Advantages and Disadvantages of Medium Density Fiberboard

A woodworker using a router on medium density fiberboard.

Medium density fiberboard is a product that is commonly used in construction or remodel projects. This type of product carries with it several benefits, but you should be aware of its drawbacks as well.

What is Medium Density Fiberboard?

Medium density fiberboard is a type of composite wood product. Many people refer to it as MDF. It is constructed by taking small wood fibers and gluing them together with resin under extreme heat and pressure.


Using this type of material can provide you with a few advantages in your project. One of the biggest pros to using medium density fiberboard is that it is inexpensive. You can usually purchase MDF for a fraction of the cost of purchasing real wood. By choosing to use medium density fiberboard in certain areas of the house, you can save money to use on other things. This provides you with a lot of flexibility when it comes to the budget of your project.

Another advantage of medium density fiberboard is that it can be painted or stained to look just like wood. After you install it, you can apply paint, and when you do this, most people will not be able to tell you’ve used a cheaper substitute for real wood. You’ll have the look of wood for a fraction of the price.


Medium density fiberboard is weak compared to real wood. This means that when you install it, there is a good chance that it could split or crack under a lot of stress. You will need to be very careful about where you’re going use it and what you’re using it to hold so you can make sure it won’t fail.

Since MDF is not as dense as real wood, you will have to use more nails when installing it. If you do not place nails at closer intervals, the board can droop in the middle, leaving you with what looks like an amateur installation.

Another problem with medium density fiberboard is that it actually does not take nails very well. When you hammer a nail into real wood, the wood will move out of the way and then come back around the nail. When you nail into medium density fiberboard, this will not happen. You will get a "volcano" effect on the outside. When this happens, you will need to sand down the outside of the MDF to get something just as smooth. This means your projects will take a little more work than you would have had to do with real wood.

You also usually can't use medium density fiberboard for outdoor projects. Since it's a compost of sawdust and other materials, it doesn't handle the elements nearly as well as normal wood, and therefore shouldn't be used for outdoor paneling or framing.