When you’re choosing your residence hall furniture and deciding on the specs, you’ll inevitably choose what materials you want.
Should it be totally solid wood or a laminate variety?
If you choose to go with the latter, you’ll have to answer another important question.
What kind of edge banding do you want?
For many people who are new to buying residence hall furniture, that’s going to elicit some questioning faces.
What’s edge banding? Good question.
Or, if you’re a veteran, you already know how painful the wrong edge banding choice can be. That is to say, peeling, ongoing maintenance, and mounting work orders.
What Is Edge Banding?
So let’s start at the beginning. What is edge banding?
It’s actually kind of simple, and the video below will help you understand it even better, but this is a simple overview to get you started.
Here’s the basic non-technical idea.
Plywood, particle board, and other manufactured wood cores like MDF have rough, unfinished, unprotected, and generally unsightly edges.
To account for that, some clever folks developed technologies that allow you to glue different bands of glossy finished material to those rough edges to match the tops and sides.
Those narrow bands or strips are called edging tape, and they range in thickness from 0.018-inch to 5mm thick and in 250 ft rolls.
The thicker edging is used in high traffic and commercial environments because it provides greater resilience and impact resistance. For example, the military requires a thicker ⅜” solid wood edge banding for maximum impact resistance.
And edge banders are the industrial grade machines that apply the edging tape to the raw edges of the wood panels with a hot-melt adhesive or glue.
The Purpose of Edge Banding
Edge banding serves both functional and aesthetic purposes.
Functionally, edge bands perform some key duties for your furniture. First, it keeps moisture out serving as a de facto seal on the edge of the core material. Second, edge banding improves durability and resilience by providing impact resistance. If you’re using solid wood edging, it can also add to the overall strength of the furniture.
Aesthetically, edge banding covers up unsightly rough edges and creates a glossy finish to match your tops and sides. You can also create radial edges to soften sharp angles.
What Is Edge Banding Made From?
What are the edging tapes made from? There are different materials, and we’ll just focus on a few here.
1. PVC is the most popular material for edge banding. Pros: It’s inexpensive, durable, and boasts a long life. It doesn’t require any finishing process. It’s also easy, albeit tedious, to repair. Cons: You can’t recycle it. It doesn’t biodegrade. Once it’s blemished, you can’t refinish it. (NB: ABS—Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene—is an eco friendly alternative to PVC because it’s both recyclable and safe to incinerate.)
When it comes to PVC, we recommend 3mm edging in general because it goes on cleaner, quicker, and with better adhesion. Another advantage is that you get a graceful radius and a nice soft-looking finish. In general, we avoid .5mm edging because the corners tend to be too sharp.
2. Solid Wood is still a favorite in many woodworking camps. It’s durable, recyclable, easy to fix and refinish, strong, stiff, and economical. Benefits: is more resistant to chipping than veneer edge tape. Solid wood glues are more reliable and less prone to peeling than veneer and PVC. It provides additional dimensional support to plywood and mdf. Climate neutral manufacturing. Cons: Difficult to use for curves.
When it comes to solid wood we recommend 9.5mm on case good tops.
As we explain below, at DCI, we believe the best way to apply wood edge banding is “internally” with a HPL top. Why? Because in our experience, it’s incredibly durable and never requires additional service.
3. Wood Veneer is another common edge banding material. It’s made from thin slices of wood—typically oak, maple, ash, walnut, birch, and mahogany—that are joined together in a roll using finger jointing. It usually features a heat-sensitive glue backing.
Pros: It’s attractive, durable, and strong. It provides a clean solid-wood look, and it’s pre-sanded to easily absorb stains and finishes to seamlessly match your wood. Cons: It’s not heat resistant. Avoid putting it near a heater. It doesn’t do well in high-use environments.
How is Edge Banding Applied
According to RA Learning Center, there are at least four methods of applying edge banding. There are a lot of things to say about each of these but for now, here’s a simple list of application methods and mediums.
- Hot-melt glue
- Hot air/laser
- Laser edging
Edge Banding Downsides
Like any woodworking solution, edge banding has its pros and cons. One of the primary issues that you might find in furniture that has edge banding is that it peels. Remember those mounting work orders? This is why.
Sometimes, for different reasons, the adhesive can fail. When that happens, the edge banding will start to peel away from the edge.
Peeling can also happen because of rough use. For example, .5mm edging doesn’t provide much resistance to impacts. Therefore you don’t want to use it on the front end of a case side. If you do, your edging might start to peel.
If your furniture starts to peel, we can fix it. Just reach out to your local DCI account rep and we’ll take care of it for you.
And the purpose of this article is to help you make the right decision up front to minimize any chance of this happening.
Edge Banding at DCI
At DCI, there are a few distinctions we make when it comes to edge banding.
Your Cost Considerations
Generally speaking, we recommend PVC edge banding for projects where budget is the first and driving priority. That is not to say there is anything wrong with this material. There are just fewer steps in the manufacturing process and the raw material is less expensive.
Solid wood edge banding is more expensive because it’s labor intensive and the material is higher quality. And with more steps involved in the manufacturing process, we consider this a premium solution. As we alluded to above, internal solid wood edge banding with HPL tops are probably our strongest and most durable solution.
We choose to use a hot melt glue for our adhesive solution because it’s user friendly and provides a great seal. We apply the glue to the edge while it’s still hot and then apply the banding, pressing it to the side.
Ambient temperature plays an important role in the edge banding process. We need to regulate the temperature of both the building and our materials. In essence, we need a warm environment for the optimal adhesion process. It can’t be cold in the building.
And finally, you need a good clean glue edge for the process to work. At DCI, we have state of the art machinery that improves the glue edge and squares it up perfectly.
Videos: Edge Banding Basics
Here is a stripped down version of edge banding. Of course, when building furniture for Higher Education and Military customers, we do this on an industrial scale. But this video will help you visualize the process in its simplest form.