Quality of materials and workmanship in furniture construction has an impact on both its durability and its proper use. Furniture is made in many ways from a great variety of materials. Generally, the details of construction are at least partially concealed in the finished product. The reputation of a particular teal manufacturer, published specifications (when available), and price are all clues to quality construction.
Well-made furniture need not be expensive, but cheap duplicates of quality products are almost certainly the result of some skimping on materials or quality details. When evaluated over its useful life, quality furniture is often a better bargain than cheap substitutes. An inexpensive dinette table that must be replaced in five years may, over the long run, end up costing more than a high-priced table that will still be serviceable (and perhaps more valuable) after a hundred years.
The examination of an actual sample, along with some simple testing in the form of shaking, bouncing, pushing, and pulling (particularly if done in comparison with several similar objects), can give some idea of constructional quality. Good furniture is not weak, fragile, or shaky when new and will not develop weaknesses with normal use over long periods of time.
Just how sturdy a piece of furniture needs to be depends on its intended use. Many fine antiques that have held up over centuries are actually quite delicate, but they have been used, as intended, only under conditions that do not impose too much rough usage. In general, home furniture need not be as rugged as furniture used in institutional and public spaces. Delicate materials and finishes can survive in private living spaces or in executive offices better than in hotel rooms, dormitories, or where young children will be regular users. Whatever its intended use, good furniture is characterized by good materials, workmanship, and finishes at an appropriate level of durability.
Although a variety of materials are used for specific details, the primary structure of most furniture is based on three families of materials, used alone or in combination. Each material family has its own constructional characteristics.