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If you are an avid woodworker or a DIYer who loves to work with wood then you must have stumbled upon MDF. MDF stands for Medium Density Fiberboard, fiberboard is made from wood fibers. These are very tiny pieces of hardwood or softwood.
These are mixed with resin and wax, then heated up and pressed to get fiberboard. You will be surprised as to the many uses of MDF. It has a lot of amazing characteristics that make it the best choice for many applications as well.
Medium density fiberboard further explained
Medium density fiberboard is basically wood material that uses medium-density wooden fibers. On the other hand, there is a low-density fiberboard or particle board which is made out of even smaller pieces than MDF. Even minute sawdust may be used to construct particle board. And because of this, there is no doubt that LDF is weaker than MDF.
If there are LDF and MDF, there is also such a thing as high-density fiberboard or hardboard. This is particle board that was subjected to more heat and pressure than other fiberboards. Usually, adhesives are not required. Hardboard is very strong but is not expensive at all.
Advantages of MDF furniture
- MDF is very cost-efficient therefore you will pay less for it than for some solid wood materials.
- MDF uses recycled wood when constructed therefore you save trees when you use MDF furniture.
- MDF wood manufacturing uses chemicals and these are poisonous to pests such as termites.
- MDF will not expand and contract due to heat and humidity the way solid wood can.
- MDF is easier to shape compared to solid wood, therefore, you can make elaborate designs.
- You can attach veneer to MDF to give it the look of lovely traditional wood.
- MDF may be painted in many different colors whereas solid wood takes too long to take colors, paint or varnish.
- MDF does not have knots which can affect the natural surface of the wood.
Disadvantages of MDF furniture
- MDF is may emit small amounts of formaldehyde, though this dangerous chemical has been largely dissipated by the end of the construction process. MDF should be painted to reduce any health risk.
- When MDF chips or cracks you cannot repair or cover the damage. You must completely replace a complete wood panel.
- MDF is less child-friendly compared to other materials.
- MDF can swell when exposed to water.
- The glue present in MDF can make it hard to use certain fasteners on the material.
How to handle MDF wood
Avoid rough handling
MDF is harder than most woods however, the inner layers are soft. Therefore the edges and corners can be very easy to crush. Therefore you need to handle it carefully compared to lumber or plywood. Another thing is that light scratches can also stand out on the ultra-smooth surface, therefore, you need to sand this before priming. You must wear gloves when handling MDF wood because the edges can be sharp enough to cut skin.
Don’t let it get wet
Water kills MDF. A few water drops will create small bumps on its surface. Soak MDF board in rain and you will have a material twice its original thickness. Therefore you must never use it as baseboards near tubs or skins and anywhere near windows or doors. Condensation from the windows made them swell.
If you were to use MDF as baseboard, paint the lower edge before installation. This will work well as short-term protection. You must also install the baseboard about 1/4 in. above the floor and cover the gap with wood base shoe molding. There are moisture-resistant MDF versions but these could be very hard to find.
Reinforce MDF shelves
MDF is used for shelving in closets and cabinets due to the fact that it is very cheap and smooth. However, this material is not as strong as plywood and will sag over time. Therefore, if you want to use MDF for shelving then you can strengthen it by sandwiching two pieces with a piece of wood. You can also use braces to hold this sandwiched wood together.
MDF wood is cost-efficient, eco-friendly and very easy to use. However, this material is not as strong as hardwood or even plywood. It is not water-resistant and can sag and change shape over time. You may still find wooden furniture made from MDF but these have been carefully reinforced to last.