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How Do You Tell If Pool Table Bumpers Are Bad?

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Have you ever been playing pool and the bumpers just didn’t seem right? Maybe you are going to purchase a pool table, but you want to make sure the bumpers do not need replaced. Well, in this article we will go over everything you need to know about pool table bumpers and how to know if they are bad. 

So how do you tell if pool table bumpers are bad? 

There are many different ways to know if pool table bumpers are bad. You can test them yourself with many different methods, or you can hire a professional to look at them and test them. These tests can be as easy as visual inspections all the way to elaborate as a topspin test. 

If you want to know more about testing pool bumpers, you will want to keep reading this article. You can also check out this video that will show you exactly how to test the pool table bumpers on your own. 

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Do pool table bumpers ever need replaced?

Pool tables consist of various parts, which must be optimal conditions for excellent play. Some of these parts may last a lifetime of the table while others are more prone to wear and tear. This is why some parts of a pool table must be replaced after a few years. One of these parts is the bumper, widely known as a cushion.

Cushions are located on the sides of the playing surface, lining the wooden rails and covered by felt. They cause the bouncing of the balls without reducing their kinetic energy. Bumpers are made from vulcanized rubber; thus, sometimes, they are referred to as rubbers. This kind of material is made by combining natural rubber with sulfur under highly pressurized and hot conditions. Vulcanized rubber is strong, elastic, and durable, giving the cushions a bouncy characteristic. The material also makes the cushions last for about 20-50 years.

Despite the hardened material used for making bumpers, they may age quickly if not properly handled. Poor installation is one of the factors that hasten the aging process. When well installed, the distance between the cushion end and the covered slate surface should be 1 7/16 inches. The angle between table bed and cushion varies from one type of table to another. Other than the technical defect, improper storage has an immensely damaging effect on the pool cushions. Exposure to the extremes of temperature for prolonged duration causes the melting of the bumpers and impeding play.

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How do you examine the bumpers?

Your game may significantly be affected even with minor bumper damage. The ability to differentiate a good cushion from a bad one is essential for any passionate billiard player. There are numerous ways for determining the state of the rubber bumpers. Below we will go over everything you need to know and how to conduct each test. 

  • Listening test

You test the integrity of the pool table cushions by shooting a ball into each rail and carefully listening to the sound produced. The sound produced should be constant all-round the table. Any variation should be a red flag. However, you should note that the sound quality varies based on the rail and frame design, which are responsible for sound resonation. As you listen to the sound, also take note of the rebound speed made by the ball to determine its proportionality to the sound. The ball should be struck with the same force to eliminate bias.

  • Finger cushion test

In this test, you run your fingers below the table rails (where the cushion edges have over the playing surface) all around the table and feel for worn grooves under the felt. The presence of slots indicates that your bumpers are worn out and need replacement. A reduced bounciness of the rubbers is the consequence of such wear.

  • Topspin test

Holding the cue at approximately 30 degrees, strike the ball directly onto the rail with high speed and moderate topspin. The ball should not jump more than 1 inch into the table for a good bumper.

  • Rebound test

This test requires you to roll the billiard ball slowly into the rails, all-round the table and noting the ball reaction. Check out whether the ball comes to rest upon hitting the rail or bounces back into the field of play in a lively manner. The former is an indicator of a bad cushion while the latter is a green light. You should also take note of the rebound which should be almost equal to the angle of incidence (the angle at which the ball hits the rail)

  • Squeeze test

Apply pressure onto all the table rails (at a 2-inch interval) using the tip of your fingers while assessing the depth you can achieve. A good cushion allows you to squeeze an average distance of between 1/8 inches to ¼ inches. When the bumper is hardened, the feel is similar to that of pressing wooden material. While squeezing, it is possible to get different outcomes on the various parts of the same cushion. Again, cushions on one rail may all be damaged while those on the adjacent rail remain normal. You should note that if the whole table was subjected to the same environmental conditions, even if only one cushion is bad at the time of testing, all the other bumpers would require replacement provided they were installed at the same time.

  • Looking test

Extreme heat destroys the rubbers causing a melted appearance as they sag onto the playing surface. Sagging of the bumpers creates a ramp effect that makes the balls to easily jump off the playing area when struck against the rails. Close inspection can detect the melting and sagging of the bumpers.

Naturally, cushions go bad with time despite the environment, treatments given, or proper usage. The rate of aging also depends on cushion grade. Cushions can either be hardened or become brittle. When it happens, not only does it affect the actual play, but it also poses a danger to your table felt. The ball is bound to strike the cushions repeatedly during the game in case of hardening. This causes wear and tear of felt along the ends of the rubber. Over time, the whole felt may be torn, worsening the situation.

Should I replace bad bumpers myself? 

Replacement of bad bumpers(re-bumpering/re-cushioning) should be done by a professional. Generally, felt on the rails is removed during the process and should never be reused. If you are wanting to do it yourself though, here is an article that will show you exactly how to replace it step by step. 


Billiard bumpers are amongst the most long-lasting parts of a pool table. However, their aging can be accelerated by poor installation, improper use, and poor storage. As a player, you can examine your cushions to determine their integrity without involving a professional. 

The methods of inspection are simple and include listening for the sound produced, checking for worn-out grooves, squeezing the cushion, topspinning, observing the ball rebound, and looking for a melted appearance. Bad bumpers must be replaced on time to ensure excellent play. There is nothing worse than going to play a game only to realize that the bumpers on your pool table do not work properly and need replaced.