What type of wood furniture should you look for to meet your needs? As a consumer, it can be difficult and confusing when shopping for furniture. Knowing the differences between the types of woods you may encounter can help you make a choice that better suites your needs and lifestyle.
There are basically three categories of wood furniture:
- Engineered wood
- Wood solids and veneers
- Solid wood
Each of these will have different costs, life expectancies, benefits and drawbacks. We will use broad strokes to cover the three so be aware that there are many variations within these general categories.
Let’s begin with engineered wood. The most common form of this found in furniture is medium density fiberboard or MDF. This is made by breaking down different types of woods into small fibers and combining it with a wax or a resin. It is then pressed into panels using high pressure and heat. This form of furniture is the most cost effective but least durable. Often times a photo of wood or stone is then applied to the MDF to replicate a wooden or stone look. This process is called photo veneering. As it is a photo, it is highly sensitive to water and damage and can be difficult or impossible to repair. The major benefit to this type of furniture is it is lighter and cheaper to manufacture. It allows you to purchase a look for an extreme value. Lifespan can vary depending on use and exposure to sunlight.
Next we can discuss wood solids and veneers. Gone are the days of cheaply made veneers which peel and appear fake. Veneers offer several advantages. First, they help bring price points down when using premium wood types. A dresser made from solid cherry wood for example, will have a very high cost. Many manufactures use a less expensive wood or a furniture board and adhere a high quality, thin layer of premium wood to provide the look desired. This process also allows for patterns and designs to be created in the finish of the furniture, something that isn’t possible when using solid wood. The quality of these wood solids and veneer pieces can vary greatly. Repairs are possible as you are dealing with wood product but can still be difficult.
Solid woods are the third major category. Here we find pieces made from 100% wood. Manufactures use pieces of wood to create the furniture. Often times this category is the most expensive. This type of product is highly repairable as it can be sanded and refinished. This type of furniture can be susceptible to what are called season splits. These are cracks that can develop in the wood as the seasons and temperatures change, and the wood expands and contracts. This can be particularly noticeable on intricate details and carvings as the wood is thinner here and shifts more easily. This is why many manufactures will use a resin casting of fine details to preserve the look more consistently.
There are many options and styles to consider when buying your new furniture. Be sure to arm yourself with knowledge and decide what types of furniture best suites your needs and budget. Find yourself a knowledgeable sales person and be sure to ask questions!