MDF vs Plywood: Everything you should know about MDF and plywood

What is a Medium-density fiberboard (MDF)?

MDF vs Plywood Both are quite different materials. Medium-density fiberboard (MDF) is an engineered wood product. MDF board is made by breaking softwood and hardwood into fine pieces and mixing with wax and a resin binder at high temperature and pressure. It is given the form of a board with the help of a panel.

The density of the MDF board is higher than the plywood. It is used in many applications instead of plywood. It is a strong board and durable but not as much as plywood. But it is stronger and durable than particle-board.

It became popular in the US and Europe in the 1980s. Since then it started being mass-produced here. Later it spread all over the world.

Contains in MDFPercents
Wood Fiber82%
Urea-Formaldehyde Resin Glue9%
Contains in MDF

What is Plywood?

Plywood, slightly different from the MDF board. It is made by gluing thin sheets of wood (veneer) together. High pressure and temperature is used to glue the veneer well

Plywood has many grades, all have their own properties. Different plywood grades are used for different applications as per the requirement. Common grade plywood is used for general purposes such as tables, beds, and cupboards. While marine-grade plywood is used for making marine applications such as boats and boat parts.

Plywood is stronger and more durable than both particle-board and MDF. Because all layers having their wood grain rotated up to 90 degrees to one another. Manufacturers use an adhesive known as phenol-formaldehyde.

There are two types of plywood, softwood plywood, and hardwood plywood. The softwood plywood is made from Fir and Pines wood and Hardwood plywood is made from oak, poplar, maple, cherry, and larch, etc.

Many different manufacturing companies have their own separate process of making plywood. But there are nine common processes to making great plywood. 

These nine processes to make plywood:

log storage, log debarking and bucking, heating the logs, peeling the logs into thin layers (veneers), drying the veneers, gluing the veneers together, high pressing the veneers in high heat, plywood cutting, and other finishing processes.

MDF vs plywood

#MDF Plywood
ConstituentsFine pieces of wood mixed with wax and resin and pressed at high temperatures.Many thin layers or “plies” of wood veneer are glued together on high pressure and temperature.
StructureSmooth surface and knots free.Rough surface and Some knots are presents
UsesSuitable for interior purposes.Suitable for both interior and exterior purposes.
CostLess than plywood.It is always more expensive than the MDF board.
DurabilityIt is less durable than plywood. But it is better than particleboard.It is more durable than particleboard and MDF.
WorkabilityIt is easier to finish.Not easy for finishing needs a sanding and painting process.
Moisture ResistancePoor Moisture Resistance.Marine-grade plywood has good moisture resistance.
MDF vs plywood

Medium-density fiberboard (MDF) Board Uses

MDF Board Uses
MDF Board Uses

The MDF board is widely used for indoor applications due to its poor moisture resistance. It is not suitable for exterior plywood. MDF is mostly used for furniture such as cabinets, and speaker boxes because of its strong and finished surface.

MDF boards do not contain grains and knots. Therefore, it can be easily cut and the screw can be applied easily.

1. Cabinets and Shelves 

MDF Board Uses
MDF Board Uses

MDF board can be used to make almost all furniture. Due to its flexibility. We can Table, Dining Table, and Cupboard by MDF. MDF boards are mostly used in making cabinets and shelves. Because the surface on one side of it is smooth. There is no need to apply paint and laminate to the inside of cabinets and shelves.

MDF Board Uses
The MDF Board Uses

2. Flooring

The MDF board can be used for flooring. Due to its properties. But it is not as durable as hardwood but it goes on comfortably for a few years.

MDF has a good density of 600–800 kg / m³, which is higher than many hardwoods and plywood. It doesn’t warp or swell easily in humidity areas.

Decorative projects: MDF boards are used to make DIY TV Tray, Pen Holders, and many other DIY projects.

3. Speaker Boxes

This board is the first choice to make a speaker box that is available at a lower price than Plywood. MDF is the perfect material for Speaker Boxes. 

4. Wainscoting

Wainscoting enhances the splendor of rooms and staircases. It is a great decorating idea. MDF boards are used to make wainscoting.

5. Doors and door frames: 

The MDA board is used to make bathroom and kitchen doors and door frames.

6. Trade Show booths and theater set construction

MDF is the excellent construction material for a theater set. Which is long-lasting. Builders like to use MDF boards to build booths and theater sets.

MDF Wood Disadvantages

MDF Wood Disadvantages
MDF Wood Disadvantages

1. Weaker Than Wood

There is no doubt that the MDF board is weaker than plywood and solid wood. Because it is made of fine wood pieces and wax. Due to the absence of grain, it can break on high pressure and load. Often it splits During nailing.

2. Maintenance

It requires more maintenance compared to plywood. If the MDF board is used for an exterior application, it requires regular maintenance.

3. Waterproof

MDF board is comfortable for indoor application. So it cannot be used for moisture. It absorbs moisture. This causes the board to thrive after some time and it becomes weak, causing it to break.

The waterproof MDF board can withstand some moisture. This grade board costs more than a basic MDF board.

4. Screw Holding 

MDF doesn’t hold nails and screws very well. Hammering a nail in an MDF board is not easy and takes time. To make this easy constructor use pre-drill holes for nails and screws.

5. MDF contains VOC

Volatile Organic Compounds(VOC) is available in MDF Plywood, it is released “off-gas” into the interior. They sometimes are not able to smell, and the smell is not a good indicator of health risk.

