16th Nov 2023 -

Choosing between fibreboard sheets and traditional materials can significantly impact the outcome of your project. This article delves into the pros and cons of working with fibreboard and how it compares to construction with traditional materials.

By unravelling its distinctive features and disadvantages, we aim to empower you with key insights to make the best decision. 

What is fibreboard?

Fibreboard is manufactured from types of wood fibre, often recycled or recovered from other wood products. These fibres are combined with synthetic or natural binders and sometimes additives to a dense, composite board.

There are various types of fibreboard, including medium-density fibreboard (MDF), high-density fibreboard (HDF), and low-density fibreboard (LDF). 

Fibreboard is notable for its cost-effectiveness and its versatility is down to its consistent composition. However, like any material, it comes with its own set of pros and cons. Understanding its characteristics is crucial to deciding on its use in various design and construction projects.

Pros and cons of fibreboard

Embarking on a design project involves navigating a wide array of material choices. Below, we delve into specific examples which outline the benefits and pitfalls of fibreboard. 

Advantages of fibreboard

  • Cost-effective: Fibreboard sheet materials are more affordable than solid wood or other traditional materials. This makes it a budget-friendly choice for various projects.
  • Versatility: It can be easily moulded and shaped. Therefore, you can create intricate designs and versatile applications in furniture and interior design.
  • Smooth surface: MDF in particular has a smooth and uniform surface. It provides an excellent canvas for finishes like paint or veneer.
  • Eco-friendly: Many fibreboard products use recycled wood fibres. This contributes to sustainability efforts by reducing the demand for new raw materials.
  • Stability: Fibreboard is generally more resistant to warping and shrinking compared to solid wood, especially in changing humidity conditions.

Disadvantages of fibreboard

  • Moisture sensitivity: Fibreboard, especially MDF, is susceptible to damage from moisture. Exposure to water can cause swelling and deterioration.
  • Limited strength: While HDF is stronger, fibreboard overall may not have the same structural strength as C16-treated timber and other solid woods. This limits its use in load-bearing applications.
  • Not ideal for outdoors: Due to its moisture sensitivity, fibreboard is generally not suitable for outdoors. Pressure-treated timber is preferred because it has been treated with preservatives to protect it from the elements. 
  • Formaldehyde emissions: Some types of fibreboard may contain adhesives that emit formaldehyde. This can lead to a potential indoor air quality concern. Be sure to look for low-formaldehyde or formaldehyde-free options. 
  • Difficult to repair: Unlike timber, fibreboard can be challenging to repair once damaged. Repairs may not be as seamless as with other materials like CLS timber.

What is the difference between HDF, MDF and LDF?

All 3 are types of fibreboard, but they differ in terms of density, strength, and specific applications. Here is a breakdown of the key differences. 


Density: HDF is the densest type of fibreboard. It is composed of fine wood fibres pressed together at high pressure.
It is stronger and more durable compared to MDF and LDF. This makes it suitable for applications where higher strength and stability are required.


Density: MDF has a moderate density. It is formed by combining wood fibres with wax or resin and pressing them at a lower pressure than HDF.
While not as strong as HDF, an MDF panel offers good strength. It also has a smooth and uniform surface.


Density: LDF has the lowest density among the three, with larger wood fibres and a more open structure.
It is the least strong and dense of the three types of fibreboard. Therefore, it is suitable for less demanding applications.

How is fibreboard best utilised for design purposes?

The below examples illustrate how fibreboard sheets address diverse construction and design needs. With its specific attributes, the examples also showcase how fibreboard offers a combination of versatility, cost-effectiveness and adaptability.

1. Cabinet making

MDF is a popular choice for cabinet making. Its smooth surface allows for easy painting or veneering, providing a polished and refined finish. The material is also cost-effective, making it suitable for large-scale cabinet production.

2. Lightweight furniture

LDF's low density makes it an excellent choice for crafting lightweight furniture. It is commonly used for constructing elements like shelves, bookcases, and occasional furniture where weight is a consideration.

3. Interior panelling

Gypsum fibreboard can be used for interior panelling in residential and commercial spaces. Its uniform composition allows for intricate detailing. Also, the smooth surface is ideal for applying decorative finishes to create a sophisticated look.

