If you've recently had a home built, consulted with a builder about creating a home or have done exterior remodeling, you might have heard about Masonite boards. Hearing about them, though, doesn't mean you have a clear understanding of what they are. It's important to know what will be used on your house—if it's going to be Masonite boards, you should understand what they are made from, what they are used for and what their durability and functionality is like. They can be used for other applications, as well, most notably by hobbyists.
Masonite boards were created by William H. Mason in 1924 in Laurel, Mississippi. The boards weren't mass-produced until 1929; the 1930s and 1940s saw the boards used for everything from roofing and walls to desktops and electric guitars, as well as doors and canoes. The were also used for house siding and sometimes still are—but the popularity of Masonite boards has faded over time. If the boards are taken care of properly and painted frequently, they will last for the life of the house. The boards are created by using wooden chips that are heated and pressed together. No glue is used.
Today, Masonite boards are mostly used in artistic media. It's popular in linocut printing, for example, and it's also a good choice for skateboard ramps and table tennis (ping pong) tables because the board surface is smooth. Stage floors in theaters are resurfaced with it, too. It's good for making Wobble boards, for building stage sets and for laying over finished floors in high-end construction to protect them from workers.
Masonite is made from pressed wood chips and can be damaged by excessive humidity or by spilled liquid if it's not painted or sealed. So long as the boards are maintained, they will last for many years. Masonite is also cost-effective due to its low price.
People often believe the problems that Masonite had with its boards in the 1980s and 1990s are still there, but the company has taken steps to correct them. Those past problems included mold development and swelling of the boards themselves. The boards often weren't compressed or installed correctly, which led to deterioration. There was a recall and a class-action suit, which has since been addressed.
Masonite boards need to be maintained—especially if you use them for siding on a house or in some other capacity where they're exposed to the elements. They will need to be painted at proper intervals and replaced if they become damaged. If you take good care of Masonite, it will last for a long time in almost any application and will continue to look great for years.