Particleboard also know as Chipboard

Particleboard is an interior-use engineered wood panel product, manufactured from wood particles.

Overview

Particleboard is a reconstituted wood panel product manufactured from wood particles. It can also be manufactured using wood flakes or strands.

A mat of individual wood particles is coated in adhesive resin and pressed together into a finished panel. As the wood fibres in the particles are randomly oriented, the finished panel has uniform properties in each direction.

Particleboard is used for different internal applications, which is dependant on the grading of the material. Common applications include furniture, veneer substrates and cupboards. Structural grade particleboard is primarily used for internal flooring but may be used for other load-bearing applications in dry conditions.

Properties

Durability

While it is unlikely in cooler environments, particleboard is still susceptible to fungi and termites, however a moisture content of over 18% would need to be achieved. Particleboard flooring is the most common application to encounter moist conditions and fungus resistant and termite resistant flooring is available to help prevent deterioration.

MR particleboard will perform satisfactorily in areas of high humidity and can also accommodate the occasional water spillage but it is not designed to be continually wet.

Particleboard should be conditioned to humidity level of the environment it will be used in, with a normal moisture content range of 10 -12%.

Absorption and swelling
Moisture absorption will cause swelling, especially in the edges of a panel. Not all swelling will subside after drying out so it's important to use the correct type of particleboard for each application. If in doubt it is best to use MR particleboard, which has a much lower response rate to wetting and will minimise the adverse effects of wetting.

Particleboard flooring that has been exposed to the weather prior to installation should be dried out before it is Installed so that shrinkage gaps can be avoided.

Sizes

Standard particleboard and moisture resistant (MR) particleboard are generally available as ‘thin', ‘medium' or ‘thick'. Standard particleboard is available anywhere from 9 mm up to 43 mm, while MR particleboard is available from 9 mm to 33 mm and usually colour coded with green edging to distinguish its moisture resistance properties.

Particleboard flooring is available in 19 mm, 22 mm and 25 mm.

Check with individual manufacturers for available sizes.

Regulations / Standards & Codes

AS/NZS 1859.1 Reconstituted wood-based panels - Specifications - particleboard provides all relevant properties and specifications for particleboard.

AS/NZS 1860.1 Particleboard Flooring - Specifications relates specifically to the use of particleboard as flooring.

Product certification
The Engineered Wood Products Association of Australasia (EWPAA), formerly Plywood Association of Australia, has operated a quality assurance program since 1963. This ensures that the particleboard manufactured by EWPAA members conforms to the relevant Australian Standard.

Formaldehyde emission classes
Depending on the standard and country of manufacture, particleboard panels will fall under emission classifications E3, E2, E1 and E0. E3 is the emission class with the highest emissions and E0 is the lowest. E0 is also known as Ultra Low Formaldehyde Emission (ULFE).

If particleboard is manufactured to Australian and New Zealand standards, the panel product will be clearly labeled with the appropriate formaldehyde emission class. All Australian manufactured particleboard must meet the E1, or Low Formaldehyde Emission standard.

Check with individual manufacturers for further information.


*Disclaimer : The species mentioned here are just a guide and for specific information refer to Suppliers Section

Description

Material Sub Type

Standard particleboard 

Standard particleboard is for interior applications only. It is not suitable for areas that are prone to wetting or high humidity. It is used for furniture and general fit outs. Paraffin wax is added to the surface layers to provide protection against water spillage. Standard particleboard is not suitable for areas prone to wetting or high humidity.

Moisture resistant (MR) particleboard

As per standard particleboard, MR particleboard should only be used for interior applications. Being ‘moisture resistant' means it is suitable for high humidity areas and occasional wetting - areas such as bathrooms and laundries and for furniture in tropical areas. It is manufactured using a special moisture resistant resin (melamine-urea formaldehyde). It's important to remember that moisture resistant does not mean waterproof.

Manufacturers will usually identify the product with a green colouration of the board.

