The term table pads refers to a number of different things, all of which are essentially table top pads that serve to cover and protect the surface of the table somehow. Normally table pads go beneath a table cloth, if there is one. There is some variety in table pads available, ranging from rigid-surfaced table top pads that fold up along hinges, to soft vinyl covers that simply sit over the top. The materials used can vary a fair bit, as do the intended purposes.
The range of materials used includes simple cloth, vinyl or hard plastic, water-proofed weave (much like a mattress protector), soft felt, and wool for poker tables.
As well as serving as a surface protector it is possible to find certain themed table cover pads that serve to add some functionality to your table. For example, card game enthusiasts may be interested in felt poker table pads which go over the top of whatever table you’re using and give the effect of a card table that you’d find in a casino. Avid card players are rewarded with a more convenient playing surface suited to the task and a more authentic feel.
There are smaller pads available called dining table pads, or place-mats, which are small cloth or vinyl table pads that sit on top of the table cloth or table surface, one at each position on the table. The purpose is simply to catch any drips or spills that may occur at the dining table and prevent the table cloth from being soiled, since it is easier to clean small dining room table pads than the whole table cloth each time there is a minor accident.
In addition to the ones mentioned you can find large, hard, table cover pads that fold up along hinges. These are particularly useful if you have a fine wooden table that you wish to prevent damage to the surface during day to day use so you have an undamaged surface to present guests with on special occasions. If a loss of authenticity concerns you, you may consider table top pads in a wooden veneer finish so as not to spoil the effect.
Due to their fairly simple construction, most table top pads start at about US$30 and reasonable quality dining table pads can be bought for as little as $5. The folding rigid table pads will cost more especially if they have a pattern like imitation wood veneer. You can get higher quality pads tailor made to your table if you’re willing to pay more still. The most expensive of the table pads are usually the felt poker table pads which vary greatly in quality, but can cost as much as $200 or possibly even more if you have a large custom-order.