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Will a vanity made of laminate-coated particleboard outgas significantly?

etting | Posted in Green Products and Materials on

The two biggest home improvement retailers in the US each sell a roughly 36″ wide bathroom vanity with countertop and sink for $249 that’s made of particleboard coated with a laminate finish, inside and out.  Will such a vanity outgas significantly?  If so, can you recommend an alternative, including building one from scratch, that’s enclosed on the front and sides and wouldn’t cost more than twice as much?  When I search for a Greenguard Gold Certified 36 inch vanity, the results are inaccurate, as none of those I’ve checked under $600 actually are.

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  1. Expert Member


    I'll be following this discussion. Intuitively I'd think that the laminate cover would preclude the substrate from off-gassing. I remember attending a CMHC seminar on indoor air quality where they suggested coating the particle board underside and edges with a sealer to limit off-gassing, and I can't see why the laminate wouldn't do the same thing?

  2. Expert Member
    Michael Maines | | #2

    Corinne Segura has information on this and related topics here:

    1. Expert Member
      MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #3


      I should have looked at her article. I didn't think it dealt with completely encapsulated particle board, but it did:

      "How to Block & Seal in Formaldehyde
      In cabinets with a melamine or plastic laminate finish on the outside (like many IKEA cabinets) this does block most of the formaldehyde offgassing.
      If the edges are sealed in by the finish, that is even better.
      If the edges are not sealed with melamine, the formaldehyde offgassing from the edges can be sealed with AFM Safeseal or Zinsser Shellac. You should also seal up the unused shelving holes with shellac as well."

  3. gusfhb | | #4

    I have no specific knowledge of this issue, but were this a concern of mine, I would avoid sources like HD for buying such things.
    While that sink/counter is reasonable, I think there are other ways to solve that without particleboard
    I have a feeling the reference to Ikea stuff is the 4 side covered panels used in cabinets etc, rather than the 1 side covered[I see you mention all sides covered].
    Again, not an area of concern to me, but I think I would go a different way

  4. gusfhb | | #5

    If you wish to make a different stylistic choice, a pedestal sink or wall hanging is pretty cheap, then add a vintage or real wood storage unit with none of the downsides to particleboard.

  5. etting | | #6

    Thank you, Malcolm, Michael, and Gus. The article you recommended is excellent, Michael, and the quotation you posted is particularly helpful, Malcolm.

    Searching for any kind of certified product or one made of something other than manufactured wood is difficult, as none of the retailers provide an explicit filter for Greenguard or CARB II, and searches for other materials yield vanities that include just a little bit of, say, steel. I did, however, find a vanity at Wayfair that says, "The vanity cabinet is made of P2-grade particle wood and has passed the CARB certification Almost harmless to the human body and less pungent smell." This seems encouraging, but UL describes CARB as follows: "Products that achieve CARB or TSCA certification are verified by a third party to comply with the formaldehyde emissions standards that are required for composite wood products to be sold in California and required by the EPA for products sold in the United States.. This makes certification essential to almost every composite wood panel manufacturer around the world." The EPA says, "As of June 1, 2018, and until March 22, 2019, composite wood products sold, supplied, offered for sale, manufactured, or imported in the United States were required to be labeled as CARB ATCM Phase II or TSCA Title VI compliant. After March 22, 2019, composite wood products must be labeled as TSCA Title VI compliant. These products include: hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard, and particleboard, as well as household and other finished goods containing these products." Unless I'm reading this incredibly badly, every vanity would be CARB compliant, and the one at Wayfair isn't anything special. CARB II, which Corinne Segura mentions, may be more meaningful.

  6. andy_ | | #7

    I know the vanity you're talking about. I installed one earlier this year the night before a final occupancy permit inspection. I was supposed to install it the week before, but of course Lowe's express delivery sent one via catapult (or possibly trebuchet) and it didn't survive the delivery impact. Open the box before you leave the store.
    Anyway, that particular particle board vanity meets the legal definition of being a vanity but doesn't get you much more than that. The edges are bare particle board so you'd do well to seal them regardless of offgassing concerns but just to make it last more than a few weeks in a humid bath.

    1. etting | | #8

      Thank you, Andy. Lots of reviews of that vanity at Lowe's say it arrived broken, and the bare edges you report reflect poor quality in the $249 vanities at both big retailers, not a great shock. I'm thinking, for what I need, which is basically just a box to hide the plumbing and hold a sink, I could make the whole box out of one sheet of plywood, some framing lumber, some paint, and four small hinges and then just add a premade vanity top with a sink, which would cost around $130 and wouldn't pose any risk of outgassing. The article Michael recommended says plywood gets its outgassing done quickly. I figure if I paint it well enough, it won't warp, but I'm not entirely confident about that..

      1. etting | | #9

        To make sure my previous comment doesn't mislead anyone considering the $249 vanity at HD, I should note that I ended up buying it, as its negative reviews, which were in the minority, were less persuasive on closer scrutiny. It looks good to me, with a much thicker and more substantial top than some of the reviews indicated. The idea of building a vanity got less appealing as the reviews for any materials to use for its walls (plywood options etc.) were worse than the reviews for the $249 vanity, and my final result would have looked considerably worse.

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