Nu-Wood wall & ceiling patterns & textures aid in identification of Nu-Wood (C) 2017Nu-Wood Fiberboard Identification
History, images, ingredients in Nu-Wood ceiling & wall panels

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Nu-Wood Fiberboard insulating sheathing identification guide:

How can we identify Nu-Wood fiberboard panels used in building interiors for walls, ceiling, & some trim elements?

Here we give the history of Nu-Wood and include illustrations and details that can help identify this historic product.

This article series describes and provides photographs that aid in identifying various insulating board sheathing materials used on building walls and roofs, such as Homasote, Celotex, Insulite, and Masonite, Upsonboard, Nu-Wood and other insulating board sheathing products.

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Nu-Wood Fiberboard Wall & Ceiling Covering Product Identification

Nu-Wood wall & ceiling patterns & textures aid in identification of Nu-Wood (C) 2017Nu-Wood ® fiberboard panels, also referred to as NuWood or Nu Wood paneling or ceiling tiles were a low-density fiberboard panels used on walls & ceilings & as a plaster lath support. They were produced by the Wood Conversion Company in St. Paul, Minnesota who also produced Balsam Wool.

The parent Wood Conversion Company was incorporated in 1921 in Delaware by eleven stockholding companies, including the Weyerhaeuser firms. The Wood Conversion Company headquarters was located in Cloquet, Minnesota. The headquarters later moved to Saint Paul, while the Nu-Wood plant operations remained in Cloquet.

Excerpt from documents at the Minnesota Historical Society's Manuscripts Collection:

On August 1, 1967, an amended certificate of incorporation filed in Delaware changed the name of the corporation to Conwed Corporation.

In 1985 the stock of Conwed Corporation was sold to Cardiff Equities Corporation, a subsidiary of the Leucadia Corporation of New York.

According to the Nu Wood company's product literature, some Nu-Wood fiberboard would have been plastered over while other installations were left with the original factory color coating. Keep in mind that a 1940's home that used Nu-Wood wall or ceiling panels may well have been painted-over, plastered over, or later even laminated-over with a layer of more modern drywall.

[Click to enlarge any image]

But originally the ceiling or walls in homes covered in Nu-Wood panels that were not being used as a plaster base displayed the following:

Nu Wood ceiling tiles were also produced.

Article Contents

Catalog of Nu-Wood Panel & Tile Designs & Patterns

Nu-Wood Plank-Design Panels

One of the most-widely-installed Nu-Wood wall coverings was the company's Plank design shown below. The panels were described as bevel-lap planks in random widths.

You'll notice that from the factory the Nu-Wood plank panels were deliberately varied a bit in color. Originally these shades were described as old ivory, varying to a much-darker deep wood-brown color.

However in the ensuing decades if your building still has Nu-Wood plank or other wall or ceiling coverings installed the surfaces will have been affected by light exposure and or course they may have been painted or even covered-over completely.

Nu-Wood wall & ceiling patterns & textures aid in identification of Nu-Wood (C) 2017

Nu-Wood Wainscot-Design Panels

Below: the textured surface of Nu-Wood wainscot panels were used on the lower portion of walls; the horizontal top band mimics a chair rail of matching texture.

Nu-Wood wall & ceiling patterns & textures aid in identification of Nu-Wood (C) 2017

Tile-Pattern Nu-Wood Panel Designs

Tile embossed Nu-Wood panels were produced in both rectangular and herring-bone patterns shown below.

Nu-Wood wall & ceiling patterns & textures aid in identification of Nu-Wood (C) 2017

You'll note that here too the colors of individual Nu-Wood rectangles were deliberately varied in color.

Nu-Wood wall & ceiling patterns & textures aid in identification of Nu-Wood (C) 2017

Below: a closer-look at the Nu-Wood Wainscot pattern.

Nu-Wood wall & ceiling patterns & textures aid in identification of Nu-Wood (C) 2017

Below: a closer look at a Nu-Wood ceiling tile pattern

Nu-Wood wall & ceiling patterns & textures aid in identification of Nu-Wood (C) 2017

Accessory Ornaments & Trim by Nu-Wood

Nu-Wood wall & ceiling patterns & textures aid in identification of Nu-Wood (C) 2017 Nu-Wood wall & ceiling patterns & textures aid in identification of Nu-Wood (C) 2017

Above we show Nu-Wood moldings and friezes sold by the company.

