Engineered wood


Engineered wood, also called mass timber, composite wood, man-made wood, or manufactured board, includes a range of derivative wood products which are manufactured by binding or fixing the strands, particles, fibres, or veneers or boards of wood, together with adhesives, or other methods of fixation[1] to form composite material. The panels vary in size but can range upwards of 64 by 8 feet (19.5 by 2.4 m) and in the case of cross-laminated timber (CLT) can be of any thickness from a few inches to 16 inches (410 mm) or more.[2] These products are engineered to precise design specifications, which are tested to meet national or international standards and provide uniformity and predictability in their structural performance. Engineered wood products are used in a variety of applications, from home construction to commercial buildings to industrial products.[3] The products can be used for joists and beams that replace steel in many building projects.[4] The term mass timber describes a group of building materials that can replace concrete assemblies.[5] Broad-base adoption of mass timber and their substitution for steel and concrete in new mid-rise construction projects over the coming decades could help mitigate climate change.

Very large self-supporting wooden roof. Built for Expo 2000, Hanover, Germany
75-unit apartment building, made largely of wood, in Mission, British Columbia

Typically, engineered wood products are made from the same hardwoods and softwoods used to manufacture lumber. Sawmill scraps and other wood waste can be used for engineered wood composed of wood particles or fibers, but whole logs are usually used for veneers, such as plywood, medium-density fibreboard (MDF), or particle board. Some engineered wood products, like oriented strand board (OSB), can use trees from the poplar family, a common but non-structural species.

Wood-plastic composite, one kind of engineered wood

Alternatively, it is also possible to manufacture similar engineered bamboo from bamboo; and similar engineered cellulosic products from other lignin-containing materials such as rye straw, wheat straw, rice straw, hemp stalks, kenaf stalks, or sugar cane residue, in which case they contain no actual wood but rather vegetable fibers.

Flat-pack furniture is typically made out of man-made wood due to its low manufacturing costs and its low weight.

Types of productsEdit

Engineered wood products in a Home Depot store


Plywood, a wood structural panel, is sometimes called the original engineered wood product.[6] Plywood is manufactured from sheets of cross-laminated veneer and bonded under heat and pressure with durable, moisture-resistant adhesives. By alternating the grain direction of the veneers from layer to layer, or “cross-orienting”, panel strength and stiffness in both directions are maximized. Other structural wood panels include oriented strand boards and structural composite panels.[7]

Densified woodEdit

Densified wood is made by using a mechanical hot press to compress wood fibers and increase the density by a factor of three.[8] This increase in density is expected to enhance the strength and stiffness of the wood by a proportional amount.[9] Early studies confirmed this ends with a reported increase in mechanical strength by a factor of three.

Chemically densified woodEdit

More recent studies[10] have combined chemical process with traditional mechanical hot press methods to increase density and thus mechanical properties of the wood. In these methods, chemical processes break down lignin and hemicellulose that are found naturally in the wood. Following dissolution, the cellulose strands that remain are mechanically hot compressed. Compared to the three-fold increase in strength observed from hot pressing alone, chemically processed wood has been shown to yield an 11-fold improvement. This extra strength comes from hydrogen bonds formed between the aligned cellulose nanofibers.

The densified wood possessed mechanical strength properties on par with steel used in building construction, opening the door for applications of densified wood in situations where regular strength wood would fail. Environmentally, wood requires significantly less carbon dioxide to produce than steel.[11]


Medium-density fibreboard and high-density fibreboard (hardboard) are made by breaking down hardwood or softwood residuals into wood fibers, combining them with wax and a resin binder, and forming panels by applying high temperature and pressure.[12]

Particle boardEdit

Particle board is manufactured from wood chips, sawmill shavings, or even sawdust, and a synthetic resin or another suitable binder, which is pressed and extruded. Oriented strand board, also known as flakeboard, wafer board, or chipboard, is similar but uses machined wood flakes offering more strength. Particleboard is cheaper, denser, and more uniform than conventional wood and plywood and is substituted for them when the cost is more important than strength and appearance. A major disadvantage of particleboard is that it is very prone to expansion and discoloration due to moisture, particularly when it is not covered with paint or another sealer.

