Choosing Composites for Your Built-in

This story gives you details about the different types of composite boards available for your built-in projects.

Plywood isn't the only building material available in sheets. Today's forest products industry seeks to minimize waste by using every ounce of wood -- from wood chips and flakes to sawdust -- in the manufacture of sheet goods that are generally called composite wood products.

Oriented strand board (OSB) has bonded wood chips laid up in layers, each running in a different direction. Although nearly as strong as plywood, its rough surface texture generally limits its use to utility shelving.

Particleboard employs glued sawdust and tiny chips. It's hard and fairly smooth but sags under load, can fracture, and swells when wet.

Melamine-covered particleboard has a plastic-like coating that eliminates the need for finishing. Otherwise it has the same characteristics as uncoated particleboard.

Medium-density fiberboard (MDF) uses very fine wood fibers for an extremely smooth surface. It's stronger than particleboard and is moisture-resistant. However, it sometimes splits when nailed.

Stand sheet goods to save space

Sheet goods take up less space when stored on end. They're also easier to move in this position.

To slide them out easily, build an edged platform from plastic-laminate-covered stock (a piece of countertop works nicely). Hang a tilt-stop, made of 2x4 material, from the exposed overhead joists to catch the outside sheets when you pull out an inner one.


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