MDF vs Particle Board

MDF

MDF and particle board are often used when building cabinets and furniture. Today we are going to compare MDF vs particle board so that you will know when to use each to get the best finished product.

Both are composite wood products which makes them less expensive than solid wood. Because they are manufactured products you can also expect them to be more uniform in appearance. Composite woods also don’t shrink or warp like solid wood does either.

Some common drawbacks with composite wood products are weight, stiffness, they don’t hold screws as well as solid wood and they are not very good when exposed to moisture.

What is MDF?

MDFMDF stands for Medium Density Fiberboard. It is an engineered composite made up of wood fibers and glue that is then heated to create a tight bonded board. It is usually composed of fibers from both softwood and hardwood. MDF is a very dense product so it tends to be very heavy and very strong.

Due to its composition, it does not have a visible grain like wood normally does. It also will not show any rings or knots on the surface. Because it is a composite board it can’t be stained and it must be protected from moisture. You will typically need to use a veneer sealant to protect MDF from water.

With a smooth surface and the lack of splinters, it is a very easy to paint product. It may also be finished with veneers or laminates to make it look more expensive or fancy.

While it is usually easy to cut, it also tends to dull blades quickly due to the density of the board.

MDF is usually inexpensive, especially when compared to a true wood product of the same size.

What is Particle Board?

Particle BoardParticle board is an engineered product made by combining wood chips, sawdust and resin together in a heated mixture. It can be made water resistant, fireproof and insect proof by adding chemicals during the manufacturing process.

The resin, wood chips, sawdust and any additional chemicals are mixed together into a liquid, then poured into a sheet. The sheet is compressed multiple times to create a very tight bond and to insure that the weight of the product is evenly distributed.

One of the most popular types of particle board is OSB – oriented strand board. It is made with a manufacturing process that layers strands of wood in specific orientations for strength. This product is typically used by home builders for floor and wall bases.

Particle board is usually a lower cost product. It is typically a light weight, but lower strength product and will easily get discolored if exposed yo moisture.

MDF vs Particle Board Comparison

Because of the manufacturing processes involved, MDF tends to be a very dense board with no voids. Particle board, on the other hand, tends to have voids in the product which can be seen by looking at the end of the board. These voids can easily absorb moisture which will cause the particle board to swell and lose its shape.

Property
MDFParticleboard
Compositionfine wood fibers that are glued and compressed with great pressureWood chips, wood shavings, sawdust, fibers, adhesives and chemicals
Strengthstronger, denser productweaker product with some voids in the board
WeightVery heavy due to product densityLightweight
Moisture IssuesCan lose shape and get discoloredWarps and expands easily if wet
Screw IssuesBetter than ParticleboardVery weak
FinishEasily painted, no stainpaint will warp product
CostMore ExpensiveLess Expensive

Conclusion

Products made with MDF tend to have a higher perceived value due to the finished look of the products, superior quality and the strength of the product. That is why it is commonly used in furniture making, cabinetry and shelving. It’s density makes it a heavy product though so it may not be the best choice for cabinets that will be hung high on a wall.

Particle board is a lower cost product that is an excellent choice for flooring and wall bases or for products that don’t require fancy finishes. It is also commonly used for less expensive furniture and cabinets.