Manufactured wood is popular today because it’s arguably the most readily-available wood type. It’s also cheaper than solid wood, more versatile, and has a wider range of applications. 

Additionally, manufactured wood withstands a wider range of temperatures (and temperature fluctuations), bears far heavier loads, and is easier to install than the individual component woods.

So, it’s a great choice whether you’re shopping for flooring material, furniture wood, or construction wood. 

We’ve compiled this guide to help you better understand manufactured wood to pick the correct pieces when you go shopping. 

What is Manufactured Wood?

Manufactured wood, also known as engineered wood, is an improved and modified wood made by reconstituting and pressing together different wood types using ingredients such as sawdust and glue. It comprises Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) and a top layer made of real wood covered with melamine for protection. 

A Definition: Manufactured wood meaning

Manufactured wood is a wood type made by binding sawdust, fiber, and small pieces of real wood together using strong adhesives. You may also hear people calling it engineered wood, artificial wood, or mass timber. 

It comes in many textures, colors, and sizes and is widely used in interior applications, though you can also find it in selected outdoor applications. The most common manufactured wood textures are oiled, lacquered, unfinished, and brushed. 

Although it looks like wood, manufactured wood is not solid wood. But, interestingly, it’s stronger and more durable than many solid wood types. Manufactured wood is also cheaper than most real woods and more versatile. 

Which Wood is Used to Make Manufactured Wood?

Manufactured wood is made by mixing and binding all wood types you can find, whether hardwood or softwood. 

However, a few manufacturers prefer to make manufactured wood from specific wood types to achieve various goals.

For instance, hardwood-only manufactured woods are stronger and more durable than softwood-only or softwood+hardwood boards. On the other hand, softwood-only engineered woods are more affordable. 

Anyway, standard manufactured boards combine the two wood types. The top layer is made from hardwood, and the inside is made of softwood. 

Common hardwoods used to make manufactured woods are maple, oak, walnut, and teak. Meanwhile, the popular softwoods for making engineered woods are cedar, fir, and pine. 

Engineered Wood vs. Solid Wood

Many people often confuse manufactured wood with real/solid wood. So, it’s important to understand the differences before mixing them up. 

The Differences 

The main differences between manufactured wood and solid woods are highlighted in the production process, wood stability, thickness, and sanding. Here’s what you need to know;

1. Production 

Solid wood is obtained by cutting down fully grown trees (softwoods or hardwoods) and chopping the heartwood (and heartwood, in some cases) into different sizes.

On the other hand, manufactured wood production involves binding multiple layers of existing solid woods and wood products, including sawdust and veneers, using adhesives.  

2. Weight

Solid wood is much heavier than manufactured wood. For instance, a light softwood such as pine weighs 2.5 lbs/board foot while common hardwoods weigh much more.

For example, cherrywood weighs 3.0 lbs/board foot, and walnut weighs 3.3 lbs/board foot. Generally, manufactured wood is lighter, though some types of manufactured boards are heavier than some solid lumber types. 

3. Hardness

Generally, solid wood is harder than manufactured wood. However, it depends on the type of solid wood and manufactured wood.

For instance, Hickory, at 1,800 Janka, is much harder than MDF which is often compared to red oak at 1,200 Janka.

However, a 1200 rating on the Janka scale makes MDF harder than cedar (900 Janka) and even the black walnut (1010 Janka ). This is impressive given that walnut is hardwood. 

4. Thickness 

The standard thickness of solid wood is 2 ¼ inches with five to eleven inches wide planks. Meanwhile, the standard thickness for manufactured wood is between ⅜ inches and ½ an inch. The planks are typically between 1 ¼ and 5.0 inches wide. 

5. Uses 

Solid wood is used in all types of woodworking projects, from furniture making to cabinetry and household items for indoor and outdoor use. They are also used in construction, flooring, and building applications.

On the other hand, manufactured boards are used in smaller applications, especially roofing, flooring, furniture making, and decking.

6. Sanding 

You can sand solid wood several times for many years without adverse effects. However, you cannot sand manufactured wood so often without significant consequences.

Indeed, the industry standard is to sand manufactured wood only twice or thrice over its lifetime. Otherwise, the thin layers would be damaged. 

7. Cost and availability 

Manufactured wood is cheaper than solid wood and more readily available. It’s almost impossible to miss plywood and MDF in the local lumber yard, and the prices range from $2.50 to $10 per square foot.

Meanwhile, finding the exact solid wood you need for a project can be a nightmare, and the prices are higher, ranging from $4 to 412 per square foot. Here are places to buy wood.

Others 

Solid wood is also more dimensionally stable than engineered wood and more eco-friendly. However, manufactured wood is easier to install and has better workability. 

Manufactured Wood Types

There are at least six different types of manufactured boards. Here’s what you need to know about each; 

#1: Particle Board or Chipboard

The item on our list of manufactured board types is Particle Board.

Also known as low-density fiberboard (LDF) or chipboard, particle boards are an inexpensive wood product made by binding wood chips, sawdust, or sawmill shavings with a synthetic resin or a similar binder such as formaldehyde. 

