Today, necessity dictates that wood products, and not real wood, be used to create functional and decorative interiors. CWI explores the many options and trends in wood products.
Owners of ancestral furniture know that these chairs, tables, beds and cupboards are made of pure wood, lovingly cared for and passed on from generation to generation - no other material ages so well. They must consider themselves lucky, for solid wood furniture is becoming a rare luxury that can weigh on the pocket as well as conscience, given the sky-high prices of good wood and environmental concerns that discourage its use.
Plywood has now replaced wood as the most popular material for furniture in homes or in commercial environments - the Indian plywood industry is now worth around Rs 25,000 crore! With India's abundant supply of workmen specialising in wood work, handmade customised furniture is a standard feature in any home. Readymade furniture had a smaller market until a decade ago, but the recent introduction of new wood products has given a boost to demand in this sector as well. Made with MDF or particle board, flat pack and lightweight furniture is slowly finding a place in Indian homes.
Plywood and other wood products find applications in other functional and decorative areas also. In the non-furniture segment, new wood products have gained acceptance for practical reasons. For example, MDF is easier to carve than wood and it makes for great partitions. We speak to experts in the field to discover the many facets of these versatile materials...
Prakash Kumar More, Managing Director and Namrata More, Director, Mayur Ply give us an overview of the various wood products available in the market.
What are the various wood products available in the market?
There are 4,500 varieties of wood-yielding species in the market. Most of the woods used are procured from sustainable sources. The different types of products created from this wood include plywood, veneer sheets (thin sheets of wood of a specified thickness that are peeled from logs for use over plywood to give a real wood texture), particle board (fibreboard), cement bonded particle boards, wood polymer composite boards, MDF (medium density fibreboard), oriented strand boards (structural wood panels manufactured from reconstituted, mechanically oriented wood strands bonded with resins under heat and pressure), cross-laminated timber (glued laminated timber composed of several layers of dimensioned timber), wafer board (a panel made of discrete wafers of wood bound together by resin, heat, and pressure), etc.
There are different types of plywood too: softwood plywood, hardwood plywood, tropical plywood, special-purpose plywood, aircraft plywood, decorative plywood, flexible plywood, marine plywood, fire-retardant plywood, moisture-resistant plywood, sign-grade plywood and pressure-treated plywood. Veneer, or laminated veneer lumber (LVL) is made from three types of flaked wood strands: parallel strand lumber (PSL), laminated strand lumber (LSL) and oriented strand lumber (OSL).
What is the difference between wood, plywood and MDF?
Original wood is hard and fibrous while plywood manufactured from layers of thin peels of core wood is flexible, inexpensive, workable, re-usable, and can be locally manufactured. Plywood is strong and resistant to cracking, shrinkage, splitting, twisting or warping. MDF is an engineered wood product formed by breaking down hardwood or softwood residuals into wood fibres by applying high temperature and pressure. MDF is denser than plywood and is made up of separated fibres, but can be used as a building material similar in application to plywood.
What are the pros and cons of each of the above products?
Besides the above mentioned benefits, plywood is resistant to termite and borers. Furniture made with wood veneer uses less wood than the same piece of furniture made with solid wood. Some projects built using wood veneer would not be possible to construct using solid lumber, owing to the expansion and contraction caused by fluctuation of temperature and humidity. Laminate, which is a surfacing material much like veneer, is made of layers of Kraft paper with a decorative surface.
MDF is great for carving and moulding. However, it has a low weight and impact bearing capacity. It is moisture resistant, but not resistant to boiling water. Particle board has better strength than MDF, but it doesn't match up to plywood. It is also moisture resistant but not boiling water resistant.
Which is the best selling product in each category by your company?
Among plywoods, Branded Royal, which comes with a lifetime guarantee, is much in demand. Gold BWR Plywood, which comes with a seven-year guarantee, and BWP Marine 710 Grade plywood for marine applications are also very popular. Shuttering and film-faced plywood have high uptake from the builder segment.
Suman Shah, Director, Jalaram Timber discusses plywood, MDF and the products his company has on offer.
What are pros and cons of wood, plywood and MDF?
Wood is natural and chemical free, but expensive. Plywood is cost-effective but involves environmental problems like formaldehyde emission, etc. It is more stable in shape compared to wood. MDF is cost-effective and has almost the same characteristics as plywood.
What is the most unique product in each category by your company?
We have more than 20 varieties of pure wood, including kiln-dried wood from Africa, Europe, and America and South America. We also have fumed timber and thermo-treated wood for panelling and decking.
