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What Does Solid Wood Really Mean?

Updated: 19 hours ago

Buying wooden furniture can be a confusing and intimidating experience. We are often flooded with incoherent and misleading jargon. Terms such as MDF, LVL, particleboard, chipboard, fiberboard, plywood, ‘Real’ Wood, ‘Natural Wood’, ‘Laminate’, and ‘Veneer’ are casually thrown around to make the furniture seem quality at the expense of anyone’s understanding.

Below are a few things that may help put power back into your hands by arming you with some quick tips and tricks to make sure what you are paying for is the absolute real deal.

What is Solid Wood?

Solid wood is an original woodcut from trees, brought straight from nature to your home. Before manufacturing methods made engineered wood products such as plywood and chipboard more common, this was the only type of wood furniture. In modern times, however, solid wood furniture is increasingly a mark of luxury as most of the big, old trees that used to be abundant on our planet have been cut down, and the remaining ones marked for preservation and protection.

swatches of solid wood, 3 columns and 6 rows of colours

Why Choose Solid Wood?

Durability and Longevity

  • Solid wood furniture is renowned for its durability and longevity. Unlike engineered wood products, solid wood can withstand wear and tear over many years, often becoming heirloom pieces passed down through generations.

Aesthetics and Beauty

  • One of the main attractions of solid wood is its natural beauty. Each piece of solid wood furniture has unique grain patterns and textures that cannot be replicated in synthetic or engineered wood products. This adds a touch of elegance and uniqueness to your home.

Value Over Time

  • Solid wood furniture often increases in value over time. As it ages, it develops a patina that adds to its character and appeal. Additionally, due to its durability, solid wood retains its functionality and appearance much longer than other materials.

Understanding the Alternatives

MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard)

  • MDF is an engineered wood product made by breaking down hardwood or softwood residuals into wood fibers, combining it with wax and a resin binder, and forming panels by applying high temperature and pressure. While MDF is cheaper, it is not as durable as solid wood and can be prone to damage from moisture.

Particleboard and Chipboard

  • These materials are made from wood chips and particles bound together with resin. They are less expensive than solid wood but lack its strength and durability. They are also susceptible to damage from water and heavy loads.


  • Plywood is made by gluing together thin layers of wood veneer, with the grain of each layer running perpendicular to the one below it. This creates a strong and stable material, but it still doesn't match the longevity and aesthetic appeal of solid wood.


  • A veneer is a thin slice of wood, usually less than 3 mm (1/8 inch) thick, that is glued onto core panels (typically MDF or particleboard) to create flat panels for doors, tops, and panels for cabinets, parquet floors, and parts of furniture. Veneer gives the appearance of solid wood but does not provide the same durability and value.

So, How to Tell the Difference?

Many people try to knock on wood and rub it to try and figure out the composition and quality. While it’s the right idea to get your hands and eyes on the wood, it’s also important to know what to notice.

A few points to note will let you affirm what you are looking at. While high-quality imitations improve by the years, and it can sometimes be challenging to tell the difference, these tell-tale signs help determine the real deal:

  1. Consistent Grain Patterns: Solid wood will have natural, unique grain patterns that continue throughout the piece.

  2. Weight: Solid wood furniture is typically heavier than pieces made from engineered wood.

  3. Seams and Edges: Check for seams and edges that indicate veneer or laminate; solid wood will not have these.

At My-Desk.Co, we use the real thing: solid wood Hevea, Paulownia, and Chinese Fir, providing quality that lasts a lifetime.

Making an Informed Decision

When shopping for wooden furniture, understanding these differences is crucial. Here are a few tips to ensure you're getting solid wood:

  • Ask Questions: Don’t hesitate to ask the seller about the materials used. Specifically, ask if the furniture is made from solid wood or if it uses any engineered wood products.

  • Inspect the Piece: Look for signs of veneer or laminate. Solid wood furniture will have consistent grain patterns and color variations, whereas veneered furniture will have a repeating pattern.

  • Check the Weight: Solid wood furniture is usually heavier than pieces made from engineered wood.

  • Consider the Price: While solid wood furniture is more expensive, its durability and beauty often justify the higher cost.

By arming yourself with this knowledge, you can confidently navigate the world of wooden furniture and make an informed decision that ensures you are investing in high-quality, lasting pieces for your home.


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