Substrates are an important consideration in any application involving timber veneers. A substrate is an underlying layer or base panel of another material, which can be wood, metal, fibreglass or plastic among others.

Typically, the substrate is a lower quality timber or a cheaper engineered wood product. So long as it is fit for purpose, the substrate’s appearance is irrelevant as it’s hidden beneath the veneer. There are a number of options for substrates, including but not limited to particleboard, medium density fibreboard (better known as MDF), plywood and blockboard.

Particleboard, also known as chipboard, is stable, strong and inexpensive. An engineered wood product manufactured from chips of wood, sawmill shavings and a synthetic resin or other binder, it is suited for internal applications such as furniture and cupboards. Particleboards usually don’t stand up to moisture well, but there is a moisture-resistant version available.

MDF is ideal as a substrate in applications where the edges are to be moulded and exposed. Also an engineered wood product, MDF is produced by breaking down hardwood and softwood into wood fibres and combining them with wax and resin. Other chemicals can be added during manufacturing for more specific protection, such as a fire retardant. It is formed into panels by applying high temperature and pressure. Generally denser than plywood, MDF features an even density and is smooth on both sides. The material’s poor moisture resistance makes its application mostly limited to interior spaces in the form of furniture and fitouts. However, moisture resistant MDF is available, but is recommended only for interior applications as it is not waterproof.

Plywood is a durable and sturdy form of wood, made by gluing multiple sheets of wood together. It combines the inherent advantages of wood and the enhanced properties that come from its laminated structure. Plywood is also resistant to high impact, coping well with short-term overload because it distributes it over a larger area. The cross laminated construction of plywood also makes it relatively stable under temperature and moisture changes. It has a high strength to weight ratio and resists corrosion as well. There are various types of plywood so choosing the right plywood for each application is very important.

Blockboard is a composite product consisting of wood strips bonded together as a slab in its core, which is then faced on each side with layers of wood veneer. It is often used for manufacturing solid core doors.

Different substrates require the use of different glues and, in some cases, veneers with different types of backing. Consult with the experts at Matilda Veneer for advice on suitable substrates to ensure a quality outcome in your timber veneer project.