Medium density fibreboard is a great material but has a poor reputation with the general public and some specifiers. Like all materials, there are good ways of using them and bad ways. The best way to illustrate this is by comparing canvas with silk; they are both fabrics, you could make a tent from silk and a ball gown from canvas, but it’s not the best use of their characteristics, this is the same with MDF and solid timber. The majority of designs for high-end furniture and fitted joinery are not suitable to be made entirely from solid timber and so mdf and other sheet materials come into their own being fantastic surfaces to paint and veneer.
What is MDF?
It is made from hardwood and softwood fibres combined with wax and a resin binder and then by the application of heat and pressure formed into panels.
Is all MDF the same?
There are many different manufacturers of MDF based in many countries all who have their own methods and standards there is a set of British Standards which guarantee a minimum standard.
As with all things, you get what you pay for and we always opt for a more expensive known brand.
Are there different types of MDF?
Yes, there are a vast range of different types, but the ones that you will mostly come across are as follows:
- Standard MDF
- Light weight MDF
- Ultra-light weight MDF
- Fire resistant MDF
- Moisture resistant MDF
Is there such a thing as High density MDF?
HDF (high density fibreboard) is a specialist material which is used a lot for furniture and joinery although this is something we specify as part of the manufacturing process rather than being specified by a designer or architect. Unlike MDF it tends to have a consistent density throughout so that it can be machined into complex shapes that maintain structural stability.
Is there a maximum size a board can be?
In theory no but practically it has to be handled and shipped so although there are a range of sizes the most common, and therefore available in a range of thicknesses, are as follows;
- 1220 x 2440
- 1220 x 3050
- 1525 x 2440
- 1525 x 3050
- 1220 x 2745
- 2440 x 1830
- 1525 x 2745
What thicknesses are available?
You can find a vast range of thicknesses but the most common and easily sourced are:
3, 4, 6, 9, 12, 15, 16, 18, 22, 25, 30, 32, 36, 38 and 40 mm.
You can buy pre-veneered mdf, which adds approximately 1mm to each thickness however there are generally fewer options.
7, 10, 13, 16, 19, 23 and 26 mm
If you want different sizes can you stick sheets together?
Yes you can, however, you need to be mindful of the general rules of balancing – so, it is generally better to do it with an odd number of boards. If you wanted 50mm (available from some manufacturers) sticking 2 x 25mm boards together works but you would be better adjusting your design to use 51mm as you can have 2 x 18mm outer sheets and a core of 15mm.
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