Using birch Ikea dining tables as desks
January 31, 2011 12:13 AM   Subscribe

My partner and I will probably soon be using Ikea's Björkudden dining tables as desks. They're made of solid birch and covered in a polyurethane/acrylic lacquer. Is this a good idea?

I'm looking to replace our current desks, which use brown-black Vika Amon tops (fiberboard with acrylic paint). They look pretty terrible because the paint has chipped a lot, especially where moisture has caused the paint to bubble and then chip off.

I've sort-of settled on the Björkudden tables because they're the right size, they're within our budget, and they're not made of fiberboard.

Is lacquered birch going to be very susceptible to moisture damage? And is there anything I can do to make the tables more resistant to damage? (In addition to hounding my partner to use coasters.)
posted by neushoorn to Shopping (15 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
You should be just fine. Birch is close-grained, straight-grained, and relatively hard, meaning that it won't warp and absorb very much water unfinished. Covered in a polyurethane lacquer it should be impervious to just about anything you can throw at it.

Fun fact: They used this stuff to build airplanes! (Well, airplane.)
posted by daniel striped tiger at 1:53 AM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

They're dining tables. The lacquer is there to provide years of handling food and drink spills. We don't have a Björkudden, but we do have a different wooden Ikea dining table, and the lacquer has stood up to eight years of daily use, four of those with children. It's scratched and there are a few small dents, but absolutely no water damage whatsoever.

The only suggestion I have for increasing durability would be to get some safety glass tops made to fit the tables. Some of the Ikea desks have those as an option, and they add a lot of extra durability. You can get them made to measure from a specialist glass shop. They're not cheap, but they will make your desks impervious to everything but dropped hammers.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:13 AM on January 31, 2011

I used this table as a dining table for 2 years, until we moved. We ate and drank off it everyday, and we moved it onto the deck in the summers where it handled plenty of drunken bbqs and still looked great. My recommendation? Don't overthink it.
posted by jgee at 3:30 AM on January 31, 2011

Best answer: I had a roommate that used this table as a desk. It worked very well for him. I have one myself, and use it as a dining table. Despite the fact that I am very messy, I have been unable to damage it in any way. So I would say go for it.
posted by jrockway at 3:43 AM on January 31, 2011

Ikea uses low-grade lumber, weak glue joins and flimsy hardware for construction. It looks good, but don't plan on getting more than a few years of use out of it.

To be fair, this is a problem with almost all furniture from "big box" stores. I wouldn't buy a desk from Office Depot or a kitchen table from Walmart, either. The local furniture super-store hereabouts has a five year unlimited, no-questions-asked warranty on their stuff, including office furniture. That'll give you a desk you'll only need to buy one of for as long as you're in business.

Alternatively, check out the local business liquidators - they'll have second-hand office furniture from businesses that went under, often unused.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:28 AM on January 31, 2011

Best answer: I've had that table for about 9 years. It's been used as a dining table, a kitchen table where the majority of our food prep happened, and briefly as a desk. It has a few small scratches, but has held up surprisingly well considering the price. Moisture doesn't seem to bother it in the least.
posted by thejanna at 5:38 AM on January 31, 2011

Best answer: I have one of these. It's a tank, not at all like the other flimsy IKEA stuff.
posted by yarly at 5:46 AM on January 31, 2011

Best answer: I'm using one of these as a desk, and have been for several years. Works great for me -- even though I've spilled wine all over it. (My papers and the wall didn't so much like the wine spill, though.)

I attached a power strip and a wire thingie to hold my cables to the underside of the desk, and you can't see them at all because of the dropped sides. It's cool.
posted by wyzewoman at 5:57 AM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ikea uses low-grade lumber, weak glue joins and flimsy hardware for construction. It looks good, but don't plan on getting more than a few years of use out of it.

You know I've heard this slam on IKEA before but to tell you the truth, none of the stuff I bought from them over a decade ago is even showing signs of wear. That's not to say that they don't also sell crap but I do think that, if you select carefully, you can buy things from them that will last.

But yes, I certainly agree with your other point: there are good bargains to be found in the used market. If nothing else, the dotcom crash and great recession have made it pretty easy to own a lightly-used Aeron.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 6:08 AM on January 31, 2011

Best answer: I've been using one of these as a desk for almost 5 years, and it's been great. I was most concerned about wobbling, but tightening the screws each time I moved was enough to prevent that.
posted by capsizing at 6:32 AM on January 31, 2011

I used Ikea dining tables as desks in a shared office. It was great - we could combine them to make a big conference table and then split them back up into separate work areas. Love 'em.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 6:47 AM on January 31, 2011

Best answer: I use this as a desk/arts&crafts worktable, and have for going on 6 years now. Some of the wood has cracked/separated in a small area where an overheating laptop was left on it. It's covered with paint splatters and bits of glue and has hammer marks from where I missed hitting something dead-on, but damn, is that thing sturdy. I sit on it pretty regularly, too. I'd buy it again and use it the same way, yes.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:15 AM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The kids in my family got Ikea furniture circa 1990. It survived two long-distance moves and many more shorter hops. It was disassembled and reassembled. It was taken to college and post-college apartments. And then it was sold on Craigslist. Treat it moderately decently and you'll be fine.

Oh, and those tables are great.
posted by charmcityblues at 7:23 AM on January 31, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! I know Ikea's quality varies a lot from item to item, and I'm glad to hear others have had good luck with the Björkudden.
posted by neushoorn at 8:21 AM on January 31, 2011

Oh yeah. Looking at one right now. In our dining room. It is 5 years old, currently covered in crap, and a total tank. I love it.
posted by bibliogrrl at 8:56 PM on January 31, 2011

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