Is MDF furniture right for my home?
MDF furniture is manufactured with Medium Density Fibreboard which is an engineered wood composite. These boards are made of hardwood fibres that are bonded with synthetic resins under high temperature and pressure to create sheets of different thickness. Since these boards mimic the look of wood, they are used to manufacture furniture which substitute solid wood and plywood. Here's what you need to know about MDF furniture to decide if it is right for your home.
Since MDF furniture is made with waste wood, it is not only eco-friendly but also more economical in comparison to furniture made from solid wood or plywood. Its boards are popularly used for fabricating lightweight beds, wardrobes, tables, shelves, etc.
MDF furniture is factory-manufactured and can be finished with materials like laminate, real wood veneer or spray paint. The core material is smooth because of the absence of any knots or splinters which results in a smooth finish. Since it is a homogeneous material and is easy to work with, it is suitable for creating interesting shapes, incorporating 3D patterns, decorative designs and perforated panels.
Easy to Install
MDF furniture comes in a ready-to-install form and is usually assembled on site. The best part about it is that it ensures a clean, dust-free and hassle-free installation process.
Not Strong and Durable
Unlike solid wood or plywood furniture, MDF furniture is not very strong and durable but is resistant to termites. It has to be handled with care. In case it gets damaged, it is difficult to repair it. Note that the drawers of MDF furniture cannot hold excess weight. Even the screws can loosen over time and tightening them may split the edges of the furniture.
MDF furniture has the tendency to soak water, swell and may break or disintegrate under pressure. Therefore, its edges should be properly sealed. One can use good quality varnishes and sealants to increase moisture resistance of the furniture. Yet, it is not advisable to use this furniture for outdoor seating or in moisture-laden areas like bathrooms and kitchens.
One major drawback of MDF furniture is that urea-formaldehye is used as a resin to bind the small particles of wood. As a result, the boards release harmful VOCs (volatile organic compounds) into the surroundings for a certain period of time. Therefore, it is highly recommended to take utmost care while cutting, sanding and working with MDF boards to avoid inhalation of small wood particles and VOCs.
What's the Difference? MDF vs. Plywood
Though they may be side-by-side in the same aisle at your home improvement store, they aren't interchangeable. Determine which works better in your project by weighing these key differences.
While it’s hard to match the natural beauty of solid wood, it’s an undeniably pricey option. Fortunately, for many projects, the two main substitutes—medium-density fiberboard (MDF) and plywood—are less expensive, yet perform just as well or better than solid wood for a wide range of projects, including furniture, cabinets, shelves, and decorative accents such as wainscoting. Still, choosing the right material—MDF vs. plywood—for your project can be a puzzle.
On the surface, both MDF and plywood contain real wood but are highly engineered into their finished forms. MDF starts off with hardwood and softwood fibers, which are glued together with various resins, and then subjected to high heat and pressure to form panels. Plywood undergoes a similar process, but instead of wood fibers, starts off with very thin layers of wood from peeler logs. At a big-box home improvement store, you’ll find both in sheet forms of different thicknesses and grades—the higher the grade, the higher the price.
While they may appear similar, these two popular wood composites are not interchangeable. Both have their strengths and weaknesses based on their construction. To help you decide between them, we’ve addressed their primary differences in the categories that matter most to the average do-it-yourselfer.
In general, MDF is cheaper than plywood.
While the price depends on the thickness and grade of the material, in general, MDF costs less than plywood. If there are zero other factors pushing you to one material over another, and you’re watching the bottom line, MDF wins the price wars.
Since plywood is made with wood strips, its surfaces take on the solid-wood appearance better than MDF. Higher grades of plywood are smooth and quite attractive, with plenty of grain, yet none of the knotholes that can mar solid wood. MDF, in contrast, has no grain, isn’t as smooth as plywood, and looks like what it is: pressed wood fibers.
Difference Between Laminate, Veneer and Solid Wood Furniture
Is solid wood better than veneer? Is veneer better than laminate? What exactly are the differences? Choosing new furniture for your home comes with lots of decisions, often starting with the type of material used in the pieces. Furniture made from laminate, veneer and solid wood all come with pros and cons. Understanding the differences among them helps you decide which furniture material is best for your home.
Laminate furniture consists of synthetic materials used to form a thin layer that looks like wood. Since it’s not actually made from wood, laminate pieces often look manufactured. The laminate gets its wood grain appearance through a printed process. Those printed sheets are then attached to a durable core material, such as MDF — medium-density fiber. Laminate pieces often have a shiny finish.
As a manufactured product, laminate is made to resist heat and scratches. That strength means you don’t have to be quite as careful with laminate as you do with solid wood or veneer. For this reason, some people choose laminate over other types of furniture for busy areas of a house or areas where the furniture might get a lot of heavy use.
Pros of Laminate
While it might seem that a product not made of wood lacks benefits, it does have some good qualities, depending on your needs. Here are a few of the potential positives of choosing laminate furniture:
Cost. Laminate is generally the least expensive of the three main furniture types. If cost is your only qualifier, this can be a plus. You get what you pay for, so it’s not necessarily an investment piece. You may spend more down the road to replace laminate furniture that doesn’t hold up well.
