Surfaces - Masonite and Hardboard
Read this page before making a purchase of masonite or hardboard for your riding surface!
Glancing at any materials list on this site, or from reading about ramp building elsewhere, you probably have noticed that masonite or hardboard is used for a final riding surface quite often. Here on RPO, in fact, itís specified as the final riding surface for ALL ramps. But what exactly is masonite and hardboard you might ask? Letís dig a little deeperÖ
Masonite and hardboard are very similar. Their terminology is somewhat used interchangeably at hardware stores and lumber yards. Usually though, youíll actually be purchasing tempered hardboard.
Both materials are high-density fiber boards. Hereís a quick look at each.
Masonite originated in the late 1920ís as a building material suited for interior home finishes. If protected, it was also used for exterior finishes and paneling. Masonite is formed by basically steam-pressing fibrous wood chips into boards, no glue or any bonding agent is used at all. Masonite is extremely environmentally friendly.
Hardboard is slightly different, as itís composed of a wet wood pulp instead of fibrous chips. The pulp is compressed at high temperatures resulting in a high density product. Resin is often added to help unify the bond.
Tempered hardboard is hardboard that has been coated with linseed oil and then baked. This coating adds water resistance, impact resistance, hardness, rigidity, and tensile strength. Tempered hardboard is the modern culmination of on-the-cheap high density fiberboard. Itís the technological and economical evolution of masonite.
So why hardboard for the final surface on a ramp?
A number of reasons can be assumed for this decision: low cost, smooth ride, availability, and tensile strength (in the sense of being able to bend the sheets Ďhamburger styleí).
Versus unfinished CDX grade plywood, hardboard is less than 1/2 the price; versus ACX exterior grade plywood, hardboard is about 1/5th the price; and versus Skatelite or Ramp Armour, hardboard is about 1/20th the price! Thatís right, you could resurface your ramp at least 20 times with hardboard for the same price as the fancy composite materials!
But, most importantly, HARDBOARD AND MASONITE ARE NOT WATER PROOF! If your ramp will be in the elements at all times, you must protect it! Use a tarp, or paint it. If painting itís recommended to use an oil or shellac-based quick dry coating before using any water based products!
Of course other options exist besides masonite or hardboard for permanent exterior applications. Plywood for instance!