This 1966 photo shows wood waste being burned for fuel in Portland, Oregon.

Mission Manor, Construction Sign, Mission, British Columbia, Canada

75 Unit Apartment building, made largely of wood, in Mission, British Columbia.

Engineered wood, also called composite wood or man-made wood, includes a range of derivative wood products which are manufactured by binding together the strands, particles, fibers, or veneers of wood, together with adhesives, to form composite materials. These products are engineered to precise design specifications which are tested to meet national or international standards. Plywood is sometimes called the original engineered wood.[1]

Typically, engineered wood products are made from the same hardwoods and softwoods used to manufacture lumber. Sawmill scraps and other wood waste can be used for engineered wood composed of wood particles or fibers, but whole logs are usually used for veneers, such as plywood. Alternatively, it is also possible to manufacture similar engineered cellulosic products from other lignin-containing materials such as rye straw, wheat straw, rice straw, hemp stalks, kenaf stalks, or sugar cane residue, in which case they contain no actual wood but rather vegetable fibers.


Engineered wood products are used in a variety of ways, often in applications similar to solid wood products. Engineered wood products may be preferred over solid wood in some applications due to certain comparative advantages:

  • Because engineered wood is human-made, it can be designed to meet application-specific performance requirements.
  • Large panels of engineered wood may be manufactured from fibers of small diameter trees.
  • Small pieces of wood, and wood that has defects, can be used in many engineered wood products, especially particle and fiber-based boards.

Engineered wood products also have some disadvantages:

  • They burn much more quickly than solid lumber.
  • They require more primary energy for their manufacture than solid lumber.
  • The required adhesives may be toxic. A concern with some resins is the release of formaldehyde in the finished product, often seen with urea-formaldehyde bonded products.
  • Cutting and otherwise working with engineered wood products can expose workers to toxic constituents.
  • Engineered wood products are weaker and more prone to humidity-induced warping than equivalent solid woods, and most particle and fiber-based boards readily soak up water unless they are treated with sealant or paint which usually leads to accelerated fungus growth. This is contrary to manufacturers claims.

The types of adhesives used in engineered wood include:

Urea-formaldehyde resins (UF)
most common, most cheap, and not waterproof.
Phenol-formaldehyde resins (PF)
yellow/brown, and commonly used for exterior exposure products.
Melamine-formaldehyde resin (MF)
white, heat and water resistant, and often used in exposed surfaces in more costly designs.
Methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) or polyurethane (PU) resins
expensive, generally waterproof, and do not contain formaldehyde.

A more inclusive term is structural composites. For example, fiber cement siding is made of cement and wood fiber, while cement board is a low density cement panel, often with added resin, faced with fiberglass mesh.


Wood plastic composite

Wood-plastic composite is a type of engineered wood.

Wood plastic composite 2

Another example of engineered wood.

References Edit

Anatole A. Klyosov. Wood-Plastic Composites. John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey, 2007, 698 pp.

  1. "Milestones in the History of Plywood", APA - The Engineered Wood Association. Accessed October 22, 2007. "plywood is often called the original engineered wood product because it was one of the first to be made by bonding together cut or refashioned pieces of wood to form a larger and integral composite unit stronger and stiffer than the sum of its parts."
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