Welcome to my article about HDF vs MDF!
If you are looking for a fiberboard product to use on your projects, you will likely be choosing between HDF (High Density Fiberboard) and MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard).
While you might think that a higher density product is more durable, and therefore a better choice, that isn’t always the case.
This article will explain the difference between the two so you can find one that’s best suited to your needs.
But before we get into the details of these two fiberboards, I’ve put together a quick comparison table so you can easily compare them side by side.
HDF vs MDF: Comparison Table
Ok, now let’s get into the detailed properties and pros and cons of HDF and MDF!
What is Fiberboard?
Fiberboard is made by combining wood fiber and glue. Great amounts of pressure are applied to compress the fibres and glue together to create highly durable pieces that make for great wood alternatives.
What is HDF?
HDF has a typical density of 900 kg/m^3. While it is very dense, it is also quite thin measuring just 3 – 8 mm in depth.
It often comes perforated which makes it a poor choice for substrate and interior moldings.
It is mostly used for laminate floorings, but it can also be used in door and skirting board construction.
What is MDF?
MDF has a typical density of 680kg/m^3 to 730kg/m^3, but it can be as high as 800kg/m^3.
As compared to HDF, it has more compact fibers that make it less likely to become ‘furry’ when machined. The furriness can make it difficult to use paint or primer on the product later in the process.
It is most commonly used in the construction of architraves and skirting boards.
Types of MDF
There are various types of MDF. These include the following:
- Bendable: Bendable MDF has all the qualities of regular MDF, but it is more flexible.
- Lite: MDF lite is lighter weight than regular MDF. This makes it a good option if you’re building a piece that needs to be moved often.
- Fire Resistant: Fire resistant MDF is resistant to fire and often used in commercial buildings. Make sure the fire resistant MDF you are buying is certified to ensure it works as advertised.
- Resistant to Moisture: MDF is typically not water resistant and can swell when exposed to humidity. However, if a special resin is added, it will hold up well in humid environments.
MDF vs HDF
To better understand both materials, let’s do a comparison of both products based on the following factors:
Price and Availability
Both MDF and HDF are cheaper than plywood. But how do they compare to each other in terms of price?
The price varies according to how thick the boards are. Both typically come in three thicknesses which are priced as follows:
- 20mm thickness costs about $5.80 a square foot
- 18mm thickness costs about $10.86 a square foot
- 12mm thickness costs about $12.25 a square foot
- 3mm thickness costs about $6 a square foot
- 8 mm thickness costs about $8.35 a square foot
- 5 mm thickness costs about $14.25 a square foot
These thicknesses are easily available except for the 4.8 mm HDF which may be slightly difficult to find.
Strength and Durability
MDF is manufactured with a lot of heat and pressure. It looks like particleboard, but it has a higher density.
At 600 to 800kg/m3 it is denser than many hardwoods. It is also unlikely to warp or swell in high humidity environments like bathrooms.
HDF is even harder and denser. At 900kg per cubic meter, it makes a terrific stabilizer for laminate and hardwood flooring.
While neither MDF nor HDF is fully water resistant, HDF stands up to water better due to its density.
There are also tempered forms of HDF and MDF that are made by adding oil and resins. This gives the materials improved resistance against moisture as well as increased hardness and strength.
Water resistant HDF is often used in construction siding.
Ease of Use
MDF is not as dense as HDF, and it is free of knots and grain. This makes it easier to saw and hammer through. HDF’s density makes it difficult to cut and saw.
Winner: Both, depending on the application
MDF is more adaptable and lighter than HDF. This makes it perfect for making furniture, cabinets and decorative items. It can also be incorporated into washroom flooring.
However, its low water resistance means its not the best choice for wet surfaces.
MDF also has insular qualities that make it ideal for acoustic enclosures like loudspeakers and subwoofers.
HDF is good for making furniture that is frequently used. It can also be integrated in laminate flooring and door skins.
MDF has a smooth, consistent finish that works well with paint and lacquer. Its small particles ensure a flawless finish.
HDF also has a smooth finish, but its density makes it harder to cut and style. There’s also an increased chance of getting injured when you use this wood.
Both MDF and HDF are made of wood fibers that are biodegradable and eco-friendly. However, there have been some concerns over the materials used to hold the fibers together.
Both may contain formaldehyde which has been associated with cancer. According to studies, formaldehyde is made from plants and has never been proven to be a carcinogen.
But if it worries you, there are boards made with eco-friendly composites with low formaldehyde content.
Another concern is the dust created when MDF and HDF is cut. These can irritate the nose and respiratory system if inhaled.
MDF Pros and Cons
MDF comes with its share of pros and cons. Here are some to consider:
- Affordable and cost effective as compared to plywood
- A smooth surface that looks attractive and works well with paint and lacquer
- Consistent surface area with no rough edges which makes it ideal for show pieces
- Easy to use
- Chemicals in the board make it somewhat insect resistant
- Unless the MDF is water resistant, it will absorb moisture quickly causing it to swell and warp
- The smooth surface is not great for holding screws and other materials
- Comparatively heavy considering its density
- Stains easily due to its spongelike characteristics
- Contains VOC which can be dangerous when inhaled
- Although it is strong, there are stronger options available
HDF Pros and Cons
Now let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages HDF has to offer:
- The smooth surface is ideal for painting
- It is firmer than plywood and MDF
- It is more water resistant than MDF
- It is not easily affected by the weather and it unlikely to crack or warp during season changes
- It is as strong as wood and more affordable
- It is ideal for building furniture that is used often
- Its smooth edges are easy to cut through
- It is great for partitions and flooring
- It tends to be more expensive than MDF and plywood
- Its smoothness means it offers less friction. This presents difficulties in its ability to hold screws.
- While it is more water resistant than MDF, it is not meant for outdoor use
- It is made with chemicals that can be harmful in large quantities
- Many carpenters prefer using wood over HDF
HDF vs MDF: Which Should I Use?
The board you choose depends on the project you are working on.
If you are creating something attractive that won’t be exposed to moisture, MDF is a better choice.
If you require a heavy-duty product that will withstand the test of time, HDF will be the best option.
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About The Author: Hi There! I’m Dave. I’m a certified millworker and carpenter, and have been working in the industry for over 10 years. I created this website to pass on my knowledge so that other enthusiasts, no matter what their skill level, can enjoy the craft as much as I do. I hope you enjoy!