Particle Boards are a relatively new type of engineered wood product that are made from glueing together small chips and saw-dust and firmly pressing them together to make boards or sheets. With particle board furniture becoming more commonly available in the market it is useful to know how it compares with other types of engineered woods such as plywood and with solid wood.
The advantages and disadvantages of particle board are listed below.
The main advantage of particle board over solid wood or plywood is that its cost is very low. Compared to plywood furniture of similar dimensions, particle board furniture costs less than half. This low cost of course comes at a price, because particle boards are not as durable as plywood or solid wood.
Particle boards are machine manufactured to desired dimensions, and thus standard pieces of furniture can be mass-produced using these boards. This further brings down the costs since there is no carpenter work involved. This also means ready-to-buy products for customers with zero waiting time.
A thin layer of lamination (decorative laminate) is usually glued over the surface of the particle boards at the time they are manufactured. Such boards are called pre-laminated boards. Lamination increases the beauty as well as the durability of the board to some extent.
On the other hand, when customers opt for plywood furniture they also have to separately select and purchase decorative laminate sheets that will be glued over the plywood sheets. This further increases the overall cost of the custom-made plywood furniture being made.
Particle boards are very light in weight, and hence furniture made from these boards is relatively easy to transport and move around. However this while this can be said to be an advantage for some people, it also is an indicator of an important drawback which is that the board is not as strong as other types of wood. A general rule of thumb when it comes to selecting woods is that the denser the wood the stronger it is. And denser usually also means heavier weight. This is why the solid wood furniture that lasts for several years is so heavy.
Low on strength:
Particle board furniture is quite weak compared to other kinds of engineered woods such as plywood. It is less dense and can easily get damaged while handling. So for those who need to shift from one house to another quite frequently, its important to note that their particle board furniture may not survive the ordeal.
Low life, low durability:
Apart from being low on strength, particle boards are also prone to getting damaged because of moisture and humidity. This means that furniture made from these boards will not last very long. This is without doubt the major drawback of particle board furniture.
Experienced sources and even some shopkeepers selling these particle board furniture clearly inform the customer that they can expect the particle board furniture to last for around 2 to 3 years (and there are others who will say the lifetime is 5 years). Now compare this with plywood which lasts easily for 15-20 years, or with good quality solid wood furniture that lasts for several decades and is handed over from one generation to the next.
Finally the choice of wood depends on the needs of the customers, whether they want cheaper furniture that they are willing to dispose off in the next few years or they want furniture that want to buy once and that which will last a lifetime.
Cannot support heavy loads:
Particle boards are almost never used in applications where the boards will be subjected to heavy weights. Being low on strength, particle boards are only suitable for holding low weights, or as forming the walls of cabinets and the like.
Not as eco-friendly as solid wood furniture:
Particle boards are made from small particles of wood such as sawdust and small chips which are glued and pressed together to form a sheet. The glue used is a plastic resin (phenolic resin), the same that is used in the making of decorative laminates. This is not as eco-friendly as using good quality solid wood furniture that is 100% natural.
So, to summarize the discussion, I would say that the only major advantage of particle boards is that its cost is very low compared to all the other types wood available in the market, and the major disadvantages are its low strength and low durability.