The nice thing about a glass tabletop is that it adds a certain touch of lightness and elegance to a space since the top is transparent. The downside is that glass tabletops may shatter or crack, leaving you with just a table base. While replacing the top with another piece of similar glass is an option, other choices include wood, a DIY mosaic top, stone, or even clear acrylic.
Wood Tabletop Options
Wood tabletop options abound, and it's not too hard to find a wood type that fits in with a room's decor. Go the DIY route and make your own wood tabletop from a solid slab or planks of wood if you have the tools for it. Reclaimed wood, such as part of a downed tree, is a nice way to reuse something that might otherwise go to waste. A hunk of tree trunk works well for a small tabletop, such as a side table. With natural woods, the customization options are almost limitless, thanks to the stains, wood varieties, and topcoats available.
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Even plywood or fiberboard may be transformed into an attractive tabletop by sanding the material smooth, painting it in a color or style you like, and sealing it with a durable, scratch-resistant finish. For an even more creative touch that's perfect for a man cave or bar, add soda or beer caps or even inexpensive gumball machine toys to the top of the painted plywood tabletop and then seal them all in a pool of resin deep enough to create a smooth tabletop. The addition of masking tape around the perimeter works as a temporary barrier if you wish to have clear edges on the table.
Make your own mosaic atop a sealed plywood tabletop by adhering bits of flat, broken china or flat glass to the surface and then grouting around the pieces. If your old tabletop was tempered glass and it broke into hunks that look like spiderwebs embedded in glass, they can also be used for mosaics with cutout images or words placed beneath the tempered glass. If you prefer something a little more refined, make your mosaic design from standard tile or colorful mosaic tile instead.
Stone Tabletop Options
Natural stone also makes a great choice for a tabletop as long as your table base is strong enough to support it. Slabs of marble or granite look lovely as tabletops. Check with your local stone slab supplier, as they may have pieces available that suit your table size. Many of them take custom orders and cut and polish the stone of your choice to fit your specific table for a truly one-of-a-kind piece.
Though technically not stone, a DIY concrete tabletop has a similar weight and heft to it but costs far less to make. A concrete tabletop still needs a plywood base and a frame structure for the sides for the concrete mold. The project is quite messy, so it's a good project for outdoors during nice weather.
Clear Acrylic Tabletops
Acrylic tabletops offer a look similar to glass but with far less weight and almost no chance of shattering. It's about 17 times stronger than a sheet of glass the same size, and it resists ultraviolet rays. The downside to some acrylic thermoplastics is that they scratch fairly easily, so talk to the supplier to determine the best choice for how you use your table. Clear polycarbonate is 250 times stronger than glass and resists harsh weather, but it may discolor from prolonged exposure to UV rays.
The same companies that cut window glass to size may cut your acrylic or plastic to your own specific tabletop size, eliminating the need to achieve the perfect cut yourself. In some cases, acrylic or Plexiglas costs a bit more than a sheet of glass cut to the same size, so ask your glass and plastic supplier for price comparisons and benefits of the various materials they offer before settling on a final choice.