If you’ve gone shopping for shoe cabinets, tables or pretty much any type of furniture, you’ve probably heard of the words: engineered wood. While its counterpart is solid wood, the engineered variety has become extremely popular in Indian homes now. But what is it exactly? And how do we choose from all the varieties available in the market? Here are a few basics to help you understand and decide!

What is engineered wood?
What is engineered wood-table-buddha-lamp-chair-throw-rug
Aka composite or man-made wood

Engineered wood, also popular by different names like composite wood, manufactured board or composite wood, is a derivative wood product made from binding or fixing the strands, particles, etc. together with adhesives or other methods of fixation to form composite materials.

What are the different types of engineered wood?

The primary material used to manufacture engineered wood products is made from the same hardwoods and softwoods that are used in the manufacture of lumber. Some engineered woods are also manufactured from sawmill scraps and other wood waste. There are numerous types of engineered woods. Let’s look at some important types that are commonly available in the market.

What is engineered wood-table-chair-mirror-grey-wall-wooden-floor
Plywood is extremely versatile
  • What is it: Plywood is a wood structural panel and is considered to be the original engineered wood product by many. The manufacturing process of plywood involves in cross-lamination of veneer sheets and bonding them with moisture-resistant adhesives under heat and pressure.
  • Pros & cons: Plywood is an incredibly versatile type of engineered wood which can be used for a variety of interior, structural, and exterior applications such as structural frames and internal panelling. It has good uniform strength, is economical and is available in larger sizes when compared to solid wood. The disadvantages of using plywood are that some of them bend and sag when exposed to too much weight or water; plywood is also more expensive when compared to particle boards and blockboards.
  • Price: Plywood comes in different qualities and thicknesses. The price ranges from Rs. 80 to Rs. 200 per square feet.
Particle board
What is engineered wood-mirror-table-drawer-opens-books-brick-wall
Particle board is cheaper than plywood
  • What is it: Thinking of using eco-friendly wood in your house? Choose particle board! It is affordable, environment-friendly and can be used for false ceilings, shelves, furniture, and carpentry. Particle board is manufactured by pressing and extruding various wood wastes like wood chips, sawmill shavings, or even sawdust.
  • Pros & cons: Particle board is cheaper, denser, and more uniform than conventional wood or plywood. However, particle boards are prone to expansion and discolouration due to moisture easily. They need to be covered with paint or another sealer for durability. Particle boards can swell and disintegrate due to water damage and are therefore unsuitable for the outdoors, as they may be exposed to rain.  
  • Price: Particle boards come in varying thickness, and the price ranges from Rs 15 per square foot to Rs 40, per square foot.
Blockboards are light in weight
  • What is it: Wondering what wood to use in the house you are building? Try blockboard! It is the ideal choice for doors, panels, shelves, and partitions. It also makes sturdy tables if the core runs lengthwise. Blockboard is made by gluing together a core of softwood strips. The strips, that are about 25mm wide, are placed edge to edge between veneers of hardwood. This sandwich is then glued under high pressure to obtain block board.
  • Pros and cons: Blockboards are cheaper when compared to plywood. They are lighter and usually used inside buildings to make doors as they are lightweight. They cannot be used outside as the bonding gum is not durable outdoors.
  • Price: The price of block board ranges from Rs 90 to Rs 200 per square foot. 
MDF board
MDF is generally denser than plywood
  • What is it: Trying to decide on the type of wood for your office or kitchen cabinets? MDF is a good choice for cabinets, furniture, and floors. It is even used to make speaker boxes. Medium-density fibreboard (MDF) is created by first breaking down hardwood and softwood particles into wood fibres. Next, the wood fibres are combined with wax and a resin binder to form panels by applying high temperature and pressure. MDF has a smooth finish and consistency. It is strong, yet is easy to work with. 
  • Pros and cons: MDF is generally denser than plywood but can soak up water faster than plywood and hence is susceptible to damage if used outdoors. The surface of MDF is very smooth, making it suitable for painting and indoor furniture. MDF board also comes in different thicknesses and quality.
  • Price: The price of the board varies between Rs 30 per square feet to Rs 200, per square feet.
Advantages of engineered wood

Engineered wood products may be preferred over solid wood due to certain comparative advantages. They can also be designed to meet application-specific requirements. Versatility and availability in a wide variety of thickness is another advantage of engineered wood. It is easy to work even when using ordinary tools. They can be cut, drilled, routed, jointed, glued, and fastened easily when compared to solid wood. The most significant advantage of using engineered wood is that it is much more cost-effective when compared to solid wood.  

Disadvantages of engineered wood

The adhesive used to manufacture some of them are toxic, like formaldehyde. Most particle and fibre boards are not suitable for outdoor usage as they soak up water. They also require an external layer like veneer or laminate to complete the look. In contrast, Solid wood just needs to be polished to obtain the desired look.

So what type of wood do you need?

Make your choice  based on depend on your purpose and location of use. The budget also plays an essential factor in selection. It is challenging to determine the quality of these engineered woods, and you will be better off shopping in a standard store than relying on middle men. 

Know more about plywood in details here: All You Need to Know About Plywood.

Send in your comments and suggestions.