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There is something super classic about working with wood and having the majority of your home made from this beautifully organic material. Trees might be organic in terms of coming from nature, but this is often the reason why it is so expensive to build with. For those families living in areas that are tornado-prone, or other natural storms, then building with wood seems like a great idea at first, but then the tornado hits and you are homeless or dealing with damages beyond repair. So, what is engineered wood? Essentially, engineered wood is a constructed wood or manufactured wood. It is much cheaper because it only uses fragments of the actual wood from trees. This man-made wood is much cheaper and you can build numerous items like engineered wood furniture. Today we will be discussing the purpose of constructed wood, and how we can use it in our everyday lives.
Table of Contents
- 1 Engineered Wood Explained
- 2 What Is Engineered Wood Constructed With?
- 3 Choosing the Correct Wood for You
- 4 Is Engineered Wood Cheaper Than Hardwood?
- 5 Does Engineered Wood Last Longer Than Hardwood?
- 6 Frequently asked Questions
Engineered Wood Explained
What Is Engineered Wood? As we mentioned, this is a man-made wood that is made by compacting various types of wood together. These pieces of wood are compressed into birds that resemble wood but are not as firm. Some examples of engineered wood are veneer and plywood. Often, engineered wood is used for flooring or even engineered wood furniture. You can expect some malleability and flexibility, as well as a long-lasting wood that is ideal for engineered wood furniture, flooring, wall paneling, and more!
When you are installing engineered wood into your home or building furniture with it, you are open to a world of versatility. Let us say that you prefer the dark and lustrous appearance of oak wood that has been stained a rich and comforting color, you can make your manufactured wood look like that, or you can paint it to fit pretty much any scene that you so wish! You could even incorporate other materials like metal, glass, plastic, and even rubber! This will elevate your item, and it will have all the aesthetics of any design you want.
Where Can I Use Engineered Wood?
There is a world of exciting builds that awaits you when engineered wood is in question. You can manipulate the wood to suit any need or to create any kind of application you might think of. The characteristics of the wood are suited for many different tasks, so you are not limited, but, in fact, the opposite. If you are still at a loss for the purpose of this wood, then let us go through a few of the applications that you might use the wood for.
- Customized interior design
- Building furniture
- Creating the frames for windows and doors
- Shelves of high strength
- Reinforced drywall
- designed for load-bearing
- structures such as garden furniture and bad weather structures
Advantages and Disadvantages of Engineered Wood
What is engineered wood? The answer to this is amplified by understanding how advantageous and not the various types of engineered wood are. This is relative to the type of application you are using it for, as well as your preferences as a builder. Let us take a look at some of the aspects that you might look forward to when working with engineered wood, as well as the aspects that might have you regretting your decision to build with it.
Manufactured wood is made obvious by its very name. “Man”-ufactured, as in manmade. Due to the fact that these components are constructed from materials that are left over or “cut-off” by-products from the refining of other materials, these composite elements are less expensive than traditional components. Consequently, engineered wood is much more affordable than the typical hardwoods and naturally occurring building materials.
It is also worth mentioning that not only are these types of wood significantly easier to find and more affordable than conventional construction materials, but they are also more versatile and robust in their areas of application. It has been demonstrated that manufactured wood can endure extreme temperatures, carry intense loads, and is more convenient to install than natural wood.
Man-made wood, or engineered wood, takes away some of the efforts that many prefer not having to take on. This includes having to make those heavy decisions for what finish you want the wood to have. Many do not want to have to deal with such decisions but thankfully, constructed wood is convenient in the way that you can purchase boards that are already finished. This means that all you have to do is decide on how light you would like the finish to be, or what color you wish them to be painted. There is an option for everyone, and all needs and requirements will be met.
In case you were wondering, engineered wood does not refer to one type. There are, in fact, eleven variations of the wood. These are particleboard, laminated timber, veneer, hard beams, finger joints, hard beams, plywood, drywall, and more!
Construction materials such as these are not the most harmful to the environment, which is another benefit. Since most of the components of constructed wood are recycled, it is possible for the majority of the wood to be recycled. It is not a solid wood, but rather an amalgamation of hardwood, glue, and other ingredients that are all compacted.
There are fewer disadvantages to expect with engineered wood than what you might have initially thought. However, there are a few that are worth mentioning so that you do not use them for something they cannot withstand. Yes, it is cheaper, easier to work with, but that does not mean that it is suitable for every type of application. There are some limitations to this type of wood, so let us get stuck right into those, so that we can get that out of the way.
Not every manufacturer is going to create the same kind of constructed wood. There will be different ratios of each component that makes up the wood. Some manufacturers incorporate more of the wood than the glue, and some add more glue than wood. This results in varying strengths of the engineered wood, so you should keep this in mind. You can read reviews that have been made by other professionals who have used the wood to see how it will fair with the idea you have in mind. It is not only how the wood was made, but also how it is finished. You might find some that are left bare, without any finish, so that you apply your own, and create a customized design for your construction.