Flooring

Particleboard flooring is used for internal structural applications. There are two classes, being Flooring Grade Class 1 and Flooring Grade Class 2, however only Class 1 is approved for use in Australia. Most of the particleboard flooring manufactured in Australia is made with large flakes, compared with the fine flakes used for standard and MR particleboard. Particleboard flooring uses a MUPF resin, which helps provide extra protection from moisture and weathering.

Proprietary products include Fungus Resistant Flooring (F), Termite Resistant Flooring (H2) and Fire Retardant Flooring (FR).

Further details are available in the relevant Standard AS/NZS 1860.1 Particleboard Flooring-Specifications.

High-performance particleboard, as per flooring, may be used for other load-bearing applications in dry conditions.

Fire Resistance

Fire resistance in the form of a fire rating can only be applied to a total building element incorporating particleboard, eg a floor. A product can not be fire rated, but it is important to note when a product is labelled as fire resistant or fire retardant it is referring to its ability to limit ignition, flame propagation, heat and smoke release.

Particleboard has similar properties to that of natural timber when it comes to fire resistance and registers the following results under AS1530 - Part 3 Methods of fire tests on building materials. components and structures - Simultaneous determination of ignitability, flame propagation, heat release and smoke release:

 

Standard*

Flooring

Ignitibility:

13-14

12-13

Spread of Flame:

6-7         

6-7         

Heat Evolved:

6  

7-8

Smoke Developed:

3

2-3

*The behaviour of MR particleboard is similar to that of standard particleboard. (Source: EWPAA)

AS/NZS 3837 Method of test for heat and smoke release rates for materials and products using an oxygen consumption calorimeter takes into account the use of particleboard for applications such as wall and ceiling panels. EWPAA testing achieved the following results for raw particleboard:

AV Heat Release: 120kW/m2
AV Specific Extinction Area: 33m2/kg
BCA Group Classification: 3

For more detailed information about fire resistance and the use of building materials, please refer to the Building Code of Australia (BCA).

Adhesives

Standard particleboard uses a urea formaldehyde, with paraffin wax added to the surface layers to protect against accidental water spillage.

MR particleboard uses a melamine-urea formaldehyde resin with a substantial melamine content. A wax emulsion is also included in the resin to provide water repellent properties.

MR particleboard can also be manufactured with other moisture resistant resins such as phenol formaldehyde and tannin formaldehyde which produces a dark brown glueline.

Particleboard flooring uses a melamine-urea-phenol formaldehyde and some tannin resins are also used.

Adhesives for jointing
Due to the non-directional grain, particleboard provides a good all-round gluing surface, with simple glue joints the best.

A urea-formaldehyde (UF) or a high viscosity PVA adhesive should be used for board to board joints, with adhesive applied to both edges.

These adhesive types are also suitable for edging or veneering with wood, while it is best to use a UF adhesive for plastic laminates.

The paraffin wax used in the manufacture of particleboard may affect the curing of certain adhesives.

Treatments

Particleboard can be manufactured with fungicide, termiticide or fire retardant additives and to ensure it complies with the industry standards it should be designated 'FT', 'TT' or 'RT'.

A brush on post-treatment preservative to protect against surface moulds under damp conditions can also be applied. Surface treatments can be used to protect against water and dirt, however it is important to check with each manufacturer as to the suitability and/or recommended products.

Paint can also be considered a surface protection.

Design/Engineering Considerations

Particleboard is generally an interior-use only timber material. Any exterior use should only be as per the manufacturer's guidelines.

