Particleboard is formed by mixing sawdust, wood particles and a resin into slurry, which is then pressed into sheets, forming a new wood product. Originally designed as a replacement for plywood, particleboard has become a popular building product used for a wide variety of tasks, including construction and furniture making. Particleboard is available in a number of different styles, and it is important to look at the characteristics of a board before selecting it for your project.
The wood species used to form the core of a sheet of particleboard affect its machining and fastener holding characteristics. A higher percentage of pine products make machining easier and the lumber is lighter in weight. Fir and hardwood wood products are stronger but are more difficult to machine. Particleboard is generally composed of a mix of these woods to gain the benefits of each and to maintain a low cost for the finished product.
One of the advantages that particleboard holds over plywood is its lack of voids, which are open areas in the interior of the wood that create weak spots. Smaller, more consistent wood particles create a smoother and stronger wood product but add to the cost. Manufacturers balance the extra cost of creating these uniform particles by utilising cheaper, larger wood pieces in the centre of the sheet, and smaller, uniform particles toward the outsides of the sheet.
Particleboard takes paint well, and this is usually the only finishing option chosen for projects made from this lumber. To improve the appearance of particleboard, manufacturers apply a variety of veneers to the faces of the sheets. Melamine is a plastic resin that is applied to the outer surfaces to create a smooth, paint-like finish. Hardwood veneers are also applied to particle board cores, giving the appearance of solid lumber in a more earth-friendly and cost-effective form.
Particleboard is created by pressing the resin-wood slurry into sheet form. Manufacturers produce a number of standard thicknesses suitable for a variety of uses. The standard sizes include 1/2-inch, 5/8-inch, 3/4-inch and 1-inch thicknesses. Retail particleboard sheets are the same size as plywood sheets, 4 feet by 8 feet. It is manufactured in longer, custom sizes for countertop manufacturers who use it as underlayment.
There are different types of particleboard manufactured for specialised uses. By adjusting the chemical composition of the resins used to create the wood, fire and moisture resistant sheets are manufactured. The formaldehyde content of the resin is also reduced or eliminated for use by those sensitive to the chemical fumes released by the wood.
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