October 6, 2019

MDF vs Solid Wood | A Side By Side Comparison

MDF wood and solid wood are widely used in various industries and DIY. When compared, it can be difficult to choose one. The best for you depends on your needs and preferences. Identify requirements and budget before looking for the product. Go through the research below.

Solid wood

Solid wood and MDF have their pros and cons. Solid wood has its strengths. It is strong, sturdy, and features a beautiful natural grain pattern. If you are looking for durability, solid wood is a great choice. 

When it comes to the authenticity of solid wood, the beauty of natural wood is unmatched. Each wood type is different, and some have more longevity than others. Note that wood contracts or expands when exposed to heat and humidity change. If your home is not in a controlled climate, cabinets made from wood can shrink or crack over time. 

Solid wood is sturdy and used for houses, bridges, and infrastructure. It is vulnerable to pests, meaning it requires some maintenance. Consider a bug infestation in your wood.

Solid wood is beautiful even if you paint. It gives you a natural texture that is pleasing to the eye. An interior rich in solid wood adds value to your property. A beautiful item offers an overall value to your home.

Due to its aesthetic and durability, solid wood furnishing makes a difference when selling or renting. Furniture from natural wood comes in various shapes and styles. Designers always find a piece to match interior trends. Solid wood is easy to work with, allowing their usage for custom projects and even DIY.

Pros

  • Durable
  • Sturdy
  • Multiple shapes and styles
  • Beautiful
  • No harsh chemicals 

Cons

  • Not affordable 
  • Minimal stability 
  • Bug damage

MDF

MDF is affordable and readily available. It consists of recycled leftovers from solid woodcuts, fibers, and resin mixed with wax. MDF is more compact and less durable than solid wood. With technology, manufacturing has advanced, and high-end MDF boards are as durable as natural wood. Classes of engineered wood depend on the size of the board, its consistency, and the type of glue and fibers used. 

Some people turn away from MDF products because man-made products are not as popular as natural materials. MDF is a high-grade material from recycled wood fibers and resin. It is dried and pressed to produce dense, stable sheets. It does not warp or crack like wood. 

Since MDF is from small particles, it does not have a noticeable grain pattern. You end up having a smoother finish on the cabinets. MDF is affordable, which is a big selling point for some people. Depending on the budget, some users spend the extra money to purchase the all-wood cabinets.

Earlier, MDF was less durable, unlike the old solid wood. There was a fast-growth rapid in technology and manufacturing where engineered wood has become more reliable and affordable hence its popularity.

Engineered wood lacks specific grain or texture, meaning it is easier to sand and prime without worrying about looks. Its resistance to moisture makes it ideal for kitchen and bathroom furnishing.

Pros

  • Affordable 
  • Size variety
  • Smooth
  • Consistent 
  • Minimum warping issues

Cons

  • Absorbs water
  • Restrictions on finish
  • Splits and cracks 

Favorite Features

Strength and durability

Solid wood is stable and carries lots of weight. When you are more concerned with strength and durability, you might go for solid timber. Put nails on its surface without worrying about spoiling the plywood. Solid wood has antibacterial properties. Durability is the resistance of wood against biologic degradation such as fungal decay and insect attacks (Sciencedirect.com).

The more layers, the more rigid the wood gets. Solid wood can also be used in an external environment without fearing the damage caused by external forces like humidity and heat.

Unlike solid wood, MDF furniture is not very strong and durable but is resistant to termites. Handle with care. When it gets damaged, it is difficult to repair. The drawers of MDF furniture cannot hold excess weight.

Grain

When it comes to aesthetics, solid wood leads by far. Solid wood has beautiful grains not replicated on any surface. The grain is the arrangement of wood-cell fibers (Aged woods.com). They make the furniture appear as decors and increase the house’s aesthetic value. So much so that your house becomes the inspiration for your family and friends.

MDF lacks a directional grain-like solid wood which makes it ideal if you are cutting intricate details or molding. Other materials would splinter, or the cut will not be as smooth. However, MDF has consistency in shrinking and expanding without the different parts of the grain working against each other.

Multiple shelves and cabinets are remade from MDF, but they require a solid timber frame to provide support. Fix them in a way that avoids sagging over time. The directional grain gives solid wood strength and structural integrity.

Solid wood has the natural grain showing character, depth of color, and uniqueness that you cannot get from engineered wood.

Size variety

MDF sheets are available in over 100 different thicknesses, starting from 2mm and going right up to 60mm. The options make it easy to get wood thickness for the application at hand.

Solid wood also comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Different shapes are available, from pillars to plies. If the size has to be increased, use the standard finger method. You will not run out of options in the substantial wood segment. 

Solid wood can come from different sources, from red oaks to white oaks to cedar, an option for everyone.

Appearance 

Solid wood is well known for its natural beauty. MDF lacks the attractive natural color and the character and features found in solid wood.

What could be better

MDF

  • It could have been strong enough to fight the water.
  • The fibers could have been tight enough to accept bigger nails.

Solid wood

  • Changes in shape due to temperature changes should be minimal. It could have been strong enough to fight warps and cracks.
  • It could have been resistant enough to fight bugs. Proper treatment is needed to fight against insects. 

Similar Features

  • Both contain wood.
  • You can paint them.
  • They are durable.

Key Differences

  • Solid wood is more durable than MDF.
  • More shapes and styles come from solid wood than MDF.
  • Solid wood is more easily affected by moisture than MDF which is more resistant.
  • MDF is more affordable than solid wood.
  • MDF is harder to flex or crack than solid wood.
  • MDF is easier to supply than solid timber.
  • MDF is easier to paint and seal than solid wood.
  • MDF is heavier than solid timber.
  • Unlike solid wood, MDF cannot support too much weight
  • Solid wood is a natural resource and does not go through MDF’s process. 
  • MDF does not warp or crack like solid wood.
  • MDF is engineered, while solid wood is a natural product.

The verdict on MDF vs Solid Wood

Your choice depends on your specific needs and requirements. Use both MDF and solid wood, depending on what you are making. If you are renovating a kitchen, MDF may be the better choice if you are renovating a kitchen since it allows for more control of looks and design. But if you want a big and sturdy wardrobe that accommodates tons of clothes, shelves should be of solid wood. Natural timber makes better traditional furniture and designs. Engineered and natural wood have their pros and cons. These differ in appearance, budget, shape, size, and placement.

David D. Hughes

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