While particle board is often used as the foundational material in cabinetry, countertops, furniture, doors, floors and wall paneling, it is not meant to be a finish product. Its effectiveness lies in its strength and density, not in its attractiveness. One way around this is through the use of veneer. Veneer is a thin layer of solid wood overlaid onto a composite core. Not only does this cover up the particle board core with the appearance of solid wood, it drastically cuts down on cost. Consider both the advantages and disadvantages of covering particle board with wood veneer. While it is the contention of this article that using veneer with particle board has benefits that outweigh the costs, you should be aware of both.
Pros of Using Veneered Particle Board
Among the advantages of covering up a particle board base with wood veneer are price, weight, and durability.
Price: Solid wood furniture, countertops, doors, floors or wall panels are very expensive. Indeed, while in the past solid wood was less expensive than composite materials, that trend has been reversed. Solid wood is a luxury many consumers cannot afford. For environmentally-conscious shoppers, solid wood is seen as an unsustainable material. Particle board, made in part from wood-based scraps is the next best thing to recycled materials. By using veneer on top of particle board, you cut down on costs by a wide margin, but you don’t necessarily lose the beauty of real wood, especially when the work is well done.
Weight: Particleboard is very dense and can be weighty. Solid wood, though, is also quite heavy. In large amounts, solid wood furniture is much heavier than particle board covered with veneer. For small works, this advantage is negligible, but when it comes to larger pieces of furniture it makes a difference.
Durability: Particle board can warp if exposed to frequent high levels of moisture. However, when veneered and properly sealed at the seams, it is less likely to be affected by temperature changes like solid wood. Wood breathes, expanding and contracting in the elements. While this may give certain woodwork character, it can also ruin it.
Cons of Using Veneered Particle Board
The major disadvantages of covering particle board are inconsistency with the grain of the veneer, poor workmanship, and diminished attractiveness over time.
Inconsistency: Because veneer is made from solid wood, it is prone to variations in the wood grain. While this can give some wood work a lot of character, it may not give you the uniform look you are aiming for. If this is a problem, consider using darker stained veneer that hides the grain more.
Poor Workmanship: Cobbled-together particle board furniture quickly covered in veneer won’t fool the discerning eye. When done poorly veneered particle board products can look very cheap. Seams may be visible, in which case it is obvious what it is.
Diminished Quality: Related to the potential for poor quality work, veneered particle board will break down in time, show its true nature and cease to be an attractive piece of furniture. Solid wood may get creaky, expand or contract, but it will always possess the character of its material. With veneered particle board, the veneer may begin to fall off, the edges may show, and if any moisture gets into the core, the particle board will warp.
Consider both the pros and the cons of veneered particle board before opting for that combination of materials. When done right, veneered particle board has many advantages including a more affordable price and the appearance of solid wood with none of the drawbacks.