what is furniture board?

calypsochickMarch 24, 2010


Can someone tell me what is furniture board? Is it just another name for particleboard? Is this different than mdf?

Thank you!

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In the industry there is no such animal as "furniture board". Typically it is used by retailers because it sounds better than MDF. MDF (Medium density fiberboard) and Particle board has gotten a bad name. Most people think of PB as the low density board they see at the home centers used for underlayment. Good quality PB, Industrial grade, means that one cubic foot of it is 45 lbs or more in weight. Commercial PB is typically about 42 lbs density. Both are good products for the right application. Most commerical grade cabinets are made from Industrial PB or MDF. MDF is similar to PB but is made from smaller particles, is denser and thus weights more, typically over 50 lbs density. MDF is very stable, will absorb less water than PB and is often used with veneers. Its smooth dense face does not "telegraph" through the thin veneers that are used today. Many veneers on plywood will over time, telegraph the grain of the plywood.

I would not be disturbed about using a product with good quality PB or MDF, they offer a good value for the $$ spent.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2010 at 5:20PM
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So "furniture board" is referring to either particle board or MDF, then, correct?

Below is what my cabinet manufacturer says they offer.

Door fronts in contemporary styles are typically flat-panel doors in a wide range of laminate, veneer, exotic veneer or MDF lacquers. Transitional and traditional doors are offered in wood - solid maple, cherry, oak or walnut - with a choice of many different stains, glazes and patina finishes. Traditional MDF doors are finished in either solid colours or with paint-and-glaze hand-dragged finishes.

Cabinets are manufactured using 19mm (3/4") high quality thermally-fused melamine furniture board in a choice of white, grey or black finish or 19mm (3/4") veneered maple plywood.

So does this mean the interiors are NOT mdf, rather particle board? They seem to say you can have mdf for the doors, but they do not refer to the interiors/cabinet box as mdf.


    Bookmark   March 24, 2010 at 5:29PM
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That's right, they are NOT MDF. Very few manufactured cabinets use MDF, though sales people who don't know better will sometimes refer to furniture board as MDF. Until you look at it and know what you are looking at assume when a salesperson says the cabinet is MDF that it is in fact furniture board. (As tom indicates MDF is common in doors)

The term furniture board, long grain furniture board, when used by a cabinet mfg means a specific type of particle board, typically 45 lb density. As tom indicates there are lots of types of this stuff- engineered wood (plywood is an engineered wood BTW) and they are just fine.

My own kitchen, mid to upper end, is frameless boxes using furniture board. Mine is going on 10 yrs old, I've redone some as much as 28 yrs by the same mfg and the cabinets were sound as the day they were installed.

There are a number of hi-end frameless brands that still have the good sense to offer it, though increasingly some have responded to misguided consumer blowback and switched to plywood on frameless cabinets.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 10:57AM
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Thanks, Jakuvall for posting your comments. I debated posting mine as well, but I'm going to because I think it helps people understand why most KD's choose furniture board for their own kitchens.

So, if furniture board is perfectly fine for 99.9% of all situations for cabinetry, why do you see so much preference for plywood? I'm going to be direct: ignorance, prejudice, avarice, and snobbery.

Ignorant open minded people can be educated about the actual functional differences between the two. The main thing that you "hear" all the time is that particle board will fall apart if a single drop of water touches it. Totally not true. Any water event that damages particle board enough to cause it to swell will also adversely affect plywood construction. It's just that you cannot visually see the delamination of the layers of plywood and the subsequent loss of strength. It's not apparent to the naked eye like the swelling of particle board might be. Yet this point is brought up over and over, and it's moot. Water damages wood. Period. Both are wood products.

There are two distinct categories that plywood has advantages over furniture board. One is in resistance to deflection. A 48" shelf in plywood won't sag as much as one in particle board. But, no maker does a 48" shelf without some intermediary support, and most won't do beyond 36" without intermediary support, so in real world use, there is very little difference between quality furniture board and plywood. The second place that ply is "better" than FB is in weight. FB is actually has more wood in it than does ply, and is heavier. That's a big reason that cab makers and installers prefer ply. It's easier on them to work with because it's lighter. Doesn't make a whit of difference to you unless you are doing the install though.

And there is a prejudice against using particle board that may hearken back to people's experience with low quality products that they have had experience with. That 14 lb density crap that they made those "decorator" round tripod tables out of isn't even in the same ballpark as furniture board. The wood products industry developed the term "furniture board" to differentiate themselves from the lower quality products, and to try to distance themselves from the prejudice against engineered wood products. It's only when someone refuses to be educated that the prejudice is affecting their judgement.

Also, one reason that many cabinet makers and sellers will steer you towards plywood over particle board is that they are able to take advantage of ignorance and prejudice in order to get a higher ticket price from you. Using ply often will have a hefty upcharge well beyond what the actual material and labor cost difference actually costs. I'm lucky in that I deal with a maker than only charges 5% cost difference between the two, and we don't mark it up any more than that. Many places still get that 5% cost difference but charge the customer 20% or more. And some makers charge that much to the dealer as well. It's called "market economics". When someone perceives something to have a value beyond its cost, then the cost rises to meet that perceived value. In other words, the market will bear the upcharge for the most part. I'd rather a customer put that money into a functional or decorative feature, but since I only pass along that 5% difference rather than 25%, it's almost a non existent issue for me.

That leaves the wood snobbery bit. A lot of people intellectually understand that furniture board will give them a perfectly fine cabinet. They prefer to be able to bandy the term "solid wood" in conversation---even though cabinets haven't been built of actual "solid wood" since plywood was invented a century ago. It's NOT solid wood, any more than particle board is. It just rolls off the tongue of oily salespeople much better.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 11:46AM
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My own kitchen, mid to upper end, is frameless boxes using furniture board. Mine is going on 10 yrs old, I've redone some as much as 28 yrs

This describes the kitchen we did in our previous home circa 1985. Those cabinets were by WoodMode. When we remodeled in 2006, they were in perfect, albeit no longer in style, condition.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 11:49AM
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Bowing down to LiveWireOak! Very well said and something I've been trying to educate my clients since I began my career in kitchen design in 1983!

I once had one of my friend's father in my showroom. His ktichen was going to be very high end....and it was. When we had our first visit, he said, "I went to a couple of designers a few weeks ago, but I want nothing to do with them....they tried to talk me out of getting all wood construction (ie. plywood construction). He was a very imposing man! He looked at me and said, "What do YOU think??" I just smiled nicely and said, "Mr. X? I agree with them. However, it's your kitchen and if you want plywood construction, I'll give it to you." There was no point in further debate....this man was going to have plywood!

LWO, I plan on saving this post, so I can email it to my clients. Thanks so much.....this will save me a lot of time and aggravation! :-)

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 12:50PM
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