What does MDF stand for?

by Sam Wood | Last Updated: 22/05/2021

MDF is a common building material used in pretty much everything these days from furniture to even walls, but what is it? and what does MDF stand for?

Whats does MDF stand for?

MDF stands for Medium Density Fibreboard. And this explains exactly what it is, a man-made wood made from lots of fibres stuck together. MDF can be used for pretty much anything and is used extensively due to its low cost. But a low cost does not necessarily mean that MDF is of low quality. When used in the right applications MDF is a great material.

What is MDF?

Well MDF consists of little wood fibres glued together. It is created under pressure to give it its denseness and strength. The wood fibres are commonly recycled from other uses making it a recycled product in most cases. The top and bottom of an MDF sheet are incredibly smooth, making it a great material to paint for a brilliant smooth finish.

MDF is also commonly used to create the structure of whatever you are building, be it cabinet or desk, before being laminated to give the impression of real wood. MDF is great for laminating because of its smooth surface. It also lends itself to this job due to its good price and the fact that it is quite easy to work with.

Different types of MDF

There is more than just one version of MDF available, you can commonly tell the difference between the boards with their colour. Green MDF is normally moisture-resistant where red MDF is flame resistant and is designed not to set on fire. Brown MDF is your regular board.

Can you paint MDF?

Yes, you can. MDF is actually a really good surface to paint, due to its nice flat, consistent surface. It is relatively straightforward to paint but there are a couple of things you need to be aware of. One such thing is that MDF is quite absorbent so your first coat of paint can disappear quite quickly. That is why we recommend using a mist coat of paint as your first coat. In fact, we have a few articles on painting MDF. Read our article on painting MDF with emulsion or how to paint MDF with gloss.

How to cut MDF

First things first always wear a respirator when cutting MDF, the manufacturing process of making MDF uses formaldehyde which is a known carcinogen. This can be realised in the small fibres when cut so use a respirator!

I would also recommend using carbide blades when cutting MDF. It is known that steel blades dull very quickly when cutting MDF, so unless you want to fly through your blade stock then use carbide-tipped blades rather than steel or HSS.

When it comes to cutting tools you can use anything with a blade to cut MDF. It is not a hard material to cut so hand saws, jigsaws, circular saws or really any kind of saw will work well.

Advantages of MDF

  • Smooth Finish
  • Takes wood glue well
  • No knots or inconsistencies
  • Flexible
  • Consistent strength

Disadvantages of MDF

  • Can be heavy in large sheets
  • Swells and breaks when in wet conditions
  • Possible carcinogen due to formaldehyde used in manufacturing
  • breaks if screwed into from the side

Want to learn more about MDF?

We have a whole section of the site dedicated to all things MDF. Here are some of the articles:

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Wood by name, wood by nature. I am a fully qualified, time-served, award-winning joiner with an NVQ Level 3 in Carpentry and Joinery as well as an HNC in Construction. Beyond my joinery qualifications, I have also earned a degree in building surveying. I believe these qualifications make me perfectly positioned to provide expert advice on many different areas of DIY as well as share all of the tips I have picked up in over a decade working on building sites!