Melamine vs Plywood – Pros & Cons (Materials Compared)


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Whether you engage in woodworking as a hobby or profession, you will encounter different materials other than wood. Knowing how to work with non-wood materials will give you an added advantage in your chosen skill. We are all familiar with plywood. However, another material that appears frequently is melamine. Although you may be familiar with the name, have you ever worked with it? What do can we do with melamine? What are the differences between melamine and other wooden materials?

In this article, we discuss melamine vs. plywood and study the pros and cons of each material. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages. Should you choose melamine or plywood for your project? Hopefully, with the information provided here, you will be able to decide which material is most suited for your requirements. So, let’s get into the heart of the matter without any further ado:

Melamine vs. Plywood

To highlight the uses, advantages, and disadvantages of both these materials, we need to understand each one. Here is a brief description of each of these two materials:

What Is Melamine?

Melamine
Melamine. Image Credit: Trevor Cox

Melamine is an organic compound, a derivative of cyanamide. It has fire retardant properties due to its tendency to release nitrogen gas when burnt. Melamine also has a considerable surface toughness, which makes it reasonably scratch resistant. It also exhibits resistance to mild acids and oils and has a fair degree of heat resistance. Melamine has also been in the news for the wrong reasons for its hazardous effect on food substances. However, we do not need to discuss that aspect here, as we only highlight its use as a construction material.

When we talk about melamine in woodworking, we aren’t describing the pure compound. We use melamine in carpentry in the form of sheets made of MDF or some other base material.

What Is Plywood?

Plywood Substrate
Plywood Substrate. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

We get plywood in the form of boards of various thicknesses. Plywood consists of many layers of thinly sliced wood known as veneer stuck together with an adhesive. The thickness of plywood depends on the number of veneer layers that go to make the board. The layers of veneer in plywood usually lie against the direction of the wood grain of each layer. This gives additional mechanical strength to the board. We get different qualities of plywood depending on the type of wood that makes up the layers. Plywood also gets treated with various chemicals and reagents to be rendered fireproof, water-resistant, and termite-proof. Working on plywood not as easy as working with solid wood. However, you can work quite easily with plywood using the right techniques and equipment.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Melamine Board

When we coat the board with melamine, we get a smooth but sturdy surface that is easy to clean and not easy to scratch. Melamine is suitable for a kitchen countertop, as you can roll the dough directly on the surface. Also, melamine doesn’t get stained quickly. So, that is another benefit of using melamine for a kitchen countertop, as it handles spills quite well.

The downside of melamine is that it is as good as the substrate that we use. Hence, if your substrate is cheap MDF or chipboard, it tends to swell and warp when exposed to moisture. Melamine boards can also get permanently bent under excessive loads for prolonged periods.

Pros

  • No need for finishing to the ready-to-use boards
  • Fire retardant properties
  • Scratch-proof
  • Available in various colors and textures
  • Easy to work on
  • Cheaper than plywood

Cons

  • Easily broken when being worked on
  • The emissions can be harmful when cutting and processing the boards
  • Tends to swell and deform when exposed to water

Advantages and Disadvantages Of Plywood

We have discussed this material extensively in another article, and you will be familiar with this versatile form of wood. The first advantage of plywood is the alternation of grains in the layers. It gives plywood a toughness that makes it impossible to shatter with a hammer. Plywood comes in various thicknesses, typically between 6 mm and 32 mm. Hence you have a wide range from which to choose.

Plywood takes up polish and paints quite well. It also provides a good surface for sticking veneer. This wood has the capacity to hold screws well. If treated adequately, plywood exhibits fireproof, waterproof, and termite-proof properties. It is easy to cut plywood, and you get plywood in big sheets. Hence, you can provide large surfaces with no joints.

The tendency to shrinkage, cracking, warping, and twisting is practically non-existent with plywood. You can put it together with surprising speed as compared to solid wood. Also, although more expensive than many other types of boards, plywood is relatively cheaper than solid wood.

Pros

  • Easy to cut
  • Can be fireproof, water-resistant and termite-proof
  • Cheaper than solid wood
  • Takes polish well and can be painted easily
  • Tough, unbreakable material
  • Provides a good surface for adding veneer and other laminates
  • Holds screws well

Cons

  • Not as durable as solid wood
  • Needs to be treated with chemicals for added durability
  • Not suitable for extended exposure to the elements
  • Cannot paint directly on plywood
  • Some of the glues used to make plywood are cacogenic

Conclusion    

In our discussion of melamine vs plywood, we examined each type of material. We tried to understand how to work with each one. You need to know about the weaknesses and strengths of melamine. Then, you will how to deal with these materials. That way, you can take your woodworking skills to the next level.

Which type of material would you choose for your woodworking projects? There is no single answer to this question. We have examined the various advantages and disadvantages of these materials. So, you can see that each of these materials provides certain benefits and are good to use under particular circumstances. Hence, you need to weigh the pros and cons of each material. You can then decide whether to use a melamine board or a plywood one. Perhaps, you even find a combination of both to be quite a practical solution for your project.

We hope that the information provided here gives you better insight into your future projects. You should be able to use it to become a more versatile woodworker.

 

Featured Image by Wikimedia Commons

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