The Ultimate Guide to Different Types of Composite Wood

    types of composite wood

    Because of the high demand and limited availability of solid wood, manufacturers were forced to look for alternatives that are similar to wood in appearance and physical characteristics.

    Composite wood, which is a type of man-made wood, is one of the best real wood alternatives in terms of versatility, cost, and availability. In many cases, composite can be better suited and cheaper than options like plywood.

    To be clear, composite is not real wood. It is a man-made material that only looks like wood.

    So, what exactly is composite and why or where is it used? If you’re considering composite wood for your next project, here’s everything you need to know about it, including how composite is made, types of composite wood with uses, and its pros & cons.

    What Is Composite Wood?

    As the name suggests, a composite wood is made using more than one material. Generally, one of these materials is wood or its residue, fibre, or pieces.

    Composite wood is an engineered product which is made by combining wood with other materials like plastic and joining them together using glue to create a strong and stable board which may be further customised with colours and texture to make it look like real wood.

    Depending on the type and amount of materials used, composite can be of many types, such as particle board, MDF, pegboard, plywood, fiberboard, and oriented strand lumber (OSB).

    Composite wood can be as strong and durable as real wood and is almost always more affordable. It is favoured for many low-cost utility applications where appearance is not a major concern.

    Composite Vs Real Wood

    Just like solid wood, composites come in many varieties. They can be produced to look like real wood. Composites may also have some advantages over real wood, such as they are usually cheaper and need low maintenance. Also, composites can be made to be resistant to water, weathering, fade, and splintering, among other things.

    When it comes to appearance and natural feel, wood certainly beats composites. However, new-gen composites, which are made using wood and plastic are much better at replicating the natural appearance of solid wood with their various hues and grain patterns. Real wood generally requires more maintenance than composites and can be expensive depending on availability.

    Major Types of Composite Wood

    Composite refers to any wood product that is made by combining different materials. Based on the material used, there can be different types of composite, as follows:

    1. Particle board
    2. MDF
    3. Pegboard/Hardboard
    4. Plywood
    5. Fiberboard
    6. Oriented strand board (OSB)
    7. Laminated veneer lumber
    8. Soundboard
    9. Cross-laminated timber

    Each composite type is different from others in terms of construction and uses.

    Particle Board

    Particle board is a type of composite wood that is made by combining small pieces or particles of wood like small wood chips and cuttings with strong glue and pressing to form a flat and strong board. Particle board looks similar to plywood but is not as strong or durable and is less expensive.

    Particle boards are commonly used for making cabinets and low-quality furniture. As a lightweight composite, it is easy to handle and work with. Though it doesn’t look very attractive, It can be covered with laminate or veneer when being used in applications where it is exposed. Particle boards are not very durable in terms of resistance to moisture. Also, it can easily soak up sound, which is why it is often used for building speakers.


    Medium Density Fiberboard or MDF is a type of composite or engineered wood, which is made by pressing wood fibres (small wood particles) together with resin to form flat boards, which are stronger than particle boards. It is a smooth composite product which can be easily machined to achieve clean edges.

    MDF is useful in many applications including cabinetry, shelving, furniture, decorative panelling, and moulding. Because of its smooth surface, MDF looks attractive and takes priming and painting well. MDF is similar to particle board but stronger and more expensive. It is less expensive than plywood though.

    Different types of MDF are available for different uses. Bendy MDF, for example, is used for surfaces. Then, there is Ultralite, which is an MDF product useful for lighter projects. Fire-resistant MDF is also available and can be used in applications with exposure to fire. Moisture Resistant MDF is suitable for use in damp spaces. For exterior applications such as outdoor furniture, treated MDF is commonly used.


    You may have heard of pegboards. They are a type of hardboard used for organizing things. So, what’s a hardboard?

    Hardboard or high-density fibreboard (HDF) is made by combining treated wood fibres or pulp with strong glue which are then compressed to form stiff boards. It’s stronger than MDF. Some hardboards are treated through an extra process which involves the use of special oil and baking to make them harder and stronger. It’s called a tempered hardboard.

    Pegboards are made using hardboards and used for organizing things in homes, workshops and garages. As you may know, pegboards have holes which are used for hanging tools. Pegboards are a type of tempered hardboard and are stronger than regular hardwoods.

    Besides pegboard, hardboard is used in many other applications where a strong board is required, including bases or structures of furniture, flooring, and decorative frames.


    Plywood is one of the most popular types of composites. It is made by combining thin layers of real wood which are placed at a right angle to each other and joined using a strong glue and pressed to form a strong board.

    Plywood is among the strongest and sturdiest types of composite. It can be even made to be completely waterproof.

    Plywood looks just like real wood because it is made from real wood fibres. It can be cheaper or more expensive than real wood depending on the type of plywood. It comes in multiple grades – A, B, C, and so on, which indicate the plywood’s quality and properties.

    Plywoods are used in a variety of applications, from construction to structural applications, furniture, flooring, and more. Water-resistant plywood is suitable for outdoor use.


    This type of composite is made by joining wood fibres or other types of plant-based fibres together using glue and pressed to form boards.

    A fiberboard is not as good as plywood in terms of strength and durability, but it is cheap and eco-friendly (made from residue material). MDF, HDF, and hardboard are some types of fiberboard.

    It is generally suitable for low-cost applications such as furniture, cabinets, shelves, door board, etc.

    Oriented strand board (OSB)

    Oriented strand board or OSB is a composite material made by joining wood strands using adhesives and compressing them together to form boards. This is mainly used to provide an additional layer of safety in walls, decks, floors, etc. to provide additional immunity against heat, sound, and weathering.

    OSB may not be very attractive to look at and is often accompanied by a laminated layer to one or both sides. It also provides additional protection against the Sun and weathering when used outside.

    Laminated veneer lumber

    Laminated veneer lumber (LVL) is similar to plywood, as it is made by joining multiple thin layers of wood with adhesives. The only difference is that the grain in LVL is parallelly combined, unlike plywood where the grain of alternate plies is perpendicular to each other.

    LVL is a strong material used mainly in structural applications to make headers, beams, joists, trusses, roadway signposts, and rimboards.


    Soundboard is a type of composite material that is made using a type of cellulose fibre. It is primarily used for creating soundproof products such as walls or doors. The soundboard can be used in the construction of walls that prevent sound from getting through them.

    While regular wood is generally not able to dampen sound, this composite can effectively absorb sound, making it an indispensable choice for building soundproof barriers. Soundboards are generally not used for making regular products like furniture.

    Cross-laminated timber

    This type of composite board is formed by glueing layers of solid wood planks perpendicular to each other. At least three layers of sawn timber are present in each board.

    CLTs are primarily used in construction work to provide support when building floors, roofs, and walls.

    If you’re looking to know more about composites or want to buy the best quality solid wood to make high-performance composites, feel free to contact us at White Knight Consulting Ltd to explore our wide range of sustainable timber products. We deliver all over the world. Contact us to place your order today.

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