what is compressed wood

What is Compressed Wood? (Benefits, Advantages, Uses)

Practically everyone has some furniture made from compressed wood, as it is very common in shelving, desks, and bed frames. If you’ve ever bought furniture from a certain popular Swedish store known for products you have to assemble yourself, then you certainly have experienced compressed wood. Its lightweight and affordability make it a smart choice both for people furnishing a home for the first time and those looking to replace old, worn-out furniture.

What is compressed wood? Compressed wood is an engineered, man-made wood product made of wood fibers, sawdust, wood particles, wood shavings, and a veneer facade. It has a wide range of common applications, most notably in furniture, cabinetry, and trim work. Its many distinct advantages over natural wood make compressed wood ideal for many applications.

compressed wood

Though the use of layers of veneer has been around since ancient times, the first modern compressed wood was invented in Germany in 1887. It became common after World War II and spread worldwide due to its affordability and mass producibility. Initial versions were made simply from swept-up wood shavings mixed with glue, though, over time, the process has become more sophisticated to produce a more uniform, sturdier product. 

These days, compressed wood is usually made from wood chips, shavings, sawdust, or fibers, which are mixed with synthetic resin and compressed under heat. It is important to understand the process of making compressed wood and how it differs from other types of engineered wood, as well as possible drawbacks before choosing it for your project.

Types Of Compressed Wood

There are several types of compressed wood, such as particleboard, medium-density fiberboard, and high-density fiberboard. It is important to understand each before you choose one for your building project.

Particle Board

One of the most common is particle board, which is the most cost-effective form of compressed wood because it is made from small pieces of the waste left behind from other wood production. It can also be milled from larger pieces of wood and sorted so that larger pieces are left out, making a more uniform end product. The small pieces are combined with resin and formed into a sheet, which is compressed multiple times under cold and heat before being cooled, sanded, and trimmed. In some cases, a veneer or laminate surface may be added (“Particle Board,” n.d.).

Particleboard is lightweight and easy to cut during the manufacturing process. This makes it ideal for furniture and some types of cabinetry since it holds screws better than many comparable products. Since particleboard is produced in large sheets initially, it is easier to trim to specific sizes than natural wood, especially when mass producing an item. Because it is uniform, it also reduces the need to check for flaws that would appear in natural wood.

Particleboard is also used in construction, though you must be careful where you use it due to its limitations. It can be used as wall partitions as long as the walls are not load-bearing. It is a good insulator both in terms of temperature and sound, so you’ll find it used for false ceilings in air-conditioned rooms, as well as throughout auditoriums, movie theaters, and recording studios. It is also used as the core material of many types of doors (“7 Uses of Particle Board in Building Industry,” n.d.).

Medium-Density Fiberboard

Medium-density fiberboard (MDF) is similar to particle board but is much more dense and durable. Hardwood and softwood are broken down into fibers in a machine called a defibrillator. The resulting fibers, which are much smaller than the pieces used in particleboard, are pressed into a sheet with wax and bonding resin. The sheet is heated briefly to activate the resin, resulting in a solid sheet of manufactured wood.

The increased density and durability comes from using fibers instead of chips, shavings, and sawdust. Due to this higher durability, MDF has many applications in building. Its interior is more uniform than particleboard, and it is free from knots and grain. It is often used in the same manner as plywood, such as in flooring substrate, with a veneer or laminate placed on top. It is also perfect for molding and trim work. However, MDF is susceptible to swelling if it gets wet, so it’s not recommended for outdoor projects, like a deck, for example (“Medium Density Fibreboard,” n.d.).

Much like particleboard, MDF is a great insulator for sound. Therefore, it is commonly used to build speaker boxes for high-end audio applications. The fiberboard exterior allows the sound to come from the speaker itself rather than rattling through the wood.

High-Density Fiberboard

Moving even further along in density is High-Density Fiberboard (HDF). Though the production process is very similar to that of MDF, HDF is even denser and thinner, which also means it is heavier. This produces an even stronger product ideal for flooring. However, much like with MDF, the fibers will swell if they are exposed to water, so outdoor applications are not recommended. In general, HDF can be used almost anywhere MDF would be used if you want a denser, more durable product, and don’t mind the extra weight (LeGros, n.d.).

By using different resins in the production process, medium- and high-density fiberboard can be given moisture or fire-resistant properties. This expands the uses for these products considerably but also increases the cost. These resistant versions are usually labeled by color: green for moisture-resistant and red for fire-resistant.

