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Difference Between MDF and Particleboard

MDF vs Particleboard

Looking for a plywood or wood replacement? MDF and particleboard are two of the best choices when in need of a substitute for the real thing.

Both MDF (Medium-Density Fiberboard) and particleboard are examples of engineered wood. These “woods” are made from wood by-products like fibers, sawdust, and shavings. These materials are combined together with some chemicals and glue and then compressed into a material with varying thicknesses. Though both products undergo the same process, they are different in their characteristics and properties.

MDF is considered the superior of the two products. This type of engineered wood is made by fine particles of wood that are unseen by the naked eye. It has a smooth surface and a veneer that makes it look like natural wood. MDF is made of many layers of wood which makes it very heavy, thicker, denser, and less permeable to water. This wood also has more strength and is crack and split-resistant – a good choice for built-in furniture like cabinets, doors, vanities, and other varieties of furniture. Anything made from this type of engineered wood must not be portable since it is very heavy to lift and move.

Despite its setback, this type of wood is perfect for fixtures or anything that needs a wood-like structure with a low cost. The wood’s surface takes paint and finishes well and doesn’t need banding. It can function as a stand-alone wood without any support from other materials like tile, laminate, and carpet.

The other engineered wood is particleboard. Unlike the former, particleboard can come across as the inferior counterpart of MDF. The wood is made from wood sawdust, a coarse wood by-product with large and easy-to-spot particles. It has no veneer and is in need of a good finish especially in the exposed edges and flat surfaces.

Compared with MDF, it is rough, speckled, and doesn’t take paint well. It also needs to be connected to other materials like laminate, tile, and carpet. Particleboard should never be in contact with water. It soaks up water like a sponge which makes it lose its stability and fall apart in pieces. If used, it should always be protected from moisture and water by materials like vinyl. It is also not a recommended material to be used in outdoor areas.

The most common use of particleboard is underlaying paneling in floors and walls and shelving in cabinets and closets. Since it is lightweight, particleboard can be used in portable furniture or structures. When it comes to strength, appearance, and stress, particleboard is not the best material.

Both woods have their advantages and disadvantages. The most important contribution of these woods is that they are recycled products made from wood by-products. These products help in providing needed materials for buildings and structures while not adding to yet lowering the impact for waste.


1.MDF is a far superior engineered wood compared to particleboard in terms of appearance, uses, strength, and exposure to moisture and water.

2.MDF is heavier, thicker, more durable, and has a less chance of cracking or splintering in contrast to particleboard.

3.Particleboard is often used for interior purposes due to its appearance and its resistance to accepting paint and finishes. The same cannot be said of MDF which has a nice, smooth finish, good reaction to paint and finishes, in addition to giving an almost wood-like appearance.

4.MDF is more versatile than particleboard and is used in many applications like shelving, decorative molding, flooring and stand-alone furniture like doors and cabinets. It also takes stress well and has good strength. Particleboard does not take stress well and is not durable for some projects.

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