Is MDF strong? (Explained)


If this is the first time buying MDF (medium density board) furniture. Here’s what you should know about its durability.

If you want to purchase an MDF board for building furniture. Or simply buying furniture made of any engineered wood. This guide will help you make the right choice.

Boards like MDF are manufactured in factories. That means many varieties do exist in them, depending upon how the material is manufactured. The LDF, MDF, HDF, are the common ones. Read more: Chipboard vs MDF

How strong is MDF?

If you’re planning to buy MDF, think that it can beat or even compete with solid (natural) woods. Knowing the fact could be heartbreak, but you think wrong.  Read more Is engineered wood good for furniture?

MDF is a lower grade material, commonly used as a cheaper alternative to expensive woods like hardwood and plywood.

There is no question that MDF is a weaker wood than oak, maple, and cherry. If you purchase MDF furniture, don’t expect it to last as long as your solid furniture.

  • Such that, the shelves made of MDF will sag over time and kitchen cabinets can fall apart as the material lacks strength and durability. 
  • Moreover, the water can expand the material to double the size.

Typically, the MDF needs special treatment and care to increase its lifespan.

Related: Engineered wood vs Plywood. 

What to know about MDF?

Before buying anything made of MDF, you should know about how MDF boards and other man woods are manufactured. 

As there are loads of options, which might be confusing to pick when you step into a market. Therefore, knowing what to expect in advance will help you make better choices.

These are the basics you need to know.

MDF is engineered wood. Under high pressure and temperature, hardwood fibers are bonded with synthetic resins and other chemicals. The end result is the sheets which we called boards. 

The fibers per area determine the quality, the more density means the greater strength it has. Meanwhile, LDF<MDF<HDF is the common densities. 

It is possible to determine how dense material is by examining its appearance. 

For example, if you can see visible fibers in wood. Wood probably has a lower density. A dense wood board will not show visible fibers.

But, don’t expect MDF furniture to be as durable and strong as solid woods. 

Related: Veneer vs Plywood vs laminate

Types of MDF board: Which is the strongest?

If you don’t already know. There is a range of different materials. MDF is not the strongest one if you want stronger yet affordable material than expensive hardwoods. HDF or plywood are the better options.

  • LDF: Known as Low-density fiberboard, next to chipboard the material is the cheapest. As the name suggests, it has very low fiber per area. Hence have a low density. 
  • MDF: Better than chipboard and LDF. And to some extent, the material is suitable for making indoor furniture. But, there are downsides like it will expand when in contact with water, also the shelves made out of will have a problem of sagging over time.
  • HDF: As LDF, MDF both are manufactured using sawdust- fibers of wood. The quality depends on the density of fibers per area. In this sense, HDF (high density fiberboard) has greater density- larger amounts of fibers are pressed. Provide more sheer strength. Moreover, the material is durable and used for flooring.
  • Plywood: In terms of strength, plywood has set a whole nother level. Unlike above mentioned boards that are all manufactured using sawdust. Plywoods are basically a compound of multiple thin layers of wood, that are glued together. Interestingly enough, plywoods are useful regardless of the projects and can be stronger than natural woods. Read more: Pinewood vs plywood.

What are the best uses for MDF?

Perhaps you are wondering why MDF remains a popular material despite not being the strongest. What are appropriate applications that would require an MDF board?

Below are the common applications where using MDF is a good choice, in fact, you will see many people are already using the material for the projects listed below.

  • Furniture: MDF can make good indoor furniture.
  • Cabinets and shelves: Most shelves these days are made using MDF due mainly to the fact it’s lower price point. That wins the customer.
  • Decorative projects: It’s suitable for decorating projects, as they can have regardless of the design, pattern, shine you want. You can ask the supplier to provide you with the color of your choice.
  • Speaker boxes: The Box of the speakers are usually made of MDF, or sometimes chipboard is used. The lighter weight is the reason.
  • Doors and window frames: Most of its uses include building frames for windows and doors. Although the durability is lacking, people still use the material.

Is MDF good?

MDF is not all bad though. We can say it’s not as strong as other options, but the most important is: Not everyone prefers durability for every project.

That said, MDF is one of the cheapest and best alternatives for people under budget.

What’s good about MDF?

  • MDF is a cheaper option than MDF.
  • The Material is widely available, throughout the world you can easily avail it.
  • The furniture of MDF gets stained very well, giving less results than natural woods.
  • Working with MDF is easier than hardwoods, like oak wood.
  • The furniture of MDF is lighter in weight, compared to natural woods.

What’s bad about MDF?

  • When wet, it soaks up water and other liquid. It needs to be properly sealed.
  • Wood fibers make it difficult to hold screws because of its composition. As joints age, they deteriorate and can cause the structure to sag.
  • Due to the presence of VOCs (e.g. urea-formaldehyde) during cutting and sanding, special care must be taken to prevent particle inhalation.

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