Ping pong is a great social sport that can be played both indoors and outdoors. Setting up a ping pong table might seem as simple as finding a table and putting a divider in the middle, finding something to use as paddles, and then ta-da you’re good to go. That’s fine if you’re playing a casual impromptu game now and again.
But for the serious ping pong players, or just regular users, having the proper equipment makes the game a lot easier to play and a lot more fun. What’s more, having a proper ping pong table means the dining room table can still be used by others! (Because we know your parents or spouse are starting to lose their cool.)
In this guide, we will talk about everything you need to know about ping pong tables, from what the ping pong table is made of through to how to care for your ping pong table once you have one. But before we discuss ping pong tables, let’s first figure out what the ping pong game itself is.
Ping pong is a game that can be played by 2 to 4 people. Players hit the ball back and forth across the table with a paddle. Points are scored if the player cannot return the ball in accordance with the rules.
Given that this sounds exactly like table tennis, what is the difference? This question has cropped up so many times, we have decided to include a little bit of information to help clear things up.
The game ping pong was first invented in 1890s Victorian England. But when ping pong equipment and the game was marketed, the term Ping Pong became a trademark. To prevent legal issues with the trademark, the game developed an alternative name and is now also called table tennis.
The establishment of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) in 1926 also preferred the use of the term “table tennis” and so now the modern game is known as table tennis. In essence, the biggest difference between ping pong and table tennis is that Ping Pong is a trademark which is now owned by Escalade Sports. Table tennis is the name of the sport.
It’s kind of like how Hoover is a trademark for a type of vacuum cleaner but people sometimes say “Hoover” when they are referring to vacuum cleaners in general. So, any misconceptions about the type of equipment or rules being different are incorrect.
The basic rules for ping pong to play a friendly game is quite simple. The most important parts are scoring and legal serves. We have covered those briefly below.
A game is usually played best 3 out of 5. You can use any other variation for your own games. The first player to reach 11 points wins the game. However, the winner must win by a margin of at least 2 points.
The ball must pass over the net and touch the opposition’s side of the table before it can be hit and returned. Failure to correctly return the ball using the paddle results in a point for the other player.
The edges of the table but not the sides is considered part of the legal ping pong table surface. Players who do not perform a legal serve also results in a point being scored for the other player.
Rest the ball in your open palm and toss it at least 6 inches into the air.
The ball must be hit such that it bounces first on the server’s side before passing over the net and then bouncing on the opponent’s side.
According to the ITTF, the official ping pong table should measure 2.74 meters long and 1.525 meters wide (approximately 9 by 5 feet). The table top should also be even across the whole surface and be 76 cm above the floor.
There should also be markings on the ping pong table top. A 2 cm thick white line is painted along all 4 edges so it is easy to see the sides of the legal playing field.
To indicate the boundaries of the two half courts when the game of ping pong is being played with 4 people instead of 2, a 3 mm white line is drawn down the center of the table. When only 2 people are playing, this middle line can be ignored.
Ping pong tables for recreation only are not required to meet tournament standards and tend to be somewhat smaller.
The ping pong table surface can be made out of any material as long as a standard ping pong ball bounces 23 cm high after being dropped from a height of 30 cm. The ITTF only approves of ping pong tables made out of wooden materials. However, it is also possible to find concrete ping pong tables in public areas.
A lot of tables are typically made from high density fiberboard or medium density fiberboard.
To finish it off, a nice coat of dark paint is used to cover the surface of the ping pong table. Special paint designed for being applied to ping pong tables can be purchased and used for this purpose.
Beware of ping pong tables that have been sprayed with chalkboard paint. Chalkboard paint tends to be quite gritty, which can cause issues when the ball bounces on the table and can also affect the ball’s speed.
The reason ping pong is such a great sport is because you can play it both inside and outside.
Smaller tables can be purchased and easily set up in any clear area inside your house, such as the garage or basement. Though they are smaller than standard tournament sized tables, ping pong tables are still fairly large and you may find there’s not enough space for you to move around and play.
