What is Composite Wood?

Have you ever wondered why some wooden furniture is more affordable than others?

A lot of wooden furniture pieces may look like wood but are not actually 100% wood. Some furniture pieces are made from composite wood. These look and feels like the real thing but are not solid wood.

There are many advantages and some disadvantages to using composite wood and this guide will help you sort these out.

What makes composite wood?

Composite wood is any kind of manufactured wood that is made up of a combination of materials. There are several types of composite wood: veneers, laminates, and fiberboards are just three of the most common.

No doubt that natural wood is the best building material for its strength, durability, versatility, and beauty. But composite wood is also strong (but with limitations) and sometimes have the same uncanny resemblance to original wood. Composite will work perfectly indoors but some also work well outdoors.

About veneer

Veneer is a kind of composite wood. It is a thin layer of wood applied to the surface of the substrate. This could be plywood or any composite material like particleboard. Veneers are known to be very shiny and have the natural appearance of wood. These even have surface imperfections like knots and grain patterns.

Veneer is not new though, it has been manufactured for hundreds of years and in fact, you can find valuable antique veneered surfaces. And even if the surface of veneer is ready for any project, it can be sanded, stained and finished just like real wood.

About laminates

Lamination is the process of gluing together two pieces and in case of laminates, two wood pieces are bonded together. The layers of wooden boards are glued together and this could be either side-by-side or on top of one another.

A classic example of a laminate is plywood. But when an interior designer or a contractor talks about laminates this is about pre-finished boards with a surface that may or may not be wood at all.

In another meaning of laminates, a laminate is a plasticized coating that you glue on countertops. These may have the wood pattern but are not really made of wood.

About composite materials

A composite material is a substrate for a laminate or veneer surface. The most common composite materials are medium-density fiberboard or MDF and particleboard.

These come from a combination of wood chips, sawdust, and adhesive and are manufactured in sheets or pre-cut and shaped perfectly for different uses.

Composite materials are not like other composites because these don’t look like wood. These don’t have surface defects which usually show up even if you apply a coat of paint.

One of the most common uses of composite materials like MDF is interior trims and cabinetry. This is easy to use like wood and is more affordable.

About oriented strand board

Oriented strand board or OSB is a composite made from fast-growing trees such as aspen poplar, southern yellow pine, mixed hardwoods, and other species. This is made by coating wood chips with MDI, then arranging strand layers perpendicular to each other, and pressing the strands using high temperature and pressure.

The result is boards that are tight and well-formed. The perpendicular orientation of the wood strands creates strength. OSB panels are widely used as flooring and sheathing in homes, as webbing for wood I-joists and in the production of structural insulated panels or SIPs.

About Medium-Density Fiberboard

Medium-Density Fiberboard or MDF is widely used in the manufacture of furniture, cabinets, door parts, moldings, millwork, and laminate flooring. MDF consists of cellulosic fibers combined with a synthetic resin and joined together under heat and extreme pressure. The surface of MDF is flat, smooth, dense, even and free of knots and grain patterns.

What is particleboard?

Particleboard or chipboard is engineered wood product made from wood chips; sawmill shavings, or even sawdust and MD. Particleboard is pressed and extruded to form a denser and more uniform material than wood and plywood.

Different grades of particleboard have different densities, with higher density giving greater strength and resistance to failure of fasteners. Additives may be included to give greater dimensional stability, fire and moisture resistance to composites.

Conclusion

There are a variety of composite materials and each one has its special purpose. These are made from different components and materials and may or may not bear the appearance of traditional wood. Composites are not as strong as solid wood but still offer improved strength and density according to the various additives added to the composite material.

  • January 5, 2019
  • DIY
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