Oriented strand boardEdit

Oriented strand board (OSB) is a wood structural panel manufactured from rectangular-shaped strands of wood that are oriented lengthwise and then arranged in layers, laid up into mats, and bonded together with moisture-resistant, heat-cured adhesives. The individual layers can be cross-oriented to provide strength and stiffness to the panel. However, most OSB panels are delivered with more strength in one direction. The wood strands in the outmost layer on each side of the board are normally aligned into the strongest direction of the board. Arrows on the product will often identify the strongest direction of the board (the height, or longest dimension, in most cases). Produced in huge, continuous mats, OSB is a solid panel product of consistent quality with no laps, gaps, or voids.[13]

OSB is delivered in various dimensions, strengths, and levels of water resistance.

Laminated timberEdit

Glued laminated timber (glulam) is composed of several layers of dimensional timber glued together with moisture-resistant adhesives, creating a large, strong, structural member that can be used as vertical columns or horizontal beams. Glulam can also be produced in curved shapes, offering extensive design flexibility.

Laminated veneerEdit

Laminated veneer lumber (LVL) is produced by bonding thin wood veneers together in a large billet. The grain of all veneers in the LVL billet is parallel to the long direction. The resulting product features enhanced mechanical properties and dimensional stability that offer a broader range in product width, depth, and length than conventional lumber. LVL is a member of the structural composite lumber (SCL) family of engineered wood products that are commonly used in the same structural applications as conventional sawn lumber and timber, including rafters, headers, beams, joists, rim boards, studs, and columns.[14]

Cross laminatedEdit

Cross-laminated timber (CLT) is a versatile multi-layered panel made of lumber. Each layer of boards is placed cross-wise to adjacent layers for increased rigidity and strength. CLT can be used for long spans and all assemblies, e.g. floors, walls, or roofs.[15] CLT has the advantage of faster construction times as the panels are manufactured and finished off-site and supplied ready to fit and screw together as a flat pack assembly project.[citation needed]

Parallel strandEdit

Parallel strand lumber (PSL) consists of long veneer strands laid in parallel formation and bonded together with an adhesive to form the finished structural section. A strong, consistent material, it has a high load-carrying ability and is resistant to seasoning stresses so it is well suited for use as beams and columns for post and beam construction, and for beams, headers, and lintels for light framing construction.[7] PSL is a member of the structural composite lumber (SCL) family of engineered wood products.[16]

Laminated strandEdit

Laminated strand lumber (LSL) and oriented strand lumber (OSL) are manufactured from flaked wood strands that have a high length-to-thickness ratio. Combined with an adhesive, the strands are oriented and formed into a large mat or billet and pressed. LSL and OSL offer good fastener-holding strength and mechanical-connector performance and are commonly used in a variety of applications, such as beams, headers, studs, rim boards, and millwork components. These products are members of the structural composite lumber (SCL) family of engineered wood products.[14] LSL is manufactured from relatively short strands—typically about 1 foot (0.30 m) long—compared to the 2-to-8-foot-long (0.61–2.44 m) strands used in PSL.[17]

Finger jointEdit

The finger joint is made up of short pieces of wood combined to form longer lengths and is used in doorjambs, moldings, and studs. It is also produced in long lengths and wide dimensions for floors.


I-joists and wood I-beams are "I"-shaped structural members designed for use in floor and roof construction. An I-joist consists of top and bottom flanges of various widths united with webs of various depths. The flanges resist common bending stresses, and the web provides shear performance.[18] I-joists are designed to carry heavy loads over long distances while using less lumber than a dimensional solid wood joist of a size necessary to do the same task. As of 2005, approximately half of all wood light framed floors were framed using I-joists.[citation needed]


Roof trusses and floor trusses are structural frames relying on a triangular arrangement of webs and chords to transfer loads to reaction points. For a given load, long wood trusses built from smaller pieces of lumber require less raw material and make it easier for AC contractors, plumbers, and electricians to do their work, compared to the long 2x10s and 2x12s traditionally used as rafters and floor joists.[17]

Transparent wood compositesEdit

Transparent wood composites are new materials, currently only made at the laboratory scale, that combines transparency and stiffness via a chemical process that replaces light-absorbing compounds, such as lignin, with a transparent polymer.

