Is MDF furniture right for my home?
MDF furniture is manufactured with Medium Density Fibreboard which is an engineered wood composite. These boards are made of hardwood fibres that are bonded with synthetic resins under high temperature and pressure to create sheets of different thickness. Since these boards mimic the look of wood, they are used to manufacture furniture which substitute solid wood and plywood. Here's what you need to know about MDF furniture to decide if it is right for your home.
Since MDF furniture is made with waste wood, it is not only eco-friendly but also more economical in comparison to furniture made from solid wood or plywood. Its boards are popularly used for fabricating lightweight beds, wardrobes, tables, shelves, etc.
MDF furniture is factory-manufactured and can be finished with materials like laminate, real wood veneer or spray paint. The core material is smooth because of the absence of any knots or splinters which results in a smooth finish. Since it is a homogeneous material and is easy to work with, it is suitable for creating interesting shapes, incorporating 3D patterns, decorative designs and perforated panels.
Easy to Install
MDF furniture comes in a ready-to-install form and is usually assembled on site. The best part about it is that it ensures a clean, dust-free and hassle-free installation process.
Not Strong and Durable
Unlike solid wood or plywood furniture, MDF furniture is not very strong and durable but is resistant to termites. It has to be handled with care. In case it gets damaged, it is difficult to repair it. Note that the drawers of MDF furniture cannot hold excess weight. Even the screws can loosen over time and tightening them may split the edges of the furniture.
MDF furniture has the tendency to soak water, swell and may break or disintegrate under pressure. Therefore, its edges should be properly sealed. One can use good quality varnishes and sealants to increase moisture resistance of the furniture. Yet, it is not advisable to use this furniture for outdoor seating or in moisture-laden areas like bathrooms and kitchens.
One major drawback of MDF furniture is that urea-formaldehye is used as a resin to bind the small particles of wood. As a result, the boards release harmful VOCs (volatile organic compounds) into the surroundings for a certain period of time. Therefore, it is highly recommended to take utmost care while cutting, sanding and working with MDF boards to avoid inhalation of small wood particles and VOCs.
What's the Difference? MDF vs. Plywood
Though they may be side-by-side in the same aisle at your home improvement store, they aren't interchangeable. Determine which works better in your project by weighing these key differences.
While it’s hard to match the natural beauty of solid wood, it’s an undeniably pricey option. Fortunately, for many projects, the two main substitutes—medium-density fiberboard (MDF) and plywood—are less expensive, yet perform just as well or better than solid wood for a wide range of projects, including furniture, cabinets, shelves, and decorative accents such as wainscoting. Still, choosing the right material—MDF vs. plywood—for your project can be a puzzle.
On the surface, both MDF and plywood contain real wood but are highly engineered into their finished forms. MDF starts off with hardwood and softwood fibers, which are glued together with various resins, and then subjected to high heat and pressure to form panels. Plywood undergoes a similar process, but instead of wood fibers, starts off with very thin layers of wood from peeler logs. At a big-box home improvement store, you’ll find both in sheet forms of different thicknesses and grades—the higher the grade, the higher the price.
While they may appear similar, these two popular wood composites are not interchangeable. Both have their strengths and weaknesses based on their construction. To help you decide between them, we’ve addressed their primary differences in the categories that matter most to the average do-it-yourselfer.
In general, MDF is cheaper than plywood.
While the price depends on the thickness and grade of the material, in general, MDF costs less than plywood. If there are zero other factors pushing you to one material over another, and you’re watching the bottom line, MDF wins the price wars.
Since plywood is made with wood strips, its surfaces take on the solid-wood appearance better than MDF. Higher grades of plywood are smooth and quite attractive, with plenty of grain, yet none of the knotholes that can mar solid wood. MDF, in contrast, has no grain, isn’t as smooth as plywood, and looks like what it is: pressed wood fibers.