MDF or medium-density fiberboard is one of the most popular materials for interior or exterior construction projects. Learning what is MDF wood and understanding its advantages or disadvantages can help you decide if this is the right building material for your project.
What is MDF wood exactly?
MDF wood is a type of engineered wood created by compressing different hardwood and softwoods using wax or resin. This type of wood is also placed under very high temperatures and pressures to combine the different wood layers together.
MDF wood is one of the most commonly engineered woods and sheet materials. It is easier to use for all kinds of projects. It is high-density and thus, you can use power tools or hand tools without fear of damaging it.
Properties of MDF wood
Previously, the raw material to make MDF is wheat but now, softwoods or hardwoods are used. To create high-quality MDF, binding agents are used such as urea melamine formaldehyde. There are many types of MDF and each one uses a different method.
Because of efficient manufacturing methods, MDF has impressive properties including high internal bond strength, enhanced modulus of rupture, thickness, and elasticity. Let’s get more into detail about these properties as we highlight the different advantages and disadvantages of MDF wood.
Advantages of MDF wood
- Can be treated with pesticides
When MDF is manufactured, this is treated with chemicals that make it resistant to all kinds of pests and insects especially termites. A chemical pesticide is used and therefore, there are also some drawbacks when it comes to its effects on human and animal health.
- Comes with a lovely, smooth surface
No doubt that MDF wood has a very smooth surface that’s free from any knots and kinks. Because of these, MDF wood has become one of the most popular finishing material or surface materials.
- Easy to cut or carved to any design or pattern
You can easily cut or carve MDF wood because of its very smooth edges. You can cut all kinds of designs and patterns with ease.
- High-density wood to hold hinges and screws
MDF is high-density wood which means, it’s very strong and will keep hinges and screws in place even when these are constantly used. This is why MDF doors and door panels, cabinet doors, and bookshelves are popular.
- It is cheaper than regular wood
MDF is engineered wood and thus, it’s cheaper compared to natural wood. You can use MDF to make all kinds of furniture to get the appearance of hardwood or softwood without paying so much.
- It is good for the environment
MDF wood is made from discarded pieces of softwood and hardwood and thus, you’re recycling natural wood. This makes MDF wood good for the environment.
- Lacks grain
This type of engineered wood is no grain as it is made from tiny bits of natural wood, glued, heated, and pressurized. Having no grain makes MDF easier to drill and even cut with a power saw or handsaw. You can also use woodworking routers, jigsaws, and other cutting and milling equipment on MDF wood and still preserve its structure.
- This is easier to stain or paint
Compared to regular hardwood or softwoods, it is easier to apply stains or to apply color on MDF wood. Natural wood needs several coats of stain to achieve a lovely deep-stained look. In MDF wood, you only need to apply one or two coats to achieve this.
- Will never contract
MDF wood is resistant to moisture and temperature extremes and thus, it will never contract even when this is used outdoors.
- Will never expand
Natural wood expands and contracts according to the surrounding temperature. MDF will never expand, warp or change shape even when it’s used to build outdoor projects.
- You can stain or paint it
You can add stain or paint MDF wood any color you wish. But be careful when sanding MDF wood as you may remove the thin surface layer. Sand it lightly to apply another color.
Disadvantages of MDF wood
- Be careful when hammering nails
Nailing nails and screwing screws on MDF wood should be done very carefully. Once a nail or screw is installed, small particles may be displaced and affect the smooth surface. You may need to repair the surface by sanding it.
- Is not as strong as natural wood
MDF wood is not as durable and strong as natural wood therefore it can crack when exposed to extreme stress. This is why furniture made from MDF wood won’t last as long as those made from natural wood.
- It contains formaldehyde
Formaldehyde is added during the manufacturing of this engineered wood. This is a very harmful chemical that is released when the wood is cut. Formaldehyde can damage your lungs and affect your health.
- This is denser and thus, labor-intensive
Some MDF woods are very dense and thus can be very hard to cut, sand, and install on projects. Anyone who wants to use MDF wood should know how to properly and safely handle and use this type of material.
- Tools can become blunt
As we mentioned earlier, MDF wood is made by gluing the different wood fibers. This is why tools used to cut and fasten MDF wood can become blunt right after use.
- You need a lot of nails and hardware during installation
MDF installation will require more nails as it’s very dense compared to natural wood. These should be attached closely so the MDF board won’t sag along the middle. Be careful when installing nails as you need to finish the surface right after hammering.
MDF wood is best for many projects. Its many amazing properties have made it the top choice for indoor and outdoor projects. MDF is durable, easy to use, and can stand many pressures and stresses. However, it is not free from disadvantages. Understand what is MDF wood, it’s advantages and disadvantages to find out if this is the best type of material for your needs.