If you are planning to build some furniture, install new shelves, build structures, or renovate some walls, one building material that you may be considering is particle board.
So, what exactly is particle board, and what are its advantages and disadvantages?
What Is Particle Board?
Particle board is also known as chipboard. This is a specific type of engineered or manufactured wood, one that is made out of real wood components but has been processed into a board or sheet. It is a waste wood product, or, in other words, old wood scraps, chips, and shavings are used to make it. This is one of the reasons why many people like it, because it is fairly eco-friendly.
Fine wooden chips or jute-stick chips are mixed with synthetic resins, binders, and other additives (to help provide it with various properties such as fire resistance), which are then heated to a high temperature and pressed together into solid boards using high amounts of pressure.
It is a fairly simple yet effective building material, with its main uses being for the building of furniture, and for underlayment as a substrate for things like countertops.
Advantages of Particle Board
Particle board does have quite a few notable advantages as a building material, so let’s take a look at what these are.
1. It’s Cheap
If you are looking for cost-effective building material, a particle board is generall less expensive than plywood, medium-density fiberboard, and solid lumber. No, particle board is not the highest in terms of quality, but many people choose it for simple projects due to its low cost.
2. It’s Smooth and Flat
Perhaps the biggest advantage of particle board is that it is both smooth and flat. On its own, particle board actually looks quite nice, which is why it can be used for surface applications that will be visible once construction is complete. On that same note, due to its smooth and flat exterior, particle board is also relatively easy to sand and paint, or even to attach veneers to.
3. It Does Not Easily Distort
In terms of physical damage, such as denting due to a fall or a bump, particle board performs amicably.
No, it’s not quite as durable as some of the other building materials out there, especially where moisture is concerned, but in terms of overall impact resistance and the ability to resist physical damage (especially when the particle board is still new), it’s not bad at all.
4. It’s Fairly Lightweight
Another benefit of particle board is that it does not weigh very much. No, it’s not the lightest of all building materials, but it is certainly lighter than solid lumber. This relatively lightweight nature of it makes particle board fairly easy to lift, work with, and transport.
5. It Has Decent Screw-Holding Capacity
Although particle board is not as good at holding in screws and nails as plywood is, it’s not too bad either. If you build something out of particle board, using screws and nails, unless something extreme happens, they should hold in place just fine.
6. It’s Easy to Clean
Due to the smoothness of particle board, it is quite easy to clean. It does not stain easily, and cleaning it is as easy as wiping it down with a wet cloth.
7. It’s Relatively Eco-Friendly
Now, particle board does contain some chemicals which are not great for humans or the environment. However, when you consider that particle board is made out of scrap and reused wood, it is quite eco-friendly, much more so than solid lumber or plywood (plywood requires fresh lumber).
8. It Offers Some Acoustic Insulation
One thing that many people may not know about particle board is that it is decent at insulating sound. This is why many recording studios and theaters incorporate particle board into their construction.
9. It Saws Fairly Clean
Although it does not saw as cleanly and neatly as solid lumber, particle board is relatively easy to saw apart without causing too much damage and without shredding the edges.
Disadvantages of Particle Board
Particle board does have many advantages as a building material, but it also has a few notable disadvantages, so let’s take a look.
1. It Has Limited Weight-Bearing Capacity
Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of particle board is that it just cannot hold much weight.
If you prop up a piece of particle boards on both sides and then stand on it, chances are pretty big that it will snap in half. Although it is easy to work with and looks nice, it just cannot hold much weight, which is why it is not ideal for any sort of load-bearing application.
2. It Has a Limited Lifespan
Overall, particle board does not have all that much longevity. Due to the fact that it does not perform well when moisture is involved, it generally does not last too long, especially in humid climates.
3. It Doesn’t Fare Well with Moisture
As mentioned above, particle board and moisture do not mix.
Particle board easily absorbs moisture, and even when exposed to minimal moisture, may quite literally disintegrate. At the very least, exposure to moisture can cause particle board to shrink and expand, and to warp and bend, which is of course not ideal.
4. It Can Be Toxic
Particle board is often made with formaldehyde in the resin, which is very toxic. This resin can break down and release toxic gasses into your home over time.
How Does Particle Board Compare to Other Types of Wood?
For a more detailed comparison of particle board with other types of wood, check the articles below:
While particle board may have some glaring issues, specifically it’s limited weight capacity and its inability to resist moisture, it also has many advantages.
It’s a cost-effective, easy to work with, and impact resistant material that can be used for many basic purposes.