Medium-Density fiberboard (MDF) is one of the most versatile types of engineered wood that you can get on the market today. In any home, office, or commercial establishment, you may find it difficult not to find at least some MDF used for making the furniture or interiors.
Today, MDF occupies a prominent place in the construction and woodworking fields. It is a viable substitute for plywood which, although in thin sheets, comes from valuable and fast-depleting wood sources. On the other hand, MDF is a by-product of various types of wood, not necessarily in the category of endangered species.
We manufacture MDF by adding fine wood fibers of various types of wood to a defibrator. Then, the fibers combine, bound by wax and resin to become a solid sheet of predetermined thickness, capable of being cut into boards.
MDF has many benefits over natural solid wood. You will find it used in several industries, and it is an economical and environmentally-friendly substitute for solid wood. It is also much more resistant to certain adverse conditions that it may be exposed to.
MDF: General Background
We normally use MDF for internal applications (indoor use) because it has a low resistance to moisture which is one of its weak points. Therefore, you will find MDF used in its raw form with a highly smooth exterior surface.
MDF also looks good with decorative films like wood veneer, melamine paper, or vinyl sheets. There are many advantages to using MDF in various woodworking and home improvements products. First, let us take a brief look at the manufacturing process of MDF.
How is MDF manufactured?
We manufacture MDF with the aid of a machine known as a defibrator. Hardwood and softwood residuals go into the defibrillator, which reduces the wood fibers and mixes them with wax and resin.
We then subject the mixture to high temperature and pressure, which makes it pliable and malleable. The amalgamate is then passed through rollers that shape it into a sheet of uniform thickness. On cooling, we cut the sheet into manageable sizes.
MDF is denser than plywood, but it lacks its toughness. It is, however, tougher and denser than particleboard. As a result, MDF finds use in many building and DIY applications. It is versatile and cost-effective, light, and easy to handle and cut.
You will not find MDF being used as an exclusive finish, but it can produce some striking results once covered with wood veneer or a laminate. Well-covered MDF can even mimic the effect of some of the most expensive woods like teak, mahogany, or oak.
Practical Uses of MDF
You can find MDF almost wherever you go. It is easily found at home improvement stores and enjoys wide popularity due to its several advantageous features. Here are a few practical uses of MDF that you can benefit from by using it:
MDF plays a key role in the furniture industry. Although it may have some downsides, it is a highly versatile and user-friendly material. One of the primary advantages of using MDF for making furniture is that it is much cheaper than solid wood.
We use MDF to make coffee tables, bookshelves, entertainment centers, speaker boxes, and countless indoor applications. It is extremely easy to cut into various shapes, and much of the DIY furniture you get in knocked-down condition is made from MDF.
A favorite material of cabinet makers is MDF. A majority of the cabinets in American homes are made of medium-density fiberboard. Cabinet makers build the main structure of the cabinet with MDF and finally cover it with a laminate or wood veneer.
We get home interior products such as kitchen cabinets and shelving units made of MDF. Even the door, moldings, and occasionally the flooring is made from medium-density fiberboard.
A greatly beneficial property of MDF is that it is a fire-resistant material. MDF does not burn easily, and when treated with fire-retardants, it becomes even more unlikely to catch fire.
Some buildings and structures need to have fire retardant MDF as their base material. In addition, there are building regulations that make it mandatory for stores, offices, and other commercial buildings to use MDF for safety.
Similarly, many homeowners make extensive use of MDF while building their homes to reduce the risk of fire spreading in case of a fire accident.
Medium-density fiberboard serves well as a vapor barrier to insulate homes and commercial establishments from damage through moisture. In addition, we can treat MDF with vapor repellant products which make it more durable and less prone to get damaged when exposed to water for long periods.
MDF also offers good thermal insulation, making it a useful material to use when we need to retain heat. It is especially useful for retaining heat within homes during winter. In turn, it results in reduced heating costs.
MDF can absorb sound thanks to its scattered, random grain structure. It blocks off sound, which makes it a suitable material for making speaker boxes.
MDF is a suitable material for studio walls, apartment buildings, and offices using the same principle.
Another popular use of medium-density fiberboard is for making roofs. We use this material both inside and outside to line sloping roofs. In addition, it can provide backing for shingles and other similar roofing materials.
MDF is a suitable material to use for making false ceilings. Once the framework of the false ceiling is in place, all you have to do is insert MDF panels, and voila! You have your false ceiling installed in next to no time!
MDF is easy to transport, cut, and install. If you need to install a false ceiling, you can procure prefabricated panels that are easy to handle and install.
Advantages and Disadvantages of MDF
MDF offers several benefits, but like all useful materials, it has a downside to it as well. To cover all angles of this material, here are a few pros and cons of MDF:
Advantages of MDF
- A Highly economical building material that everyone can afford
- An environmentally friendly solution that involves recycling wood, thereby saving trees.
- You can apply different colors to MDF.
- There are no defects like knots and cracks.
- It has a high resistance to insects.
- Looks attractive when covered with an appropriate laminate.
- It has infinitely high dimensional stability.
- Easy to cut and drill as there’s no wood grain.
- Good for machining due to its homogenous composition.
- It provides excellent soundproofing and thermal insulation.
Disadvantages of MDF
- Weaker than solid wood, so it will not have as long a life as solid wood furniture.
- It tends to crack and split under stress.
- It does not take screws or nails easily – you always need to make a pilot hole.
- MDF contains Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs) mixed with urea-formaldehyde, which is a health hazard.
- MDF dust can result in respiratory problems.
MDF is a highly durable and cost-effective alternative to solid wood and even some engineered woods. We use it extensively for interior and exterior applications. The scope of use for medium-density fiberboard is vast.
We have listed just a few of the benefits of MDF and how where we can use it. However, you should keep in mind the disadvantages that come with this material. So here, we have tried to provide you with a balanced view of MDF.
With the information provided here, hopefully, you can now experiment with MDF in your future woodworking projects. You will surely produce some interesting results.