Engineered Wood and Compressed Wood

engineered wood

Compressed wood is just one kind of engineered wood. Engineered wood is a broad category that includes particleboard, MDF, and HDF, but also plywood, beams, finger joints, laminated veneer, and many other products. While these engineered products share similar manufacturing methods, the processes can vary greatly. The resulting man-made wood products have a variety of qualities, and therefore a variety of uses.

One of the most common engineered woods is plywood, which is created by combining thin layers of hard or softwood in alternating 90-degree alignments with adhesives and pressure. The result is a durable wood product that is very different from compressed wood. Plywood has a wide range of applications. It is primarily used in building construction, along with beams and finger joints, but it is also used in boats, packaging material, furniture, and more. So while plywood is much more durable and sturdy than compressed wood, the trade-off is higher costs and a heavier weight (“Plywood as a Construction Material,” n.d.).

Is Compressed Wood Durable?

The durability of compressed wood can vary depending on the type and how it is used. Particleboard is commonly used in furniture due to its lightweight and low cost, but the resulting furniture shouldn’t be expected to last for generations like older, natural wood furniture. Chances are you won’t be handing down furniture made from particle board to your grandchildren. Furniture made from particleboard can be expected to last three to five years, depending on how often it is moved and what it’s being used for.

Everyday wear and tear will eventually cause breakage, and moving particle board furniture increases the chances of it coming apart. If you’ve ever had to move a piece of particle board furniture, you’ve likely experienced some of the problems that can arise. Legs can break off if mishandled, corners dent and crack easily, and screws will often strip out of their holes when moved around, resulting in rickety joints and an increased chance of collapse. Also, once it is assembled, it can be very difficult to take it apart and reassemble, so pieces often need to be moved whole. It is even easily damaged during shipping, meaning you could order a piece of furniture only to find it damaged before you’ve even had a chance to assemble it.

In addition, particleboard is not immune to moisture and humidity. Though a veneer on the outside of the particleboard can protect it to some degree, the interior can swell if it gets wet. In addition to weakening the wood, this is also just unattractive. However, if you’re looking for a piece of furniture that won’t be exposed to water, and won’t need to be moved much, then particleboard is a great choice. This is why you commonly see things like TV stands and entertainment centers made from particleboard since people tend to leave their TVs in one spot.

Finally, particleboard cannot hold as heavy of a load as other types of compressed wood or natural wood. While it is a common material for the shelving, you must be careful about what you place on it. Thankfully, modern TVs are lighter than those of the past, so this is not quite as big of an issue as it once was when opting for a TV stand or entertainment center made from particleboard.

MDF is more durable than particle board, but it still doesn’t handle excess moisture very well. A sealant can help, but it’s best to avoid uses where it may encounter water or other liquids. Building a deck from MDF, for example, is not recommended unless you choose a moisture-resistant product. Additionally, if the surface is chipped or scratched, it can lead to unattractive flaws, as the inside of the wood looks quite different from the sanded surface. It is hard to repair when damage does occur, and cutting it down into different sizes can lead to flaking.

Advantages of Compressed Wood

We’ve discussed a few of the drawbacks to compressed wood, but its many great qualities give it an advantage over natural wood. As long as you are aware of its limitations, you may find these advantages offer plenty of reasons to choose compressed wood for your project.

First, compressed wood is much more affordable than natural wood. This is especially the case with particleboard, where the manufacturing process actually uses some of the waste that comes from manufacturing natural wood. Using up sawdust and shavings that are already around is smart and efficient, and it helps manufacturers keep costs down. In addition, since most compressed wood is mass-produced by machine, skilled carpentry work is rarely required. This also helps keep the costs low.

Compressed wood won’t splinter like natural wood. Due to the process of bonding small pieces of wood together, the pieces simply aren’t big enough to splinter off. Though particleboard can break and release small fragments of wood, it’s still not like the splinters that can come from natural wood. MDF and HDF are even less likely to fragment, especially if you aren’t trying to cut them down. Though we’ve talked about the durability problems that can arise with compressed wood, this is one area where it beats out natural wood.

Moving particle board furniture can lead to breakage, but the good news is that if you must move it, it is lightweight. MDF and HDF are much heavier than particle board, but MDF, in particular, may still prove lighter than plywood. HDF, on the other hand, can be quite heavy due to its increased density. A bed frame or shelving unit made from compressed wood may be slightly bulky to move, but it won’t be as heavy as the same piece made from solid, natural wood. Of course, the lightness of the wood product is a decent indicator of its durability, so keep that in mind when choosing compressed wood for a project. In general, the lighter the wood, the less durable it is.