Environmental benefitsEdit

Engineered wood has the potential to reduce carbon emissions by replacing cement and steel as a primary material in the construction of buildings.[19] Not only do buildings made from engineered wood act as a carbon sink, but they also produce less emissions in the manufacturing process than steel and cement, which both emit a lot of carbon dioxide (CO2) due to the chemical processes involved in their manufacturing. For example, in 2014, steel and cement production accounted for about 1320 megatonnnes (Mt) CO2 and 1740 Mt CO2 respectively, which made up about 9% of global CO2 emissions that year.[20] In a study that did not take the carbon sequestration potential of engineered wood into account, it was found that roughly 50 Mt CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent[a]) could be eliminated by 2050 with the full uptake of a hybrid construction system utilizing engineered wood and steel.[22] When considering the added effects that carbon sequestration can have over the lifetime of the material, the emissions reductions of engineered wood is even more substantial, as laminated wood that is not incinerated at the end of its lifecycle absorbs around 582 kg of CO2/m3, while reinforced concrete emits 458 kg CO2/m3 and steel 12.087 kg CO2/m3.[23]

Comparison to solid woodEdit


Engineered wood products are used in a variety of ways,[24] often in applications similar to solid wood products. Engineered wood products may be preferred over solid wood in some applications due to certain comparative advantages:

  • Because engineered wood is man-made, it can be designed to meet application-specific performance requirements. Required shapes and dimension do not drive source tree requirements (length or width of the tree)
  • Engineered wood products are versatile and available in a wide variety of thicknesses, sizes, grades, and exposure durability classifications, making the products ideal for use in unlimited construction, industrial, and home project application.[25]
  • Engineered wood products are designed and manufactured to maximize the natural strength and stiffness characteristics of wood. The products are very stable and some offer greater structural strength than typical wood building materials.[26]
  • Glued laminated timber (glulam) has greater strength and stiffness than comparable dimensional lumber and, pound for pound, is stronger than steel.[3]
  • Some engineered wood products offer more design options without sacrificing structural requirements.[citation needed]
  • Engineered wood panels are easy to work with using ordinary tools and basic skills. They can be cut, drilled, routed, jointed, glued, and fastened. Plywood can be bent to form curved surfaces without loss of strength. And large panel size speeds construction by reducing the number of pieces to be handled and installed.[25]
  • Engineered wood products make more efficient use of wood. They can be made from small pieces of wood, wood that has defects, or underutilized species.[27]
  • Wooden trusses are competitive in many roof and floor applications, and their high strength-to-weight ratios permit long spans offering flexibility in floor layouts.[28]
  • Engineered wood is felt to offer structural advantages for home construction.[citation needed]
  • Sustainable design advocates recommend using engineered wood, which can be produced from relatively small trees, rather than large pieces of solid dimensional lumber, which requires cutting a large tree.[17]


  • They require more primary energy for their manufacture than solid lumber.[29]
  • The adhesives used in some products may be toxic. A concern with some resins is the release of formaldehyde in the finished product, often seen with urea-formaldehyde bonded products.[29]
  • Cutting and otherwise working with some products can expose workers to toxic compounds.[citation needed]
  • Some engineered wood products, such as those specified for interior use, may be weaker and more prone to humidity-induced warping than equivalent solid woods. Most particle and fiber-based boards are not appropriate for outdoor use because they readily soak up water.[citation needed]


Plywood and OSB typically have a density of 560–640 kg/m3 (35–40 lb/cu ft). For example, 9.5 mm (38 in) plywood sheathing or OSB sheathing typically has a surface density of 4.9–5.9 kg/m2 (1–1.2 lb/sq ft).[30] Many other engineered woods have densities much higher than OSB.


The types of adhesives used in engineered wood include:

  • Urea-formaldehyde resins (UF): most common, cheapest, and not waterproof.
  • Phenol formaldehyde resins (PF): yellow/brown, and commonly used for exterior exposure products.
  • Melamine-formaldehyde resins (MF): white, heat, and water-resistant, and often used in exposed surfaces in more costly designs.
  • polymeric Methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (pMDI) or polyurethane (PU) resins: expensive, generally waterproof, and does not contain formaldehyde, notoriously more difficult to release from platens and engineered wood presses.

A more inclusive term is structural composites. For example, fiber cement siding is made of cement and wood fiber, while cement board is a low-density cement panel, often with added resin, faced with fiberglass mesh.