Below we illustrate some of the Trim ornaments and covers for suspended ceiling lights produced by Nu-Wood.

Nu-Wood wall & ceiling patterns & textures aid in identification of Nu-Wood (C) 2017 Nu-Wood wall & ceiling patterns & textures aid in identification of Nu-Wood (C) 2017

These ornaments, also made of Nu-Wood were produced in "... a variety of shapes [that] offer possibilities of finish heretofore available only in expensive ornamental plaster".

The company also provided Nu-Wood carving tools that permitted people to create their own decorative borders, corners, and centers of Nu-Wood panels using the company's "Bevil-Devil" - basically a hand-plane designed for working these fiberboard materials.

Tips for Confirming Nu-Wood Panels

Question: can we identify this wall covering as Nu-Wood

Fiberboard panels Nu-Wood like (C) InspectApedia BJ

Hi. Could you helped me identify this wall covering? I live in a cottage built in 1940, located in San Jose, CA USA. There are a few gouges and I'm trying to discover what it is so I can repair it.

My research suggests it is Beaverboard or Nu-wood. Any help would be appreciated.

Each panel is about 14 1/2 inches across. There is wainscoting 2/3rds of the way up the wall, and then about 4.5 feet of the wall covering going up to the ceiling.

- B.J. by private email 2017/07/29

Fiberboard panels Nu-Wood like (C) InspectApedia BJ

Reply: looks like Nu-Wood, more tips for identifying that fiberboard product

I agree that the pattern and width of your wallboard looks much like NuWood as we describe it at IDENTIFY NU-WOOD PANELS and also at these panels are illustrated in this product brochure: NU-WOOD INTERIORS FOR EVERY WALL AND CEILING [PDF]

It is certainly the case that Nu-Wood sold fiberboard panel products that includes a wainscot design, as you will see in our descriptive photos starting at IDENTIFY NU-WOOD PANELS (link above).

Your wall surfaces look smoother than the images in the NuWood catalog but for a home built in 1940 and whose interior may have been painted a number of times that may have smoothed the surface. The 16-inch distance between the tooled grooves on your fiberboard panels (shown above) would make it easier to find and nail to studs spaced the standard 16" o.c. as was common in a 1940's stick-built home.

I have not seen beaverboard with beveled edges in narrow panels such as what I think I see in your photo.

However the actual physical panel width may be 48" - you may, by looking with care at the v-grooved panel seams, see a slightly wider groove or a slit separating panels on 4-foot intervals, although depending on amount of covering paint or caulk this may be hard to spot.

Fiberboard panels Nu-Wood like (C) InspectApedia BJClues useful for Confirming Nu-Wood Fiberboard Panels

It would help to know

In your photo (above/left), annotated by my arrows point to what looks like a butt-joint seam between two panels.

Nu-Wood deliberately designed a v-groove panel that included beveled butting edges to form another v-groove precisely to permit hiding of this butt joint, making the whole wall easy to install without having to caulk or otherwise cover the joints.

Reader follow-up: soft panels, damaged

It is very soft. I am able to push a thumbtack in. I wouldn't call it exactly smooth, though it's definitely been painted several times. I don't have any extra pieces of the material so I have no way to see the back.

There isn't any way to see the thickness as there are no receptacles to remove but I'm attaching a picture of some of the gouges made by our movers. You can see more of the material of the wall.


We'll comment on repairs to damaged Nu-Wood or other fiberboard panels at FIBERBOARD PANEL REPAIR

Below we include close-up photo images of B.J.'s paneling showing a v-groove for comparison with a panel butt-joint.

Gouged Nu-Wood fiberboard panel repair (C) InspectApedia BJ

Above, probably a panel butt joint. Below, a typical V-groove that is not a butt-joint.

Gouged Nu-Wood fiberboard panel repair (C) InspectApedia BJ

Is there Asbestos in Nu-Wood Products?

