Wood is one of the most commonly used construction materials. That said, in addition to “real wood” – i.e. pieces of lumber – there are also different types of engineered wood. One of the most popular ones is hardboard.
In this article, let’s take a look at what it is, and what the advantages and disadvantages of hardboard are. That should help you make the decision whether it is the right material for your project or whether you need to consider something else.
What is Hardboard?
To be clear, hardboard is not solid wood per se. It is not milled directly from trees like a 2×4 is. Hardboard is an engineered wood product, which means that while it is made out of wood, the wood has been broken down, processed, mixed with a variety of substances, and then re-formed into solid boards.
Hardboard is made using exploded wood fibers, out of old sawmill and forestry remains. These fibers are then mixed with steam and heat, and then compressed into boards. What is interesting to note is that unlike with many other engineered wood products, there is no additional adhesive added to the mixture that hardens into the hardboard. The natural wood resin is all of the adhesive required. That said, there may sometimes be additional wood resin added into the mix.
As the name implies, high-density fiberboard is very dense, coming it a density of about 31 pounds per cubic foot, and weighing up to 65 pounds per cubic foot.
Advantages of Hardboard
Due to the fact that hardboard is much denser than medium-density fiberboard, and due to its special exploded wood fiber construction, it does have a good deal of benefits for a variety of applications.
Advantage #1: It Is Quite Durable
As far as engineered wood products go (especially when compared to particleboard, fiberboard, and other related products), the hardboard is very durable. That is mainly due to its density and weight. It’s stronger than most other types of engineered wood, and it has a great deal of impact resistance too.
Advantage #2: It Looks Pretty Decent
Although hardboard might not be the prettiest thing in the world, it looks good enough. The smooth exterior is something that many like, especially for things like walls. Due to its decent look, many people use it to replace other materials for interior walls.
Advantage #3: It Is Relatively Affordable
In terms of engineered wood products, high-density fiberboard is not the most affordable. It can actually be fairly pricey. However, with that said, this type of engineered wood is often good enough to replace wood and metal for basic purposes, such as for interior siding, and you can be sure that hardboard is cheaper than metal and solid lumber.
Advantage #4: It Is An Eco-Friendly Alternative
Something that many people appreciate about hardboard is the fact that it is made out of old scraps and waste wood, which means that old scraps get used for something good, and that live trees don’t need to be cut down to make new hardboard. It’s definitely more eco-friendly than solid lumber or plywood which, while engineered, uses fresh wood.
Advantage #5: It Offers Various Design Options
What’s cool is that nowadays, you can get hardboard in small pieces, large pieces, and in between, not to mention that you can get it pre-colored to make life a bit easier for you. It’s a versatile material that you should be able to find in any basic home improvement and lumber store.
Advantage #6: It Provides Good Insect Resistance
Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of hardboard has to do with its very dense construction and the clear absence of any gaps and holes. Due to its construction, termites, ants, and other insects have a very hard time penetrating through it. Houses made of hardboard tend to be quite insect resistant.
Advantage #7: It Is Easy to Cut and Paint
Due to its construction, unlike plywood, high-density fiberboard is very easy to cut in straight lines and into patterns, it is very easy to sand down, and it also holds onto paint quite well too.
Disadvantages of Hardboard
Just like any other product or material out there, hardboard does also have some disadvantages that need to be considered.
Disadvantage #1: It Is Less Durable Than Plywood
What does need to be said about hardboard is that it is slightly less durable than plywood. That cross-grain pattern which plywood is constructed with is more durable and impact-resistant than the compressed wood fibers that hardboard is made of.
Disadvantage #2: It Is Not Waterproof on Its Own
Another disadvantage of hardboard is that it is not waterproof, at least not without additional treatment. It’s probably not the best material for high moisture areas. That said, if this is the only thing stopping you from using this material, keep in mind that there are ways to waterproof hardboard too.
Disadvantage #3: It Does Not Have a Natural Look
If you are looking for that natural wood grain look that you get with solid lumber, then high-density fiberboard is not the way to go. No, it does not look bad, but it also does not look like real wood.
Disadvantage #4: It Is Really Heavy
As mentioned in our opening description of this material, it can weigh as much as 65 pounds per cubic foot. This is very heavy, and it can make handling large sheets of it a challenge.
Disadvantage #5: It Is Not the Best at Holding Screws
The other disadvantage of hardboard is that it does not hold onto screws all that well. Yes, it holds onto screws better than MDF or particleboard, but not as well as solid lumber or plywood.
The bottom line is that hardboard or high-density fiberboard is an ideal building material for things like interior siding, and other related projects where you need a hard and durable material that can effectively replace solid wood and even metal.