Particle Board vs. Melamine: Which to Choose?

Particle Board vs. Melamine: Which to Choose?

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If you are planning to build furniture or cabinets, or you are building a new floor, walls, or anything in between, then you have to choose the right building material. Two common building materials that are used in many new constructions include particle board and melamine.

Now, what does need to be said is that these two are not mutually exclusive per se, something we will cover further below. Let’s get to it and figure out what both particle board and melamine are, as well as the differences between them.

Particle Board vs. Melamine: The Basics

Before we get into talking about the similarities and differences between melamine and particle board, let’s first determine what they actually are.

What Is Particle Board?

First, we have particle board, which is a specific type of engineered wood. Unlike solid and real lumber that is cut and milled from trees, and then used as is, engineered wood such as particle board is made by fusing old (or new pieces of wood) together. Particle board is made by taking old wood fibers, wood chips, and wood shavings, and then combining those with a special resin or glue. This wood fiber and resin mixture is then pressed together with great amounts of force to form a solid board.

Some of the advantages of particle board include that it is very cost-effective, it’s quite lightweight, it’s eco-friendly (usually made of recycled materials), and easy to paint. The downside with particle board is that it does not do well with weather or moisture, it is not all that durable or damage resistant, it may contain toxic materials, and it doesn’t hold onto screws or nails that well either.

What Is Melamine?

Melamine is a very special material. In fact, melamine is an organic compound. It has the formula of C₃H₆N₆, and is in fact a trimer of cyanamide. Melamine is composed of a variety of substances, including 67% nitrogen.

Through a special process of polymerization, substances such as dicyandiamide, hydrogen cyanide, or urea, are broken down into cyanuric acid, which through a process of chemical reactions, forms what we know as melamine. In simplest terms, melamine is actually a type of plastic, and it is often used in reusable cups, utensils, plastics, children’s toys, and more.

Now, there seems to be a good deal of confusion out there. Many sources claim that melamine is a type of engineered wood. This is simply not true in the least. Melamine is a type of plastic, although that said, it is often formed into boards and used in place of plywood and other types of engineered wood.

Particle Board Coated with Melamine

In the introduction, if you recall, we said that particle board and melamine are not necessarily mutually exclusive. This is because particle board is often coated with a hard exterior layer to increase durability. Well, either laminate or melamine is often used for this. In other words, the two are not always mutually exclusive, because some specific types of particle board are coated in melamine.

More often than not, boards are not actually made out of 100% melamine, but are made out of materials like particle board, and are then coated with a thin layer of melamine. You can see how this can get a bit complicated because many types of wood are coated with melamine!

Similarities and Differences of Particle Board and Melamine

For the purposes of this article, we will be comparing particle boards with 100% melamine boards. Here, we are talking about melamine boards, not particle boards coated in melamine.

Similarities of Particle Board and Melamine

Let’s figure out what is similar between melamine and particle board.

1. Both Are Lightweight

One of the biggest similarities that these two building materials share is that they are both fairly lightweight and easy to work with. They’re some of the lightest and most versatile building materials out there.

2. Both Can Be Used for Similar Purposes

Another similarity that these two building materials share is that they can both generally be used for the same types of purposes. For instance, both can be used for making furniture, cabinets, countertops, and in some cases even for flooring as well.

4. They’re Both Cost-Effective

Another similarity that both melamine and particleboard share is that they are relatively cost-effective. When compared to other building materials such as plywood or solid lumber, both particleboard and melamine are much cheaper.

5. Poor Screw Holding Capabilities

There is also the fact that both particle board and melamine are relatively bad in terms of holding onto nails and screws. Now, both aren’t quite the same in this sense, but in both cases, don’t expect screws and nails to hold longer than for about a year.

6. Durability Is Limited

The final similarity that both these materials share is that they’re not the most durable of building materials. When compared to things like solid lumber and plywood, both melamine and particleboard are relatively weak. They just don’t have the best impact resistance.

Differences Between Particle Board and Melamine

Let’s now figure out what makes particle board and melamine different from each other.

1. Melamine Is Waterproof

It’s worth noting that 100% melamine is 100% waterproof, something that particle board surely is not. Particle board does not perform well when moisture is involved. That said, you can waterproof it to an extent.

2. Melamine Is Fire Retardant

Although not 100% fireproof, melamine is fire retardant, which particle board certainly is not. Particle board is very susceptible to combustion.

3. Melamine Is Slightly Heavier

Although both are fairly lightweight, melamine is slightly heavier than particle board.

4. Particle Board Is Slightly Better at Holding Screws

Although both don’t hold onto screws very well, particleboard does perform slightly better in this sense than melamine.

5. Melamine Looks Much Better

Melamine is much smoother and more appealing aesthetically than particleboard, which is often very rough and dull.

6. Melamine Comes in More Options

Melamine comes in very many print and color options, which particle board does not.

7. Melamine Is Slightly More Durable

Although both aren’t the most durable materials out there, melamine is slightly more durable than particleboard.

Which of the Two Should You Use?

When it comes down to it, for most uses, we recommend getting the best of both worlds, which in this case means using particle board that is coated in melamine. There is no sense in choosing between the two when you can get the best of both worlds.


There you have it folks, everything that you need to know about the similarities and differences between particle board and melamine.