I hear these terms being used interchangeably in casual conversation and I'm not sure whether they are equivalent, trademarks or just different products:

  • Pressed wood
  • Particle board
  • OSB
  • MDF
  • Masonite

I also often hear "presswood", but I think it's a language issue and a deformation of "pressed wood", as a cursory search doesn't reveal anything.

  • Don't forget "chip board" and "strand board".
    – wallyk
    Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 1:14
  • @wallyk Can you elaborate on those in an answer? Or on any other related terms, really.
    – isanae
    Commented Nov 25, 2016 at 9:56

1 Answer 1


Pressed Wood is a broad category that includes Particle Board, OSB, MDF, and the trademarked Masonite [edit: Masonite is a type of "hardboard], as well as, engineered wood (think: engineered flooring), particle board, and plywood as these all require the product to be pressed (compressed).

Particle Board is a pressed wood that includes OSB and, maybe, Masonite as both are made of wood particles/fibers that are not made of thin sheets of wood, paper, or pulp. Usually, when people say, "particle board" they're referring to the type used on ready-to-assemble (RTA) furniture. It can be identified by looking at the cut ends where one can see wood particles, as well as, voids. This product is almost always laminated.

OSB (Oriented Strand Board) looks like a patchwork of thin scraps of wood and is used for house underlayment (though I prefer plywood for this). It is never recommended for applications where it would get wet frequently as it will come apart after a while (of continuous wetness).

Masonite is smooth on one side and a pattern of diamonds or squares on the other. It is most often used as the backing of ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets and the backing of factory made furniture (ie. end tables, etc.). Older clip-boards are also made of it. Peg-board is the same/similar material.

MDF is made of several sheets of paper that have been pressed together (get it wet and these layers will separate from each other....permanently). MDF is a favourite for chair rails and crown molding and the like.

  • "Masonite" is a copyrighted brand name for what's more generically called "hardboard".
    – isherwood
    Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 0:23
  • @isherwood That would be "trademarked" (identifying a product), not "copyrighted" (protecting a creative work).
    – isanae
    Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 1:24
  • made "edit" to point out that Masonite is a trademark hardboard. Thks. Commented Nov 27, 2016 at 18:22
  • Can you also define "hardboard", "chip board" and "strand board"?
    – isanae
    Commented Nov 27, 2016 at 20:56
  • We don't use the terms "chip board" or "strand board"...I'd have to look those up; in which case, anyone else could, too. I'd guess "chip board" is similar to one of the intervening layers found within plywood and "strand board" is like OSB but with smaller pcs. Commented Nov 27, 2016 at 21:57

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