Manufactured wood, also commonly referred to as engineered wood, is made from the bits and pieces left over when “real” wood–such as oak, pine, or maple–are cut into the various shapes and sizes in which they are sold. As a generalization, the furniture commonly sold in big box stores is made from some form of manufactured wood. And although many consumers feel furniture made from these man-made woods are of lower quality than their “real” wood counterparts, and therefore are of lower value, manufactured wood furniture actually has a number of advantages.
Advantages of Manufactured Wood
Some manufactured wood is as strong as its hardwood counterparts. Plywood, for example, is manufactured in such a way that each layer’s grain runs in alternating directions–giving it extra strength. Combined with the glues and compression used to engineer these types of woods, this cross-graining results in furniture that can withstand the wear and tear it receives.
Manufactured wood often has better structural uniformity than “real” wood, as well. Deficiencies often found in solid wood, such as knots and cracks, can cause weaknesses in the end product. By engineering these deficiencies out, manufacturers are able to create a stronger, more stable wood product.
Unlike its solid wood counterparts, manufactured wood is available in large sheets. This makes it easier and more cost effective to create larger pieces of furniture since there is less material, less joinery, and less labor involved. And using fewer materials results in a lighter weight product overall–great for those who prefer to move their furniture around on occasion.
Perhaps one of its most endearing advantages, however, is the fact that it is an eco-friendly alternative to solid wood. In the process of building with “real” wood, a lot of waste material is created. By reusing this waste material (small pieces of wood, shavings, even sawdust), there is less need for more solid wood. And less need for solid wood means fewer trees are cut down from forests around the world.
Interestingly, engineered wood continues to collect carbon and carbon dioxide even after it has undergone the manufacturing process. This means that even though it requires more energy than simply cutting solid wood and it uses supplemental products (such as resin or glues), manufactured wood can actually result in a net negative carbon footprint.
In the name of full disclosure, there ARE some types of manufactured wood that are not suitable for furniture especially if endurance is important to you. But as you can probably see from the three quick points mentioned above, manufactured wood does have some convincing advantages over “real” wood. So if you’re looking for furniture at lower prices without losing quality there is no reason to not consider the items found at some of the big box stores (and even smaller retailers).
Keep checking in as I continue to add to the site. I’ll be sharing information on specific types of manufactured wood–and their pros and cons–in a future post.
In the meantime, please leave a comment below and let me know how you feel about manufactured wood furniture!