Board Types & Finishes For Case Goods and Millwork

A Comprehensive Guide to Choosing Engineered Boards for Furniture


When it comes to ordering furniture from China, the range of materials available is vast and diverse. Each material comes with its unique attributes and varying price points, making it crucial to understand the characteristics of different types of engineered boards. In this in-depth article, we focus exclusively on engineered boards commonly used for furniture, excluding solid wood (which will be covered in a separate article). Additionally, we won't delve into blockboard, primarily employed for doors, paneling, and partitions. Join us as we explore the world of engineered boards and their applications in the furniture-making process.

Board types: core materials

Fiberboard and Plywood: Fiberboard and plywood are two fundamental categories of engineered wood boards, each with distinct properties and applications.

A comparison between plywood and fiberboard

LDF/ Particle Board

Low-density fiberboard (LDF), often referred to as particle board, is a type of fiberboard made from wood particles or chips bound together with a binder. It is the lightest, weakest, and most affordable board within the fiberboard category. Particleboard is commonly used for non-visible components of furniture that do not significantly affect structural stability. Due to its lower density compared to other fiberboards, LDF is more susceptible to deformation and expansion when exposed to moisture.


Medium-density fiberboard (MDF) is composed of wood fibers and a resin-wax binder, compressed under pressure and heat to form a sturdy board. It boasts higher density than LDF and has become a popular choice for furniture due to its strength and affordability. MDF boards can be finished with a wood veneer, melamine, or other protective coatings to enhance moisture resistance and aesthetics. In humid environments, proper sealing is essential to prevent moisture absorption, which can lead to expansion. With the right laminate or coating, MDF becomes highly resistant to moisture, making it suitable for most furniture applications.


High-density fiberboard (HDF) stands as the densest and strongest among fiberboards. Often referred to as hardboard, HDF is versatile and can also be used in construction for purposes beyond furniture making, such as laminate flooring. Tempered HDF undergoes treatment with linseed oil, offering protection against humidity and moisture. However, when HDF is equipped with a laminate finish, it equally shields against moisture. Both HDF and MDF are excellent choices for furniture, exhibiting similar resistance to external factors when equipped with appropriate laminates.


Plywood is engineered by layering multiple thin sheets of wood veneer, bonded together with adhesive. This construction method results in a remarkably strong and stable material, surpassing the individual strength of each veneer. Plywood's exceptional strength-to-weight ratio makes it an ideal choice for furniture frames and structural components. Its resistance to warping and cracking is significantly higher than MDF or HDF, ensuring long-lasting durability. While not as dense as HDF, plywood offers a balance of strength, flexibility, and aesthetic appeal. It can be finished with various veneers or paints to match different design styles. Overall, plywood stands as a versatile and reliable material for furniture construction, providing a combination of strength, stability, and aesthetic possibilities.

Phenolic Resin Core

Phenolic resin core, often referred to as compact laminate, is a high-pressure laminate composed of multiple layers of kraft paper impregnated with phenolic resin. This material undergoes intense heat and pressure during manufacturing, resulting in a dense, non-porous, and exceptionally durable product. Compact laminate boasts exceptional resistance to moisture, heat, scratches, and stains, making it an ideal choice for high-traffic and demanding environments. Its sleek, smooth surface is easy to clean and maintain, ensuring long-lasting performance. Commonly used in commercial and industrial applications, compact laminate is also gaining popularity in residential spaces for countertops, wall cladding, and furniture due to its durability and aesthetic appeal.

Finding the Right Finish - Laminate, Veneer, and Melamine

Selecting the right finish for your engineered boards is crucial to achieving the desired look, durability, and functionality of your furniture. Three common finishing options are laminate, veneer, and melamine.

Veneer: Veneer is an ultra-thin layer of real wood applied to the surface of an engineered board. This application creates the appearance of solid wood while offering cost-efficiency and design versatility. Veneer is an ideal choice when you want your boards to mimic natural wood grains, providing a visually pleasing surface.

Laminate (HPL and LPL): Laminates are essentially layers of paper merged onto engineered boards using a synthetic resin under heat and pressure. High-pressure laminate (HPL) involves a more intense compression process than low-pressure laminate (LPL). Through thermal fusion, the laminate paper and resin create a solid plastic surface that is resistant to external influences and resistant to scratching.

Melamine: Melamine is a subcategory of laminate, specifically low-pressure laminate (LPL), utilizing a melamine resin as a binding agent. Historically considered lower in quality compared to HPL, melamine has experienced significant improvements in recent years, making it a competitive option. Modern melamine is now on par with HPL, offering waterproof, scratch-resistant, and durable finishes. Melamine and laminate finishes are available with smooth or embossed surfaces, allowing for a variety of textures and aesthetic choices. Finishes can range from solid colors to imitations of natural materials such as wood, stone, and marble, with options for glossy or matte appearances.

Melamine and Laminate are nowadays the two prevalent options used for millwork, due to their durability, cost-effectiveness, and aesthetic allure. Continue reading our comparison of these 2 finishes to get a deeper understanding of the differences.

Choosing the Right Material for Your Furniture

Selecting the appropriate raw material for your furniture project is the initial step in ensuring a successful outcome. While plywood cores are suitable for high-end furniture featuring wood veneers, we recommend MDF or HDF for melamine or laminate finishes due to their superior performance.

  • MDF and HDF are reliable and cost-effective choices, offering robust strength suitable for various furniture types, including kitchen cabinets, office furniture, and built-in closets.
  • For outdoor furniture projects, MDF and HDF can be utilized with an emphasis on using top-quality materials and an extra protective coating to safeguard edges and corners from water damage.


Choosing the right engineered boards for your furniture projects involves a careful consideration of materials and finishes. Understanding the characteristics of LDF, MDF, and HDF allows you to make informed decisions about which board suits your project's requirements. Additionally, selecting the appropriate finish, whether it's veneer, laminate, or melamine, can greatly impact the aesthetics and durability of your furniture.

At Guangzhou Sourcing, we combine expertise and quality to deliver exceptional furniture solutions tailored to your needs. Whether you are designing residential spaces, offices, kitchens, or outdoor areas, our extensive knowledge of materials and finishes ensures that your furniture projects shine with both style and substance. Contact us today to explore how we can collaborate on your upcoming projects and elevate your furniture designs to new heights.

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