Julia L F Goldstein

How Are You Changing the World?

Particle Board

Mar 06, 2015 by Julia L F Goldstein

Despite what you might think after reading my introductory post, I am not always enamored of engineered materials. So when the design consultant asked whether I wanted the plywood upgrade for the interiors of the new cabinets in my laundry room, I said yes. Even though it's just a laundry room. Even though there is particle board in my kitchen cabinets (not my choice - they were there when we moved in). I'm happy with this 20-year-old house we bought last summer, but there are definitely things I want to change. Like the laundry room. I can't understand why no one ever put in a laundry room sink when the room is plumbed for it. Now, I could buy one of those ugly plastic utility sinks, but this is a room in my house, not a workshop outdoors or in the garage. Hence the cabinets and plywood versus particle board.

Why the plumbing and no sink?

Particle board is an interesting invention, and it has some advantages, the main one being that it is inexpensive. Also, it can make use of waste material - wood shavings, even sawdust - so it could be considered environmentally friendly if it weren't for the binders put in to hold all those shavings together.   Particle board is held together by a formaldehyde-based resin. Formaldehyde is a nasty chemical, a known carcinogen that can cause both acute and long-term health problems. Of course, by the time particle board gets made into cabinets, the chemicals have probably fully cured and aren't outgassing noxious fumes into the home. Still, it is something I would rather do without.

Particle board is also much denser than wood, which makes for very heavy cabinets. Since I'm hiring installers and don't need to lift the cabinets myself, perhaps it doesn't matter, but it's another reason to go with plywood.  The strength-to-weight ratio is much better.

I had some other materials choices to make for the laundry room. The exteriors of the cabinets are going to be maple, but I'm having them painted a lovely light grey that is apparently somewhat trendy. In a decade or two when grey looks so 2015, I can always repaint the cabinets.

For the countertop, I was tempted by something really cool: recycled glass. The showroom had some designs with bits of blue and green in them that had great artistic appeal. But I decided it was too sparkly and splashy for the laundry room and went with quartz. Quartz is durable, stain-resistant, and comes in some great looking patterns that will coordinate nicely with the painted cabinets.

Eventually when this whole project is finished, which will probably take a couple of months, I will post before and after photos.