Sheet Materials: Tips For Using MDF


Working with different sheet materials for home improvements or on a construction site, whether you’re a novice or a professional, can be a great basis to creating something long lasting and looking brilliant. Today at Arnold Laver we’re covering some simple tips for using MDF in order to help your projects run as smoothly as possible!

Our sheet materials are the perfect place to start any DIY or construction project, as we provide a multitude of different types and finishes – you’re bound to find exactly what you’re looking for with Laver Online!

The basics of MDF

Firstly, we’ll start with the basics. It’s a commonly used sheet material, but what is MDF made of? This medium density fiberboard (MDF) is an inexpensive material that’s a popular choice for a multitude of projects, from carpentry to flooring. It’s made from engineered wood which is created by condensing hardwood and softwood residuals into basic wood fibres, combining them together with wax and a resin binder. The panels are fixed together using heat and pressure to create a dense, strong wood option not too dissimilar to hardwood, but is at the fraction of the cost

A huge variety of MDF available on the market exists for domestic and industry use, from moisture resistant to veneered MDF, and it’s all about finding the correct type for your requirements in order to get the most out of this much preferred wood material.

When to use MDF

If you’re keen to start building shelves, cabinets or work surfaces in the home, then MDF is a fantastic sheet material to use for these purposes. It’s a good alternative to hardwood as it can withstand changes in heat better. Though not as strong as plywood, MDF can be reinforced to make it more sturdy when using it for shelving. Use moisture resistant premium MDF boards for any bathroom or kitchen work as MDF can absorb water and cause bumps on the surface, not to mention the inevitable wood swell. Working with MDF can be no different from dealing with real wood or plywood as you use the same tools to cut and shape the material.

There are many instances where comparisons are drawn between MDF and plywood, and there are definitely pros and cons to each sheet material option. For example, plywood is better for damp areas as it won’t soak up water or get damaged as easily as MDF, but MDF is generally cheaper than plywood. Just like plywood though, you can purchase MDF in various thicknesses to suit your task.

MDF can also be used for cut trims, skirting boards, window sills, door frames and mouldings, and can be painted, stained and varnished. As you can see, MDF boards are certainly versatile! Cut costs by using MDF with natural wood finishes, such as an oak finish MDF board, for large parts of cabinets, furniture or wainscotting, as once painted the MDF can look almost like the real thing.

Things to look out for

MDF tends to be an incredibly dusty material to use, especially when sanding or cutting it; prepare for a cloud of powdery dust that will cling to surfaces by cutting outside when possible to limit dust exposure. For this reason, always wear a mask and goggles to protect yourself from the fine dust.

As we’re not dealing with hardwood and there are many fibres involved in the creation of MDF, the softer core in the centre is prone to splitting or cracking when drilled. To avoid snapping and cracking when drilling a screwdriver into MDF, use a countersinking drill bit. In the same vein, MDF can be susceptible to corners being damaged and the surface being scratched, so handle with care and use gloves when carrying MDF boards as those edges can be sharp.

Tips for painting MDF

If you’re looking to paint MDF, then this can be easily accomplished with this smooth surfaced wood composite material. In order to achieve an exact finish, it’s imperative that you use a coat of primer for the paint to adhere to perfectly. We would recommend that you opt for a solvent based primer as water based products will affect the wood causing it to swell. A solvent based primer will seal the MDF board perfectly before painting.

The edges of MDF tend to be more porous so it’s wise to take care on those areas when priming and painting as it will absorb more of the products. There’s the option to edge-band the MDF but this will take more time and effort, so a drywall compound might be a better option to apply in order to fill the edges, and it can be sanded afterwards. So, what paint can you use on MDF? It’s possible to use a good quality acrylic paint or a latex paint if you’ve used a latex primer. Complete the paint job with a protective layer of varnish over the MDF to seal in the paint to prevent chipping and colour fading.

Our complete sheet materials department is worth a look if you’re planning some construction projects at home or at work. We stock an excellent range of MDF, including premium MR V313 MDF, veneered MDF, premium MDF in various finishes and pre-cut sizes for your convenience.

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