Compressed wood can be ideal for craft and decorative projects as well as for building furniture. MDF and HDF are easy to paint, though their absorbent nature means you should not use aerosol spray paint (it will just soak right into the wood). Starting with a quality oil-based primer is recommended, and it’s important to make sure the edges are sealed, or they will simply absorb the paint. One way to seal the edges is with a thin layer of drywall compound, which, once dry and sanded, will create a smooth edge ready to paint (Noonan, n.d.).

Additionally, medium- and high-density fiberboard can be cut easily, though be aware that repeated cutting can cause the wood to flake. In addition, its high density means it will dull steel blades quickly, and attempting to cut with a dull blade will increase the chances of flaking or breakage. Carbide blades are recommended for this reason (“MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) Guide / FAQ,” n.d.).

Compressed wood is environmentally friendly as well. The manufacturing process uses up wood scraps that would otherwise have no use and would be discarded. Some MDF and HDF products have even included a recycled paper in their construction. Though formaldehyde has been used in the resins involved, many manufacturers are moving away from its use and are using more environmentally friendly adhesives such as natural lignin-based resins (Beutel, 1996).

Compressed Wood as Firewood

compressed wood fire

Another area where compressed wood is used is as firewood. Though these man-made bricks are different from the particleboard or fiberboard, we’ve talked about previously, the manufacturing process is similar. Compressed wood bricks are usually made from sawdust and are free from other chemicals or binders due to the natural lignin in the sawdust itself. The dried sawdust is formed into bricks and then placed under extreme pressure, releasing the natural lignin in the wood. Lignin is a compound that basically acts as a natural binding agent, adhering to the sawdust together. The result is a product that is lighter and more compact than traditional cord firewood, and yet it can produce even more heat due to being dried out during production.

It is easier to handle than traditional firewood as well, making it perfect for your living room fireplace but also for backyard fire pits or camping fires. The bricks take up less space than traditional firewood, and since they are made from recycled sawdust that would otherwise be discarded, it is a more environmentally friendly product. It also burns cleaner, producing less smoke and leaving less ash and residue to be cleaned up later. Many people combine compressed wood bricks with traditional cordwood to get the best of both worlds: a long burning, consistent fire that still gives the snap and crackle of a traditional wood fire.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are many advantages to using compressed wood over natural wood. Though not perfect for all applications, particleboard, MDF, and HDF are great choices for building furniture, molding, trim, cabinetry, and decorative projects. In addition, compressed wood firewood is becoming a more popular choice due to its ease of use and environmental advantages. The important thing is to be aware of compressed wood’s limitations before choosing it for your project and proceeding accordingly to ensure a product that will succeed just as you intend.


7 Uses of Particle Board in Building Industry. (n.d.). Retrieved from 


Beutel, Peter. (September 20,1996). 


LeGros, Scott. (n.d.). MDF vs. HDF: How they’re different and what they’re good for. Retrieved 

from https://forestplywood.com/blog/mdf-vs-hdf-how-theyre-different-and-what-theyre-good-for/

MDF Medium Density Fiberboard Guide / FAQ (n.d.). Retrieved from 


Medium Density Fibreboard. (n.d.). Retrieved from 


Noonan, Jennifer. (n.d.). How To: Paint MDF. Retrieved from 


Particle Board. (n.d.). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Particle_board

Plywood as a Construction Material. (n.d.). Retrieved from 


Share With Friends

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest

ABOUT GizmoPlans

Hey, this is Brian and Gene Luoma. Since the two of us have pretty much been self-employed our entire lives, we have a lot of experience designing and creating all sorts of DIY projects for businesses and homes—projects that have helped us make money or save money through the years!

Gizmoplans is our way to share our culmination of years of experience, along with our catalog of projects—both new and old—that we hope will help you, too. If you’re interested in saving or making money, browse on through. We hope you find something here that inspires and helps you to DIY!


This site is owned and operated by GizmoPlans.com LLC. Gizmoplans is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Gizmoplans.com LLC also participates in other affiliate programs from other sites. GizmoPlans.com LLC is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.

32 thoughts on “What is Compressed Wood? (Benefits, Advantages, Uses)”

  1. I loved as much as you’ll receive carried out right here.
    The sketch is attractive, your authored material stylish.
    nonetheless, you command get got an impatience over that
    you wish be delivering the following. unwell unquestionably come more formerly again as exactly the same nearly a lot often inside case you shield this

  2. Thanks for another informative site. Where else could I get that type of info written in such a perfect means?
    I have a mission that I’m simply now running on, and I’ve been at the
    look out for such information.

