Who hasn’t seen the mention “MDF” without wondering what these three letters meant? MDF wood is ubiquitous in the world of furniture and interior design. And there are good reasons for this success. Do you want to know what exactly an MDF wood panel is, what is it for and what are its advantages…? Follow the leader.
What is MDF wood?
Let’s start with the simplest: MDF stands for Medium Density Fiberboard. Come on, we’ll do it for you in French… It’s about medium density fiberboard. If you like the English side, know that MDF is also known as Medium. What else? When we talk about MDF, we understand that it is opposed to HDF, which is high density fiberboard (harder) or LDF, low density fiberboard.
Technical incident or stroke of genius?
MDF wood is a fine example of serendipity. Discovered by chance following a machining error, it was born in the USA in 1966. Aware of the interest of this new material, the Americans launched production in the 1970s. Since then, the MDF panel has become essential, especially since it offers a valuable alternative to deforestation. It is a product derived from wood. The manufacturing process makes it possible to obtain a composite material of wood fibres.
How is MDF wood panel made?
The raw material for MDF comes from wood waste, from small-diameter, resinous or hardwood trees, not of interest to the solid wood industry. The wood is first debarked, before passing to the cutter-shredder which transforms it into shavings. Then come the stages of sorting, washing, dust removal, then steam defibration. It is then that a synthetic binder is added to the fibrous pulp thus obtained. The new material must then dry out. It will be pressed and made into panels. Once cooled, the panels are cut into the various formats useful to industry. Certain chemicals may be added during manufacture to make the material resistant to fungus, water or fire.
What is the final appearance of the MDF panel?
The final product looks like a regular panel, without wood grain, with a perfectly smooth surface on both sides. This allows you to work it in different ways. You can paint it, cover it with melanin or synthetic leaves, lacquer paper, wood sheet, etc. According to the UNE-EN 316 standard, the density of MDF must be at least 450 kg/m3. It is often between 500 and 800 kg/m3. The MDF wood panel is totally recyclable.
MDF wood: characteristics and properties
- The panels are uniform and homogeneous. All of the same thickness, they are easy to cut and shape.
- It is a regular density material, many more stable than solid wood. It is therefore appreciated in carpentry and furniture.
- Its fire resistance is naturally similar to that of solid wood. With the addition of a fire retardant, MDF panels with improved fire resistance (red in color) are obtained.
- It comes with a uniform color and without grain, reminiscent of the appearance of cardboard. This makes it easy to customize. It can be easily painted or applied to its surface with all kinds of coatings. You may prefer panels tinted valchromat, whose wood fiber has been impregnated with a dye. In addition to being colored, these panels are more flexible, which is appreciable in certain uses.
- It is not very resistant to humidity, but this can be corrected very well by adding special products during manufacture. A so-called “water-repellent” MDF wood panel is thus obtained. It is still not made to be exposed to bad weather, but much more resistant to humidity.
- Also, it’s not a great driver thermal and acoustics. Here again, treatments make it possible to improve this aspect at the time of manufacture.
- As for pests, the MDF wood panel should be treated by adding fungicides and insecticides to be able to resist both fungi and termites. On the other hand, it does not interest woodworms.
- Handling MDF wood requires some health precautions. The objective is not to inhale the dust produced during cutting, which is harmful due to the presence of resins used in its manufacture. That being said, producers are moving towards resins with increasingly low levels of toxic substances. Either way, it’s better to protect yourself.
What can MDF wood panels be used for?
Its properties make it a fairly versatile and easy-to-use material. Its uses are multiple, both in the furniture industry and in interior design.
In interior design
MDF is the king of wall cladding. Easy to use, its fine texture makes it possible to make mouldings, baseboards or friezes. It is also very popular as a wall covering, in all kinds of spaces. A coating that can also adapt to all doors, including armored ones. On the ground, we make very solid engineered parquet floors. On the ceiling, MDF is used to make beautiful false ceilings. In fact, MDF panels are flexible enough to suit all needs. As soon as you want to create a personalized decoration or a particular space, the MDF answers present. Fast cutting, almost no sanding, the objective is quickly achieved.
In the furniture industry
In the world of furniture, MDF is king! You can do anything with this material, it is so easy to cut. Shelves, bookcases, cupboards, doors, platforms, tables, chairs, everything is possible! In the kitchen, fireproof panels are used, and in the bathroom, water-repellent panels. Furniture manufacturers particularly appreciate it; you can do with MDF everything that is possible in solid wood, and at a lower cost. Especially since this material is resistant and of good quality; it does not deform.
Some like it raw, with its plain wood-coloured hue. But we can easily give it another aspect. Easy to paint, the MDF wood panel can be coated with melamine, lacquer paper, synthetic sheets, etc. Lacquered for example, this simple material becomes sublime. And as it is easy to work with, you can realize many creative ideas with it without being an experienced handyman.
What are the advantages of this material?
For a derivative discovered by accident, the MDF wood panel combines the advantages. In particular, it is easier to work with than solid wood for several reasons:
- Composed of small fibers, this composite wood does not produce no breakage at the cut. Very easy to cut with the usual tools, we appreciate its reliability and the resulting versatility.
- In texture fine lends itself to the finest finishes.
- His subject homogeneous can be easily decorated. No grain or knots as you usually find in wood. The edges being more porous, be careful when applying paint. A layer of preparation will be necessary.
- Its smooth surface makes it easy to apply the paints, varnishes or lacquers of your choice. Or stick all kinds of coatings on it, like a sheet of wood which will give it the look of solid wood!
- MDF is stable: it does not deform. Changes in temperature leave him unfazed. Time itself fails to create any cracks. Be careful, however, to protect your panels from shocks on the edges, which are more fragile.
- It comes in different thicknesses (6 to 30 mm) and different formats of panels.
- It’s a material economic, significantly cheaper than solid wood. A standard MDF panel (6 mm) costs barely 10 euros per square meter. The thicker panels (10 mm) can be bought between 11 and 14 euros/m2.
- MDF is a advantage for the environment. Totally recyclable, it comes from trees or waste not used by the traditional wood sector. Its use makes it possible to meet many wood needs while limiting deforestation.
Among the weak points of MDF wood panels, we note above all their low water resistance. If the water-repellent treatment greatly improves them, they are however not made for high exposure. It is better to reserve their use indoors only. Other precautions should be taken, especially when drilling or screwing. It is a very dense material that can split if you drill too close to the edge. Go easy. Last thing: when cutting, wear a mask and ventilate well to avoid inhaling certain toxic components.