What is the difference between Wood, Veneer, and Laminate?

December 22nd, 2014 Paul Dekker

Wood Furniture

Solid Wood

Many people go shopping with the intentions of looking for beautiful solid wood furniture; heirloom pieces to last generations. An investment in solid wood does require that the home owner needs to provides conditions for that investment to thrive. Taking care of solid wood furniture can be a task.

Changes in humidity and temperature can cause damage to these pieces as the wood expands and contracts. Stuck drawers and splits in the wood grain can occur if the wood isn’t properly cared for. While quality kiln-dried material and techniques in furniture construction can help minimize these movements, the home environment is still an important factor.

Wood species should also be a concern. Pine is inexpensive compared to Maple, or Birch but is a very soft wood. Woods like Walnut are quite soft and will dent easily but are famous for looking beautiful.



A veneer is a thin layer of real wood sliced to an 1/8th of an inch (3 mm) and applied to a core of plywood, particle board, or solid wood. Plywood in itself is multiple layers of wood veneer with the grain alternating in direction. The result of this technique is a wood board with strength and stability.

With the adhesives available today, veneer on plywood produces a practical product that shows the beauty in real wood grain. Using wood veneers makes very good use of some of the more expensive species like walnut and cherry. While plywood is the best choice for the layers under a veneer, many products use furniture board or particle board. Particle board is made of particles (as you may have guessed) of wood and glue. Furniture Board tends to use courser wood chips, splinters and compressed make a much stronger material. Not all particle board is created equal.



A laminate is a photographic product layered in a resilient plastic. A tough version similar to counter tops can be used in furniture to make a very durable surface resistant to moisture and suitable for table tops and desks. Some very inexpensive products however put a photographic layer directly on a particle board creating a surface very easily damaged by moisture, humidity, and scratching. Avoid these for longevity.


Although there is good solid furniture, good furniture doesn’t always need to be solid.

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