A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO ENGINEERED WOOD ( 3 Minute Read)
Are you pining for the perfect wood-based solution to your building needs? Don’t lumber around with the burden of not knowing your low from your high-density fibre boards. In this article we take a look at all the different types of dimensional timber available, and what each one is best suited for.
The applications and structural integrities of different engineered boards are just as wide-ranging as with wood. Considering the price advantage, it would almost be accurate to say that there are even more uses for the various types of boards than there are for wood.
Firstly, let’s take a look at the different types of engineered board:
Plywood is the cheapest and lightest of the boards. It has various advantages over wood, most notably it is resistant to cracking, shrinkage, warping and splitting, but it will snap under immense pressure. It does, however, boast the highest level of moisture tenacity - meaning it soaks up very well. Plywood comes in a number of grades - shutterply, for example, is unfinished and is used when pouring concrete or out of sight construction.
Pine plywood on the other hand has a smooth finish and is suitable for DIY and carpentry projects. Sadly locally produced plywood doesn’t match the quality and finish of top end imported birch plywood. Some more appealing and costly options are veneered plywood, for indoor use, and marine plywood, which can be used outdoors. Other forms of special-purpose plywood includes: aircraft plywood, fire-retardant plywood and pressure-treated plywood.
Interior Stud Walls
Heavy Duty Packaging
LOW-DENSITY FIBREBOARD (LDF):
This category includes the likes of chipboard and oriented strand board (OSB), both of which are more environmentally-friendly than raw timber. Although the manufacturing process is similar for these two engineered woods, their qualities and strengths differ vastly. LDFs are not made to be load-bearing surfaces, but they are less likely to warp over time.
ORIENTED STRAND BOARD
OSB is manufactured by compressing larger layers of wood flakes that are stacked at right angles and bonding it together with a synthetic resin. The wood flakes are arranged in such a way that it maximizes durability and strength. It is a versatile board that is both strong and waterproof, making it ideal for building construction. More recently it has become popular for its visual appeal is now also used in contemporary furniture and decor design.
Oriented strand board uses
Sheathing in walls, flooring, and roof decking
Chipboard (also known as particleboard) is a form of manufactured wood comprised of wood particles bonded together in layers using resin. It is often coated or veneered, depending on its intended use. Chipboard comes in different densities varying between 650 and 750 kg/m3. It is significantly cheaper, but also much weaker than OSB. It is also prone to expansion and discoloration due to moisture.
Cabinet doors & interiors
Wall paneling and partitioning
MEDIUM-DENSITY FIBREBOARD (MDF):
Medium-density fibreboard is made from wood fibers, mixed with resin and wax, which is then pressed into flat boards under high pressure and temperature. MDF it is stronger and denser than chipboard, and although it can be used similarly to plywood, it is much heavier. MDF has a high mechanical resistance and offers good dimensional stability against temperature and damp fluctuations. Most MDF boards have smooth stable surfaces that are easy to machine and also ideal for lacquering. It has a wide range of applications, such as:
Knock-down DIY furniture
Finishing (trimmings, etc.)
Supawood, a locally manufactured MDF, is an inexpensive alternative to wood and veneered boards. It is manufactured through the high pressure compression of sawdust particles, glue binders, waxes and resins. SupaWood has a smooth finish whereas some cheaper imported MDF boards tend to have a grainy finish. Because it is an extremely strong and durable board and lends itself well to creative routering, profiling, painting, staining and overlying, it has become popular for use in the making of furniture and decor accessories.
Cabinets and built-in cupboards
Furniture and decor
HIGH-DENSITY FIBREBOARD (HDF):
Hardboard goes through a similar manufacturing process to MDF, but the end product is much stronger and denser because it is compiled out of highly-compressed exploded wood fibres. There are two types of processes in manufacturing hardboard – dry and wet processing. Wet processing results in a product that is very dense and stable. An example of a wet process HDF boards is masonite. Masonite boards have no wood grain, but can be easily veneered with a wood surface, should the application require it. In spite of being very dense and stable, masonite has a high bending strength.
Cladding for doors and cabinets
Panels and partitioning
Arts and crafts
Now, let’s take a look at some of the basic qualities of these boards, and how they match up against one another in various ways. The following lists are ranked from 1 – 4, indicating from “Most” to “Least” respectively:
MDF (Most expensive)
HDF (Most resistant)
SO, ALL ACROSS THE BOARD …
It is always important, when working with any wood (engineered or otherwise), to keep in mind that bane of every woodworker’s existence – breathing space. Expansion & contraction space could be the difference between warped, uneven surfaces or flush smoothness.
It is recommended that you work with MDF in a well-ventilated area. When sanding down, cutting or working with any MDF, be safe and wear a particle mask to prevent inhaling dust and trace amounts of off-gassing chemicals (known as VOCs or urea-formaldehyde). Off-gassing is a byproduct of most new manufactured goods, whereby volatile organic compounds are released into the atmosphere - think of ‘new car smell’ for example. Off-gassing diminishes over time, but you can minimize off-gassing of finished MDF articles by covering the board with a layer of primer or paint, which themselves release less VOCs.
Still unsure of what to buy? Why not just stop by your nearest branch of BUCO and ask our experts about the best product for your project. While you’re there, you can also have your board cut and fitted to specific sizes. Just another way we are on board with you and your build.