How flat pack furniture is made

Flatpack materials

Self assembly furniture is usually made from one or a combination of different materials.

The board used can be either particle board (known as chipboard in the UK), MDF or solid wood.


Chipboard is a product made from wood particles, wood shavings and chippings and saw dust which are bound together with a resin or "binder".

Chipboard is cheaper, more dense and more consistent in its makeup than solid wood. The disadvantage of particleboard is that it is badly affected by moisture and needs to be covered and sealed to avoid warping.

In addition to price,the advantages of chipboard are that if kept dry it is much more stable and less likely to warp or split than solid wood and a piece of chipboard furniture with a high quality finish can look better than a cheap solid wood product as the visible surfaces do not contain many defects in the wood such as knots and varying colour shades. More info on Wikipedia

Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF)

Medium-density fibreboard is a product made from wood fibres which are bound together with wax and resin.

MDF is much denser than solid wood and chipboard. Historically MDF used formaldehyde resins which has associated health risks but now other resins are used instead of formaldehyde.

The advantages of MDF are cost (cheaper than solid wood), easier to machine than chipboard and it is consistant in both strength and size.

The drawbacks are that it is heavy, needs painting or covering with a finish and is badly affected by moisture which causes warping and swelling. More info on Wikipedia

Solid wood

Solid wood is often used for making flatpack furniture due to its availability, strength and the ablity to machine it easily.

The natural and unique appearance of wood is a major selling point too. The wood can be polished, lacquered, waxed, painted or left bare for the customer to finish themsleves.

Flatpack finishes

Both chipboard and MDF furniture are manufactured with the boards covered with a finishing material.

Frequently used furniture finishes:

  • Foil - paper material printed with a wood effect.
  • Melamine - laminate with a wood effect stronger and resilient to wear and heat.
  • Veneer - thin slices of wood (less than 3mm) are glued and pressed onto the chipboard or MDF panels. More info on veneers.
  • High gloss - foil with lacquer giving a smooth shine finish.

The choice of finish is usually dependent upon cost, resistance to staining, moisture & heat and capabilities of the factory.

understand how flatpack furniture works

How flatpack is manufactured