Health concernsEdit

While formaldehyde is an essential ingredient of cellular metabolism in mammals, studies have linked prolonged inhalation of formaldehyde gases to cancer. Engineered wood composites have been found to emit potentially harmful amounts of formaldehyde gas in two ways: unreacted free formaldehyde and the chemical decomposition of resin adhesives. When exorbitant amounts of formaldehyde are added to a process, the excess will not have any additive to bond with and may seep from the wood product over time. Cheap urea-formaldehyde (UF) adhesives are largely responsible for degraded resin emissions. Moisture degrades the weak UF molecules, resulting in potentially harmful formaldehyde emissions. McLube offers release agents and platen sealers designed for those manufacturers who use reduced-formaldehyde UF and melamine-formaldehyde adhesives. Many oriented strand board (SB) and plywood manufacturers use phenol-formaldehyde (PF) because phenol is a much more effective additive. Phenol forms a water-resistant bond with formaldehyde that will not degrade in moist environments. PF resins have not been found to pose significant health risks due to formaldehyde emissions. While PF is an excellent adhesive, the engineered wood industry has started to shift toward polyurethane binders like pMDI to achieve even greater water resistance, strength, and process efficiency. pMDIs are also used extensively in the production of rigid polyurethane foams and insulators for refrigeration. pMDIs outperform other resin adhesives, but they are notoriously difficult to release and cause buildup on tooling surfaces.[31]

Other fixationsEdit

Some engineered products such as CLT Cross Laminated Timber can be assembled without the use of adhesives using mechanical fixing. These can range from profiled interlocking jointed boards,[32][33] proprietary metal fixings,[34] nails or timber dowels (Brettstapel - single layer or CLT[35]).

Engineered wood flooring manufacturingEdit


The lamella is the face layer of the wood that is visible when installed. Typically, it is a sawn piece of timber. The timber can be cut in three different styles: flat-sawn, quarter-sawn, and rift-sawn.

Types of core/substrateEdit

  1. Wood ply construction ("sandwich core"): Uses multiple thin plies of wood adhered together. The wood grain of each ply runs perpendicular to the ply below it. Stability is attained from using thin layers of wood that have little to no reaction to climatic change. The wood is further stabilized due to equal pressure being exerted lengthwise and widthwise from the plies running perpendicular to each other.
  2. Finger core construction: Finger core engineered wood floors are made of small pieces of milled timber that run perpendicular to the top layer (lamella) of wood. They can be 2-ply or 3-ply, depending on their intended use. If it is three-ply, the third ply is often plywood that runs parallel to the lamella. Stability is gained through the grains running perpendicular to each other, and the expansion and contraction of wood are reduced and relegated to the middle ply, stopping the floor from gapping or cupping.
  3. Fibreboard: The core is made up of medium or high-density fibreboard. Floors with a fibreboard core are hygroscopic and must never be exposed to large amounts of water or very high humidity - the expansion caused by absorbing water combined with the density of the fibreboard, will cause it to lose its form. Fibreboard is less expensive than timber and can emit higher levels of harmful gases due to its relatively high adhesive content.
  4. An engineered flooring construction that is popular in parts of Europe is the hardwood lamella, softwood core laid perpendicular to the lamella, and a final backing layer of the same noble wood used for the lamella. Other noble hardwoods are sometimes used for the back layer but must be compatible. This is thought by many to be the most stable of engineered floors.

Lightweight, strong, moldable wood via cell wall engineeringEdit

There are many ways to make wood fix the physical needs in industry, however, the methods are usually in a macro scale which does not change the micro-structure or material properties. Therefore, fails in simultaneously achieve high mechanical strength and good moldability. To make wood material which has high mechanical strength and good moldability, there are ways to achieve.


The process[36] is achieved by partially delignify[37] and soften natural wood, then shrink its vessels and fibers by drying, followed by “shocking” the material in water to selectively open the vessels. The water shock process forms partially open vessels and wrinkled fiber cell wall. This microstructure makes the wood able to bend and mold. Observing by Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), the moldable wood has a structure that the fibers are close packed together and there are vessels that are partially opened because of the water shock process.

Mechanical propertiesEdit

Mechaical properties include:[36]

Bending testEdit

Compare moldable wood and Al-5052 by folding the two materials, moldable wood does not fracture after folding and unfolding process for 100 times, while Al-5052 breaks after 3 cycles. The dislocations in metals are able to slip and move due to the process of folding and unfolding, the dislocations move and aggregate at the center of bending then cause fracture. On the other hand, the moldable wood will not have the issue of dislocations aggregation, since it is a polymer. The partially opened, wrinkled cell wall structure enables the flexibility of the wood. Fiber-scale mechanics modeling shows that the strain level in all cell walls of the moldable wood is extremely low (with a maximum principal tensile strain of 0.23% and compressive strain of 0.31%) even when the moldable wood is subjected to a 60% nominal strain deformation (tensile or compressive).

