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Last edited 12 Feb 2021
Chipboard (sometimes called ‘particle board’ or ‘low-density fibreboard’ (LDF)) is a versatile, material that is relatively cheap and can be used to make furniture (including carcasses for kitchen units), other cabinet applications, floor decking, shelving and general building work. Although the material was originally formulated in late 19th century Germany, it was not until the Second World War that it was produced commercially.
Chipboard comprises small chips and flakes of softwood that are impregnated with adhesive (usually amino formaldehyde-, urea formaldehyde-, or urea melamine-based) and subjected to high temperature (up to 220°C) and pressure (2-4MP). When cooled, the boards are cut and sanded, sold either as plain board or faced with laminate. They can be supplied in various densities.
Displaying greater uniformity, chipboard is a more economical, denser and more stable material than solid timber under a variety of conditions, in particular tolerating the dryness induced by central heating systems. However, it can be affected by atmospheric changes and, when damp, is likely to swell. It can also discolour when it absorbs moisture. If moisture exposure is anticipated, the chipboard is usually treated with a sealer or painted. Chipboard is not usually used for external applications.
Although not as strong as solid timber, chipboard can be used as an adequate substitute for most purposes. However, as there are numerous grades of chipboard, it is important to ensure the grade is matched to the application. This applies particularly to flooring.
Grades of chipboard include:
- Sanded smooth on both sides.
- Ready-faced with timber or melamine veneers.
When specified for flooring, it is important to ensure the board has the requisite strength, usually described by manufacturers as ‘flooring grade’ in thickness of 18-19mm or 21-22mm, and in sheet sizes usually of 8ft x 4ft (2.4m x 1.2m). Flooring boards can be supplied with tongue and groove edges on all sides to ensure a more monolithic, stronger deck.
BS EN 312:2010 is the European Standard which specifies the requirements for flat-pressed or calendar-pressed, unfaced particleboards as defined in EN 309. It gives information on the general requirements of chipboard for various applications, the mechanical and swelling properties, moisture resistance, requirements for load-bearing applications (in both dry and humid conditions) and other information.
Test methods for chipboard are laid down by EN 120, 322, 323 and 324.
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