HDF/MDF/Hardboard/Particle Board Insider : Things you may not know about Purchasing & Sourcing Part 2:Difference between MDF, woodfiber board and particleboard

MDF (medium-density fiberboard) is an engineered wood product made of fine wood chips. Fiber boards of the same thickness are manufactured from the wood, meant for felling, or wood wastes (chippings), that are milled to small fibers (chips), then subjected to high-pressure steam and fed to the rotating segments of refiner. All refined material immediately goes to the drier and subsequent glueing.

The difference between chips, used for particle board and for MDF, is like the difference between products, run through meat grinder and mixer. Wood particles are glued together with the help of lignin and wax (paraffin). Therefore, MDF is a very eco-friendly material.

Products made of MDF can be installed in premises with a relative humidity of 80%, in comparison with 60% for wood products.

Advantages: MDF/HDF is an engineered, machineable product with great structural integrity and high ecological compatibility. It offers some significant advantages, including superior dimensional stability and greater versatility in terms of shaping.
The key MDF benefit is a perfect correlation between thickness and hardness: the thickness could vary from 4 to 22 mm. Recently there appeared a lot of door frames with boxes and casings made ​​of MDF, covered with high-cost species of wood. MDF surface is flat, smooth, homogeneous and dense, which greatly simplifies the handling of MDF boards.
MDF/HDF is widely used for the furniture, doors and laminated flooring production.


Particleboard is manufactured by hot compression of wood particles, mixed with binding agent and forming the mixture into a sheet. Particleboard raw material is any low-cost wood species, both softwood and hardwood. The use properties of particleboard mainly depend on density, shape and size of wood particles and also amount and quality of the binding agent.

There are particleboards of very low (350-450 kg/m³), low (450-650 kg/m³), average (650-750 kg/m³) and high (700-800 kg/m³) density with one, three and five layers.

It is not recommended to use particleboard for premises with high moisture.

Particleboard is a widely used material for the production of cabinet furniture, interior decorations, roof and partition constructions, etc.

Advantages: waterproof, strong, easy to handle. Particleboard tightly “holds” nails and screws, could be easily machined (cut, drilled, milled, etc.), glued and painted. One more particleboard benefit is a low price. That is why particleboard is the most widely used material for the fabrication of economy-class furniture: the majority of office furniture is made of particleboard.

With some of its physical-mechanical properties particleboard even surpasses natural wood: particleboard swells less than natural wood, is low-inflammable, does not warp and has thermal and soundproof properties.   .

Disadvantages: formaldehyde resins, which bind wood particles.

Particleboard extract a certain amount of formaldehyde. Therefore, it is not the most useful product, which has to be changed.

There are two types of particleboard: Е1 and Е2.

E1 is ecologically clean product with low formaldehyde extraction. Е2 is prohibited to use for the production of furniture for children. The most ecologically clean particleboard is made in Austria and Germany.

Particleboard is also heavier and  less stronger than natural wood.

Woodfiber board

Wood fiberboard is manufactured by hot compression of uniformly milled wood mixture, impregnated with synthetic resins, with the inclusion of certain additives to the mass. The raw material for wood fiberboard is pulverized wood chips. To improve the properties of fiberboard, paraffin wax, colophony (to increase waterproof property), synthetic resin (to increase the board strength), antiseptics are added to the wood mixture.

As MDF, woodfiber board is produced from compressed wood dust, but in the case of woodfiber board, wood particles are steamed, the board is made ​​by wet pressing.
The woodfiber board types are as follows:
  • • extra-hard (density – 950 kg/m³);
    • hard (850 кг/м³) and semi-hard (400 kg/m³);
    • insulating-finishing (250 kg/m³);
    • insulating (up to 250 kg/m³) .
Woodfiber board is very resistant to humidity drops. Back sides of the majority cabinets and cupboards as well as drawer bottoms are made of woodfiber board. (Plywood is used for production of the most expensive furniture instead of woodfiber board.)
Advantage: low price and high durability

Particleboard: raw, melamine and veneer surfaced

– MDF: raw, melamine and veneer surfaced

– Thin MDF: raw, melamine, veneer and lacquered

– HB: raw and lacquered

– OSB: raw and film faced


Particleboard (known also as chipboard) is cheaper, with more density and more uniform than conventional wood and is substituted for them when appearance and strength are less important than cost.