Tensile strengthEdit

The low density of moldable wood (0.75 g/cm3) gives it a high specific tensile strength of 386.8 MPa /(g/cm3), which is about five times greater than that of Al-5052 (84.4 MPa / (g/cm3)).The low density, high mechanical strength,[38] and excellent formability of the 3D-molded wood offers broad versatility in designing and manufacturing large, lightweight, load-bearing designs.

Compression strengthEdit

Testing the specific compressive strength of moldable wood and Al-5052, both materials are made into a honeycomb shape and applied stress along the Z-direction. The moldable wood has a specific compression strength for about 55 MPa/(g/cm3), which is slightly higher then the aluminum honeycomb with compression strength about 50 MPa/(g/cm3). This shows that if only consider the material property of strength, moldable wood is able to replace Al.


Some advantages are:[36]

  • The moldable wood is able to produce by role-to-role process, which means it is cheap and fast to manufacture. In comparison, metal materials are much more expensive and cost more energy for manufacturing process.
  • Has a potentially lower environmental impact than Al alloys.
  • Moldable wood may enable fuel savings when used as a lightweight structural material for vehicles and aircraft.
  • Advances in wood processability and functionality could motivate better forest management practices.
  • Substantial benefits making wood a potential alternative to plastics and metals in structural materials.


The following standards are related to engineered wood products:

  • EN 300 - Oriented Strand Boards (OSB) — Definitions, classification, and specifications
  • EN 309 - Particleboards — Definition and classification
  • EN 338 - Structural timber - Strength classes
  • EN 386 - Glued laminated timber — performance requirements and minimum production requirements
  • EN 313-1 - Plywood — Classification and terminology Part 1: Classification
  • EN 313-2 - Plywood — Classification and terminology Part 2: Terminology
  • EN 314-1 - Plywood — Bonding quality — Part 1: Test methods
  • EN 314-2 - Plywood — Bonding quality — Part 2: Requirements
  • EN 315 - Plywood — Tolerances for dimensions
  • EN 387 - Glued laminated timber — large finger joints - performance requirements and minimum production requirements
  • EN 390 - Glued laminated timber — sizes - permissible deviations
  • EN 391 - Glued laminated timber — shear test of glue lines
  • EN 392 - Glued laminated timber — Shear test of glue lines
  • EN 408 - Timber structures — Structural timber and glued laminated timber — Determination of some physical and mechanical properties
  • EN 622-1 - Fibreboards — Specifications — Part 1: General requirements
  • EN 622-2 - Fibreboards — Specifications — Part 2: Requirements for hardboards
  • EN 622-3 - Fibreboards — Specifications — Part 3: Requirements for medium boards
  • EN 622-4 - Fibreboards — Specifications — Part 4: Requirements for soft boards
  • EN 622-5 - Fibreboards — Specifications — Part 5: Requirements for dry process boards (MDF)
  • EN 1193 - Timber structures — Structural timber and glued laminated timber - Determination of shear strength and mechanical properties perpendicular to the grain
  • EN 1194 - Timber structures — Glued laminated timber - Strength classes and determination of characteristic values
  • EN 1995-1-1 - Eurocode 5: Design of timber structures — Part 1-1: General — Common rules and rules for buildings
  • EN 12369-1 - Wood-based panels — Characteristic values for structural design — Part 1: OSB, particleboards, and fibreboards
  • EN 12369-2 - Wood-based panels — Characteristic values for structural design — Part 2: Plywood
  • EN 12369-3 - Wood-based panels — Characteristic values for structural design — Part 3: Solid wood panels
  • EN 14080 - Timber structures — Glued laminated timber — Requirements
  • EN 14081-1 - Timber structures - Strength graded structural timber with rectangular cross-section - Part 1: General requirements

See alsoEdit

  • Stadthaus - Application sample for timber panels


  1. ^ Carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) is a way of measuring the global warming potential of multiple greenhouse gases using a common unit. 1&nsbsp;kg of methane emissions, for instance, has the same global warming potential as 25 kg of CO2 emissions, so 1 kg of methane emissions can be reported as 25 kg CO2e.[21]


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External linksEdit

  • APA The Engineered Wood Association
  • Canadian Wood Council Engineered Wood Products
  • Engineered Wood Products Association