FAQ: All you need to know about MDF

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You read it on many furniture descriptions. You may even know that the acronym stands for Medium Density Fibreboard. But do you actually know anything else about this timber?


Since MDF is a solid and resistant material that can replace hardwood and is way cheaper, it has gained a lot of popularity over the years in the furniture industry. Just by looking at all the big furniture manufacturers catalogues you’ll realize that over 80% of the products they offer have at least one component made of MDF.


Here is a quick FAQ guide that we hope you enjoy.


What is MDF?

 - MDF belongs to the group of Fibreboards, a group of materials that are made of defibrated fresh woods. Other recycled celluloses can also be added to the formula.


How is MDF made?

 - Wood chips are manufactured through a process called defibration which separates the wood fibres from other components in wood and other celluloses. Then we can differentiate into 2 processes: the dry and the wet ones. The wet process lacks adhesives and is mainly used for SB and hardboard. Dry process includes glues and resins and is implemented to produce MDF.


- The dry process to produce MDF is the following: After defibration, wood chips are digested and exposed to steam and low pressure. They are then refined by metal plates and mixed with resins (from 10 to 14%) and wax (<1%). After that they’re are dried in high-speed dryers. Then, fibres are formed into a flat mat that, depending on the desired density of the final product, they are hot pressed at different temperatures. These panels are then sanded to obtain smooth surfaces ( Performance of Bio-based Building Materials, 2017).


When did MDF start being used?

 - LDF (Low-Density Fibreboard), chipboard or just particleboard, a less dense material than MDF was first manufactured in Germany in 1887.


- Hardboard was accidentally discovered by the American William Mason that was trying to turn the waste wood chips of the industry into a useful insulating material. One night he forgot to turn off his machine and woke up to a thin layer of a very hard resistant material which is now called hardboard. He patented it under the name Masonite.


- It was not until 1965 that our nowadays MDF started to be produced in North America.


What is MDF’s density?

 - It’s typically from 500kg/m3 to 1000kg/m3. It is denser than raw wood and particle board.


What are MDF’s advantages?

- Recycled woods and other celluloses can be used to produce it 

- MDF lacks rings and it is very easy to cut and shape

- MDF is a very good surface to add a veneer, takes paint and wood glue very well

- MDF is cheaper than wood and plywood

- MDF suffers less expansion and contraction than natural wood


What are MDF’s drawbacks?

 - If not treated, moisture is low-grade MDF’s enemy. But moisture resistant MDF has already been invented

- MDF may release formaldehyde when cut. If you want to learn more about this google IKEA's formaldehyde scandal










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