Particle Board vs MDF

Choosing between Particle Board and MDF is often confusing for most people. Both Particle Board and MDF are similar that they are both pressed wooden planks, formed by using a hot pressing machine that squeezes the component materials into flat boards of different thickness. In general, Particle Board and MDF are both considered superior over solid wood and plywood boards in terms of price, density, and uniformity. Of course, solid woods are much more attractive and good-looking, but solid woods are usually only used for the finish rather than the real construction. The underlying construction covered by the solid wood finish is either Particle Board or MDF.

However, there are still differences between Particle Board and MDF. Even though both still fall in the fiberboard category, in most cases, they are not interchangeable to each other if you don’t want to compromise quality and reliability. So, what are the differences between Particle Board and MDF? Find out below!

What is a Particle Board?

First of all, let’s get to know better about Particle Board and MDF. We’ll start with Particle Board. Particle Board is also known as Particleboard and Chipboard, and is an engineered wood product that is manufactured from wood chips, sawmill shavings, or sawdust, bind together by a synthetic resin or another suitable binder, pressed and extruded. There is also another variant called Oriented Strand Board, also known as Flakeboard, Chipboard, and Waferboard, which is made in pretty much the same manner but by using wooden flakes for increased strength. Particle Board of different grades may have different densities. You may find difficulties in screwing a low-density Particle Board, but a high-density Particle Board usually has a greater resistance to screwing failure. Particles Boards are not waterproof, so applying paint, finish, or sealer will help a lot.

What is an MDF?

On the other hand, MDF is an engineered wood product that is made by breaking down softwood and hardwood residuals into wood fibers using a defibrator or another equivalent machine; the wood fibers are then combined with a wax or resin binder, and then processed with high temperature and pressure to form panels. High-quality MDF is usually sealed for water resistance, but low-grade MDF may still swell and break if saturated by water. By the way, MDF does not have a grain in the plane of the board, but there is indeed a grain whose direction is into the board. So, you may want to avoidscrewing into the edge of an MDF because such action will result in the board splitting, in a way similar to delaminating.

Weight and Density

When comparing between Particle Board and MDF, the very first difference that people often point is the density. As a matter of fact, Particle Board is the lightest and the weakest type of fiberboard. MDF is much denser than Particle Board. The increased density translates into higher solidity and rigidity. Thus, people generally perceive MDF to be stronger and more durable than Particle Board. Well, that is true, but there are still other factors that we need to consider besides strength alone.

A higher density also means more weight. MDF usually has a density between 750 to 800 kg/m3. On the other hand, Particle Board usually has a density between 650 to 700 kg/m3. As you can see, MDF can be heavier about 10% to 15% than Particle Board.The bigger the application, the more significant the weight difference can be. So, if you want to build something that is lightweight, you may want to re-calculate before choosing MDF over Particle Board. If you want to achieve light weight and portability, sometimes Particle Board is the better option than MDF.

Durability and Water Resistance

As mentioned above, MDF is stronger than Particle Board, with higher solidity and rigidity, so we can say that MDF is more durable than Particle Board for the strength alone. In addition, though, MDF is much more resistant to water than Particle Board. Still, low-quality MDF may get damaged by water, but in general it is still more waterproof than Particle Board.

It is worth a note that Particle Board may lose its characteristics in a short time if soaked in water. On the other hand, an unsealed MDF may warp or expand. A low-grade MDF may swell and break if saturated by water, and may shrink significantly in a low humidity environment.

Applications

We already know the differences of these two fiberboards in terms of the characteristics. Now, let’s see in which applications that these two fiberboards are more suitable.

Particle Board can be your choice for something that does not need to be waterproof. For example, a bed frame or a cupboard that is going to be put in the bedroom does not need to be waterproof. The lightweight nature of Particle Board is beneficial for such application, making the task of moving the bed frame or cupboard much easier. In addition, Particle Board is usually preferred for flat-packed modern assembly techniques. For furniture that is flat-packed and uses minifix-style fittings, Particle Board is more suitable.

On the other hand, MDF should be your choice for applications in a humid environment. For example, a cupboard or a table that is going to be put in the kitchen should be made from MDF. In such application, you need something that is waterproof, able to withstand the higher-than-average humidity. In addition, MDF should be the way to go for furniture with dowels and gluing.

Particle BoardMDF
- Made from wood flakes, chips, or sawdust- Made from wood fibers of hardwood or softwood residuals
- Lighter and less dense- Heavier and denser
- Relatively weaker in terms of strength- Relatively stronger in terms of strength
- Not waterproof- More waterproof
- Best for flat-packed furniture with minifix-style fittings- Best for furniture with dowels and gluing

Conclusion

Particle Board and MDF are both fiberboards, but they are different types. Particle Board is made from wood flakes, chips, or sawdust glued and pressed together. Particle Board is lighter, but is weaker and not waterproof. Particle Board is best for flat-packed furniture with minifix-style fittings. On the other hand, MDF is made from glued and pressed wood fibers. MDF is denser, heavier, but also stronger and waterproof. MDF is best for furniture with dowels and gluing.

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