ENGINEERED WOOD FURNITURE VS SOLID WOOD FURNITURE

Since the time the first engineered wood (plywood) was discovered & widely made available in the market for making wooden furniture, the debate on the merits of engineered wood furniture vs solid wood furniture rages on.

It’s a critical decision for interior designers, architects, furniture wholesalers, store owners & commercial business owners with bulk furniture requirements..

However, the answer to this question is far too nuanced for any single blog post to cover, particularly because;

  • Individual biases will always creep in
  • The perceived value of any one of the furniture types can change depending on the requirements, application, etc
    To give you an example, one of the biggest merits of engineered wood furniture is touted to be its ability to withstand moisture and pest.While there is some truth to this claim, there are several solid wood species like teakwood that naturally offer resistance to moisture.Conversely, cheaply made engineered wood types do not offer water resistance and some do so by blending toxic compounds and low-cost adhesives which is sub-optimal.

    But we’ll try and upload you with as much information as possible so that you’re equipped enough to undertake an independent study if the post does not clarify your questions.

    Let’s cover the standard nerdy definitions of the two first.

DEFINITIONS

Wood broken down from its original shape & form for further processing before it is used for manufacturing furniture is referred to as engineered wood furniture

For example, plywood, which is made from kiln-dried sheets of natural wood, called ply-veneers is alternately stacked on a large board before it is used for making furniture, this is an example of engineered wood.

Similarly, MDF, particleboard & HDF are engineered wood variants that are also used for making furniture.

Solid wood furniture is furniture made from natural wood, without breaking down the form of wood, except for shaping them into logs before processing them further.

PRICES & COSTS

Engineered woods like plywood, MDF, HDF tend to be noticeably cheaper than their natural counterparts. 

This is mainly because species like plywood feature hardwood species that are not normally used for solid wood furniture as they’re not particularly great to work with when unprocessed. 

Also, during the processing stage, several additives are blended to finally end up with an engineered woodblock, wood is not carved or chipped so wastage is minimized. All of these factors contribute towards one incontestable fact – that engineered wood is a whole lot cheaper than solid wood furniture.

In terms of residential applications – Kitchen fittings, flooring, and showpieces are generally made in engineered wood. Also, suppliers of wooden furniture, like us,  sometimes switch from solid wood and prefer engineered wood furniture for unimportant fittings & furniture in large-scale projects to save costs

Although, exceptions do exist. For instance, plywood made from high-quality teak wood for one-off commercial furniture projects can easily be a lot more expensive than say, solid Mangowood furniture      

LONGEVITY & DURABILITY

The very first furniture pieces made from plywood were quite unreliable and using them for anything more than 3-4 years was highly unlikely.

In recent times though, with advancements in technology and manufacturing processes, engineered wood has come a long way, cabinetry made from MDF & HDF is now far more reliable and can last even up to a decade.   

But this is still nowhere near the longevity and shelf-life that most solid wood furniture offers. Most solid wood furniture pieces easily last more than 10-15 years before signs of ageing start to show. 

Even so, with thorough maintenance and refurbishment, they can last upwards of 25-30 years. This gives the buyer the benefit of higher resale value and it provides furniture enthusiasts with accessible antique furniture designs       

FURNITURE TEXTURE AND FINISH

Its no revelation The aesthetics of wooden furniture depends heavily on the wood texture, finish, quality of the grain, natural grain patterns, and its subtle hues. With these qualities intact, pretty much any maker of solid wood furniture will know how to successfully pull off some of the most intricate designs.  

In this regard, nature has us completely pinned down as engineered wood variants simply cannot hold a candle to the intricate patterns, gentle colors, and rustic feel that solid wood furniture offers.     

Some may argue that furniture made from MDF (medium-density fiber), is naturally smooth and provides for a uniform, consistent finish, but that’s good only for a handful of furniture designs.  

This is more so the case with premium wood variants like Mahogany & Teak. Modern, commercially available engineered variants haven’t even come close to artificially creating wood with similar finishes and texture.         

OUTDOOR USAGE

Wooden furniture used in lawns, patios, rooftops, beachside, streetside, public parks, and patios should necessarily be of commercial outdoor-grade quality.  

