Veneers and laminates are two of the common surface materials used in "non-solid wood" furniture.
Veneers: What is Wood Veneer? It is a thin layer of real wood (used as a surface-finish) that is bonded to a substrate - to a less-expensive wood or an engineered wood, like particleboard, MDF or plywood.
By the way, some people use “veneer” as a generic term, like “veneered top” without mentioning the actual wood of the veneer. If so, more than likely, what they might actually mean was that it was a “laminated” top. (By then, one should ask, what kind of laminate? See below for different types of laminates.)
Since it is real wood, veneers do capture the look of a real wood better than laminates, but since it is real wood, it is less scratch, impact, heat and water resistant than laminates. Wood veneers are not as durable as a solid wood, but veneers are more resistant to warping than real wood. Generally, it can be sanded and refinished, up to a point. Too much sanding can reveal the substrate used. Since veneers are actual real wood (thin slices), they are generally more expensive than laminates.
Laminates: What is HPL (High-Pressure Laminate) ? HPL is a material used to finish the surface of furniture, walls, interior doors, floors, countertops, among other things, and surprisingly, only recently found out about this - it is also used for guitars. (Any musicians reading this?). Here’s a good & honest article about guitars and HPL.
HPL is made up of several layers of kraft paper and/or wood-fibers that are compressed (“laminated”) under very high pressure and high temperatures, resulting in a very dense sheet. Formica is a well-known brand of HPL. HPLs are very hard wearing, scratch, impact, water and heat resistant, but that does not mean they are indestructible. They are also easy to clean and easy to maintain.
Like Veneers, HPL sheets are bonded to a substrate, usually an engineered wood, like particleboard, MDF or Plywood.
Laminates: What is LPL (Low Pressure Laminate) / Melamine Laminates? If there is HPL, there is LPL, which is commonly referred to as Melamine laminate. The main difference between them is how they are manufactured and the bottomline is, HPL is more durable than LPL (but HPL is, of course, more expensive than LPL).
In furniture, you will often see this material indicated as MFC - Melamine Faced Chipboard. Basically, LPL bonded on a particle board. MFC is a common material used in mass-produced furniture.
Next: Part IV: What are different types of Engineered Wood ?
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