Particleboard has a low thermal capacity like natural timber

 Table - Typical Property Values for Standard Particleboard

 Property

Units

Thickness class - mm

<12

13-22

>23

Density

kg/m3

660-700

660-680

600-660

Bending strength (MOR)

MPa

18

15

14

Bending stiffness (MOE)

MPa

2800

2600

2400

Internal bond strength

MPa

0.6

0.45

0.40

Surface soundness

MPa

1.25

1.30

1.30

Screw holding - face

N

-

600

700

                             - edge

N

-

700

750

Thickness swell (24 hr)

%

15

12

8

Formaldehyde E1 (Dessiccator Method)*

mg/L

1.0-1.5

1.0-1.5

1.0-1.5

(source: EWPAA)

 Table - Typical property values for MR Particleboard

Property

Units

Thickness class - mm

<12

13-22

>23

Density

kg/m3

670

640-670

600-650

Bending strength (MOR)

MPa

19

18

16

Bending stiffness (MOE)

MPa

3000

2800

2700

Internal bond strength

MPa

1.00

0.85

0.75

Surface soundness

MPa

1.70

1.70

1.60

Screw holding - face

N

-

800

800

                             - edge

N

-

1100

900

Thickness swell (24 hr)

%

6-7

3-4

3 - 4.5

Cyclic test - Internal bond

MPa

0.50

0.41

0.26

Cyclic test - thickness swell

%

10-12

9

8-12

Formaldehyde E1 (Dessiccator Method)*

mg/L

1.0-1.5

1.0-1.5

1.0-1.5

(source: EWPAA)

Table - Typical Property Values for Particleboard Flooring

Property

Units

Thickness class - mm

19

22

25

Density

kg/m3

680

700

700

Bending strength (MOR)

MPa

24

21

24

Bending stiffness (MOE)

MPa

3500

3250

3750

Internal bond strength

MPa

0.70

0.75

0.80

Surface water absorption

g/m2

50

50

50

Thickness swell (24hr)

%

3

3

2

Glue bond durability

MPa

5.5

5.5

6

Glue bond quality

MPa

12

12

12

Thickness stability

%

11

11

11

Formaldehyde Potential
(Dessiccator Method)*

mg/L

1.3

1.3

1.3

(source: EWPAA)

 

Handling, Storage & Protection

During transportation, particleboard should be protected by a waterproof covering and fully supported on equal size bearers. Edges, corners and bottom sheets need to be fully protected from damage and care taken to avoid any product damage. Boards need to be stacked correctly in order to avoid distorting or damaging material.

Pre-finished boards need to be handled with care to avoid any surface contamination, while surfaced boards should be always be lifted when being moved rather than sliding.

Particleboard boards need to be stored in an area that is protected from sun, rain and wind so that rapid changes in temperature and humidity are avoided. This will also help to avoid any surface staining or fading. If boards need to be stored outside they should be well protected with a tarpaulin or equivalent covering and need to be kept well clear of the ground.

For use in dry warm areas the moisture content should be kept as low as possible to avoid shrinkage after installation.

Boards stored on site, ie for a residential build, can better adjust to the moisture content of the surrounding environment. Each sheet should be stacked to allow free circulation of air.

It is advisable to check with individual manufacturers about how moisture content may affect certain applications.

Health & safety
When working with particleboard, it is important to be aware of the potential risks of working with wood dust and formaldehyde. Inhalation of excessive amounts of wood dust can pose a serious health risk so it is important that proper precautions are taken.

Cutting or sanding should only be undertaken in a well-ventilated area. To avoid potential exposure to wood dust it is recommended that a Class P1 (Particulate) respirator, dust-proof goggles, gloves and long sleeves are worn at all times.

Formaldehyde gas is not likely to be released unless boards are being heated, laminated or laser cut. If undertaken in a well-ventilated workplace then formaldehyde emissions are unlikely to exceed industry standards.

Each manufacturer should have a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) which provides information on health and safety issues associated with each product. Please contact the manufacturer directly to ensure you have the most up-to-date information.

Cutting Holes & Notches

Particleboard can be worked with standard woodworking tools can be sawn, routed, spindled, planned or bored.

The non-directional grain makes it easy to cut grooves, recesses and housings.

For more information visit the 'Applications' section.

