Medium density fiberboard

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medium-density fiberboard (MDF)

Description

A type of Fiberboard. common name for an engineered wood product made from mixture of fine wood fibers and resin bonded together then compressed into panels with smooth, flat surfaces at high temperature and pressure. Medium density fiberboard (MDF) panels are constructed from 82% wood fiber, 9% urea-formaldehyde resin and 1% paraffin wax. The density of the board, typically between 500-1000 kg/m3, is dependent on the type of fiber (softwood or hardwood) that is used. MDF boards are available in large sheets (4' x 8') in a variety of thicknesses, such as 3/8", 1/2", 5/8", 3/4" and 1". In recent years, manufacturers have started using greener materials, such as non-toxic binders, and non-wood fibers (straw and bamboo). Variations, lightweight (L-MDF) and ultralightweight (U-MDF), use less quantities of resin, resulting in lower weights, but also less strength.

Synonyms and Related Terms

Medium-density fiberboard; MDF

Brand names: Medex®; Medite®; Medite II®

Applications

Exhibit - case construction, mountmaking

Personal Risks

Health risks associated with elevated concentration of volatile organic compounds (VOCs): respiratory irritation, irritability, inability to concentrate, and sleepiness. Health risks associated with exposure to formaldehyde gas: eye and respiratory irritation, respiratory difficulty .

Dust and chemicals released when worked.

Collection Risks

Any wood product may release VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Specifically, wood products release aldehydes, terpenes, and acids. The types and quantities of VOCs released depends on wood species, as well as the presence of coatings. Generally, the most VOCs are released when the product is new. Barrier layers (i.e. coatings) can be applied to limit the release of VOCs.

Environmental Risks

Physical and Chemical Properties

Working Properties

Dust and chemicals released when worked. MDF has lower tear out (smoother edge when sawed) than particle board. MDF boards are uniform, dense smooth and free from knots or grain patterns. They are also consistent in strength and size. When machined with high quality tools (carbide, ceramic or diamond), they rarely chip-out or fuzz. They may be glued, doweled, painted or laminated and are dimensionally stable. Low-grade MDF may swell and break when saturated with water. Unsealed MDF may warp or expand in humid environments.

Chemical and Physical Properties

Property Standard MDF Lightweight MDF Ultralightweight MDF
Weight
3/4" x 4' x 8' sheet
90 lbs 76 lbs 64 lbs
Face screw-holding
strength
337 lbs 247 lbs 180 lbs

Forms and Sizes

The standard size for fiberboards is 4 x 8 feet.

Resources and Citations

  • Melissa G.D. Baumann, Linda F. Lorenz, Stuart A. Batterman, and Guo-Zheng Zhang, “Aldehyde Emissions from Particleboard and Medium Density Fiberboard Products,” Forest Products Journal 50 (9): 75–82, 2000.
  • External source or communication Comment: Contributed information from Charles Goodwin.
  • Megan Salas, contributed information, MWG group, 2020.