In the plywood section, we offer plywood with lifetime guarantee, fire resistant plywood, and more than 200 types of decorative plywood. We will soon add wooden flooring made of ebony, burls and exotic species to our range.
Floored by wood
Christian Blicher Hansen, Regional Manager, DLH tells us about wooden flooring options for the home and office segment in India.
What are the different kinds of wood flooring available in the market? Explain the difference between each.
Laminate flooring is a widely used product. Its core consists mostly of MDF, which is then covered with a plastic photographic image of wood and laminated with a protective outer layer. Its biggest disadvantage is that it feels and sounds like plastic. Engineered wooden floors, suitable for low to medium traffic areas, are made of plywood with a thick wood veneer as topface (2-4mm). Each plank is made like a sandwich, with stable, low-cost woods providing the foundation. This floor is more economical than solid wood flooring.
The most expensive product is solid hardwood floors made of planks milled from a single piece of timber. Traditionally, solid hardwood floors were installed perpendicular to wooden support beams of a building known as joists or bearers. Today, concrete acts as the subfloor, and solid wood floors are used almost exclusively for their appearance. In addition to the incomparable touch and aura of real wood, it has noise reducing and insulating capabilities.
Which is the ideal wooden flooring for high traffic areas?
We recommend solid wood flooring because it lasts longer and can be re-conditioned.
What kind of wooden floorings does your company offer and what is your best selling product?
The best selling solid wood floor is our 3-strip Solid Merbau, which has a deep rich red/brown colour and is very economical. Our most popular engineered flooring is the rustic White Oak, which shows a few natural sound knots; this is probably the most economical engineered floor on the market today.
The darker colours sell well. Our light and dark smoked Oak has been popular; amongst natural colours, White Oak is the top product. On the texture side, our main sales are in the plain varnished flooring.
What are the pros of using wooden flooring?
Wooden flooring can be stained to the shade of your choice and comes in a large variety of woods. A properly installed wooden floor never gives you hollow sounds or vibrations. However, cleaning a wooden floor requires more care than fixed tiles. It also demands more care during installation.
Mumbai-based furniture designer Lalit Hira shares with us his experience with wood and wood products.
As a furniture designer, what's your favourite wood product?
It depends upon the kind of furniture I am working on and is largely determined by the numbers it needs to be produced in. The manufacturing process and the costing of the final piece play an important role in the selection of material.
Which type of wood/ wood product is it easiest to create contemporary furniture with?
Each material has its own challenges; one major determining factor is the final desired finish. Some appreciate the grain and texture of real wood. Some prefer plywood, MDF, and other products that can be finished in different colours while some go for high gloss finishes like solid surfaces and polyurethane paints. Combinations also prevail.
Profiling, moulding, carving etc, can be done in MDF as well as in natural wood. Plywood and particle board have their limitations for such processes.
Does the purpose of the furniture define the choice of wood or wood product to be used?
Certainly. Loose furniture is preferably made of solid wood; fixed furniture such as cabinetry etc. could be made of plywood, MDF or particle board. Partitions are made of a combination of both - an internal frame of natural wood finished with ply.
In cabinetry, boxing made of plywood and shutters made of block board is the preferred option in India. MDF and particle board are both options for engineered furniture and are generally used in mass production.
Internationally, MDF is used a lot, while in India people still prefer wood and ply. Why so?
The skilled labour component plays a big role in costing of the final product. Internationally, labour is expensive and custom furniture has a niche market. Most of the furniture made for export, world over, is designed and engineered, but quality of all products is not the same.
Indians, on the other hand, believe in buying furniture for generations to come, and hence prefer long-lasting materials. However, trends are changing fast, and even we are beginning to accept furniture that is economically viable; the durability factor is taking a back seat.
Forms and preferences may change with time, but wood will always occupy an important place in human life. If you have the good fortune to possess articles of pure wood, cherish them. If not, alternative materials made of wood can give you equally good - and sometimes better - options to furnish and decorate your living spaces.
• Mayur Ply, Website: www.mayurply.com
• DLH, Tel: 0124-404 3036, E-mail: email@example.com
• Lalit Hira, Tel: 022-2646 2681, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Jalaram Timber, Tel: 022-2431 8222/ 2431 8666 / 2431 8777, Fax: 022-2422 0627
• Armstrong, Tel: 022-3046 0418
• Dipen Gada & Associates, Tel: 0265-231 1136