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What is MDF Wood?

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Although many people have heard of MDF, they aren’t sure what it is or how to use it. MDF is medium-density fiberboard that’s an inexpensive and durable option for many carpentry projects. If you aren’t familiar with MDF wood, we’ll take you through what it is, the concerns with MDF wood, and the advantages of this versatile material.

Overview of MDF Wood

Medium-density fiberboard is a versatile building material. It’s cost-effective and good for use on shelving, storage cabinets, and decorative projects. It also has a smooth surface, which is perfect for painting.

MDF wood is essentially sawdust and glue that have been fused together with pressure and heat. The color of MDF can range from tan to dark brown. The process of working with MDF is fairly similar to working with other types of wood or plywood. Fiberboard is made from wood fibers, which are small pieces of hardwood or softwood. Low-density fiberboard is called particle board, which is made from even smaller pieces than MDF. There’s also high-density fiberboard known as hardboard that uses more heat and pressure than what’s required to make MDF, making it strong and expensive.

At Forest Plywood, we sell varied thicknesses of MDF wood ranging from ⅛” to 1 ½” and sheet sizes from 4’ x 8’ to 5’ x 12’. MDF wood options include: bendy, ultralite, fire retardant, moisture resistant, extira, beadboard, and slatwall.

The Biggest Worries about MDF Wood

Can MDF wood cause health issues?

Most people who ask this are worried about formaldehyde, which is used when constructing MDF. There are studies that link formaldehyde with a risk of cancer, but there are also regulations dictating the amount of formaldehyde that can be used when creating MDF. The off-gassing of the chemical happens when MDF is being made. Painting further decreases the chances of it off-gassing in your home.

Is MDF sold with veneer on it as if it’s solid wood?

MDF furniture with veneer on it to look like solid wood is a popular choice, because it can create the look of expensive or hard-to-find woods. Consumers just need to ask their sales representative what they’re looking at before buying.

Advantages of MDF Wood

  • MDF is inexpensive.
  • MDF uses recycled wood, which is environmentally-friendly.
  • Veneers can be attached to MDF to make it look like real wood.
  • MDF will not expand and contract in the heat and humidity like solid wood can.
  • MDF is easy to paint in a variety of colors and easier to shape than solid wood.
  • MDF doesn’t have knots that can make a piece hard to attach.
  • MDF is resistant to pests, such as termites, due to the chemicals used in its construction.

Disadvantages of MDF Wood

  • If MDF is chipped or cracked, you cannot repair or cover it easily.
  • MDF can swell if it touches water.
  • There’s no natural grain on MDF wood.
  • Small amounts of formaldehyde may be off-gassed during construction, and it’s less child-friendly than solid wood.
  • MDF has glue in it that can make it hard to sink certain types of fasteners into it.

Learn about the uses of MDF wood.

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About the Author

is key accounts manager and has worked in the plywood and lumber industry for 30+ years. He has been involved in sales and purchasing for softwood, hardwood, and panel products serving a broad span of industrial applications