If you don’t have enough room inside the house or just want to enjoy the outdoors, there are also ping pong tables suited for outdoor use.
We have listed some features of indoor and outdoor ping pong tables so you know what to look out for.
Indoor ping pong tables have a much nicer playing surface than outdoor ping pong tables. That’s because no extra modifications need to be made to the table surface to protect it from the weather.
More importantly, ping pong tournaments are played indoors, so if you’re practicing for a tournament game, then you definitely want to practice on an indoor table so that you will get used to it.
When storing an indoor ping pong table, make sure to keep it at room temperature.
If the table is stored someplace with wild fluctuations in temperatures, this can cause the table top to warp or for the surface to peel off from the table.
So if your ping pong table is going to be stored in your garage which is likely to experience many changes in temperature, you may want to reconsider otherwise you will need to purchase a new ping pong table shortly in the future.
Unless you know the finer details about the differences between indoor and outdoor tennis tables, it doesn’t seem like an issue. Unfortunately, a lot of things can go wrong if you use an indoor ping pong table outside.
Indoor tables can also be used outside but you must be extremely careful when doing so. Below are some reasons why you should not use your indoor table outside.
Cheaper indoor ping pong tables may not be sturdy enough to withstand much wind. So, you may be able to use the table outside on a nice day but the ping pong table will need to be folded up and stored away when not in use.
Direct sunlight on the table top can warp your ping pong table. This can occur even if you are using your ping pong table in the sun for a short period of time. A warped table can change the way the ball bounces, which is not ideal in a game of ping pong.
Table tennis is generally played inside even though you can play outside. At tournaments, table tennis is always played inside. So, when it comes to variety, it is more limited in outdoor ping pong tables.
Not only that, but because the table is for outdoor use, some modifications are required to make sure the ping pong table is suitable. This includes weather proofing the table. The best outdoor ping pong tables are made with a steel undercarriage, providing strength to the table so that it doesn’t blow over in the wind.
Cheaper outdoor ping pong tables will be made from materials such as aluminium. Aluminium still provides the lightweight strength to hold up the table and is relatively water and rust resistant. Regardless, outdoor tables may need to be replaced more often than indoor ones due to usage by players and exposure to the elements.
The most durable and weatherproof ping pong tables are made from concrete. The playing top is similar to an indoor table, but these ping pong tables are built to last for ages.
There are a lot of ping pong table manufacturers. Each manufacturer produces distinctive styles of table tennis tables, not all of which are approved by the ITTF.
If you want to know which ping pong tables are approved by the ITTF, you’ll see the ITTF logo on the sides of the table or the undercarriage.
Here is a list of a few popular table tennis table manufacturers with a little information about what kind of table each manufacturer produces.
Stiga (pronounced Steega) is a renowned ping pong table manufacturer. Stiga ping pong tables and equipment have been produced since 1934, so you know they are an expert in their field.
Stiga ping pong tables can be roughly separated into 3 different grades of tables: basic tables, standard tables and professional tables.
These are designed for the recreational table tennis player. They have a table top made of a thinner material and the undercarriage is quite light.
They’re easy to move around, set up and store away.
These ping pong tables were designed by Stiga for the purpose of competitions. The thickness of the playing surface is thicker and the undercarriage is sturdier.
Designed for tournament games, these Stiga ping pong tables are very durable, with a very thick playing surface and a very strong undercarriage.
These tables also come with ITTF approved nets so your tournament is ready to go once you have your Stiga ping pong table. In comparison, the other two classes of Stiga ping pong tables provide a much lower quality net.
When it comes to the best ping pong tables, Kettler aims to please and provide the best. Kettler provided all the table tennis gear for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
Their indoor ping pong tables are quite standard but what really sets Kettler apart from other manufacturers is their dedication and research into creating the best outdoor ping pong tables while retaining great bounce for the ping pong balls.
Kettler ping pong tables are well known to provide great weather proofing for their outdoor ping pong tables. The ALU-TEC Climate Control design allows Kettler tables to expand and contract when the temperature changes, preventing the top from warping.
