What is Faux Wood?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

Faux wood, also called engineered or manufactured wood, is a combination of products, adhesives and veneers meant to resemble wood. Often less expensive than real wood, many fake wood varieties can contain harmful chemicals like formaldehyde. As technology improves, this product is becoming a better-looking substitute for real wood, and the processes for creating it are starting to become more environmentally friendly and advanced.

Melamine covered faux wood.
Melamine covered faux wood.

Particleboard is a type of engineered wood frequently used in furnishings. Constructed of wood particles, particleboard is mostly sawdust and wood chips, bound together with resin. The compacted substance is then coated with veneers that make it look like real wood, yet even with waterproof coatings does not stand up well to moisture. It is not advisable to use particleboard furnishings outdoors if you live in a damp or rainy climate. If breaking apart particleboard for some reason, it is advisable to wear a mask. Some people exhibit a sensitivity to the chemicals and dust that arises from the product, and may experience respiratory problems.

Cheap, easy to assemble furniture is usually made of faux wood.
Cheap, easy to assemble furniture is usually made of faux wood.

Another type of faux wood is hardboard, frequently found in construction and flooring. Somewhat similar to particleboard, hardboard is considered stronger and more durable. Wood-look laminates can easily be painted or glued on to hardboard, and it also serves well as a floor base for tile or vinyl floor coverings.

Faux wood may be stained to achieve desired color.
Faux wood may be stained to achieve desired color.

Laminated veneer lumber is stronger and straighter than regular hard wood. The product is created by heavily compressing many layers of thin wood strips. The wood is bound together with strong, resin-based adhesives and then coated to resemble real wood. Laminated veneer lumber is useful in construction as it is less responsive to weather or atmosphere changes and will not bend or warp as quickly as traditional lumber.

Some furniture, like a dining room table set, is made from faux wood with a veneer covering.
Some furniture, like a dining room table set, is made from faux wood with a veneer covering.

Large warehouse stores, such as Ikea, sell many faux wood furnishings. These pieces, while being less expensive than real wood pieces, also give the buyer added flexibility. Many chairs, tables and other furnishings are sold as bare wood, allowing you to coat or stain the faux wood to a color you desire. This can be a great help if you are trying to match the wood color of a furniture set you already own.

Using faux wood can be a great opportunity to save money on furnishings and construction. It allows flexibility in color choices, and allows you to make a matching set out of different furniture. As manufacturing processes continue to advance, the creation of faux woods may become not only more cost-effective, but also more environmentally friendly. For now, those with serious formaldehyde sensitivities or concern about the chemicals used in the manufacturing process may want to avoid faux wood products.

Laminate flooring is an inexpensive, faux wood alternative to hardwood flooring.
Laminate flooring is an inexpensive, faux wood alternative to hardwood flooring.
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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Discussion Comments

vogueknit17

I prefer to use faux wood for some situations where regular wood might be easily damaged, like things which are permanently outside. For playground material, for example, faux wood finishes can last a longer time than regular wood, which is often pressure-treated by arsenic and other harmful products, just like faux wood sometimes is, when used in that context. Generally, though, I like regular wood better and thinks it looks nicer.

Catapult

Faux wood has its uses, but I don't think even the best kind really looks like wood. It also is not as durable in some settings as actual wood.

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