Meet The Material: Particle Board

Posted by: on April 25th, 2012 | 11 Comments
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Image of particleboard used as wall decor

Image via Design Skool

By the late 1940s, a shortage of lumber made the production of plywood increasingly expensive. Luckily, German inventor Max Himmelheber had come up with an inexpensive wood substitute in 1932, and the first commercial piece of particle board was produced during World War II at a factory in Bremen, Germany [Wikipedia].

Particle board gets a lot of flack for being cheap and unattractive. We beg to differ. The space above we found on Design Skool using the unique texture of raw particle board to create modern, minimalist wall art illustrates our point.

What is particle board? Particle board is an engineered wood made from a mixture of wood scraps, which are broken down, dried, mixed with adhesives, and then heated and pressed into sheets. Veneers are often applied to particle board to give it a more finished look.

What are some of the cool properties of particle board? Most particle board is made from recycled wood scraps and sawdust, so you can enjoy your well-designed, stylish yet affordable Swedish furniture with the knowledge it didn’t require cutting down new trees.

What is particle board used for? Particle board is available in various grades for a wide range of applications. It is commonly used in making furniture, shelving, cabinetry, moulding, and underlayment for flooring and countertops.

What can you use particle board for? Particle board is know for its soundproofing capability, so why not use it to build out your new media room or home recording studio? And while you’re at it, you could also make some kicking speakers. Or, what about a ping pong table for the man cave? You can also build shelves for the laundry room, storage boxes and a lot of other useful stuff with particleboard, too.

Here’s just a sampling of some other ways folks are using particle board to decorate, build and do creative things.


Image of bunk beds made from particle board

Image via Bunkbedspedia

Imagine how excited the kids would be for bedtime if they had really cool bunk beds to sleep in like this one we located on Bunkbedspedia. Or, heck, imagine how excited you would be if you had something like that.


Image of wall unit made from particle board

Image via via Design Sponge

In this exposed brick loft in Brooklyn we spotted on Design Sponge, the rough hewn look of the particle board wall unit is the perfect complement to the urban industrial decor of the space. Exposing the product stamping gives the room even more of a warehouse feel.


Image of the new AOL work space by Studio O+A

Image via Yatzer

When the once mighty AOL launched its rebranding efforts in 2011 with a new location in Palo Alto, what material did they use to communicate this initiative in their workspace? That’s right — particle board is used liberally throughout the space in a way that gives it the appeal of a well-funded start-up. See more photos of AOL’s new digs over at Yatzer.


Image of particle board used as flooring.

Particle board provided inexpensive flooring in this soon-to-be boutique. Copious amounts of clear polyurethane finish highlighted the funky texture of the particle board and gave the floors an exotic look customers could not stop raving about.

If you have any questions about plywood, particle board and MDF check out our buying guides.

Meet the Material is a series designed to introduce you to some of the everyday goods sold at The Home Depot. Is there a material you’d like to know more about? Just let us know in the comments!

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  1. Kaitlyn says:

    Hey there -

    I’m moving into a rental unit, that is a little run down, but has good bones. The floor is the one bedroom is exposed particle board. Carpeting/ putting in new flooring would not be worth it, nor would be buying an area rug (it’s a large area). I really like the look of the last picture for the boutique. I was wondering what the steps to making a walkable particle board floor are. Do I sand it? Is there a primer? What supplies are needed? How many polyurethane coats were used?


  2. Dorian Slate says:

    Perhaps you can help with this. We manufacture copper table tops. We use particle board and plywood as substructures. The copper is glued to the surface. Our sheets of substructure are generally 3/4 ” to 1″ with addtional 3/4-1″ similar supports around the rim (3.5″ ring) and across the bottom (3.5″ cross braces) giving the table a depth of 1.5″. The copper wraps around the under edge 1/2″. We have a customer who purchased a 54″ x 1.5″ round table with a particle board substructure over 3 years ago. He added a glass top to protect the copper from staining. His table is now bowing down on the edges. What could cause this to happen? Thanks for your help. Dorian Slate

    • Craig Allen says:

      That’s a tricky one, Dorian.

      I’ve posted your question on our online Forums, where our team of DIY and home improvement experts can take a look and come up with some answers for you.

      Just click here to go to the spot where I posted it. You’ll get a response pretty soon… but this is one that might generate a few different theories. You might want to post some follow up info or questions there. You’ll have to create a login name on the Forums to do that, but it’s really easy, I promise.

      -Craig, from The Home Depot

  3. Eric Lucas says:

    That is all OSB.

    • Craig Allen says:

      You have eagle eyes, Eric. You are correct that at least three of the four images we used in fact show oriented stand board, or OSB. (It’s not entirely clear if it’s OSB in the bunk bed shot.) But particle board and OSB are quite similar–they’re wood building products made by sticking together small pieces of wood. OSB is often called particle board in a generic sense, even in the lumber department at Home Depot stores.

      The difference between particle board and OSB is crucial in some building projects, but this article merely intends to introduce the material in a fun way and to show unexpected ways this type of material can be used in as a decor element.

      Thanks for looking so carefully. And thanks for pointing out what you spotted.

  4. Dave says:

    Love the bed, is totally different, and the color is cool.

  5. Great article. specially the bunked bed, really creative 21st century stuff.

    • Jae Warren says:

      Hey Orlando,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article. Thanks for taking the time to send us the positive feedback.