at hand for when you place the new cloth in.

Remove the rest of the railing now. This will involve pulling off the pockets. This varies by the table, but usually involves unscrewing certain screws from the corners. Refer to your owner’s manual for specific instructions on that one, as every table is a bit different.

Next, you’ll need to pry up all the old stapes that are keeping the cloth attached to the wood topper of the rails. Do this carefully, as you’ll need to replace the staples in roughly the same spots later, and splintering the wood is going to cause problems.

Once you’ve done that, remove the felt. Dispose of it however you like, or find some way to recycle it; while it may have deteriorated enough that it can’t be used to play pool anymore, it’s likely salvageable for other art projects and the like.

Repeat this process for the table itself to remove that felt too.

Installing the New Pool Felt

Take the bits of cloth you set aside for the railings and set them back onto the railings, tucking them tightly. Cut off any excess there might be, and staple them back on, tightly. For the corners, tuck and fold the excess at the ends; this will provide a bit of extra buffering and be more aesthetically pleasing. It’s easier for both if you put one to two staples at each end, to ancho the fabric tightly, then begin moving inward.

Take a moment now to completely clean and dry the slate underneath the cloth, ensuring that nothing is left on it. Even a few grains of dust or a small tangle of hair can cause issues with the playing field. Also take a moment to ensure that it’s level.

Once done, add the main bit of cloth back onto the slate. Ensure there’s a little excess around the middle, as you’ll need to slice a little bit for the side pockets to fit into, but it still needs to be able to pull tight by the end of the process.

Staple the cloth to the wooden slat on the bottom. Space your staples about an eight of an inch apart from each other for maximum tightness.

Finally, find the spots where the screw holes for the rails are. Cut little crosses or x-es into the cloth over the holes, and insert the securing rods for the rails. Secure the rails, and you’re good to go!

Get Professional Help?

As you can see, this process is a bit of a pain and a lot of work and you may need to do the refelting regularly depending on the quality of the cloth you’ve installed. So, you may want to try and preserve the longevity of your cloth as much as possible by using table covers and by avoiding rigorous use of the table. You won’t want to be frequently replacing the pool table cloth

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On the other hand, if you have the money to get professionals to do the replacement, then you can be sure that the pool table felt replacement will be done with professional hands. It would come down to the cost you’re willing to pay.

Tom Erickson