The resin apron on the outer edge of the table also prevents the ping pong table from warping while also providing protection from other forms of damage.
The surface of the table is an aluminium composite top, giving their tables great bounce, just like the indoor tables. They’re also scratch, fade and UV resistant so that your Kettler ping pong table will hold up well in the outdoors.
The legs even have adjustable heights so that you can play on uneven ground surfaces but still maintain a level playing surface. Kettler have really thought of everything when it comes to playing table tennis in the outdoors.
Sportcraft are specialists in creating family friendly games and ping pong is not an exception. Sportcraft ping pong tables are perfect for the casual or social ping pong player.
If you’re starting out with ping pong and are not yet dedicated enough to purchase a more competitive ping pong table, then Sportcraft have you covered.
These tables and equipment are much cheaper and more lightweight, allowing for easy storage and lots of portability.
Sportcraft ping pong tables even come in a variety of styles so that your ping pong table can match the décor of your house.
Joola is another well respected ping pong table manufacturer.
An official sponsor for some of the past Olympic games, Joola provides their ping pong tables for notable table tennis competitions such as the USA Table Tennis, the North American Tour and also the North American Team Championships.
Despite Joola providing such high quality ping pong tables for various ping pong tournaments, Joola also supplies the best entry-level ping pong tables. These are a brilliant option for families looking to buy a table for recreational use.
Entry-level Joola ping pong tables are easy to set up, taking less than 30 minutes. This is ideal for families looking for a quick game with their children whenever they have spare time.
Standard Joola ping pong tables have thin to medium table thicknesses and sturdiness of the undercarriage, making them fine for casual play but not recommended for serious players and adults.
Compared with other manufacturers of the same caliber, entry level Joola ping pong tables are very affordable, which is what makes them so popular with beginners.
Everything gets dirty after a while even if you go to great lengths to prevent this from happening. Wiping down the table with a soft cloth after every use helps to slow down the accumulation of dirt but if you want to properly maintain your ping pong table, it will need the occasional clean.
Dirt, dust and grit on your ping pong table will not only look bad but also negatively affect the performance of the table. Cleaning a ping pong table is quite easy and takes almost no time at all.
It is possible to find special cleaning agents designed specifically for cleaning ping pong tables. But if you can’t find any, the best option is to make your own ping pong table cleaner. Try to avoid using all-purpose cleaners or other abrasive or toxic cleaning materials. The chemicals inside them can potentially strip the paint off your ping pong table.
The best way to clean your ping pong table is to mix your own all natural cleaner. How to properly clean your ping pong table:
For the best results, make sure your cloth is not saturated with water when you wipe down the ping pong table as most tables are made of wood.
Try to stick with distilled white vinegar. Other types of vinegar may leave some stains behind on the surface of your table.
When your ping pong table starts to get old, it’ll likely pick up some scratches or just look a bit faded. Maybe the paint on the table top has started to peel.
That’s all part of the aging process. Unlike humans though, restoring your ping pong table to its former glory is simple.
Some ping pong table paint can be applied to the surface to give it the brand new look again.
But if your ping pong table gets scratches and pits in it, what can you do then?
It is possible to just have the table top replaced but this may not be an available option for everyone.
A little bit of DIY work can leave you with a smooth table surface. Here’s how:
Now that we’ve covered the basics of ping pong, the different types of ping pong tables available, and how to properly clean your table, you’re probably bouncing in your seat and ready to purchase your own ping pong table.
We recommend you read our buyer’s guide before you hit the shops though as it contains the latest information on leading ping pong tables.
Inside the buyer’s guide you’ll not only find our personal recommendations for the best ping pong tables, but also a whole lot of useful information of what the best buyers look out for when buying their tables.
Feel free to check it out, or you can even head straight over to our individual table tennis table reviews which give an in-depth overview of some of the best tables on the market. There’s bound to be a table in there that’s perfect for your unique circumstances.