4. Doors and mouldings

Fibreboard is often employed in the construction of doors and mouldings. MDF, in particular, can be easily shaped and moulded into intricate designs. It provides a cost-effective solution for achieving decorative elements in architectural features.

5. Furniture manufacturing

Both MDF and HDF are extensively used in furniture manufacturing. Their uniform composition allows for precision in crafting furniture components. This makes them suitable for a range of furniture designs.

6. Flooring

HDF board is widely used in the production of laminate flooring. The high density of HDF provides durability and resistance to wear. It is a preferred choice for flooring materials that need to withstand high traffic.

7. Wainscoting and wall treatments

MDF panels are frequently employed in wainscoting and wall treatments. The material's consistent density allows for uniform panels. Its smooth surface is well-suited for decorative finishes and enhances the visual appeal of walls.

8. Packaging and boxes

LDF such as corrugated fibreboard is utilised for creating custom packaging and boxes. Its low density allows for the fabrication of protective inserts that cushion and secure delicate items during transport.

Can you use fibreboard as a flooring underlay?

Yes, particularly HDF is commonly used as flooring underlayment. HDF is known for its dense and stable composition, making it an ideal material for providing a smooth and level surface for various types of flooring installations. Here are some considerations for using fibreboard sheets as flooring underlay. 

Smooth surface

HDF has a smooth and uniform surface, providing an excellent base for flooring materials. This helps ensure a level and even foundation for the installation of laminate, engineered wood, or hardwood flooring.

Moisture resistance

While HDF is more moisture-resistant than MDF, it is essential to use a moisture barrier such as a damp-proof membrane or choose an HDF material such as bitumen board. It provides added moisture resistance when installing it as an underlayment, especially in areas prone to moisture.


HDF's high density contributes to its stability. It prevents the flooring from flexing or sagging over time. This stability is crucial for the long-term durability and performance of the flooring above.

Sound absorption

Overall, HDF has some sound-absorbing properties, which can help reduce the transmission of impact noise. It contributes to a quieter and more comfortable environment.

Easy installation

HDF underlayment is typically easy to cut and install, making the flooring installation process more efficient. It may come in large panels or rolls, depending on the specific product.

Compatibility with floating floors

It is commonly used as a wood fibre underlay for floating floors. This includes laminate or engineered wood floors, where the flooring material is not directly attached to the subfloor but rather "floats" above it.

When using fibreboard as flooring underlay, you should consider some important factors before you start. These include the type of flooring being installed, the specific conditions of the subfloor, and any moisture concerns in the installation area.

Using the right type and thickness of fibreboard underlayment can contribute to a successful and durable flooring installation.

Is fibreboard less insulating than solid wood?

Yes, fibreboard offers less insulation compared to solid wood materials such as carcassing timber or treated sawn timber. Solid wood possesses inherent insulating properties due to its natural cellular structure, which creates air pockets within the material.

This cellular composition allows solid wood to act as a thermal insulator, providing a certain level of resistance to heat transfer.

In contrast, fibreboard has a denser structure. While some HDF types such as flexcell board offer some insulation, it may not match the natural insulating capabilities of solid wood such as C16 or C24 treated timber.

The uniform composition of standard wood fibreboard makes it less effective in impeding heat transfer compared to the natural air pockets found in solid wood.

For projects where insulation and thermal resistance are significant considerations, you need to carefully evaluate the specific properties of both solid wood and fibreboard to meet the desired performance standards.

Excellent fibreboard materials with speedy UK delivery

Our extensive range of fibreboard sheet materials caters to diverse design and building needs. Whether you are crafting bespoke furniture or enhancing interior spaces of any size, our fibreboard offerings provide a cost-effective solution without compromising on style or durability. Explore the endless possibilities for creative expression and structural reliability with our fibreboard materials.

For trade professionals seeking a seamless supply experience, consider opening a trade account with us. Building Materials Nationwide is committed to supporting you with personalised one-on-one service and competitive trade pricing on all tools and materials.

When you open a trade account, you gain access to a dedicated support team and efficient delivery options, ensuring that your projects proceed smoothly and cost-effectively.

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