Remember that this type of wood is made from some recycled bits of wood, sawdust, glue, and other components. The combination results in a highly absorbent wood surface. Similar to how sawdust will absorb any spilled liquids, the engineered wood will do the same. That means that a finish to deal off the surface is hugely important. This will ensure the longevity of whatever you are creating because it will withstand harsh climates where humidity is intense, as well as rain, sunlight, and so much more!
If you decide to skip this step and you would rather have the bare wood, you might end up with a ratty-looking item that has swelled from too much rain or whatever liquid it was exposed to. This will make more work for you because you will need to replace those panels or restart the build entirely.
Another downside to engineered wood is that it is compacted with so many ingredients that it might be quite wavy – particularly with the massive boards. This makes the installation process a bit tricky, and you might need a few sets of arms to help you with this. This can get laborious, and that labor does not come cheap (construction workers and woodworkers have to eat too!).
Engineered wood might be the better option for the preservation of rainforests in terms of using recycled wood to create it, resulting in less deforestation. However, the actual manufacturing of the wood involves some intense chemicals. The glue that compacts everything together is highly toxic, so keep that in mind.
Manufactured wood is versatile and easy to use (besides its weight) but at the same time, they are not the greatest option to use for exterior applications. Any engineered wood product will swell up from exposure to too much moisture.
What Is Engineered Wood Constructed With?
With the right know-how as well as all relative information, you should be able to make a constructed wood out of pretty much any material. Most trees are suitable for making this type of manufactured wood. Let us have a look at the examples.
This is one of the most popular types of engineered wood because of its versatility and ease of manufacture. Fiberboard is also one of the easiest materials to work with, aside from manufacturing. You will simply need to feed hardwoods and any other secondary materials you desire through a wood processor with a strong adhesive. As a result, you will be able to produce the amount that you need quite easily, and they will be strong.
Densified Wood Cuttings
Making burger patties, rice cakes, and other food items might give you a general idea of how engineered wood is made. The ingredients are combined and then compacted together tightly. As a result, the food item appears so much smaller than the original ingredients at first glance. You will be surprised how much air you can squeeze out of the mix and how everything can be squished together.
Due to the increase in malleability of these cuttings as a result of the heat applied to them, a much denser version can be made than if they were compressed conventionally. This is due to the effects of thermal expansion. Once the wood has been densified or compressed, you can then use it for pretty much anything that you want, so long as the load it bears is not too much for the type of wood it was constructed from.
Chemically Processed Densified Wood Cuttings
The chemical structure of engineered wood works by breaking down something called hemicellulose, which is a chemical that is made by trees naturally. What is left over is then compacted and you are left with a board that is tightly bonded. The compression process is fortified by adding heat. This chemical adhesion is something that works wonders.
In the end, the strength of the final product is much greater than the strength that results from the previous process of densification. As a matter of fact, the conventional process of densifying a wood slat increases its strength by three times, while the process of chemically densifying it increases its strength eleven times over.
OSB: Oriented Strand Board Composite
Most people think of chipboard when OSB engineered wood is spoken about. It is not quite the same, but rather similar. This wood has become quite the trend with businesses like spas and restaurants who have made a lot of their furniture and trimmings from it. It is made by compacting the wood fragments (which are usually a rectangular shape) and the glue that is used to hold it together is top of the range, as well as water-resistant.
Most of you who are new to the world of woodworking are familiar with the engineered wood known as plywood. This is one of the more common types of constructed wood, and it is used often for a range of different applications and designs.
In case you were wondering, plywood is constructed from many sheets of veneer (thin slices of wood) that are glued together very tightly to make a board. The glue that is used is of an industrial nature, and it is particularly well known for being water-tight. Birch trees and maple trees are the typical trees that are used to make plywood.
Each sheet of veneer is glued one at a time, and the grains are always running at opposite angles. One sheet will run at a vertical angle, and then the next will be at a horizontal angle.
A roof truss is that annoying thing that often needs a “mind your head” sign nailed to it – tall people will understand. These are the reinforcers of the strength of your structure. Without a truss, a structural engineer is not very likely to approve any plans for a building. Trusses can also be made of wood that has been engineered, and this makes them far more affordable than buying solid wood beams. In fact, an engineered wood truss is able to make a stronger support system than solid wood trusses.
Laminated timber is different from engineered wood in that it is made up of compacted wood pieces stuck together with glues that are water-resistant. The result gives you an engineered wood that is usually formed into pillars or archways, which are more stable than solid pieces because forces are evenly distributed across the combined smaller pieces. When it comes to arches or beams, laminated wood is often more efficient and more affordable than solid wood.
Laminated Veneer Lumber
Workpieces that have been made out of compressed wood, as well as strand board, are typically covered on the surface. It occasionally has a plastic-like feel, and it creates a super smooth surface to work from. You might be familiar with those office desks that have a veneer layer on top.
Other than the surface coats, these extremely thin sheets of wood are frequently used to make actual laminated veneer lumber. These are essentially three-dimensional forms made by compressing the sheets together.
This combination of glue and compressed veneer is one of the stronger types of engineered wood. And can be used in many situations as a substitute for actual solid lumber, without affecting the foundational structure’s strength.
Choosing the Correct Wood for You
Now that you are aware of the many different types of engineered wood, it is a good idea to know which one would be the best option for what you want to build.
