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“Knock on wood” can prove to be a term of the past, as an increasing amount of today’s furniture and wood products are being substituted by neatly-boxed, ready-to-assemble, imitation wood. When visiting most budget furniture stores, one gets a sense that real wood furniture has become a rare entity in this modern era of instant gratification – so long as it looks good and works now, consumers may overlook durability and quality, especially with a low price tag. However, consumers are becoming savvy shoppers – they want to spend their money wisely, and doing so means purchasing products that will last for several generations. Real, solid wood furniture can offer them that advantage, but they have become diamonds in the dust.

What is Particle Board?

particle Board MDF Solid Hardwood kiln-dried wood

Particle board is an engineered lumber product generally consisting of wood chips, sawmill shavings and sometimes sawdust. These materials are compacted and then bound together by a synthetic binder such as resin. The texture and appearance tends to be chippy, and though it can be denser than conventional wood, it is also prone to expansion, along with discoloration due to moisture. Particle board is generally the weakest type of fiberboard, which is found in furniture products such as those sold by budget furniture stores.

Is Fiberboard as Good as True Hardwood?

Fiberboard, sometimes referred to as Medium-Density Fiberboard (MDF), is stronger than particle board. It is similar to particle board in that it is engineered wood, but a mixture of wax and resin along with wood fibers creates a denser product. Although more durable than particle board, it is still susceptible to excess moisture, which will weaken a structure over time. Overall, both particle board and fiberboard based furniture are comprised of lumber refuse bound by chemicals and tend to be less durable than real wood and more vulnerable to water damage.

Some may argue that fiberboard is just as durable as solid hardwood. True, it may hold up for its years of service, but once it has served its term, it will most likely end up in a landfill. Because solid hardwood holds up better to the elements and regular wear and tear, it can be used for several generations, some families even passing them down as heirlooms.  When seeking for true hardwood within high end furniture, look for some brands known for their superior quality such as Savannah Collections, Marge Carson, and Lexington furniture.

Another consideration is the environmental impact as a result of these created woods. They do recycle a large quantity of lumbar waste. However, a resin used to bind the wood particles together in fiberboard often contain urea formaldehyde, which can have adverse effects on air quality in the home, and has long been suspect to have cancer-causing toxicity.

As technology evolves, so will today’s wood by-products. They may someday even surpass real wood in terms of quality and durability. However, there is still something to be said for encountering authentic wooden furniture, which once stood tall as a tree in a forest, and retains the essence of its history within its grains. Solid-wood furniture honors that sense of history and preciousness of nature. In that sense, no synthetic board will ever come close.