engineered wood joists

What is Engineered Wood?

Engineered wood, also known as composite wood or manufactured board, is a type of wood product that is made by binding or fixing wood strands, particles, fibers, or veneers together with adhesives or other methods to form composite materials. Unlike solid wood, which is made from a single piece of lumber, engineered wood is a composite material that is constructed from multiple layers of dimensional lumber or wood fiber components.

Engineered wood creates the look and feel of natural wood but with more strength, durability, and flexibility than real wood products. It’s also eco-friendly because it uses less hardwood trees. It’s resistant to moisture, insects, and decay and requires minimal maintenance over its lifetime. Additionally, it is easy to install, cost-effective, and suitable for incorporating into sustainable design since it can be made of recycled material using fewer trees.

What is the Difference Between Engineered Wood and Composite Wood?

Engineered wood and composite wood are often used interchangeably, but there are some distinctions between the two terms.

Engineered wood is a broad category that encompasses various types of wood products that are manufactured by binding or fixing together strands, particles, fibers, or veneers of wood using adhesives or other methods to form composite materials. Engineered wood includes plywood, particleboard, oriented strand board (OSB), medium-density fiberboard (MDF), and engineered hardwood flooring.

Composite wood, on the other hand, refers specifically to wood products made from a combination of wood fiber and a bonding agent or resin. It is a subset of engineered wood and can include products like particleboard, MDF, and some types of engineered wood flooring.

In summary, while all composite wood is engineered wood, not all engineered wood is necessarily composite wood. Engineered wood is a broader term that encompasses various types of manufactured wood products, while composite wood specifically refers to wood products made from a wood combination.

Types of Engineered Wood

There are various types of engineered wood, each with its own manufacturing process and characteristics. Some popular types include:

Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL)

Laminated veneer lumber, or LVL, is made by bonding thin layers of wood veneers together with adhesive. It’s incredibly strong and stable, making it an excellent choice for beams, headers, and other load-bearing applications.

One of the biggest advantages of LVL is its consistency. Unlike solid lumber, which can have knots and other defects, LVL is engineered to be uniform throughout. This means you can count on it to perform predictably and reliably.

Laminated Strand Lumber (LSL)

Laminated Strand Lumber (LSL)

Laminated strand lumber (LSL) is similar to LVL, but instead of using veneer, it’s made from strands of wood that are coated with adhesive and compressed together. This process creates a product that’s strong, stable, and resistant to warping and twisting.

LSL is commonly used for studs, plates, and other framing components. It’s also a popular choice for rim board to cap the ends of floor joists and provide an attachment point for siding and sheathing.

Oriented Strand Board (OSB)


Plywood is made by layering thin sheets of wood veneer and bonding them together with adhesive. The layers are arranged so that the grain of each sheet runs perpendicular to the adjacent layer, which gives plywood its strength and structural integrity.

Plywood is incredibly versatile as a building material. It can be used for everything from sheathing and subflooring to cabinetry and furniture. It’s available in a wide range of grades and thicknesses, so you can choose the right product for your specific application.


Oriented Strand Board (OSB)

Oriented strand board (OSB) is made by layering strands of wood in a crisscross pattern and bonding them together with adhesive. It is tough, long-lasting, and resistant to water damage. OSB is commonly used in many construction projects, such as sheathing, subflooring, and underlayment. Thanks to its attractive wood grain appearance, it’s also a popular choice for furniture and other decorative applications.

MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard)

Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF)

Medium-density fiberboard (MDF) is manufactured by breaking down wood fibers into fine particles, mixing them with resin or adhesive, and then compressing them into dense panels under high pressure and heat. It is usually denser than plywood and oriented strand board, but just like OSB, there are grades that can withstand water and weather and other grades that cannot.

When it comes to crafting shelves, cabinetry, molding, or furniture for your space, MDF is a popular choice among many. Its smooth, uniform surface makes it easy to paint or laminate as a building material, and its density provides excellent screw-holding power.

cross-laminated timber (CLT)

Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT)

Cross-laminated timber (CLT) is a wood panel product made by gluing together layers of solid-sawn lumber. It is strengthened by layering each board perpendicular to the next and gluing on the wide faces of each board. The thicknesses of the panels can easily be increased, which makes them a design-flexible material. Since they are made of multiple layers of wood, they can be good insulators.

CLT is an increasingly popular choice for multi-story commercial buildings for its structural properties, thanks to its strength, stability, and fire resistance. It’s also a sustainable choice since it’s made from renewable wood and can be recycled at the end of its life.

Pros and Cons of Engineered Wood

Engineered wood offers numerous advantages and disadvantages compared to solid wood. Here’s what you need to know.


  • Cost-effective: Depending on the type you choose, engineered wood tends to be more affordable than solid wood due to its longevity and the fact that it can be made from lower-grade or recycled wood materials. Thus, it is a budget-friendly flooring option.
  • Dimensional Stability: Compared to solid wood, it will resist warping, twisting, or shrinking, giving it consistent quality in environments with fluctuating temperatures and humidity levels.
  • Environmentally Friendly: Engineered wood often utilizes wood scraps or wood waste and residues, making it a sustainable choice. Additionally, it reduces the need to harvest old-growth trees.
  • Versatility: Engineered wood comes in various forms, such as plywood, particle board, and medium-density fiberboard (MDF), each with specific characteristics suitable for different applications.
  • Uniformity: Since it’s manufactured, engineered wood tends to have more consistent density, strength, and appearance compared to natural wood. It’s produced with strict tolerances, so you can count on it to perform predictably and reliably.
  • Large Sizes: Engineered wood panels can be manufactured in larger sizes than solid wood, making it easier to cover larger areas with fewer seams.
  • Durability: Engineered wood is incredibly strong and stable.


  • Cost: The initial investment can make the upfront investment higher than solid lumber, especially for high-end products like CLT.
  • Limited Refinishing: Depending on the top layer, engineered wood may have limited options for refinishing. Some products can only be refinished a few times, whereas solid wood can be sanded and refinished multiple times.
  • Formaldehyde Emissions: Some types of engineered wood, particularly those made with adhesives like urea-formaldehyde, may emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can be harmful to indoor air quality.
  • Appearance: While engineered wood can mimic the appearance of solid wood, it may lack the natural variation and character found in real wood.
  • Difficulty in Repair: Repairing damaged engineered wood can be more challenging than repairing solid wood, especially if the damage affects the core layers.

What Engineered Wood Should I Choose for My Project?

Think about what your project really needs – that’s how you’ll know which type makes the cut. Some factors to consider:

  • If you’re looking for a strong, stable product for structural applications, LVL or LSL might be the way to go.
  • If you need a moisture-resistant panel for sheathing or subflooring, OSB or plywood could be a good choice.
  • For interior applications like cabinetry and shelving, MDF offers a smooth, uniform surface that’s easy to work with.
  • If you’re looking for a sustainable option for multi-story buildings, CLT is definitely worth considering.

Harbor Exports Carries The Finest Engineered Wood Products for All Your Construction Needs

Engineered wood is gaining popularity all across the board in construction supplies. It’s durable, versatile, eco-friendly, and offers many styles and finishes, so you can customize your project however you want.

When uncertainty looms large, don’t sweat it—the team at Harbor Exports can provide professional guidance to help you select the right engineered wood supplies for your construction project! Give us a call to discuss your project and explore our wide range of product options.

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