Particle board, also called chipboard or low density fiberboard (LDF) is typically the least expensive material that can be used for manufacturing furniture. It has a lower cost than other types of engineered woods or plywood.
Particle board’s low cost is achieved by using all lumber waste products, including wood chips, shavings, sawdust and other residue products left over from mill operations. These are glued together and firmly pressed into boards or sheets.
The major advantage of particle board is that it is a cost-effective option as compared with plywood or medium density fiber boards. Due to its lightweight properties, particle boards are easily transported and handled.
Although it is less expensive than MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) particle board has better screw holding capacity. This makes it a superior option for furniture which is assembled using screws.
Particle boards also have thermo-acoustic insulation properties. This is not particularly important for furniture, but is very useful in speakers and in false ceiling of auditoriums, theaters, etc.
Laminated particle boards with decorative plastic laminates or wood veneers are stronger, smoother and better looking than plain unfinished fiber boards. They also require minimal maintenance and are easy to clean.
As a result, laminated and veneered particle boards are often preferred in the production of low cost mass produced furniture.
Particle board also has several disadvantages when compared with other engineered woods and plywood.
It has low strength compared to other fiberboards and its low density makes it easily damaged while being shipped. Particle board’s low strength means it cannot support heavy loads.
In the presence of moisture, particle board can expand and warp. Also in extreme conditions discolouration can occur.
As it has low strength and gets damaged in presence of moisture, particle boards have low durability and a shorter lifespan when compared with medium density fiberboard and plywood.
Particle boards can be toxic. They are manufactured using urea formaldehyde resin which can release formaldehyde gas.
The main advantage of particle board over solid wood or plywood is that its cost is very low. Compared to plywood furniture of similar dimensions, particle board furniture costs less than half. This low cost of course comes at a price, because particle boards are not as durable as plywood or solid wood.
Particle boards are machine manufactured to desired dimensions. Standard pieces of furniture can be mass-produced using these boards. This further brings down the costs since there is no carpenter work involved.
For furniture products a thin layer of plastic or wood veneer is usually glued over the surface of the particle boards at the time they are manufactured.
These boards are called pre-laminated boards.
Lamination increases the beauty as well as increasing the strength of the board slightly.
Furniture with exposed plywood surfaces also uses decorative pastic or veneer laminate sheets . The process of gluing these laminates to plywood sheets is far more time consuming and further increases the overall cost of the plywood furniture being made.
Particle boards are very light in weight. Furniture made from these boards is relatively easy to transport and move around. However, although this can be an advantage for some people, it is also an indicator that the board is not as strong as other types of wood.
A general rule of thumb when it comes to selecting woods is that the denser the wood the stronger it is. And denser usually also means heavier weight. This is why the solid wood furniture that lasts for several years is so heavy.
Apart from being low on strength, particle board furniture is also prone to getting damaged because of moisture and humidity. Furniture made from these boards is not as strong as furniture made from denser wood or wood products.
Particle board furniture can generally be expected to last 2 – 3 years, possibly as much as 5 years if it is not heavily used.
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