Minimize the use of composite boards like particle board and engineered wood.

Healthy HouseTM CleanAir Tip

Particle boards and engineered woods are types of composite board that off-gas toxic chemicals into the air.

That said, composite board is still dominating the market today. Composite board, also commonly referred to as pressed wood or manufactured board, is a cheaper substitute for solid wood.

Composite board is man-made. It is manufactured by pressing and binding the strands, particles, fibers or layers of wood, cellulose, and even plastic together with adhesives to form a composite material.

Composite wood is the most common material used in new home construction. The majority of framing is still done with solid wood, but everything from subfloors, exterior sheathing and kitchen cabinets is made out of composite wood. Even home furnishings like bookshelves and furniture are manufactured with these engineered woods.

Often times it is tough to determine if a product is made out of composite board. It is helpful to look at the interior edge of the board since most of the exterior surfaces will have a veneer applied to disguise the board to look like solid wood.

If you were to saw a piece of composite board in half and look at the cross-section, you’ll notice that they all share one thing in common. They are made by pressing wood fragments together with a glue-like adhesive compound. Composite products mainly differ by the proportion of wood to adhesive used.

Plywood is thin layers of wood pressed and held together by an adhesive.

Plywood is thin layers of wood pressed and held together by an adhesive.

Particle board and fiber board are made out of finely ground cellulose fibers. MDF stands for medium density fiberboard.

MDF is the board on top. Particle board is on bottom.

MDF is the board on top. Particle board is on bottom.

OSB stands for oriented strand board and is commonly used for subfloors and exterior sheathing in new home construction.

OSB is commonly used for exterior sheathing and subfloors.

OSB is commonly used for exterior sheathing and subfloors.

Engineered hardwood flooring is often marketed for it’s moisture resistance and durability, but many of these products are essentially layered plywood and some are backed with particle board.

Engineered floors and laminates are comprised of layers of wood and/or fiberboard.

Engineered floors and laminates are comprised of layers of wood and/or fiberboard.

Composite wood decking is made from wood, plastic, and adhesive material.

Composite board is a very typical source of indoor air pollution. The majority of these pressed wood products, specifically the adhesive glue, off-gases formaldehyde and other VOCs.

Composite board doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If manufacturers came up with less toxic adhesives, they would be less concerning. However, another point worth considering is that composite board is composed of fragmented wood which can make them more susceptible to mold growth unless they are treated with a mold inhibitor.

Indoor air quality can be improved by minimizing the use of composite boards in construction materials and home furnishings.

Marcus SarkComment