MDF vs Particle Board: Which One Should You Choose?

Welcome to my article about MDF vs Particle board!

When it comes to DIY woodworking projects, the materials you use are very important.

MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) and particle board are both pressed wood products that can be used to make shelving, furniture, cabinets and more.

But they have their share of differences. So which is best for your needs?

This article will explore the features, pros and cons of both MDF and particle board so you can choose which one is right for you.

But first, a quick summary table so you can compare the two materials side by side.

MDF vs Particle Board: Summary Table

Here is a quick rundown of how MDF and particle board behave side by side.

Particle Board
Moisture Resistance
Nail/Screw Hold
More uniform
More uneven
More expensive
More affordable

What is MDF?


MDF is an engineered wood made with wood fiber. The fibers are stuck together with glue and put into a hot machine.

The machine compresses the fibers making them into a board.

The end result is a strong dense material with a smooth surface that’s great for painting and cutting out designs.

What is Particle Board?

Particle board is made from waste wood products like sawdust and resin.

The elements are pressed together in a hot machine. A laminate or veneer is typically applied to the top to provide a finished look.

It’s an affordable option for low end furnishings.

What are the Differences Between MDF and Particle Board?

MDF and particle board have their share of differences and similarities. Here are some to consider:


MDF has a smooth surface that consists of similarly sized wood grain. Particle board’s wood shavings and chips provide an uneven surface.


MDF has a higher density than particle board. This is because of the manufacturing process, where the MDF fibres are pressed and glued together firmly.


Due to it’s high density, MDF is also stronger than particle board. Particle board is not very strong.

Moisture Resistance

MDF is more resistant to moisture than particle board. Particle board’s loose fibres are good at soaking up moisture.


While MDF can last for about a decade, particle board can hold up for 20 years or more.


While both products are affordable, MDF is more expensive.

Ability to Hold Nails/Screws

While both MDF and particle board can hold screws, MDF performs better due to it’s high density and can grip onto nails or screws more firmly than particle board.


Particle board is better for utilitarian jobs while MDF’s attractive properties make it better for furnishings.

However, because MDF is heavy, you may not want to use it for cabinets or any other projects that require a lot of lifting.

It should be noted that both particle board and MDF are prone to drooping and should not be used for shelving that’s required to support heavy objects.


MDF is a lot heavier than particle board. A full sheet of ¾ inch MDF can weigh around 97 lbs. This compares to particle board which weighs closer to 85 lbs.


Both MDF and particle board are very flat. This makes them perfect for veneering. No ripples will show through the veneer once it’s added.


Both MDF and particle board have a good thickness and will fit inside standard grooves.

However, they can expand when wet which will cause them to grow out of their grooves.

Therefore, you will want to keep them in non-humid environments.

MDF vs Particle Board: Pros and Cons

Now let’s look at the pros and cons involved with both products.

MDF Pros and Cons

  • It’s inexpensive
  • It’s made from recycled materials and therefore an eco-friendly option.
  • It has a smooth surface that can easily be painted or cut into
  • It has a realistic look.
  • It’s solid, flat, and dense.
  • It can be drilled without getting damaged.
  • It was pressed at a high temperature so there are no gaps in the composition of the plate.
  • It closely resembles wood.
  • The edges of the fronts can be rounded eliminating the need for edges in chip wood furniture.
  • It has a long lifespan.
  • It’s resistant to germs.
  • It’s not as strong as wood.
  • It can crack or splinter under stress.
  • It absorbs water faster than wood so it can swell or warp.
  • It’s made with VOC that contains urea formaldehyde that can irritate the eyes and respiratory system.
  • It releases dust in the air during production which can be harmful to the environment.
  • It’s highly flammable.

Particle Board Pros and Cons

  • It’s lower in cost than MDF, solid wood and plywood.
  • It’s lightweight so it is easy to transport.
  • It’s easy to clean and maintain.
  • It can be drilled, cut, sawed, glued, etc.
  • It’s made from waste wood, so it is eco-friendly.
  • It does not come with natural defects like solid wood.
  • It can be used to make many types of furniture in various shapes and sizes.
  • It has soundproofed properties which makes it a good choice for auditoriums, speakers, sound studios, etc.
  • The smooth, flat surface makes it easy to glue on laminate and veneer.
  • It’s not as strong as MDF and plywood and can become easily damaged.
  • It’s not very durable.
  • Its low moisture resistance makes it likely to warp and expand.
  • While the wood waste makes it eco-friendly, it is also made with resin that is harmful to the environment.

What is Melamine Particle Board?

Melamine particle board is made by applying several layers of melamine and paper imprinted with a specific pattern or color.

It is available in a wide range of colors and its appearance is very close to wood.

Are MDF and Particle Board Hazardous to Health?

MDF, particle board and other composite wood products can contain elements that are hazardous to health.

Take for instance, the formaldehyde that’s used to bind the wood. The substance has been known to irritate the eyes, skin, and the respiratory system.

Long exposure has been known to cause cancer.

Many companies are cutting back on the amount of formaldehyde they include in their products, but for some, even small amounts are enough to cause health issues.

You can reduce the amount of harm formaldehyde can do by:

  • Buying panels with a low formaldehyde content
  • Working in a well-ventilated area
  • Sealing in the formaldehyde with a paint or varnish

Composite wood can also cause dust that can irritate the respiratory system.

You can reduce dust irritation by:

  • Using a vacuum to absorb dust as soon as it appears
  • Wearing an N-95 mask to keep the dust out of your mouth and nostrils
  • Using an overhead air scrubber to trap dust before it disperses in your work area

Tips for Using Composite Wood Products

Here are some tips that will come in handy when working with MDF, particle board and other composite wood products:

Shelving: If you cut corners and don’t drill a hole for a pilot screw, cracks can easily form.

Short, shallow screws won’t hold well at the edges.

Long screws with deep threads and housed joints are essential for composite wood shelving.

For best results, drill an extra-long pilot hole that’s equal in diameter to the solid shaft of the screw. Add glue to increase strength and durability.

In Damp Areas: Composite wood won’t do well in wet areas. If is absorbs moisture it will expand and drying won’t help it go back to its original size.

If your wood is in contact with a basement floor, it could absorb water.

You can keep this from happening by supporting the bottom with pressure treated lumber coated with glue. The glue will keep the moisture out.

MDF vs Particle Board: Conclusion

Particle board and MDF are both types of composite wood, but they come with their share of differences.

I hope this article has helped you identify which material is best for your next project!

Here are some related articles you may also enjoy:

MDF vs Plywood
Mango Wood: Uses, Benefits and More!