What is MDF? Plus Tips for Using MDF

MDF (medium-density fiberboard) is inexpensive, durable, and a good choice for many woodworking and carpentry projects. Learn how to use it correctly, and how to avoid common mistakes.

Medium-density fiberboard is the most versatile building material I know of. Because it's inexpensive and fairly durable, medium density fiberboard s a good choice for practical projects like shelving and storage cabinets. But MDF wood is great for decorative projects too. The smooth surface of medium density fiberboard is perfect for painting, and a router leaves crisp profiles with no splintering, burning or tear-out.

Over the past 15 years, I've used MDF to build everything from crude shelving in my shop to fancy trim in upscale homes. I've even used it for furniture and ornate millwork like the trim board shown in the lead photo. In fact, my own home is entirely trimmed out with MDF moldings made from about 50 sheets of MDF. Yes, I'm a fan of the stuff. This article will cover the most important things I've learned about working with MDF—and help you avoid some of the frustrating mistakes I've made.

MDF is basically sawdust and glue, fused together under pressure and heat. It varies in color from tan to chocolate brown. Common thicknesses range from 1/4 in. to 1 in., but most home centers carry only 1/2-in. and 3/4-in. Full sheets are oversized by 1 in., so a “4 x 8” sheet is actually 49 x 97 in. A full sheet of 3/4-in. MDF costs about $30 (as of 2010). Some home centers also carry MDF boards in various lengths and widths. Working with MDF is no different from working with wood or plywood; you use the same tools to cut and shape it.

When a job calls for painted trim, I almost always cut costs with MDF. Even inexpensive wood, like this poplar baseboard, costs four times as much. To make trim, I cut MDF sheets into strips and shape the edges with a router or router table. With the right bit, I can create just about any trim profile, simple or fancy. (Check woodworking stores or online for a large selection of bits.) Some home centers carry ready-made MDF wood trim for less than the price of solid wood.

MDF or Plywood: Which One is Better for Your House?

Though these two materials may have found a place in your home, they are definitely not interchangeable. Both are often used in building kitchens and modular furniture and like every other material, MDF and plywood come with their set of advantages and disadvantages. Given their frequency of use, we thought we'd give you a lowdown on the MDF vs Plywood comparison,. A little extra information never did any harm, right? Read on.

MDF is medium-density fiberboard, which is basically engineered wood obtained by breaking down hardwood and softwood composites. Since an MDF board is made up of small wood fibres, there are no visible wood grains or knots. The fibres are joined together using wax to produce panels by applying pressure or high temperature.

Advantages of MDF Material

Now that we know what an MDF board is composed of, we are sure you want to know how good or bad it is.

MDF is generally cheaper when compared to plywood

The surface of an MDF board is very smooth and makes for a great base for painting

Thanks to the smooth edges, it is easy to cut and carve designs out of MDF

It is denser and stronger than a particle board

Advantages of Plywood

Plywood has a lot of advantages that you could consider while getting it installed at your home.

Made up of multiple layers of veneer, plywood is a tough material to use at home

It does not soak water and liquids like MDF. Thus, it is less susceptible to damage

Because of the grains that plywood has, it is easier to stain and thus makes for a great material for cabinets and tabletops

Since it is made up of layers, plywood holds screws tightly, as each layer ensures better holding for the screw

This material comes in various designs and thicknesses

Reasons why PVC boards are much better than Plywood? What are their characteristics?

PVC boards and plywood are widely used for making cabinets and other items for the house or office needs. They are mostly used for kitchen remodeling. Although both PVC and plywood has equal role and importance to play in any renovation or remodeling works, the PVC boards are broadly used when compared to the plywood. There are certainly a few reasons to validate this.

Here are a few facts that make PVC a better choice than plywood:

PVC foam board consists of materials like thermoplastics. This is the combination of wood fiber and PVC and thus also termed as Wood-plastic composite. This material may also contain some filler materials, which are inorganic. Whereas plywood's are mostly two or three wood boards glued together.

We know that kitchen is an area that is most exposed to moisture and heat. Perhaps at such circumstances, plywood may not efficiently sustain both the conditions. If you expect the longevity and durability of the materials to sustain moisture and heat, then PVC will be a perfect choice

When it comes to shaping, PVC is very flexible compared to plywood. You are absolutely flexible to cut or shape PVC however you want it, but it is not possible to do the same with plywood

PVC never needs any polish works before it is to be installed. Whereas plywood should certainly be polished to get a complete look after installation and completion of all works

In the case of plywood, it may split when the atmosphere is moisture or hot. But in the case of PVC foam sheet, there are no such worries for you, as this material is resistant to heat and moisture

If you are more worried about environmental impact of material you are using for kitchen interiors, then PVC will be a perfect choice. Since PVC is made of recycled waste plastic and wood, there is absolutely no need to cut trees, whereas if you want plywood then you need to think of deforestation.

The application of PVC is wide and huge when compared to plywood. You are flexible to use PVC plastic Sheet for various decorative purposes and you are never limited by its usage. You can design your dream design without any limitations by using PVC, whereas this may not be possible with plywood. This may cause some limitations in your designing works.

It is not only these factors that may influence your selection process, but also the price of PVC is comparatively less than plywood and thus becomes affordable to all.

What is Marine Plywood Made From?

Marine plywood is constructed from water resistant tropical hardwood, and as these are naturally water resistant, they make marine plywood better than other types of plywood in situations where moisture levels are higher.

There are certain wood species, such as cedar, cypress and redwood, Western Larch or Douglas Fir, that have a natural resistance to decay.

Whilst marine plywood is not pressure treated to enable it to withstand decay, high quality grade veneers are used to increase its resistance.

As a result of this, it is made to withstand moisture far better than standard plywood as it will be well protected with water resistant materials.

How is Marine Plywood Made?

Marine plywood is available in different grades namely:






As with other types of plywood, marine grade plywood is composed of thin sheets of wood veneers, which are arranged in perpendicular layers so as to make it stronger.

Cross lamination is used so as to have the plies perpendicular to each other, so that the panel will be given additional strength in both directions.

Finally, the panel is bonded under high heat and extreme pressure.

When it comes to marine plywood, waterproof glue is used to bond the layers, making it ideal for use in areas where humidity levels or moisture is higher than normal.

Due to the waterproof glue, you do not need to worry about the layers de-laminating over time.

What is film faced plywood used for?

Film faced plywood is an exterior plywood used in building and construction projects. It has a special film coating on its surface made from phenol or melamine on either or both sides which gives the plywood a higher resistance to moisture, abrasion, chemical degradation and fungal attack compared to ordinary plywood.
Because of its increased stability and resistance to moisture, ultraviolet radiation and corrosive chemicals, film-faced plywood is ideal for outdoor applications such as the external surfaces of new buildings. The extra film layer and acrylic varnished edges of this type of plywood make it more durable and less able to distort when used outdoors in harsh weather and adverse conditions. Buildings in direct sunlight are less prone to wear and tear if they are made from film-faced plywood, at least as part of the overall structure.
The plywood is useful for forming level molding boards and girder molding boards, which need to be resistant to strong forces, large amounts of fast-flowing water and yet still maintain their structural integrity and shape. There is a choice of thicknesses available, depending on requirements, from 12mm, 15mm and 18mm to 21mm, 24mm and 27mm. Some examples can reach 30mm.

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