Medium-density Fiberboard (MDF) is an extremely easy wood to work with. You can mill it easily. It cuts well, you can comfortably drill holes into it, and even paint over it. But a common question that is asked is whether wood glue works on MDF.
Does wood glue work on MDF? Yes, it does, but not all wood glues might be that effective. You may have to use specific wood glues depending on the orientation of the boards being bonded. While face-to-face gluing tends to be straightforward, you would probably have to use special wood glues for edge gluing.
What is MDF?
MDF is an engineered wood that consists of a mixture of wood fibers, shavings, and sawdust heated, compressed, and bonded together with waxes and resins to create a solid, cohesive mass. It is then rolled and cut into boards of specific sizes.
MDF has a higher density than plywood and MDF boards are generally thicker. It is a material widely used in construction and also in woodworking today.
Wood glue is a class of adhesive that hobbyists, carpenters, and woodworkers rely heavily on for their woodworking projects. This product was primarily meant for use on solid wood. But with the emerging new technologies, MDF has become a viable substitute for natural wood for multiple reasons.
MDF is highly versatile and cost-effective and comes with multiple advantages. With so much going for this sustainable alternative to natural wood, as a woodworker with ample stocks of wood glue, you may wonder if you can use it on MDF.
Most wood glues work on MDF and a variety of other engineered woods. But there are some limitations to the types of wood glue you can use. You also need to consider the part of the MDF board that you are gluing (face or edges).
For example, MDF has a hard, protective melamine coating. Wood glue doesn’t bond to that surface. You may have to do some prepping for such a substrate. In such a case, you may end up compromising on the texture and aesthetics of the material. The material may also exhibit reduced tolerance to humidity and structural strength.
Type of Wood Glue to Use on MDF
The home renovation industry uses MDF extensively in home restoration projects. MDF is a tough material consisting of layers of wood fibers, chips, and shavings.
These layers can come loose if exposed to moisture, so, you need to glue all the joints and crevices before applying a finish. This is where you can add wood glue to MDF.
The short answer whether you can use wood glue on MDF is “yes.” But then, you need to consider the type of wood glue you use. When you visit a hardware store, you will see a variety of wood glues. Which ones can you use on MDF?
White polyvinyl acetate (PVA) wood glue is one of the most suitable glues to use on MDF. It sets quickly and is not as toxic as other glues. It is also a cost-effective option.
The downside of PVA glue is its low water resistance. Therefore, for MDF exposed to high levels of humidity or if it is in a wet area, then you need to choose a waterproof type of glue such as polyurethane (PU) glue.
Making a Strong MDF Joint with Wood Glue
If you use a combination of yellow glue and screws, you can make a sound joint. But you must be careful of the type and size of screws you use. MDF doesn’t hold screws very well – it tends to split when larger screws are driven into it. Also, take care not to drive in screws too near the edges of the MDF boards.
Here’s a step-by-step guide for sticking two pieces of MDF together:
Thick Glue Application
MDF is a porous material that readily soaks up the glue you apply. So, you will have to apply a generous layer to the top of the surface. If your glue is thick, it can be even more helpful.
Driving Screws and Applying Glue to Edge Joints
Wood glue cannot create a bond with the equivalent strength of similar joints in solid wood. Therefore, using screws will provide added reinforcement to the joints, especially corner joints.
Handy Tip: Choose your screw size in proportion to the thickness of the MDF board. You can experiment on a scrap piece of MDF to find a suitable screw size before you start driving screws into your project.
Working with MDF can be a messy business. When you drill holes, you will generate a fair quantity of MDF powder. Then you have the excess glue to deal with, which in all probability will be now contaminated with MDF powder.
Wipe down the excess glue with a dry cloth. You may get a better finish to your job if you lightly sand the joints after the wood glue sets.
In an attempt to provide some additional information in answer to any questions you may have about using wood glue on MDF, here are some FAQs:
Are liquid nails good to use on MDF?
You may not find liquid nails very effective to use on MDF while gluing a joint. But if you are hanging paneling, then they can be of great help. Bear in mind that using liquid nails will render the joint flexible. Therefore, you won’t get much mechanical strength.
Since MDF is a highly-suitable material for walls, you can get satisfaction by using wood glue at such locations. MDF is more durable than plasterboard and it is smoother and easier to sand.
Coming back to liquid nails, they help tremendously in supporting fast adhesion to materials being bonded. Another useful feature is that they are extremely effective on uneven surfaces.
On application, liquid nails will begin to dry after 15 minutes. But it can take up to a week for them to acquire their full strength. The drying and curing time of liquid nails may vary depending on the ambient temperature and humidity. But when it comes to a toss-up between liquid nails and wood glue, the latter wins hands down.
Is superglue effective on MDF?
Yes, you can use superglue on MDF but you have to work fast because superglue is quick-drying. Using superglue in combination with PVA glue is also a good practice. If you don’t have access to adequate clamping, quick-setting superglue can be of tremendous help.
How to glue together MDF boards?
It is a straightforward process to glue MDF boards together. Apply the wood glue to where you need to join the boards and pull the opposing faces together using clamps. You may have to drill a few pilot holes for screwing the board together for a better bond.
Can I attach MDF boards to a wall using wood glue?
Although is a fairly straightforward procedure, you need to take a few precautions. Due to the high porosity of MDF, it will soak up a lot of your glue. So, be ready with an adequate quantity of glue, to apply it liberally to the job.
Also, because of the considerable weight of MDF boards, you will have to use mechanical fasteners like nails and screws
How should I prepare the MDF surface before applying glue?
Cutting and sanding MDF generates high levels of dust. In all likelihood, if you have been cutting and sanding your MDF boards, they would be covered in dust. Use a slightly damp cloth to wipe off the dry dust and debris from the surface before you apply wood glue.
Why isn’t wood glue sticking to my MDF?
The primary cause of the non-adherence of glue to any surface is the presence of contaminants like moisture, oil, grease, dust, and debris. Give the surface of the MDF a quick wipe with a damp cloth to remove these contaminants. Now wood glue should create a tight bond with the MDF material.
You would think that using wood glue on MDF should be a straightforward procedure. But as we have seen here, there are challenges to this type of job. There are numerous considerations you have to make like the type of glue, the size of screws, and whether and when to use liquid nails.
We have also covered some general procedures on how to use wood glue on MDF for creating secure joints. We hope that you find this information useful for using glue on MDF and that you are motivated to use MDF more in your woodworking projects as a more sustainable and eco-friendlier alternative to natural wood.