Engineered coloured wood has never been easier to utilise than it is now with the introduction to New Zealand of a new product manufactured in Portugal. Known as Valchromat, the product is made from natural wood fibres, strengthened with resin, and coloured throughout with organic dyes.
Valchromat is an evolution of standard MDF, but is unique in its distinctive composition and manufacturing process. The wood fibre sheets are coloured throughout with organic dyes, each fibre is coloured individually through impregnation with the organic dyes before it is bonded together with a special resin, making Valchromat 30 per cent stronger than standard MDF boards.
Valchromat expert Garth Dye of New Zealand importer Creative Flooring, says the benefits of this product compared to MDF are wide-ranging. “Because it has greater internal cohesion, it has a much higher mechanical strength than MDF and therefore has a greater resistance to bending.”
However it is perhaps the fact that Valchromat sheets are coloured throughout that gives the product true versatility that wasn’t formerly possible. “Because it is coloured throughout, when you cut Valchromat, the edges are the same colour as the exterior, or if it is chipped and/or marked in everyday use, the colour is still there underneath the exterior layer,” Dye says.
It’s often that, and particularly in commercial environments, colour is desired to create a particular feature. Generally, in these types of settings, what is needed is a product that can handle, as Dye says, a bit of a beating.
This is exactly what Valchromat can help to achieve. “Overseas, Valchromat has been really popular in schools, for lockers – an area where a product needs to be tough to withstand lots of use over many years. It’s also a great solution for bathroom doors and walls, and high-use spaces such as bars or restaurants.”
Because of its moisture resistance, it’s also extremely versatile in its uses. Valchromat can be use in wet areas including kitchens and bathrooms, and can be used outdoors in covered areas if it has been finished with a clear lacquer. Valchromat is ideal for kitchen cabinetry, a pop of colour in a bathroom, or for various uses in other wet areas. The durability of Valchromat also means it makes a great option for areas where the going can get tough – school art rooms, science labs and the like, it can also be used to make furniture, objects of art, colourful toys, wall coverings, display stands and is especially suitable for shopfittings and fitouts.
There are six thicknesses ranging from 8mm to 30mm and two types of Valchromat; the standard range and a fire-retardant range. The fire-retardant range has been tested and complies with the EN13501 European standard and is in the process of being reviewed to ensure compliance with New Zealand standards, which Dye says should be completed in the very near future.
“Clear finishing is the only thing needed for Valchromat. Generally Valchromat is finished with a clear matt or gloss lacquer, an oil or wax. There is no priming or colour needed, which is great because it reduces the costs associated with creating a finished product and so reduces the time needed to complete a project.”
While the initial cost for Valchromat may be slightly higher than that of standard MDF because Valchromat requires minimal finishing, (could be a single coat of a clear wood finishing oil) when this is taken into account, Valchromat becomes a very viable product choice in place of standard MDF.
If Valchromat is scratched in everyday use, it needs only a bit of clear lacquer or oil to touch it up because it is coloured throughout the time and cost of repairs is significantly reduced rather than with MDF, where the whole board needs to be sanded back and re-coated.
Valchromat is produced using only off-cuts from milling trees and bark – timber that can’t be used for anything else – so it is essentially utilising what would otherwise be a waste product. Valchromat is 100% recyclable and whilst there is no specific recycling system setup for Valchromat offcuts in New Zealand yet, the factory in Portugal, where it is manufactured, accepts all offcuts and will recycle them into new boards.
The Standard and Fire-retardant ranges of Valchromat are available in New Zealand exclusively through Creative Flooring Ltd.