Laminate, Veneer or Solid Timber, which should I use?

29-May-2015 | Press,Knowledge-Hub

Laminate, Timber Veneer and Solid Timber all have a role to play in the construction of furniture both in Healthcare and Commercial applications. Generally, Solid timber is more commonly used in Healthcare applications while Laminate and Timber Veneer are more regularly used in the commercial offices. Below are some suggestions on when to use which. 

Laminate

Laminate is a decorative surface made from single or multiple layers of paper which are resin forced with thermosetting resins, this Surface is then glued to a substrate board. Laminate is available in hundreds of patterns, colours and finishes. 
The main advantages to Laminate is that it is durable & hardwearing- it is resistant to boiling water (up to 180ºc) dry heat, impact and staining. This product is perfect for use on table tops, beside tables and sideboards that often have exposure to liquid. They also don’t scratch as easily as timber meaning that tops that are regularly exposed to heavy traffic and hard conditions such a cutlery are more likely to last longer.  Laminate is generally cheaper than Timber, therefore, a cost effective choice for low budget projects. 
The disadvantage with using Laminate compared to timber is its appearance. Laminate can look quite unrealistic and lack the warmth and unique grain of real wood. 
From a healthcare product perspective Laminate is great for projects with a lower budget and ideal for furniture that will be exposed to day to day moisture and general daily wear and tear of items such as Dining tables, Bedside cabinets and sideboards.
In Commercial use, Laminates are perfect for Heavy traffic areas such as worktops, cafeteria tables, and training room tables.


Timber Veneer

Timber Veneer is real timber that is sliced very thinly and is then pressed onto MDF or particle board substrate. Veneer has the look and feels of Solid timber without the cost.
The main advantage of Timber Veneer is that it has the warmth and feel of real timber but without the price-tag of Solid timber. Timber veneer is also available in a wide range of different species and grain directions. Timber veneer can also be stained to match existing furniture or fixtures. Veneer is also more flexible than solid timber for architectural curves and can be bent and moulded easily. If cared for and not exposed to moisture, Timber veneer will last for many years. 
The disadvantage of veneer is that it is susceptible to damage. When veneer is exposed to liquid, it gets through fibres in the veneer causing swelling and water damage (depicted in image 3).  It can also be easily dinted and scratched and should not be used in heavy commercial traffic areas.
From a Healthcare perspective, Timber Veneer should not be used on dining tables or bedside tables under any circumstances. However is perfect for joinery, bookcases and cabinetry that are not exposed to liquid. 
Commercially Timber Veneers are perfect for executive offices, boardroom tables and joinery.


Solid Timber

Solid Timber Furniture manufactured in Victoria is generally made using Victorian Ash or Oak. 
The advantage of Solid timber is its longevity and is often referred to as a “lifetime” product, with most pieces available with a 10+ year warranty. Not only is it a strong and durable product in general, but it can also be easily refurbished for a fraction of the cost of replacement. If the surface of the timber is damaged or stained it can be machined, sanded and resurfaced. Solid Timber is also much less likely to swell in general use. The construction of solid Timber products adds to its longevity, with many timber joinery techniques only used in solid timber furniture. The natural appearance and warmth of solid Timber are unmistakable. Timber is natural, unique but can also be stained to match existing furniture. A group of products such as a table, chair and sideboard can all be made with one species of timber allowing all products to match. 
Solid Timber is, however, a more expensive option to Laminate or Veneer. There are also limitations with regard to availability of large pieces of timber and variety of local species accessible. Unlike Laminate the Lacquer on timber can be damaged with high heat, susceptible to scratching or gauging from cutlery or other utensils.
Solid Timber is ideal in Healthcare applications such as dining chairs, tables and bedside cabinets just to name a few. 

In commercial offices, Solid timber is sparsely used 

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