board is cheaper, denser and more uniform than conventional
wood and plywood and is substituted for them when appearance
and strength are less important than cost. However, particle
board can be made more attractive by painting or the use of
wood veneers that are glued onto surfaces that will be visible.
Though it is denser than conventional wood, it is the lightest
and weakest type of fiberboard, except for insulation board.
Medium-density fibreboard and hardboard, also called high-density
fiberboard, are stronger and denser than particle board.
A major disadvantage of particle
board is that it is very prone to expansion and discoloration
due to moisture, particularly when it is not covered with
paint or another sealer. Therefore, it is rarely used outdoors
or places that have high levels of moisture, with the exception
of some bathrooms, kitchens and laundries, where it is commonly
used as an underlayment beneath a continuous sheet of vinyl
floor covering. In such an installation the edges must be
properly covered upward against the wall and joints and non-covered
edges must be properly sealed against moisture penetration.
A higher quality material not subject to expansion is underlayment-grade
plywood, which is constructed without interior voids in its
layers to better resist the high local pressure from objects
such as stiletto heels.
When working with veneered
particleboard, greater care must be taken not to chip the
veneer. If chipped, the particleboard underneath is exposed
and cannot be sanded back as with solid wood.
has had an enormous influence on furniture design. In the
early 1950s, particleboard kitchens started to come into use
in furniture construction but, in many cases, it remained
more expensive than solid wood. A particleboard kitchen was
only available to the very wealthy. Once the technology was
more developed, particleboard became cheaper.
Large companies such as Freedom
and Ikea base their strategies around providing well-designed
furniture, at a low price. In almost all cases, this means
particleboard. Ikea’s stated mission is to “create
well designed home furniture at prices so low as many people
as possible will be able to afford them”. They do this
by using the cheapest materials possible, as do most other
major furniture providers. As a result, solid wood furniture
has become an expensive luxury and particleboard the norm.