Abstract The formaldehyde emission from wood-based building materials is usually determined in large chambers at a defined temperature, humidity and ventilation rate. In this article, a simpler method, the Field and Laboratory Emission Cell (FLEC), is described for determination of the formaldehyde emission and it is compared with the traditional chamber method. The formaldehyde from FLEC is collected on a silicagel cartridge impregnated with 2,4-dinitrophenylhydrazine (DNPH) and analysed with HPLC. The FLEC is easier to operate, requires a smaller sample, fewer analyses and is also more flexible than the chamber method. The emissions from different parts of a sample can be measured. Another advantage is that the equipment can be used to determine the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emission at the same time. The FLEC method gives a good correlation to the chamber method for different building products. It also gives a good recovery. An average recovery of 98% was achieved, when two different FLEC-cells were tested with known formaldehyde sources with emissions of 0.06–0.7 mg/m2h.