Construction 101: MDF vs Plywood

Construction 101: MDF vs Plywood

There is a lot of responsibility that comes with working in construction, both morally and legally. You need to make sure that whatever you are building is safe, and this means using high-quality building materials. However, purchasing these materials can really eat into your profit margin unless you find cost-effective, versatile and quality material like MDF, which can be used throughout a building. Read on to learn more.

MDF Explained

MDF, or medium-density fibreboard, is a wood product. It is made from the byproducts of milling, meaning wood shavings and sawdust. These byproducts are mixed with resin and wax before being moulded into panels which are then heat-treated and compressed into the right shapes. These panels are then sanded and cut, which is what is then sold on to consumers either commercially or personally.

In terms of construction, there are a number of benefits to embracing MDF for your building materials. Firstly, it is cheaper than wood, and if laminated, it can still mimic the aesthetic of solid wood. This helps to maximise your profit margin and keep costs down, although there will likely be incidences when using solid wood would be advantageous. It also provides great visuals because it is smoother; there are no imperfections which can be found in real wood. This means that it is easier to stain or paint, and it can also be covered in veneers too – depending on the desired look.

MDF also tends to be naturally resistant to insects because of the chemicals used during the manufacturing process. It is also pretty green and sustainable because it is made from the byproducts created in a sawmill. The creation of MDF actually counts as recycling and helps to reduce the amount of waste created. Finally, it also lacks grain which makes it easier to work with in terms of drilling and cutting.

On the other hand, when compared to real wood, MDF does have a comparative lack of strength. This can shorten its lifespan because it isn’t as able to stand up to wear and tear, although depending on its use, this might not be an issue. MDF has a lower density than wood which can mean it requires more nails or screws to affix it, but wood glue can do a pretty good job for smaller pieces. Lastly, MDF can be hazardous when cut because of the chemicals it contains; using safety gear offsets this – or you can get MDF cut to size using a business like Cworkshop.


Plywood is pretty popular in the UK construction industry, too; it is somewhat similar to MDF in that it is also a manufactured or manmade wood. However, instead of being made of byproducts, it is created by piling thin layers of wood together with glue. In terms of price, MDF tends to be less expensive, although plywood is still cheaper than plain wood.

Plywood often mimics real wood more closely than plywood because it has a realistic grain which, depending on the product, might make it easier to give the desired finish; that being said, MDF is easier to paint, although plywood can be too. Plywood is stronger, but that means it is heavier, too. For projects where longevity is essential, plywood often makes more sense. Although it can be trickier to work with because it is a little more challenging to cut, it also needs finishing around the edges, or you will be able to see the individual layers. Plywood holds screws and nails better.

Both Plywood and MDF can release toxic fumes when cut because they are both engineered wood which requires chemicals during the manufacturing process. Lastly, plywood is not as naturally insect resistant as MDF, and it is still vulnerable to water damage; it often holds up better over time. When used outdoors, MDF can be prone to water damage which makes the boards swell and warp. In construction terms, both materials have their own benefits and drawbacks, and when choosing the right one for the project, you will need to consider a number of factors. However, in general, MDF tends to be favoured for decorative jobs and furniture thanks to its versatility and ease to work with, whereas plywood is often favoured for projects that require strength or exterior projects.

Final Verdict

It can be incredibly difficult to keep a business up and running, especially a construction business in today’s DIY-centric era. This is why it is necessary to look for ways to boost the efficiency of your operation and look for ways to cut costs when possible. Again, this is not to say that you should compromise on the quality of your materials or the work that you do because this can, in turn, reflect on your business and damage your reputation. However, there are going to be a number of jobs that your business takes on where you could choose to use MDF or plywood whilst still providing quality results. Now, one is not better than the other. They are both better suited for different jobs, so be sure to bear that in mind.

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