Easy cleaning. Furniture made from laminate is easy to clean. Since the material is durable, you can wipe it down easily without worry of damage. Because it’s not actual wood, you don’t have to worry about specialized cleaning products.
Durability. Laminate is a relatively durable material, making it perfect around kids or pets.
Low Maintenance. This type of furniture doesn’t need much maintenance. You won’t need to polish or refinish the piece on a regular basis to keep it up. It can last several years without fading.
Greater Color Options. Since manufacturers make the laminate from synthetic materials, the options for colors and appearance vary much more than solid wood. That variety lets you get a unique look for your furniture pieces. For example, exotic wood species are very rare to find in solid wood, but it’s a bit easier to make a laminate furniture piece look like that exotic species.
MDF sizes and thicknesses
More people are now preferring MDF boards over wood to make their cabinets and other furniture. This is mainly because the MDF board is strong but cheaper than wood. MDF is a type of engineered wood. It has thin panels that are made from wood fiber, wax, and resin. It is considered to be better than plywood as it is stronger and denser, thus more durable.
There are many different types of MDF boards in the market and so it is difficult to choose the best one. The MDF boards vary according to thickness, sizes, wood species, moisture content, and other factors. If you have some knowledge about the types of MDF boards then it will be easy for you to choose one. Here we are going to discuss MDF sizes and thicknesses.
Normally you will find five sizes of MDF. These include:
2400 X 900mm
2400 X 1200mm
2700 X 1200mm
3600 X 1200mm
3600 X 1800mm.
You can find these sizes of MDF in every thickness. If you want to get Moisture Resistant MDF then you have to choose either 2400 X 1200mm or 3600 X 1200mm sheets. The sizes just mentioned are available on the shelves. Different sheet MDF sizes can be customized sizes as well.
Thickness of MDF
Whether you are planning to make cabinet doors or other kitchen or bathroom fittings, you must consider the thickness of the board. As you will be using the MDF board as the base material you must ensure that it is of the right density and thickness. If the thickness of the MDF board isn’t right then you won’t be able to cut it to the size you want.
MDF thickness sizes can vary. The 3mm sheets are the thinnest MDF boards you will find and they are cheap as well. The thickness can go up to 32mm. You can find MDF sheets with thicknesses between 3mm and 32mm, the thicknesses varying by 3mm. That means the thickness of the sheets can be 6mm, 9mm, 12mm, and so on. The regular Moisture Resistant MDF sheets come in 16mm and 18mm thickness only.
For building cabinets or other fittings, you must know the appropriate thickness and size of the MDF to be used. Otherwise, your project may not come out well. The cabinets, for example, may not turn out to be that strong. So, knowing the right thickness and size of the MDF is necessary for your project to be successful.
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MDF vs Plywood; which should you choose for your project?
MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard) is an engineered material made by breaking down hardwood or softwood residuals into fine particles, combining it with wax and a resin binder and applying high temperature and pressure.
Advantages of MDF
MDF is generally cheaper than plywood.
The surface of MDF is very smooth which makes it a great surface for painting.
MDF is very consistent throughout, so cut edges appear smooth and won’t have voids or splinters.
Because of the smooth edges, you can use a router to create decorative edges.
The consistency and smoothness of MDF allow for easy cutting of detailed designs (such as scrolled or scalloped designs) using a scroll saw, band saw or jigsaw.
Disadvantages of MDF
Just like particle board, MDF will soak up water and other liquids like a sponge and swell unless it’s very well sealed on all sides and edges.
Because it consists of such fine particles, MDF doesn’t hold screws very well.
Because it’s so dense, MDF is very heavy which can make it more difficult to work with.
MDF can’t be stained. Not only does it soak up stain like a sponge but because there’s no wood grain on MDF, it looks awful when it’s stained.
MDF contains VOCs (eg. urea-formaldehyde) so care needs to be taken while cutting and sanding to avoid inhalation of the particles.
Browse our MDF products here
Plywood is also an engineered wood product, made by pressing and binding sheets of wood veneer together into one solid piece. Like MDF, plywood comes not only in different thicknesses but also in different grades, so you can choose the right one for your project.
Lower grades are used in the construction of houses. The higher grades of plywood (stain grade, cabinet grade, etc.) are much prettier and smoother.
Unlike MDF, they have consistent wood grain showing and generally lack knot holes and other major imperfections. You can also find veneered plywoods in various wood species (Oak, Sapele or Ash for example) so you can get the exact look you want for your project.
Advantages of plywood
Made from multiple layers of wood veneer, plywood is a very strong material to work with.
It won’t soak up water and liquids as quickly or easily as MDF does so it’s less susceptible to water damage.
Because it carries a grain, plywood is stainable. Which makes it perfect for kitchen cabinets, tabletops and other projects where you want a large stained wood surface.
It holds screws very tightly since the varying grains of wood on each layer give the screws something to hold onto.
Disadvantages of plywood
Plywood is more expensive than MDF and of course, the higher the grade and depending on the species of wood, it can increase in price.
Because of the layers that show on the edge, plywood needs finishing with iron-on edge banding, pieces of timber or decorative mouldings.
It’s harder to get a perfectly smooth cut with plywood than it is with MDF.
It’s more difficult to cut detailed designs into plywood (scrolled, scalloped, etc.) because the edges will splinter and the edges that show layers may have voids in some places.