The different particle boards come in various choices, including single, double, and three-layer particle boards, graded-density particle boards, and melamine particle boards. In addition, cement-bonded, laminated, and veneered particle boards are not uncommon. 

Chipboard is often used as an alternative to plywood for making furniture, ceilings, the interior lining of walls, and a substrate for countertops, floor decking, and roof sheathing.

Many woodworkers also use it for decorative paneling, as the core of solid core doors, dressing units, and subwoofer box wood because of its density.

What We Liked Most

  • Highly affordable 
  • Holds nails easily 
  • It’s very lightweight 
  • Easy to maintain 
  • Highly renewable 

What Could Be Improved

  • Not eco-friendly 
  • It doesn’t hold heavy loads 
  • Poor water resistance



#2: Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF)

Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF) is a denser version of chipboard. Like chipboard, it’s by combining wood chips, plant fibers, softwood flakes, sawdust, and other recycled materials, including paper and cardboard.

These materials are bonded with synthetic resin under high temperatures, heated, then compacted into rigid thin sheets. However, it’s much denser than low-density fiberboard.

Whereas chipboard has an average density of 450 kg/cubic meter, MDF has a density of 600 to 800 kg/cubic meter.

This puts it in the same range as solid firewood (529-737 kg/cubic meter) and hemlock (675-800 kg/cubic meter), thus applicable in more demanding situations. 

For instance, MDF is the most commonly used engineered wood in the construction industry, where it’s used for soundproofing, roofing, and framing. It’s also popular in the furnishing industry, where it’s used for wood flooring.

If you heaf of engineered wood flooring, it’s most likely laminated MDF. of course, it’s also used in furniture making and cabinetry.

What We Liked Most

  • It’s highly workable
  • It holds nails very well
  • MDF is inexpensive 
  • It offers smooth surfaces 
  • Environmentally friendly 

What Could Be Improved

  • Poor water resistance 
  • Needs high maintenance 
  • No natural grain pattern 



#3: High-Density Fiberboard (HDF)

If MDF is also too light for your project, you can opt for the highest density fiberboard, HDF. High-Density Fiberboard (HDF) is made the same way as LDF and MDF.

Wood fibers from waste chips and wood pulp are hot-pressed and then bound together at very high pressure using synthetic resin binders. However, it’s different from MDF in several key ways. For one, HDF is highly dense.

Whereas the densest MDF boards are around 600 kg/cubic meter, the densest HDF boards are 1,400 kg/cubic meter.

This puts it in the same category as solid greenheart wood and ebony. It is also more dimensionally stable than MDF, meaning it doesnt lose shape due to temperature variations. 

Although it’s less common than MDF because most people are happy with MDF, HDF is one of the best substrates for laminated floors as it is hard and strong.

It is also fairly water-resistant if you finish all the sides properly. Besides flooring, HDF is often used in making cabinets, wardrobes, wall paneling, and wall shelves.

What We Liked Most

  • It’s strong and hard 
  • Fairly water-resistant (with good finishing)
  • Fairly durable (more than MDF)
  • It’s recyclable 

What Could Be Improved

  • HDF is more expensive than MDF and LDF
  • It’s very heavy, often more than solid wood
  • It may contain toxic substances



#4: Plywood or Laminated Board

Plywood is a type of engineered wood made of fine layers or thin strands of wood veneers attached with the wood grains 90-degrees to one another.

The face veneers are of a higher grade than the core veneers, increasing the separation between the outer layers where the bending stresses are highest.

This makes plywood stronger (pound-for-pound) when compared to solid wood. Plywood is also stronger than MDF. There are several types of plywood, depending on the materials used.

For instance, softwood plywood is often made from softwoods, especially fir, pine, and spruce. Meanwhile, hardwood plywood is made from angiosperm trees like teak and cherry.

Other categories are tropical plywoods, aircraft plywoods, and marine plywoods. Plywood is primarily used in the construction industry, where it’s used in exterior wall sheathing, interior walls, sidings, and roofing.

However, it’s also applicable in furniture making, cabinet making, and general projects.

What We Liked Most

  • Plywood is very beautiful 
  • It’s strong and durable 
  • Highly water-resistant (more than fiberboards)
  • Easy to paint and polish

What Could Be Improved

  • More expensive than MDF
  • Not insect-resistant 
  • It easily peels off



#5: Veneer Wood

Wood veneers are made from thin layers of hardwood bonded to a stable composite base material. The idea is to make a highly dimensionally stable and more affordable alternative to solid wood as less actual wood is used.

A key feature of veneer wood is that it’s highly water-resistant. Natural wood is very susceptible to moisture, often warping after a short exposure. Veneers protect the core of the board from moisture. 

Wood veneers come in more than 2,000 types. The most common veneers are composite veneers, natural veneers, backed and unbacked veneers, and pre-finished veneers. Veneers are used in wood flooring, walls, ceilings, furniture, casework, etc.