Maintenance

Excessive wetting should be avoided when cleaning. Boards can be lightly sanded to remove stains.

Check with manufacturer for advice on best proprietary products to use.

Workability

Due to its manufactured form, particleboard offers a non-directional grain making it easy to work with normal woodworking tools. It is usually supplied sanded to a uniform thickness so planning shouldn't be required. Panels are also supplied with a sanded finish, so sanding would only be necessary after machining or fabrication. Boards can be sanded in either direction due to the non-directional grain.

The fine, smooth surface is ideal for shaping or routing and delivers a surface free of knots and grains - so is easier for finishing.

Sustainability

The wood used in the production of particleboard is usually sourced from a renewable resource such as a plantation grown pine species or from waste off-cuts from sawmills.

Joints & Connectors

Particleboard can be permanently fixed by nailing or screwing.

Bullet head nails can be punched below the surface of particleboard where a painted finish is required. Nail spacing should be as per manufacturers instructions.

The type and density of the board used will affect the screw holding capacity. A pilot hole may be required to help avoid splitting and if further strength is required then a solid wood insert or special fastening should be used. Once again, specific advice should be sought from individual manufacturers.

Knockdown fastenings should be used if reassembly is required.

See also ‘Adhesives for joining' and the ‘Applications' section

Finishes

Particleboard edges are not suitable for coating, however some manufacturers will edge seal particleboard flooring for added durability. Boards can be edged with a veneer, plastic strip or solid wood lipping.

Particleboard can be clear finished, painted, covered in wood veneers, high and low pressure laminates, papers, PVC film and fabrics.

Clear finishes
The application of a clear finish provides a wear-resistant coating and details the natural form. For applications such as wall linings or ceilings, a one-part polyurethane coating will provide a good wearing clear finish. For particleboard flooring a two-part polyurethane finish will deliver both a hard-wearing and decorative surface finish.

Painted
Due to its smooth surface, particleboard is easily painted. It is important to note that painting particleboard can highlight the very small holes that are present in the finished surface, so to ensure the best finish is achieved a filler should be used. An oil-based paint will deliver a better result where particleboard is to be used for kitchens or bathrooms. Emulsion and other water-based paints tend to swell surface particles of the wood panels which can result in a textured finish.

With acrylic paint systems, an exterior-grade primer should be applied first, followed by undercoat and two coats of acrylic gloss or semi gloss. Sanding before final coats, and the use of a semi gloss finish will minimise texturing.

High pressure laminates
Plastic laminates provide a durable, easy to clean surface finish and are well suited for use as benchtops and kitchen units.

Low pressure melamine
Melamine-surfaced particleboard, produced by curing melamine resin impregnated papers, provides excellent wear resistance. Low pressure melamine finishes are used for cabinets, cupboards, built-in robes and other furniture products. A range of surface finishes are available as per manufacturers' specifications.

Papers/fabrics
Papers and foils offer a range of decorative choices, including wood grain finishes. Plain paper can be used as a base for further finishing. Decorative patterned or wood grain finishes. Papers are also available with a clear protective coating, eg polyurethane.

Fabrics can be bonded to particleboard using UF or PVA adhesives.

PVC film
This is generally used for furniture such as wall units, desks and cabinets. A range of designs are available, including wood grain print or solid colours. PVC film is not generally recommended for horizontal work surfaces.

Veneers
Decorative wood veneers provide an impressive finish to particleboard substrate.
Find out more about Decorative Veneers.

Edging
Edges can be veneered easily to provide a matching finish to the panel. Alternatively, a plastic strip with a toothed tongue on the back face can be pressed into a thin groove cut in the edge of the board.

Applications

  • Flooring

    Whether for structural or finished flooring applications, timber offers durability, versatility and adaptability. The warmth, strength and natural beauty of timber flooring has proved enduringly popular in a wide variety of interior settings.

  • Timber Joinery Products

    Timber joinery products offer a classic, unique and stylish touch to any interior design.

Case Studies

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