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What Is Melamine Chipboard?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 24 September 2014
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Melamine chipboard is an engineered wood product which contains melamine, a chemical compound which has a number of uses. Melamine can be found inside almost all chipboard products, and it is also used as a facing material to make veneers and laminates. Health concerns about melamine have made some people nervous about products which contain this chemical, but in the case of melamine chipboard, it is generally viewed as safe because it is embedded inside the material, limiting exposure.

Chipboard, also known as particleboard, is made from a variety of scrap wood materials including sawdust and paper. These materials are glued together with melamine resin, a mixture of melamine and formaldehyde which helps the chipboard hold its shape. The resulting product is very dense and extremely strong, and can in fact be superior to actual wood in some applications such as flooring, where high strength is desired. It is also used in products like furniture, to increase sturdiness and lower costs.

Melamine is also used as a facing material. Melamine faced chipboard includes a layer of laminate over the chipboard which is designed to improve appearance or performance. Since melamine chipboard is often hidden from view, facing is not always vitally necessary, but it may be used in settings in which it could be visible or in which facing confers properties like water resistance which may be desirable for some types of construction.

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Melamine confers some fire retardant properties on the materials it is used on, which makes it useful in construction materials. It also adds strength, and can help resist bacterial or fungal colonization. All of these properties make melamine a useful building material, even if it can also be toxic in some settings. The primarily concern with melamine chipboard is that the board could be damaged, causing people to inhale or consume melamine particles which could cause health problems. The formaldehyde used in the resin can also cause health problems as a result of offgassing.

Materials safety is a major concern in many nations. Many countries have laws dictating which materials can be used in products like melamine chipboard, where such products can be used, and how such products can be used. Manufactured wood products are periodically tested to confirm that their toxic components are within tolerances and should not pose a threat to human health. Studies continue into the dangers posed by products containing melamine, however, and anyone working with these products or who may be exposed to dust containing melamine should take precautions to avoid inhaling or ingesting the chemical or spreading it to others.

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anon287866
Post 5

Can you paint on Melamine? My kitchen cupboards are very smooth on the surface, and I was told it is melamine.

StarJo
Post 4

I would not want any melamine product in my home, even if it were only in the walls. I remember when melamine was the subject of controversy back in 2007, when pet food manufacturers in China added it to wheat gluten.

The wheat gluten ended up killing so many pets. No one knew what was going on until pets started dying all over the country.

The melamine was used as a thickener, so basically, it resulted in cheaper manufacturing. It ended up causing kidney failure in pets, though.

So, even though my dog is not likely to chew on the walls, I still wouldn’t want melamine chipboard anywhere in my home. Something that dangerous just doesn’t belong here.

cloudel
Post 3

My brother worked in a lumber store for many years, and he got discounts on wood. He also got to take home any slightly damaged lumber, and he got a pallet full of melamine sheets once that had been cracked during shipping.

He stored them out back in the work shed for a long time while he thought about what to do with them. I had to go out there to do some work, and I remember the funny odor emanating from the wood.

I suppose that was the smell of formaldehyde. It was a strong chemical smell, and I found it unpleasant.

Perdido
Post 2

@lighth0se33 - Wow, I can’t believe someone installed melamine boards under your sink! Even as a child, I knew that this stuff could warp easily.

My dad had some melamine particle board in his workshop, and he would often give me the scraps to paint on after he was done. Whatever he didn’t need after cutting the boards to size, he would hand over to me, and I was always happy to have new melamine canvases to practice on.

I used a water-based paint, and this made the board warp. I remember being so disappointed when my beautiful painting got wrinkly and distorted.

lighth0se33
Post 1

If you are planning on building a house, then you should know that melamine board is not waterproof. Even if it claims to be water resistant, this doesn’t mean that it will not warp if soaked.

I rented a house that had melamine in the cabinet under the sink, and it bent all out of shape after the sink developed a slow leak. I really questioned the wisdom of the person who decided to use melamine under there.

As long as it is used in areas where it won’t come into contact with water, it is fine, though. I have melamine boards inside my cabinets, and since I only store dry stuff there, I haven’t had any issues with it.

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