Generally speaking, engineered wood takes the cake with this one.  All types of engineered wood furniture offer some or the other type of resistance to moisture, water, pests, extreme heat, and so on.      

But several solid wood species offer natural deterrence to water, moisture and are ideal for rugged, commercial use. Unfortunately, these also tend to be far too expensive and are sub-optimal for use in commercial projects due to cost overruns.  

Within the last decade though, the furniture industry has come up with several novel innovations to process solid wood furniture to allow better resistance to bad weather. The efficacy of these techniques, however, is quite limited. As a manufacturer of outdoor wooden furniture we’ve adopted these techniques successfully & we confirm that they actually do work

ECOLOGICO

The environmental question regarding solid wood furniture VS engineered wood furniture is a fiercely debated aspect with several advocates on both sides.  

The argument against solid wood is pretty straightforward, solid wood furniture is made entirely from felling of trees and this results in ecological damage.

The argument in favor of several solid wood species like Mangowood, Acacia & rubberwood is that these species are not particularly endangered and after their fruit-bearing season, they would wither away anyway. Moreover, wood plantation owners have an incentive to increase acreage to increase profits while benefitting nature at the same time.

The argument against engineered wood furniture is also fairly straightforward. Usage of harmful VOCs, low-grade adhesives, artificial chemicals, and resins result in widespread ecological damage. The argument in favor of engineered wood furniture is that it avoids the felling of trees as it reduces the % of natural wood in any given furniture piece     

All of these pointers have some merit to them but the research concerning ecological damage for both these wood types is still ongoing. With the available information, we favor solid wood furniture as a more eco-friendly alternative.          

WEIGHT & MOBILITY

All types of manmade, artificially engineered furniture are lightweight and sparse. Although not exactly soft, they are far less closely packed when compared with much denser solid wood furniture.  

This does not exactly mean that they are any less sturdy but it would be if you’re expecting the same build quality as solid wood furniture, you will certainly have to temper your expectations.  

The lightweight properties of engineered wood furniture are ideal for commercial projects as such projects require frequent moving around and lugging around, but for a standard application, lightweight and flimsier materials are associated with poor quality (even if it isn’t actually the case)

COMPARISON FACTORS MOBILI IN LEGNO MASSELLO ENGINEERED WOOD FURNITURE
COSTO More expensive, especially for premium solid wood variants like teak and mahogany  Cheaper when compared to solid wood furniture as cheaper hardwoods like Gurjanwood 
DURABILITY Scores well in longevity which adds to the resale value. Expensive solid wood furniture easily lasts for 15-20 years    Modern engineered furniture and fittings last 5-10 years easily but no more than that
TEXTURE & WOOD QUALITY Premium texture, finish, and grain patterns that look exquisite, premium & naturally rustic   Smoother finishes to the wood but lacking in grain structure and natural finish 
WEIGHT Properly dense & heavy. The look & feel of solid wood furniture is quite premium and elegant   Light and flimsy. Can be mistaken for low-quality furniture, even though underlying properties remain robust
OUTDOOR USAGE Only a select few solid few species offer natural resistance to outdoors Most engineered ply, MDF & HDF can be used in harsh outdoor conditions as they’re 
HUMIDITY & MOISTURE RESISTANCE After specialized treatment, most solid wood species offer a good amount of resistance to humidity & moisture All engineered wood variants offer resistance to humidity and moisture
PEST RESISTANCE Has to be treated to be made resilient to pests and rotting Resilient to rotting and infestation due to manufacturing processes adopted during the production stage
VERSATILITY Can be used for across a range of design styles, both modern & contemporary Suitable only for simplistic designs like mid-century & boho-chic styles
HEALTH HAZARDS No associated health hazards  Associated with some health hazards, especially poorly made MDF & HDF furniture that are notorious for releasing VOCs
EASY TO WORK WITH Differs wildly across wood species but popular wood types used for furniture are easy to work with Easy to work with
MAINTENANCE Requires regular maintenance by way of oiling and polishing, especially after 5 years Does not require any significant maintenance during its lifetime. 

** SOLID WOOD FURNITURE & ENGINEERED WOOD FURNITURE COMPARED

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