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What is Engineered Wood?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Engineered wood is a wood product made from scraps of wood or other materials which contain lignin which are compressed and bound together with glues. Products of this type are used and sold all over the world, and can be found in use as flooring, structural supports, cladding, and a number of other components of a structure. Many lumber yards sell engineered wood and can order specialty products by request. Manufacturers can also fill orders directly, for people who need a lot of engineered wood, such as individuals preparing for new construction in a large development.

The classic example of engineered wood is plywood, made out of thin wooden sheets which are glued together and compressed to create a block of durable wood. Engineered products are also made with shredded wood which is glued together, and can include other plant materials such as rice stalks. Some manufacturers even blend paper into their manufactured wood, along with products such as plastics. On occasion, the use of recycled plant material and similar components may be a selling point for the wood product.

One advantage to engineered wood is that it is very strong and durable, and can be stronger than regular wood of the same size. This can be an advantage when people want to increase the strength of a structure without making it heavy or bulky. This type of wood product is also very reliable and dependable, unlike regular wood, which can fluctuate in quality depending on features ranging from knotholes to the quality of growth in any given year.

Making engineered wood also generates a use for wood and plant scraps which were previously simply disposed of, which can make it appealing from an environmental perspective. However, a lot of energy goes into the production of manufactured wood, far more than the milling required for conventional wood, which is a point against it. This type of wood can also contain toxic materials, as many of the glues and binders used contain chemicals which are dangerous for human or environmental health.

The appearance of engineered wood is often less than thrilling. If the wood will be visible, it may be covered in a laminate which may be made from plastic or a real wood veneer. The laminate is tightly bound to the underlying wood, although it may crack or peel with time. Laminates can also contain additional chemicals of concern, as many of the glues used in engineered wood are also used in the construction of laminate products.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a About Mechanics researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By JimmyT — On Jul 08, 2011

@TreeMan - One of my friends just installed engineered wood floors in his home. I think it was maple engineered wood, and I think the floors look very nice. They definitely brought a lot of class into the room compared to carpet.

His flooring slats came as sheets of three planks connected together, so if you really inspect the floor, you can see that it is not a real solid maple floor, but I don't think that most people would see it. I think you can find some floors that do come as single slats, though.

As far as I know, the floors are just as durable as normal floors. At any rate, the floors will probably outlast most people's lifetimes. If you were considering installing the floors yourself, I would make sure that you are comfortable with the process. My friend chose to install his own floors, and he vowed to never try to undertake anything like that again.

By cardsfan27 — On Jul 07, 2011

@Emilski - Like the article mentions, some types of wood can be combined with plastics.

My father-in-law does a lot of woodworking in his spare time. Since he lives in Seattle, the weather can be quite brutal on outdoor furniture, so he often uses plastic lumber in place of real wood. The material is rot resistant and comes in a wide variety of sizes and colors.

His only complaint is that, since the boards are a mixture of wood and plastic, he has to use a special saw blade that is more expensive than a normal blade.

By Emilski — On Jul 06, 2011

Besides plywood, OSB - oriented strand board and MDF - medium density fiberboard are two common engineered woods.

I recently watched a documentary that discussed how wood engineering has progressed over the last few decades. It was very fascinating.

OSB is the stuff that looks like flakes of wood that are pressed together, and MDF has a smooth finish and is used for a lot of inexpensive furniture. It is probably in most of your computer desks right now. I know it is what mine is made out of.

Does anyone know about any other types of engineered wood? I think the topic is extremely interesting and would like to hear some other uses.

By TreeMan — On Jul 05, 2011

Does anyone here have any experience with engineered wood floors?

I would like to put hardwood flooring in my house, but I don't quite have the budget for pure wood. I have looked at a lot of samples in the stores, but would like someone's opinion on how they look after they are installed in a whole room. Do they look natural?

From reading this article, I guess I should ask, too, how durable are the floors compared to normal solid wood floors?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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