What is the difference between MDF (medium density fibreboard) and particleboard (also commonly known as chipboard)?
Both are wood panels made from wood waste bonded together under heat and pressure with the use of resin. The difference is the size of the wood used where particleboard uses chips which is reconstructed into three layers with a coarse chips layer sandwiched in-between layers of fine chips. MDF on the other hand, goes one step further by refining the chips in fibre before being compressed into a panel. The results are two distinctly different wood panels.
Which is better; MDF or particleboard?
It is difficult quantify which is better without going into its detailed usage. For example, the surface of MDF is definitely smoother and superior to that of particleboard but if the application of the finish product is for core usage, then the surface basically does not matter.
Let's go through a series of popular usage of wood panel to decide which is more suitable for you.
1. Which is more suitable for spray painting?
MDF wins hands down compared to particleboard due to its superior smooth surface which makes it the most ideal substrate for spray painting. The higher compactness on the MDF surface also means less paint is needed as compared to particleboard where the porosity of its surface will absorb paint more.
2. Which is more suitable for lamination?
Both MDF and particleboard are equally suitable for lamination regardless whether it is paper, veneer, PVC or HPL. However, for super thin paper, super fine grade MDF has an edge due to its better homogenous surface. Particleboard cannot be sanded to match the super fine surface of MDF.
3. Which is better for profiling use?
MDF once again is a faraway winner for profiling. MDF is made specifcally for profiling and no other reconstructed wood panels can match it profiling properties. MDF is second only to natural wood.
4. Which is better for core use?
Both are suitable to be used for core usage but particleboard has a slight advantage in being a cheaper material to use.
5. Which is more suitable for roller coating
Roller coating is even more sensitive than spray painting where the layer of paint roller coated on the surface of the panel is much thinner than that of spray painting. As in spray painting, MDF will proved to be a much better material to use.
6. Which is better for nailing?
Both MDF and particleboard are not recommended for nailing. Wood screws and predrilling is recommended. For better holding strength, MDF (particleboard) specialised joint fittings are recommened.
7. Which is the better product to withstand swelling?
Normal grade MDF and particleboard are not recommended for areas of high moisture. For normal grade MDF will tend to swell more than particleboard. High moisture resistant grade of both MDF and particleboard are recommended. For extreme cases, HDF or high density fibreboard is recommended. Particleboard will not be able to reach the density of HDF and thus will loose out.
8. Which is a cheaper?
Particleboard is cheaper with estimated FOB rates of about US$ 145 per m3 for 18mm compared to US$ 245 per m3 for 18mm MDF. MDF being more compact, higher density and having undergone an extra refining process is more expensive but will prove to be more versatile and applicable for more usages than particleboard.
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