What We Liked Most

  • Low cost
  • It’s beautiful 
  • Strong and durable 
  • It\s non-toxic 

What Could Be Improved

  • High maintenance 
  • Water resistance 



#6: Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT)

Cross Laminated Timber (CTL) products, such as cross-laminated veneer panels, have become very common recently as they find more applications in construction and manufacturing. CLT comprises planks (or lamellas) of sawn wood and layered wood, each oriented perpendicularly to the previous to achieve structural rigidity in both directions. So, it’s almost as thick as plywood. 

CTL panels are commonly used as walls, floors, and in making furniture. You can also use thicker cross-laminated timber boards to make ceilings, decks, beams, and roofs.

What We Liked Most

  • High load capacity 
  • Excellent thermal performance 
  • Incredible fire resistance 
  • Environmentally friendly

What Could Be Improved

  • It is expensive 
  • It has a limited track record



#7: Oriented Strand Board (OSB)

Finally, another increasingly popular type of manufactured wood is the Oriented Strand Board (OSB). It is made from waterproof, heat-cured adhesives and rectangular-shaped wood strands arranged in cross-oriented layers.

This gives it a similar strength to plywood in resisting deflection, warping, and distortion. However, unlike plywood, it’s also waterproof. 

OSB is most commonly used in roofing, walling, and floor sheathing. However, you can also use it as the web material for pre-fabricated I-joists and skin material for structurally insulated panels.

What We Liked Most

  • It is waterproof when treated correctly 
  • Available in large, tall panels 
  • More affordable than plywood 
  • Easy to cut and use (than plywood)

What Could Be Improved

  • Poor surface finishing 
  • It’s a bit difficult to finish 
  • It contains the harmful formaldehyde



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Composite Board Grades

One of the most important things to consider when shopping for manufactured wood is the different grades. Different manufactured wood products come in different grades, depending on the number of voids and knotholes.

Lower-grade products typically require more repair work to cover the defects. The quality of adhesives used also determines the grade. The four main grades are as follows;

  • Grade A: These are the highest quality manufactured wood products. They are flawless and can be easily painted. 
  • Grade B: Grade B manufactured wood products are of high quality, too, with very few patches. However, they are less smooth than grade A products. 
  • Grade C: Grade C products are characterized by visible 1.5-inch knots or bigger. They also discolor easily and are less dimensionally stable. 
  • Grade D: This is the cheapest grade of manufactured wood products. The products have endless knots, are dimensionally unstable, and are easily damaged. 

Uses of Manufactured Wood 

We’ve already seen the many ways you can use manufactured wood products. But to summarize, you can use manufactured wood for the following;

  • Wood flooring 
  • Decking 
  • Furniture making 
  • Cabinet making 
  • Roofing 
  • Decking 
  • Making ceilings 
  • Artworks 
  • Constructing interior walls 
  • Making doors and frames 

FAQs 

Is manufactured wood real wood?

No, manufactured wood isn’t real wood; therefore, it’s synthetic wood. However, it comprises real wood components, including sawdust and wood fibers, bound together using adhesives to form strong wood boards applicable in various situations. 

Is manufactured wood durable?

No, manufactured wood is not durable. In fact, it is often much more susceptible to water and moisture damage than natural wood, which can cause the wood to warp, buckle, and rot. The recycled materials used easily weaken over time and lead to damage.

Is manufactured wood good?

No, manufactured wood is not good. The wood emits toxic elements during production that sticks to it for months. These toxins can cause a variety of health problems, including cancer and respiratory illnesses. If you’re looking for a healthier option, opt for natural wood instead.

Is manufactured wood particle board?

There’s common confusion about whether manufactured wood and particle board are the same. No, they aren’t. Particleboards are much thinner and rarely last a year. On the other hand, manufactured wood can last several decades with good maintenance. 

What is solid manufactured wood?

There’s nothing like solid manufactured wood. You can either have solid wood sawn from natural trees or manufactured wood made by combining and compressing solid wood products, such as sawdust and wood chips. 

Is manufactured wood toxic?

Unfortunately, yes. Manufactured wood contains formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. Carcinogens increase the risk of cancer. Additionally, manufactured wood contains significant amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are bad for the environment. 

Is engineered wood the same as particle board?

No, engineered wood is not the same thing as particleboard. Engineered wood is another name for manufactured wood, a broad term for wood products made artificially by humans, unlike solid wood lumber, which is sawn from naturally growing trees. Engineered wood is one of the many types of manufactured wood. 

Manufactured wood vs. plywood – what is the difference?

The main difference between manufactured wood and solid wood is that manufactured wood is a subset of manufactured wood – it’s one of the main types of manufactured wood. Other types include chipboard, MDF, and OSB. 

Related Articles: Can You Refinish Engineered Hardwood

What is manufactured wood furniture?

Manufactured wood furniture is made from sawdust, chips, and other pieces of wood that are heated and then glued together. The wood is commonly termed MDF and is always cheaper in the market than natural wood because of the recycled materials.

Summary

Manufactured wood is made by combining and pressing together various solid wood products, including wood chips and sawdust, to form highly stable boards used in construction, furniture making, and many other projects.

They are an attractive alternative to actual wood because they are more affordable and easily available. 

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