Differences Between Softwoods and Hardwoods
For your benefit, we have made a list of the differences between both hardwood, and softwood. It is very useful to understand the differences because each type is suitable for a certain application, and your life as a builder will be much easier if you understand their core differences.
How Do I Tell the Difference Between Hardwood and Engineered Wood?
It is always recommended that you know what type of wood you are dealing with. This is because you cannot simply use any method for building, gluing, finishing for all types of wood. You need to be able to do it properly, by using the methods designed for the various woods. But, how do you discern hardwood from engineered wood? Luckily, there are a few easy methods that do not cost anything.
Have a Look at the Edge of a Loose Board
The layers that engineered wood is made up of are very obvious when you look at the edge of the board. Hold it up to eye level, and if you see any layers, then it is definitely engineered wood! If it seems solid and you have the grainy effect, then you are lucky enough to have a piece of solid hardwood.
Use a Mirror on Installed Flooring
This is an interesting method. A mirror can help you determine whether or not the floor in your new home is hardwood (as the agent promised) or if it is made from engineered wood. Rather than ripping the flooring out, and wasting your time and money, you could just prop up a mirror to lean against the wall so that the mirror’s face is leaning upwards. This will will give you a close-up view of the texture of the floorboards. The grain will be a sign that your wood is indeed a hardwood, as promised, but if you see layers upon layers, then you have an engineered floor.
Use the Dent Test
We have all experienced those grueling school desks that are weak enough for your finger to etch in a little design right into the surface – the only tool needed is the nail on the tip of your finger. Boredom eventually takes advantage, and the table is soon decorated with little designs and spilled secrets. This is generally how one can find out if their wood was engineered or not. So if you are curious, you can think of a clever little design and then etch away! Or you could simply press your nail into a less conspicuous area of the table.
Is Engineered Wood Cheaper Than Hardwood?
Some people like to show off their classiness, and that is not a bad thing. On the contrary, boasting the great quality of your wooden item is an age-old phenomenon, and you should not feel too ashamed for doing so. Some might argue that expensive and classy constructions are a thing of the past, and that now one can boast about how cheaply they managed to build their structure. The trick is now, to be able to build something that looks super snazzy, but it did not cost the same amount that your expensive build with hardwood would cost.
The one thing you can look forward to, over and above the other advantages, is the fact that the engineered wood requires far less maintenance. This adds to its easiness of dealing with it because once it is constructed, you do not have to worry about it as much as you would with a hardwood.
Hardwood’s costs are about $4 to $12 per square foot, and engineered wood is only $2,40 to $10 per square foot. The obvious price difference is not an easy one to miss, and even less easy to resist – we are all bargain hunters to some extent!
Does Engineered Wood Last Longer Than Hardwood?
Hardwood has been around since the dawn of construction. We have been building houses, huts, cabins, and so many more structures this type of wood, not to mention flooring and hardcore furniture. Many woodworkers might argue that using engineered wood would not be as long-lasting as if you were to use hardwood. This is not entirely the case, and the length that your engineered wood might last relies completely on how you treat the wood, where the item will spend most of its time, and what weight it needs to bear.
Many other crafters might counter-argue that there is no proof as of yet to how long this wood will last, because it has not been around for as long as hardwood has. Hardwood is more prone to rotting and disintegrating, therefore, so there is a fair amount of maintenance that you would need to undertake to keep the hardwood in good condition. This is going to require your motivation as well as some elbow grease. Hardwood is also more prone to damage, as the structure is solid, but this also means that you can sand it down to remove the damage, and then retreat it.
Engineered wood is less likely to rot, but it is more likely to soak up water and swell up. You can of course avoid this by adding on the protective stain that makes it less absorbent. Constructed wood is also more flexible, which means that it will not be damaged by accidental force as easily as hardwood would. In this case, the engineered wood is useful, but there is no way to compare the longevity of both hardwood and engineered wood.
Now that you have finished reading this highly detailed tutorial, hopefully, you are able to discern for yourself, with a more informed mindset, exactly how to use the engineered wood in question, as well as how reliable it is. Always remember your safety gear, because your safety should be your first priority.
Frequently asked Questions
How Good Is Engineered Wood?
It is possible to manufacture engineered wood from almost any material. Tell your supplier what you want to use the engineered wood for, and he or she will either recommend one, or they will suggest which materials you should have infused into the engineered wood that will work for you. In comparison with conventional hardwood, engineered wood is more affordable and easier to manufacture.
Does Engineered Wood Work for Furniture?
The quality of engineered wood furniture can last you for a long time if the supplier and the upholsterer use high-quality materials. In addition to being light, engineered wood of good quality is also incredibly durable, easy to work with, and highly customizable in terms of form and function.
How Waterproof Is Engineered Wood?
It is important to note that not all manufactured wood is waterproof, but engineered woods come with a vast selection of different types that are designed with waterproof industrial-grade adhesives that can withstand any type of weather. The final structural component of engineered wood is often a veneer, and this can, in addition to providing a smooth, durable surface, also provide a waterproof outer layer that can be used as an outer covering for floors and other furnishings.