February 22, 2023
My best friend, who wants to dabble in woodworking, asked me the other day whether he could use particleboard as a substitute for plywood, and I said, “Yes!” Nevertheless, I’ve warned him that it is not strong enough compared to plywood and MDF. Particleboard, for example, is made of waste materials from various wood products, while MDF gets wrought in high-density wood fibers, which means MDF is far more robust than particleboard.
If you are an environmentalist, however, you may find using particleboard more eco-friendly because it is made of recycled materials. Besides, it is a cheaper alternative to plywood and MDF. Thus, if you want to lower the cost of your projects, you can always opt for particleboard.
Can Particleboard Support Heavy Load?
You can estimate the capability of particleboard to support load by comparing it to plywood and MDF. By comparing their Modulus of Rupture (MOR), you can gauge the difference in their supporting capability. Particleboard has a MOR of anywhere from 16 MPa to 22 MPa. This MOR is equal to approximately 224 kg/cm² at its most durable point. With this MOR range, it can’t reasonably support any heavy load.
The MOR, of course, is the bending strength of wood or material. Thus, the Modulus of Rupture refers to the capacity of a material to bend without breaking. Plywood’s MOR ranges between 22.7 MPa to 25.9 MPa, which means it is better than particleboard in supporting loads.
Among the primary engineered wood used in woodworking and construction, particleboard is the weakest. Besides, it requires more care than the other two engineered boards because it is the least durable among the three primary engineered wood products. Plus, it will succumb quickly to the adverse effects of exposure to moisture and humidity.
Will Particleboard Break Easily?
Given how the particleboard gets manufactured, it will likely break easily. As mentioned above, particleboard consists of wood chips, sawdust, and sawmill shavings. This composite of wood gets bound by resin to form particleboard. The weakness of particleboard is in its lack of wood grain structure. For this reason, it breaks with ease when subject to heavy loads.
Particleboard is susceptible to scratches. Its edges and corners fall apart quickly once the scratches expose the interior. Moreover, the screws you use to fasten it become vulnerable within a short time as its grooves and edges begin to wear away. Furthermore, you will see cracks forming around these scratched edges.
The main culprit behind the crumbling of its fibers is moisture or water. Once exposed to moisture, its fibers begin to weaken and crumble. So, it is not advisable to use this wood product in areas exposed to moisture, like bathrooms and kitchens. However, since particleboard furniture pieces are less expensive, they are usually the cheapest and easiest to buy and install in kitchens and bathrooms.
How Long Does Particleboard Last?
For example, if you intend to use a particleboard table, you can never expect it to last for several years. It will likely last only for a year before you see its fibers crumbling and falling apart. Nevertheless, you can also find particleboard products lasting up to five years.
Besides, the longevity of particleboard products will most likely depend on how you use them and where you install them. If you take care of these products, they could last for a quarter of a century, as claimed by some homeowners. Furthermore, some particleboard products come with good warranties.
Plywood Vs Particleboard: Which Is Stronger?
As mentioned above, plywood is more robust than particleboard. In our rough estimate, plywood can support around 400% of what particleboard can support. However, if the particleboard is of good quality, it can handle more loads, which will be within what the plywood can take. The main culprit in its weakness is the gaps and voids in the fibers of the particleboard.
Nevertheless, you can use particleboard in some instances as a replacement for plywood. Yet, don’t expect it to hold up as the plywood would. Besides, working with particleboard may be challenging because it will easily chip away. Plus, it will crumble upon exposure to moisture. Thus, seal this wood product to make it somewhat invulnerable to moisture.
How Can You Strengthen Particleboards?
To increase the strength of particleboard, it will be best to minimize its exposure to water or moisture. Besides, you can seal it with a good sealant, especially its edges and surface. Furthermore, you can use aluminum framing for edging and bracing it.
The recommended product for extenuating particleboard’s lifespan is by using sanding sealers. You can also use plain lacquer to enhance its strength. It will also help to laminate it to ensure its surface is protected. Besides, you can double stack particleboards together for enhanced stability.
How Can You Prevent the Crumbling of Particleboards?
The surface and edges of the particleboard will tend to crumble over time. To prevent its edges and surfaces from easily crumbling, you can add nails or screws. Besides, you can tape or glue the surfaces and edges to keep them from crumbling. Plus, it will help if you reinforce it with plywood or MDF layers to keep them from crumbling.
Is Particleboard More Durable than Wood?
Particleboard is a composite of wood sawmill shavings, sawdust, and wood chips. These composite materials are not like solid wood with integrated and stable fibers. Thus, voids and gaps in the particleboard can be imbued with moisture and water. Besides, these gaps and voids make the particleboard less solid than wood.
If you don’t want to break the bank, you can always opt for particleboard furniture. Nevertheless, be prepared to expect it not to last long. It is a cheaper alternative, but it is denser than conventional plywood. Additionally, you can make particleboard more appealing if you paint it or utilize wood veneers on its visible surfaces.
When working with particleboard, however, always consider your safety. When cutting or sawing particle board, fine dust gets produced that could irritate your nostrils. Thus, it will help if you never forget to wear your safety gear, like a dust mask, and ensure your dust collection system is properly working.
Liam is a 37-year-old woodworker and interior designer who loves to make every furniture project an art piece. He is very experienced in furniture design and woodworking project planning.