6. Natural Texture

Sometimes the natural texture is not important. But wood lovers love the wood texture. Plywood and wood have a wooden texture. Which gives the excellent look. But the MDF board is made of wood pieces so there is no texture in it.

7. Heavy Weight

It is heavier than plywood so that it has to face a little difficulty in working with it. Due to its heavy weight, it is also difficult to transport.

MDF Wood Advantages

1. Low Cost

The cost of the MDF board is much less than that of plywood and solid wood. All plywood works can be done by the MDF board at a low price. So many constructors and customers like to use the MDF board to make applications.

2. Voids or Splinters

MDF has no voids issue problems. Because it is a solid structure. There is no need to apply extra wood on the Edge of MDF because it does not contain any voids and gaps.

3. Smooth Surface

The MDF board has a smooth surface on both sides so that it can be used even without polish and paint. In this case, the cost of paint and polish is saved.

4. Easy to cut

It can be easily cut from anywhere as there are no knots all over the board. There is no foundation in the construction that the board should be cut from where it is.

5. Waterproof MDF

Some people believe that the use of MDF is not suitable for the moisture place, but MDF also comes with an Exterior grade board that can be used for moisture. But it costs more than the normal board.

6. Environment Friendly

The tree does not have to be cut to make an MDF board. It is made entirely of waste wood and wax.

Plywood Uses

Plywood is a famous construction material. It is used widely worldwide. plywood can be used for both exterior and interior purposes.

These are Some use of plywood

1. Floors, Walls, and Roofs, and Other Constructions

Plywood is mostly used for Floors, Walls, and Roofs. Plywood is a great option for these applications. Marine-grade plywood used for floor and roof. Which lasts longer. Standard plywood can be used for the wall.

2. Boats and Boat Parts

Marine Plywood is the best choice for making boats and boat parts. It lasts for several decades. To make it more durable it requires maintenance. 

3. Vehicle Internal Bodywork

The Vehicle owner likes the wooden texture of the vehicle parts. For which they also give extra money. Plywood is used for car dashboards and bodywork such as. 

4. Packages and Boxes

The export department uses plywood for packages and boxes. This is the easiest and safest way. Which is used to send delicate parts from one place to another. 

5. Fencing

Wood can be used for small areas of fencing but it is less expensive to use plywood for the same areas. But wood can be quite expensive for large areas. The owner chooses plywood for a large fencing area.

6. Concrete Shuttering Panels

Concrete Shuttering Panels.
Concrete Shuttering Panels

Plywood is a great option for shuttering panels. It covers a large space and does not have any joints.

Plywood Advantages

1. Moisture Resistant

Plywood is a good Moisture Resistant material. Which is durable for many decades even in bad weather. It does not absorb moisture like MDF.

2. Good Strength and Durability 

It has very good strength and durability compared to Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) and particleboard. It is durable for many decades.

3. Availability

It is available in large size compared to solid wood. plywood is available in different thicknesses ranging from 6mm to 32mm. It is used worldwide. So that it is easily available in small and big markets.

4. Easy to Use

Plywood is so much lighter than solid wood and MDF. That makes plywood even more perfect for furniture-making. Can be easily worked with plywood.

5. Plywood doesn’t Split Easily

Plywood doesn’t split that easily because of its cross-layered structure. All Veneers crossed to each other. Because of the cross-layered structure, it can withstand heavyweight and pressure.

6. Nail and Screw Holding Properties

Plywood holds the nail and screw very well. The nail can be easily inserted into the plywood compared to MDF. The density of the plywood is lower than the MDF but due to its wood grain, it holds the nail firmly.

7. Texture

Plywood offers the finest wooden texture that MDF boards and particle boards cannot. Plywood gives wooden texture at a low price. It absorbs paint and polish well. 

Plywood Disadvantages

1. Cost

The cost of plywood is more expensive than MDF board and sometimes it is also more expensive than solid wood. Which makes the customer prefer to use MDF board instead of customer plow for normal interior applications.

2. Voids and gaps

As we know, Plywood is made of several wood veneers. Generally, Voids and gaps are present in low-quality plywood, which makes the plywood weaker. Nails and screws do not hold well on voids and gaps. Which makes the application vulnerable. 

Carpenter deals with this issue by filling wood glue and filler at the voids and gaps.

3. Regular Maintenance

Commercial grade plywood needs regular maintenance and also needs to be covered by laminates.  To protect from moisture some time needs paints. Which is this extra expense.

4. Difficult to recognize

It can be difficult for a common person (who does not know much about plywood) to identify quality plywood. Due to not enough information about Plywood, the customer gets cheated many times. To avoid this, we always buy plywood from a trusted dealer. Read this How to Identify Marine Plywood?

5. Plywood is Not 100% Waterproof

Plywood is not 100% waterproof. It is known for Moisture Resistant but nothing made of wood can be 100% waterproof. Water may damage Moisture Resistant (MR) grade plywood.

6. Difficult To Cut

If we talk about cutting the plywood then it is difficult to cut plywood. 


MDF and Plywood both are amazing furniture materials. Both materials have their own strengths and also their loss. MDF and Plywood are used on the basis of their properties. MDF board would be the best option if you want a low budget and material for interior application. If you want material for an exterior application that can withstand moisture, then plywood is the best option.

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