Compare chipboard and MDF | Determine the best one

Among the representatives of the male half of our editorial board once there was a dispute, and the disputers tried to find out which is better, and what is the difference between chipboard and MDF. This topic seemed interesting, so we decided to conduct a comparative analysis of these popular materials. It turned out that similar at first glance, they have a number of differences, and quite significant.

Composition and production method

The popularity of natural wood is returning, but not all Russians are ready to buy furniture, doors and other interior design elements made of solid wood. It is elementary expensive, and why pay more and “re-invent the wheel”, if it was invented long before us. Here we are talking about particleboard materials, represented in a wide range, and among them on the special account particleboard and MDF – similar outside and different inside. To understand what the similarities are, and where the differences begin, will help to study the composition and method of manufacture.

Definition and composition of particleboard


By definition, particleboard (chipboard) is a chipboard made by cold and hot pressing. As the main ingredient in the manufacture are used sawdust/wood chips of coniferous and deciduous species (there is not much difference, as a rule). In the first stage of production, the wood waste is dried and crushed in a cyclone. To connect the wood fibers and give them strength characteristics in the composition enter formaldehyde resin, after which the mixture is subjected to cold, and then hot-pressing.

At the output we see a strong material with a coarse-fiber structure, ready for roughing work. Boards are cut into sheets of the required size, but the material is not yet ready for surface finishing and furniture production. The aesthetic properties of particleboard receives due to the top layer, according to the composition of which and divide particleboard into the following types:

  1. The rough without the top layer of cladding;

  2. Laminated, covered with paper impregnated with melamine film of different colors and textures, and use a special water-resistant varnish, protected from scratches and other mechanical damage;

  3. veneered with fine wood veneer.

Use chipboard, depending on the type of material and the importance of the work to be done. When it comes to making furniture for the kitchen, where there is high humidity and temperature fluctuations, there is no better solid wood chipboard. For the production of furniture for other rooms, you can use a more affordable analogue – laminated chipboard. It is produced using paper planted on glue as a facing layer. When performing secondary works on a construction site, rough boards are used, which are also ideal for packaging.

What is MDF and how is it made


If you have heard of particleboard before, you are unlikely to immediately distinguish between chipboard and MDF, because they share some external properties. In fact, they have in common only that for the production of both tested are used wood waste – shavings and sawdust. The first difference lies in the fact that in the manufacture of medium-density fiberboard (fine fraction) do not use whole sawdust and shavings, and waste any wood, shredded to the state of small fibers.

The fine particles of wood go through a subsequent cleaning process with hot steam under pressure, then, when still wet, they are ground up again with a device called a defibrillator. At the final stage the shredded waste is mixed with special resins. After that the mixture is subjected to hot pressing. The end result is quite strong, visually appealing material used to produce quality furniture. For other purposes, it is also suitable, but because of the high price in the secondary works more often use particleboard.

We compare the strength of materials

To understand which of the materials we tested is stronger, just look at a cross-section of chipboard and MDF. Chipboard is made from sawdust and shavings of different sizes, and oriented in different directions, and this can be seen with the naked eye. Accordingly, the strength of the material may vary significantly, and this figure in the different types of particleboard is in the range 350-650 kg per 1 cube. meter. Due to this variation, the strength of products, as well as other characteristics, can also vary greatly.

MDF, for its part, is made from small particles of wood, so its density over the entire surface is almost the same, not different and strength boards, respectively. It is within the range 720-870 kg per 1 cu. m., and the difference with particleboard, as you can see, is quite significant.

Conclusion!Fiberboard is more durable, and studies by our experts have shown that MDF is superior to some types of wood in terms of strength.

Which material to choose in terms of ecology?

One of the trends of our time is considered a healthy lifestyle, so we try to eat healthy food and surround ourselves with environmentally friendly items. What are the tested MDF and chipboard in terms of ecology, and which of these materials is better to use when furnishing a child’s room, for example.

We will begin a comparison by tradition with particleboard, and this material, which is produced by Russian woodworking companies, complies with a single standard. This is GOST 10632-2014, which does not give a complete picture of the environmental friendliness of the material, while in the EU are divided into two types: E1 and E2, and it is unlikely you will be advised chipboard E2 to equip a nursery or kindergarten rooms. Do not forget that in the composition of particleboard added harmful formaldehyde resin, which can not be said about the second test.

In the manufacture of MDF boards also use resin, but less harmful carbomide. There is formaldehyde in its composition, and no one is hiding it, but in much smaller amounts. It is also worth noting the main difference in the manufacturing process, and, unlike particleboard, MDF boards are modified with melanin, which helps reduce the amount of harmful fumes.

Conclusion! Based on the above, it can be noted that and in terms of environmental friendliness MDF is more acceptable, so we can recommend it for the children’s room

Despite the “outstanding” properties of wood, it has one drawback – in the absence of additional protection is afraid of moisture. We tried to find out which of our materials is better able to withstand the effects of high humidity, and which to use in the bathroom is categorically not recommended.

We can definitely say that particleboard does not resist moisture, but laminated chipboard is not afraid of high humidity, which makes it in demand when used in “extreme” conditions. There’s one thing: you have to worry about the integrity of the cladding, because if the film is damaged, water seeping inside the board will quickly destroy it. On the other hand, MDF has a higher density and does not even need additional protection, so the conclusion suggests itself.

Conclusion!The water resistance of MDF is higher than even in the case of laminated chipboard, so it is recommended for use in rooms with high humidity.

What is easier to process

I would not like to praise MDF again, but it has so many positive qualities. It’s also easier to work with, again due to its better composition. We remember that particleboard consists of sawdust and chips of different sizes, arranged in different directions, which means that it is not suitable for precision processing, which cannot be said about MDF. Its structure is homogeneous, so where accuracy and correct geometry are needed, this material is perfect – it is equally easy to cut and mill.

As for the decorative finish of the tested materials, once again I would like to give credit to MDF, which is fully ready for laminate coating of any thickness. I would like to say the same about chipboard, but I can’t. First, particle boards have a large roughness, so they need to be sanded for thin film or paper cladding, which is extra time and money.

Conclusion!MDF is easily processed and veneered, so it is in demand for the production of high-end furniture with a predominance of carved elements and moldings. In addition, particleboard does not hold, practically, fasteners.

The low price, and what else wins the chipboard

In our search for characteristics in which particleboard beats the competition, we finally. We have reached the cost of materials, but in terms of this main indicator for many chipboard is considered beyond competition. If you compare them with MDF, the price difference can be up to 50%, and this is the best explanation for the fact that particleboard is one of the most popular materials. Do not forget, however, that money solves a lot, but not everything, and you should save wisely. Despite the fact that both materials are flame retardant, the chipboard is preferable in this respect.

Some useful hints and tips

  1. Tip 1. For a better retention of chipboard fasteners it is enough to use universal adhesive or screws with a larger diameter.

  2. Tip 2. To reduce the cost of the work can be combined chipboard and MDF, and much cheaper will cost construction, where used as a framework of chipboard, and MDF for lining.

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