Let’s Be Clear…. Myths and misconceptions about the wood that goes into custom cabinetry
Do you find shopping for cabinets and wood products confusing? Does your head spin after a visit to your local kitchen and bath showroom? Here are some terms that are commonly used – sometimes incorrectly. Understanding some of these simple facts will help cut through the fog of marketing hype and poorly-informed sales pitches.
It is not uncommon to hear a statement like this: “We only use formaldehyde-free wood in our products”. However, that’s not exactly accurate:
- There is no such thing as a “formaldehyde-free” wood product. Formaldehyde is present in all natural wood as a byproduct of wood’s metabolic process. In fact, the human body even emits small amounts of formaldehyde!
- “No added formaldehyde” is a more accurate phrase and generally refers to the absence of urea formaldehyde in the glues that help panel products stick together. You will sometimes see this referred to as “NAF” (no added formaldehyde) or “NAUF” (no added urea formaldehyde).
“All wood” vs. “Solid wood”
There is a subtle but important distinction between these two terms, often misused:
- “All wood” is a generic term that can include natural solid wood as well as engineered panels such as plywood and particle board.
- “Solid wood” should refer only to natural solid wood.
Particle board, mdf and plywood
These products are the backbone of all cabinetry and casework manufactured today.
Here are a couple of facts:
- All of these are engineered “all wood” (you have been paying attention, haven’t you?) materials that use a variety of wood compositions with adhesives and resins as binders. These come in sheet form of varying thicknesses. Plywood and particle board are common engineered wood products.
- The presence of these materials in a cabinet or furniture piece does not necessarily indicate an inferior product – most modern cabinetry uses them in one form or another.
- Look for products utilizing NAF/NAUF panels that comply with the California Air Resources Board’s Phase II restrictions regarding formaldehyde emissions.