  3. Hello! I could have sworn I’ve been to this
    web site before but after looking at many of the posts I realized it’s new
    to me. Anyways, I’m certainly delighted I came across it
    and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back often!

  4. Hi just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let
    you know a few of the pictures aren’t loading properly. I’m not sure
    why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different internet browsers and both show the same results.

  5. Hi it’s me, I am also visiting this website regularly, this website is genuinely fastidious and the viewers are actually sharing fastidious thoughts.

  6. All their like you move through my mind! You appear to appreciate a lot with this, like you written the e-book in that or whatsoever.

    I think you might do by pics to work a car the idea home a lttle very little, but as well as that, this
    is impressive blog. An awesome read. Sick definitely be again.

  7. I enjoy reading a peice that can get people to think. Moreover, many thanks related to allowing for myself
    to annotate!

  8. Will you be a gambling togel on the web player?
    Take a look at news in the site primary to get the most popular information. You will find correct
    forecasts and how to take up.

  9. Exclusive blog! I came across it although surfing around in Yahoo Particulars.
    Do you have almost any tips on how to acquire listed in Google News?
    I’ve been aiming for a while nevertheless I without a reason seem to appear there!
    Many thanks

  10. When someone writes an post he/she keeps the image of a user in his/her mind that how a user can be aware of it.

    Therefore that’s why this post is outstdanding. Thanks!

  11. seriously good examination. I hope you could continue to function so that you can place insight for the
    readers for this website. As well visit my site to get all
    the latest articles or blog posts about togel online.

  12. Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in fact
    was a amusement account it. Look advanced to far added agreeable from
    you! By the way, how could we communicate?

  13. Hi, I believe your web site could possibly be having browser compatibility issues.
    Whenever I look at your website in Safari, it looks fine
    however, when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping issues.
    I merely wanted to give you a quick heads up! Aside from that, wonderful site!

  14. I’m amazed, I have to admit. Seldom do I come across a blog that’s equally educative and
    amusing, and without a doubt, you have hit the nail on the head.
    The problem is an issue that too few people are speaking intelligently about.
    I am very happy that I stumbled across this during my hunt for
    something relating to this.

  15. The other day, while I was at work, my sister stole my iphone and tested to see if it can survive a
    30 foot drop, just so she can be a youtube sensation. My apple ipad is now destroyed and she has 83 views.

    I know this is totally off topic but I had to share it with someone!

  16. You are so cool! I don’t believe I’ve truly read something like that before.
    So good to discover another person with a few original thoughts on this topic.
    Really.. thanks for starting this up. This web site is one
    thing that is required on the web, someone with some originality!

  17. Hi there! I realize this is sort of off-topic however I had to ask.
    Does running a well-established blog such as yours require
    a large amount of work? I’m completely new to running a blog however
    I do write in my diary daily. I’d like to start a blog so I will be able to share my experience and feelings online.
    Please let me know if you have any ideas or tips for
    brand new aspiring bloggers. Appreciate

  18. Hello! Someone in my Facebook group shared this website with us so I came
    to take a look. I’m definitely enjoying the information. I’m book-marking and will
    be tweeting this to my followers! Terrific blog and wonderful style and design.

  19. Thank you for every other informative website. Where else may just I get that kind of information written in such an ideal approach?
    I’ve a undertaking that I am just now running
    on, and I’ve been at the glance out for such info.

  20. Today, I went to the beachfront with my kids.
    I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and
    said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She
    put the shell to her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear.
    She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is entirely
    off topic but I had to tell someone!

  21. Good post. I learn something totally new and
    challenging on websites I stumbleupon on a daily basis.
    It’s always interesting to read articles from other writers and use something
    from their websites.

  22. At this time it looks like BlogEngine is
    the top blogging platform out there right now.
    (from what I’ve read) Is that what you’re using on your blog?

  23. I am extremely impressed along with your writing talents as smartly
    as with the structure in your blog. Is this a paid subject matter or did you modify it yourself?
    Either way stay up the excellent high quality writing, it
    is uncommon to peer a nice weblog like this one nowadays..

  24. Hurrah, that’s what I was seeking for, what a material!
    existing here at this webpage, thanks admin of
    this website.

  25. I’m truly enjoying the design and layout of your website.

    It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more enjoyable for me to
    come here and visit more often. Did you hire out a designer to
    create your theme? Outstanding work!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top