Particle Board Water Damage: Dos and Don'ts

Two pieces of particle board stacked on top of each other

Particle board is a wood product that is manufactured from waste wood particles, sawdust, and shavings. It is quite durable and attractive, considering the low price and affordability. When sealed with a waterproof veneer or a laminate cover, particle board is suitable for a range of applications. However, it is much more prone to moisture damage as compared to hardwood, plywood, or Oriented Strand Board (OSB).

Preventing Particle Board Water Damage

You can avoid particle board water damage to a large extent by following some precautionary measures. The first step is to install particle board only in locations where it will come in contact with minimal moisture. Particle board is a great, economical choice for cabinets or as underlayment for flooring. It is important to remember that particle board will swell and deform very quickly if exposed to high levels of moisture.

Avoid installing it under kitchen or bathroom sinks. Particle board should not be used for backsplashes either as they are constantly exposed to water and humidity. However, when used for kitchen cabinets that are a safe distance away from water sources, particle board can stand the test of time.

Avoid driving screws or nails into particle board. Because this material is made of small particles of ground wood, it can lose its shape when indentations are made on its surface. Small holes can also provide an inlet for moisture, which can quickly deteriorate the particle board. If you use particle board as an underlay for walls or floors, never lay tiles directly on it. The particle board must be thoroughly sealed and protected to prevent moisture infiltration.

The use of particle board in kitchen and bathroom walls or floors should be avoided whenever possible. If you do use particle board in these areas, seal it thoroughly and then lay tiles on the wall or paint it. For flooring, a concrete board on top of the particle board provides added stability and protection from moisture. You can lay the flooring tiles or linoleum on top of the concrete board.

Particle board should never be used for outdoor applications, because it will not withstand the moisture from rain or snow for long.

Dealing With Particle Board Water Damage

Once you see signs of particle board water damage, you will most likely have to replace it. Wet particle board provides a fertile ground for mold and mildew. Also, it can stain and warp easily. When wet, particle board can sag under weight, which is unsafe. It will not take well to sharp objects such as high-heeled shoes or furniture that is being moved around.

Wet particle board swells and expands with the moisture. It loses most of its strength as well. It is best to replace the affected parts before the damage gets worse. Particleboard furniture is also susceptible to damage, which can be avoided to a large extent by keeping moisture away. Careful handling of particle board furniture is also important, especially when it is being moved. If possible, disassemble and carry smaller parts of the furniture to minimize the risk of damage.

When it comes to particle board, it is best kept dry! Follow these tips and you'll avoid unwanted water damage.

Particle Board Water Damage FAQ

How do you fix water damaged swollen particle board?

Sometimes, particle board that has been damaged by water can be repaired. First, allow the wood to thoroughly dry first.

Sand down any water-damaged affected areas of the board, smoothing down any raised or "bubbled" areas of wood. Any areas that are too badly damaged to be fixed need to be cut out.

Add wood filler to any holes that were created by the damage. You can use this to fill in cracks, too.

After the filler has dried, sand down these areas to create a smooth finish.

How long does it take for wet particle board to dry?

Wood takes a long time to dry and depending on how wet your particular board is, the natural drying process could take days You can speed up the process using a hair dryer.

If the particle board got very wet, allow it to dry at least 48 hours and run a hairdryer over it several times on a low heat seeing to ensure it is fully dry before you work with it again.

Does particle board get mold?

In the right conditions, mold grows very easily on particle board. It is a porous material, so mold grips it well and looks for the little pockets of moisture that wood can hold within itself.

To remove mold, clean it with distilled white vinegar. This will help to kill mold.

How do you flatten warped particle board?

You can attempt to take the warp out of a damaged particle board in a number of ways. If you have a planer, you can remove the warp using this.

If you haven't got access to sophisticated woodworking tools, wrap the wood with a damp towel and lay it out flat in the sun. Let it sit for about four days.

The wood may straighten on its own through this process.

What is the life expectancy of particle board?

If particle board remains in an environment without drastic temperature changes and it’s not exposed to a lot of moisture, it will last five to 10 years before it needs to be replaced.