MDF as a construction material…. What is it?

MDF stands for Medium Density Fiberboard. Yes quite the mouthful! Thus the abbreviation.

A commonly used construction material is an engineered product composed of small wood fibers bonded together with a resin binder and wax using high temperature and pressure to complete the process. It is very versatile and fairly durable. Used for furniture, shelving, moldings and more.


Pros of MDF

  • It is more affordable than other options. This makes it a great economic install choice.
  • It can be mixed and matched with solid wood trims and so forth. Get creative!
  • It’s smooth surface makes it ideal for surface painting
  • Decorative edges achieved easily. Great for creating designs with a router.
  • It is considered durable and looks great once installed and finished.
  • It is mold resistant.

Cons of MDF

  • It soaks up water and other liquids like a sponge. MDF can swell unless it is sealed well on all sides and edges.
  • This material cannot be stained. Again the water and swelling issue. Also since MDF has no wood grain, staining does not look good.
  • MDF does not hold screws well due to its fine particle construction.
  • It is dense and therefore very heavy. This can make it difficult to work with.
  • It contains VOCs meaning careful precautions must be taken when cutting and sanding

When working with MDF…..

There are some important considerations.

  • Wear a good mask! MDF created a lot of fine dust and contains VOCs. So, whenever possible, cut and sand outside also.
  • Handle with care. MDF is quite durable, however the ends an corners can be prone to crushing during transport.
  • Avoid buying full sheets as MDF is heavy! Opt for half and quarter sheets instead.
  • For a smooth paint job, lightly sand edges with 100- grit paper and apply solvent based primer only. Water-based will raise small bumps. Stay clear.
  • Avoid splits and cracks by using a counter sinking drill bit.

In summery, MDF is a versatile construction material. It does come with some strengths and some limitations. It may be worth the affordability… Or maybe not. You decide.

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