MDF vs. Solid Wood: Pros & Cons + When to Use
As a homeowner looking to build, renovate, or simply give your home’s interior and exterior furniture a fresh makeover, one of the most important considerations is the type of materials used. Different materials are used in paneling applications, including solid wood, plywood, and MDF.
Most architects and interior designers often opt for solid wood as their primary material for construction. Yet, technological advancements have prompted the engineering of cheaper wood materials, which are studier and more unique. Today, materials like MDF (medium density fiberboard) are used for making furniture, shelves, and bathroom and kitchen cabinets. However, all materials are equally capable of giving your home an elegant look.
So, how exactly does MDF compete with solid wood for home furnishings, and which one is worth buying? This article will give you an overview of these two most commonly utilized materials: wood and MDF. It will also highlight the benefits and drawbacks of both, as well as factors you should consider while choosing one.
Overview of Solid Wood
Also known as the usual variety or natural wood, solid wood is the normal wood that people refer to. It is milled from trees, such as maple, cherry, oak, and walnut. Solid wood has been used for centuries to build homes and for interior and exterior furnishings. This type of wood is a popular construction material due to its versatility. It can make doors, cabinets, and sofas, among other things. It also gives a house structure when used as a pillar.
Usually, solid wood doesn’t require any extra painting on the surface to make it more attractive. It features a natural beauty that makes it appealing for decorative purposes. So, you don’t have to wax or add resin or an adhesive to the surface. After dried logs are cut, the bark is removed, and the surface is sanded to give it a smooth finish.
However, you can paint or stain it to attenuate its natural look. Solid wood can also be shaped and curved to create unique details. This wood type can be categorized into different types, yet the most reliable solid woods for construction are plywood and finger joint pine.
Types of Solid Wood
Plywood is considered the standard of solid wood and is generally used to make cabinets, beds, tables, and shelves, among others. It also builds ceilings and walls. Plywood has been around for years now. However, it became mainstream after the industrialization era, which prompted large-scale manufacturing.
Plywood is derived from tree trunks where the tree is cut and the bark removed. After the surface has been smoothened, the tree trunk is rolled against a sharp edge to produce thin sheets of plywood. Then, the sheets are layered over each other at a perpendicular angle. Each ply has to be aligned with the width of the ply above and below. The thin sheets are then combined with an adhesive mixture to ensure the plywood is sturdy and intact.
The final product features beautiful patterns often used in home decorations without needing any paint job. Plywood is widely used across the United States to construct houses and make furniture. It is a favorite among interior designers because it is considered top quality.
Finger Joint Pine
The other solid wood variety commonly utilized in building and construction is finger joint pine. As the name suggests, this type of wood is made by joining two different wood pieces in an interlocking way. Hence, finger joint pine makes long pieces of wood or blocks out of small wood pieces.
It is prepared by creating finger-like projections at one corner of the wood, as well as the corresponding projections on the wood that you wish to join. Sometimes a glue solution is added to the joints to ensure that the joints are strong enough to avoid breaking during transportation or installation.
Unlike the plywood variety, you must paint finger joint pine because the wood used are of different varieties and may not match in terms of color or texture. So, if you don’t paint, your wood may have an absurd and unappealing look.
Overview of MDF Wood
MDF stands for medium density fiberboard. Also known as engineered wood, MDF is made from shredded recycled wood combined with adhesives and compressed under high pressure to produce a grainless and smooth surface. Unlike solid wood, you may have to paint over the surface because the final MDF product is never aesthetically appealing.
For the last few years, MDF has gained popularity as a wood substitute with myriad applications. It differs from common solid wood in the structure. However, it is made from finely ground wood but not synthetic materials as most people assume. The structure of MDF consists of wood fibers usually gathered from leftovers after processing in the furniture industries.
Since their inception, MDF applications have drastically changed. Today this material is used to make windows, doors, tables, cabinets, shelves, and other items. Even though most people believe that MDF was banned in the USA in the late 90s due to health complications, it is still widely used across many homes.
The health implications came about due to the presence of formaldehyde, which is carcinogenic when consumed. However, the dust produced by MDF is not harmful to carpenters because it is coated with paint and a primer to limit the chances of anyone consuming it.
How to Decide Between MDF Wood and Solid Wood
When it comes to choosing the type of wood to use for your construction project, apart from solid wood and MDF wood, there are other considerations, such as:
These are all equally important aspects, but the materials used for construction are the most essential because it determines the maintenance, performance, and lifespan of your furniture.
One of the most frequently asked questions in the furniture industry is if wood or MDF is better for construction. It is a concern that interior designers, architects, and homeowners often raise. To make a worthwhile purchasing decision, choose one based on the following factors.
The Final Verdict
If you are still unsure whether to choose MDF or solid wood, your choice will be determined by your specific needs and preferences. As you may have gathered, there is no winner. You can use solid wood and MDF on whatever you are making, be it furniture, walls, or ceilings.
If you simply want to renovate your kitchen or add a new bookshelf in your living area, you will want to use MDF wood. It offers more control in terms of aesthetics and design. But if you intend to make pillars for your house or build a big wardrobe that can handle many shelves and clothing, solid wood is a better choice. Natural wood also makes better designs and stately-looking furniture that oozes elegance and sophistication.
While both types of wood can be used in construction, they have specific benefits and drawbacks. They only differ in terms of size, shape, placement, budget, and appearance. However, the choice is still up to you.
Featured Image Credit: (L) Dragan-drmr_foto, Shutterstock | (R) Potashev Aleksandr, Shutterstock