Particleboard presents some advantages when it comes to constructing the cabinet box and shelves. For example, it is well suited for attaching cabinet door hinges to the sides of frameless cabinets.

Different grades of particleboard have different densities, with higher density connoting greater strength and greater resistance to failure of screw fasteners.

If you want a cheap solution for furniture, doors, and other applications that does not require routering, you should use particleboard based panels: raw particleboard, melamine particleboard, veneer particleboard, etc.


Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) is inexpensive, durable, and a good choice for many woodworking and carpentry projects. MDF is a type of engineered wood product that is made out of wood fibers, and heavily used in the furniture industry. For pieces that will be visible, a melamine paper, a veneer or a layer of lacquer is often applied onto fiberboard to give it the appearance of conventional wood.

There are a number of reasons why MDF may be used instead of plywood or chipboard. It is dense, flat, stiff, has no knots and is easily machined. Because it is made up of fine particles it does not have an easily recognizable surface grain, MDF can be painted to produce a smooth quality surface.

Because MDF has no grain it can be cut, drilled, machined and filed without damaging the surface. MDF may be dowelled together and traditional woodwork joints may even be cut. MDF may be glued together with PVA wood glue. Oil, water-based paints and varnishes may be used on MDF. Veneers and laminates may also be used to finish MDF

If trend for furniture become more ornate, the machinability, the lacquering properties, strength and ability to maintain shape will turns MDF the best solution. Door skins and architraves are easily moulded.

MDF has better moisture absorption characteristics than timber. The Fire resistance of MDF is also better than that of timber.

Although attractive enough in its raw form MDF is usually coated with a Melamine paper, which can provide a full palette of colors and artificial wood veneers. True wood veneers, other plastics, paints and aluminium will all adhere to MDF.


Hardboard is a type of fiberboard, which is an engineered wood product.

It is similar to medium-density fiberboard, but is denser and much stronger. It differs from particleboard and MDF in that the bonding of the wood fibers requires no additional materials. The hardboard variety is made without resin.

Hardboard is a product that fulfills low cost furniture applications that requires a thin product with very good surface for lacquering. Hardboard is also popular for use in the packaging, shoe and automotive industry.


Oriented strand board (OSB), is an engineered wood particle board formed by adding adhesives and then compressing layers of wood strands (flakes) in specific orientations.

OSB is a material with high mechanical properties that make it particularly suitable for load-bearing applications in construction.  The most common uses are as sheathing in walls, flooring, and roof decking. For exterior wall applications, panels are available with a radiant-barrier layer pre-laminated to one side; this eases installation and increases energy performance of the building envelope. OSB also sees some use in furniture production.

OSB2 is a precision-engineered board for structural use in load-bearing dry conditions. It is a versatile alternative to plywood, it is ideal for a variety of uses from temporary fencing (site hoarding) to display stands, sheds to shelving.

OSB3 is a precision-engineered structural board for use in load-bearing humid conditions. OSB3 is suitable for: timber frame housing; flat and pitched roofs; wall sheathing; flooring; portable buildings; caravans; and agricultural buildings.


Melamine is a thermally fused paper coating laminated in a particleboard or MDF board to provide a durable hard surface. Great for making cabinet carcasses because it wipes clean easily. Use it, as well, for shop fixtures or to make an economical router-table top. Melamine is resistant to scratches, chemicals and staining.

The choice of colors, patterns, textures and gloss levels is almost unlimited. The range is widened still further when combined with different size and core type possibilities.

·         Great for making cabinet carcases. It is inexpensive too

·         Melamine is a highly durable product

·         It is easy to maintain and clean

·         Great also for cabinet liners, desk tops, furniture, closet, store fixtures etc

·         Ideal for cabinets, desk tops, closets, store fixtures, furniture and more

·         Easy to maintain and clean

·         Resistant to scratches, chemicals and staining

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