Nu_Wood Sta-Rite cellulose ceiling tile (C) InspectAPedia

Some Nu-wood (Conwed) ceiling tiles contained asbestos.

2015/11/30 Leslie said:

I've been poking around the net trying to find out about tiles in a 1960 Maine lake house that fortunately still has the box in the attic Nu-Wood Stay-Lite cellulose fiber ceiling tiles 40-004 class d

This question, posted originally at ASBESTOS CEILING TILES, is answered in more detail at SHEATHING, FIBERBOARD ASBESTOS CONTENT

There you'll see that in our reply we said that although cellulose (plant fibers and the essential ingredient in Nu-Wood products is not asbestos, there were asbestos warnings for workers at several Nuwood processing mills.

Nu-Wood Panel Research & History

Nu-Wood Interiors catalog pages (C) InspectApedia

Nu-wood was a fiberboard product made from wood. Excerpting from Wilson & Snodgrass in the USFPS document cited above

Fiberboard is a generic name for construction panels made of wood or vegetable fibers. Some are homogenous materials, while others are laminated sheets with fiber cores and surfaces of ground wood. The earliest fiberboard panels were made with fibers from an array of materials including jute, straw, sugar cane stalks, flax, hemp, grass, newspaper, and peanut shells.

They were manufactured under names such as Fir-tex, Homasote, Masonite, Beaver Board, Feltex, Nu-Wood, and Upson Board.

Wood has always been the most common fiber used in fiberboard. Historic manufacturing processes varied, but most required a pulping process that cooked or ground the wood to separate its fibers. The pulp was mixed with binders such as glue, asphalt, or resins and moved onto screens where heavy pressure and heat squeezed out water and compressed the fibers.

This process bound the wood fibers to each other and the binders, producing one smooth side and one side that was textured because it had been pressed against the screen. The formed sheets were dried, trimmed, and, in some cases, finished with paint, enamel, paper, fabric, or glaze. Eventually, processes were developed to cover the panels with wood veneer or plastic laminate.

Because moisture was their primary enemy, fiberboards often were treated with waterproofing materials to retard rot and swelling.

Asbestos, plaster of Paris, clay, turpentine, paraffin wax, or other materials were added to some mixes to improve fire resistance and produce other desirable qualities such as stiffness, hardness, smooth surfaces, increased strength, or durability.

Fiberboard products were valued for ease of use, particularly by unskilled workers. For the Forest Service, this was particularly important when young, untrained men from the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed facilities. Unlike plaster walls and ceilings, fiberboard could be applied quickly and required no drying time.

The Improvement Handbook (1937) indicated that, for reasons of economy, fiberboard was recommended as a finish in attics, basements, and closets even when other spaces were plastered. (Wilson 2007) cited above.

Repair or Painting Damaged Fiberboard Panels

This topic has moved to a separate article: FIBERBOARD PANEL REPAIR

If there is extensive damage throughout a non-historic structure, remove the panels entirely and replace them with drywall. That step brings your building closer to modern fire-code requirements, and it provides an opportunity to upgrade exposed wiring, plumbing, insulation and and to inspect the structure for hidden rot or insect damage.

You could instead leave the panels in place and cover them over with drywall: a step involving less mess. But you may find that the window and door trim and receptacles and switches in the room all need to be built-out, making this option expose its own achilles-heel.

Historic buildings may merit special fiberboard panel repair methods discussed at the repair aritcle cited just above.

How to Paint Fiberboard Panels

This discussion is now found at FIBERBOARD PANEL PAINTING

Watch out: if you're worried about asbestos in fiberboard panels or sheathing products, see SHEATHING, FIBERBOARD ASBESTOS CONTENT


Continue reading at FIBERBOARD SHEATHING IDENTIFICATION - home, or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

Or see more Nu-Wood panel photos and a repair discussion at FIBERBOARD PANEL REPAIR

Or see INSULATION IDENTIFICATION GUIDE - home for identification of various insulating board products

Or see NUWOOD ASBESTOS CONTENT for warnings about asbestos in Nu-Wood fiberboard products.

Or see Definition & Characteristics of MDF Medium-Density Fiberboard

Or see this

Article Series Contents

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