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What is MDF Board?

Photo collage of different types of MDF board.

What is MDF Board?

MDF is the abbreviated form of what is known as medium-density fiberboard. This is an engineered wood product that is commonly used in building projects. MDF board is created by taking various wood fibers, chips, and sawdust from either hardwood or softwood.

The wood fiber is then packed together tightly, usually with the use of a defibrator. The wood particles are combined with some type of bonding agents such as glue, wax, or resin. Using incredibly high temperatures and pressure, the wood fibers are combined to form modified wood panels that often act and work as traditional hardwood panels.

In most MDF, the final product contains about 80% natural wood fibers, and 20% glue, resin, or additional strengthening fillers and agents.

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What is MDF Board Used For?

Stack of MDF board panels.

MDF can be manufactured and produced in a variety of shapes, thicknesses, and sizes. This gives MDF a wide range of applications for building. Water-resistant MDF is commonly used in areas of the home that may experience high moisture content, such as bathrooms and kitchens.

MDF is also commonly used for paneling, such as faux tongue and groove beadboard. Aside from applications in the home, MDF can also be used for furniture production. The smooth and strong engineered wood is easily cut and shaped to create any type or size of the furniture.

Further, very thin pieces of MDF, often called bendy MDF, can be used to create intricate curves and finishes. Ultra-light MDF boards can be used in applications where traditional MDF or plywood may be too heavy. This light version of MDF is often only two-thirds the weight of traditional MDF.

Are There Advantages and Disadvantages to MDF Board?

Stack of MDF boards.

MDF is a completely manufactured wood panel so it has many features beneficial to builders. Because each piece is engineered, it has extremely regular dimensions and shapes. Further, since the panels are produced from tiny wood fibers, pieces of MDF do not have challenging knots in the wood to contend with.

MDF is usually very smooth and easily takes a paint finish. The composite wood board can also easily be glued. MDF makes a wonderful wood veneer for finishes.

This product is often more versatile and affordable than using traditional lumber or even plywood. Although a composite material, MDF has some disadvantages. The resin used to piece together the small wood fibers can be extremely dense, so MDF is consistently heavier than traditional plywood.

Its dense nature can also dull saw blades more quickly. MDF can also become prone to warping or breaking in humid or wet conditions. All MDF contains urea-formaldehyde, which is a toxic substance.

Working with MDF will cause this substance to off-gas, leading to a health risk. It is important to always use appropriate personal protection measures when working with MDF. Work outside in a well-ventilated area.

Are There Specialized MDF Board Productions?

Because MDF is an engineered product, manufacturers are able to create specific MDF to suit various building needs. By mixing in fire retardant agents in the production phase, it is possible to create fire retardant MDF. This is usually red or blue.

Further, the MDF board can be created that is moisture resistant. This board is usually green and can be used in bathrooms, kitchens, or mudrooms. Ultra-light MDF can be created and can be used for quick pop up applications, or in builds where weight and density are of concern.