Why Do We Use Particle Board?
A common question we are asked is why we don’t use “real” wood and use particle board instead for our closet organizers and shelving systems.
Having been in the industry making closet organizers for over 30 years in cities like Kamloops, Kelowna, and Lethbridge, we have seen many changes to the materials used and the technology that’s available. With over 30 finishes to choose from and amazing suppliers that work to make sustainable and safe products that last the lifetime of a home, we are always staying up to date on the best materials to provide to our customers.
We’d like to point out the pros and cons of both solid wood furniture versus applications where particle board is used and even preferred over solid wood.
When to use Solid Wood
- Rich grains and beautiful detail. There is no substitute for the work of a true master carpenter and what they can do with expert skills to carve in fine details that can be brought out with stains and veneer finishes.
- Water resistance. A good contractor will know what areas in your home need water resistance. A good example is a wood fence, where treated cedar is a good choice where it is resistance to water above and below the ground, so can you avoid swelling and rotting
- The ability to modify and stain. Laminate and melamine finished particle boards often require special tools and equipment to modify correctly, if they can be changed at all. With a solid wood you can strip it down by sanding it, giving you flexibility to paint, stain, and refresh an existing piece with some elbow grease and a little bit of know-how.
- Cost. One of the main reasons we use particle board in our systems is cost. Solid woods vary in price widely depending on the specific species, and due to economy of scale particle boards are much cheaper than most (if not all) solid woods for furniture building applications.
- Warping due to humidity. BC and Alberta are well known for harsh winters and beautiful, hot summers. Depending on where the solid wood came from, how long it’s had to acclimatize, how it was stored, and it’s final intended purpose, it is very common to see some warping. Trees are not straight by nature and the wood that comes from them is often the same.
- Availability. Working with local millwork shops and furniture building partners, we learn that not all solid woods area available. Where something like cedar was a popular item for building benches and other materials, it’s only available if a nearby mill works with that particular tree.
- Labour & Skill. The skill required to work with real woods for furniture building is becoming a rare trait. With the invention of CNC technology companies are seeking to reduce lead times to meet customer demand, as well as consistent material where the end product can be installed easily by our team members in a matter of hours instead of days.
When to use Particle Board
- Consistency. One of the biggest advantages of particle board is it’s a consistent material to work with. With complex machinery at our manufacturing plant in Kamloops, BC even a millimetre matters when it comes to the thickness of the material. We exclusively use the thickest and strongest particle board widely used in cabinetry, ¾” thick (19mm), so there’s no bending or warping like you would see on a cheap pre-made kit from a big box store. Compared to solid wood, it’s unaffected by temperature and humidity from seasonal changes. That means when winter turns to spring, your cabinets stay straight, and doors and drawers continue to work just as they should instead of binding,
- Cost. With the volume that particle board is being produced and its wide use in big box store furniture and home construction, it will always be the most cost effective route as compared to solid wood. With beautiful live wood grain melamine finishes that can be applied to the board itself, it’s the number one choice for cabinet makers and their customers to stay on budget.
- Durability. If you still have young children in your home , you know exactly the kind of damage a wayward broom handle or toy stroller can do to a wall, your furniture, or your toe! All our products have a durable coating called Melamine, which is used not only to put beautiful finishes on particle board and plywood, but it’s also used to make tableware like plates and cups, so if you wonder how your closet will hold up after 20 years think how often you use your dishes and what you put them through!
- Environmental Sustainability. One of our partners, Tafisa Canada, has a great video about how they turn 800 truck loads of wood fibre every week and recycle it into the amazing particle board products we use today in our homes. With sustainable processes like these, we save thousands of trees every year by using the byproducts of mills that would otherwise go unused.
- Lack of moisture resistance. Heavy moisture and particle board unfortunately don’t mix very well. One of the main reasons the majority of our designs are designed “floating” off the floor. In the event of water on the floor accidental or otherwise, particle board will absorb water and swell.
- Not all particle boards are the same. Particle board from furniture from big box stores often is not as thick, and therefore not as strong as what custom cabinet shops use. Often a premade cabinet will use material as thin as a ¼” particle board which is for very light use, and will not last more than a couple of years. We pride ourselves on ensuring we only have the best boards which go through rigorous testing in our manufacturing facilities before they are ever used in our customers’ homes. Particle board can “look” the same on the outside based on the melamine finish applied, but the density and composition of the fibres on the inside is a huge factor in the quality of the board, something that an untrained eye may not recognize.
- Less strength if it’s not done right! With over 30 years using particle board melamines we know the tolerance and widths available when building a closet organizer. For example, a 16” deep by ¾” thick shelf shouldn’t be longer than 42” where it’s expected to handle a load for clothing under residential applications. If you don’t understand the limitations of particle board and how to construct with it properly it can lead to sagging or even warped shelves.
There are so many more things we can talk about when it comes to the materials we use, but we won’t bore you with the details. If you have any questions about our product and the options that are available don’t hesitate to contact us, there are no bad questions and we have heard them all!