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RE: what is furniture board? (Follow-Up #4)

posted by: live_wire_oak on 02.20.2014 at 11:46 am in Kitchens Forum

Thanks, Jakuvall for posting your comments. I debated posting mine as well, but I'm going to because I think it helps people understand why most KD's choose furniture board for their own kitchens.
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So, if furniture board is perfectly fine for 99.9% of all situations for cabinetry, why do you see so much preference for plywood? I'm going to be direct: ignorance, prejudice, avarice, and snobbery.

Ignorant open minded people can be educated about the actual functional differences between the two. The main thing that you "hear" all the time is that particle board will fall apart if a single drop of water touches it. Totally not true. Any water event that damages particle board enough to cause it to swell will also adversely affect plywood construction. It's just that you cannot visually see the delamination of the layers of plywood and the subsequent loss of strength. It's not apparent to the naked eye like the swelling of particle board might be. Yet this point is brought up over and over, and it's moot. Water damages wood. Period. Both are wood products.

There are two distinct categories that plywood has advantages over furniture board. One is in resistance to deflection. A 48" shelf in plywood won't sag as much as one in particle board. But, no maker does a 48" shelf without some intermediary support, and most won't do beyond 36" without intermediary support, so in real world use, there is very little difference between quality furniture board and plywood. The second place that ply is "better" than FB is in weight. FB is actually has more wood in it than does ply, and is heavier. That's a big reason that cab makers and installers prefer ply. It's easier on them to work with because it's lighter. Doesn't make a whit of difference to you unless you are doing the install though.

And there is a prejudice against using particle board that may hearken back to people's experience with low quality products that they have had experience with. That 14 lb density crap that they made those "decorator" round tripod tables out of isn't even in the same ballpark as furniture board. The wood products industry developed the term "furniture board" to differentiate themselves from the lower quality products, and to try to distance themselves from the prejudice against engineered wood products. It's only when someone refuses to be educated that the prejudice is affecting their judgement.

Also, one reason that many cabinet makers and sellers will steer you towards plywood over particle board is that they are able to take advantage of ignorance and prejudice in order to get a higher ticket price from you. Using ply often will have a hefty upcharge well beyond what the actual material and labor cost difference actually costs. I'm lucky in that I deal with a maker than only charges 5% cost difference between the two, and we don't mark it up any more than that. Many places still get that 5% cost difference but charge the customer 20% or more. And some makers charge that much to the dealer as well. It's called "market economics". When someone perceives something to have a value beyond its cost, then the cost rises to meet that perceived value. In other words, the market will bear the upcharge for the most part. I'd rather a customer put that money into a functional or decorative feature, but since I only pass along that 5% difference rather than 25%, it's almost a non existent issue for me.

That leaves the wood snobbery bit. A lot of people intellectually understand that furniture board will give them a perfectly fine cabinet. They prefer to be able to bandy the term "solid wood" in conversation---even though cabinets haven't been built of actual "solid wood" since plywood was invented a century ago. It's NOT solid wood, any more than particle board is. It just rolls off the tongue of oily salespeople much better.

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clipped on: 02.20.2014 at 01:16 pm    last updated on: 02.20.2014 at 01:16 pm