7th Dec 2022 -

A cost-effective engineered wood product, MDF sheets offer a variety of benefits within both construction and economy furniture. In this guide from Building Materials Nationwide, we’ll explore the essentials of MDF sheets, covering what they’re made from, their popular uses, and the different forms sold within the UK.

What is an MDF Sheet?

MDF, short for Medium Density Fibreboard, is an engineered wood product that can be manufactured as a sheet. MDF sheets are made from small pieces of wood such as sawdust and shavings which are mixed with wax and resin and then hardened into panels under heat and pressure. MDF is used for both furniture and the visual elements of a building. MDF sheets can be cut to a specific size, maintaining their smooth look.

Why Use MDF?

MDF has some set advantages compared to both wood and engineered wood products. MDF sheets offer consistency, both in terms of strength and size, and they won’t change size due to temperature changes in the way real wood will. They can be shaped easily, and are easy to decorate with paint. Unlike wood they have no grain, so will always offer the same look.

There are also a few drawbacks to MDF. It has a high density compared to equivalent products like plywood and chipboard. Unless specifically stated MDF sheets are unsuitable for use with water, which can cause them to swell and crack. MDF can also contain formaldehyde as part of its production, which is dangerous and will be released when cutting your MDF sheets. Finally, MDF has a comparatively short lifespan compared to authentic wood products, lasting between 14 and 20 years before problems begin to show.

What Type of MDF Sheet Are Available?

There are several options alongside traditional MDF you’ll find when buying MDF sheets within the UK, bringing specific benefits to a project:

  • Water Resistant MDF Sheets: Traditional MDF is unsuitable for use in wet environments such as kitchens or bathrooms. If looking to utilise the benefits of MDF within these spaces you’ll need to opt for a moisture-resistant MDF sheet, which will be sold in a variety of sizes. This will be sold as water-resistant rather than waterproof, as like many products it will not work in submerged applications.
  • Flexible MDF Sheets: For curved applications in a building project, flexible MDF sheets are available, with silts on one side allowing the sheet to be curved at various angles. For a smooth wood effect surface in furniture or buildings, flexible MDF sheets offer a great solution.
  • Fire Retardant MDF: These sheets are designed to inhibit the spread of fire and not produce burning droplets when destroyed by a fire. While not load-bearing, they can be used within a general fire safety system.
  • Veneered MDF: Veneered MDF sheets will be covered with a small facing of authentic wood on each side, giving the impression of a real wooden sheet at the reduced cost of MDF. This can be great for visual uses, offering a more attractive look than traditional MDF. 
  • Primed MDF: While you can prime MDF yourself, primed MDF will be ready to paint straight away, saving you time. Primed MDF essentially comes with its undercoat already applied.

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What Are MDF Sheets Used For?

There are a variety of uses for MDF sheets in both furniture and a building project, with some necessitating specialist products. 

Furniture

One of the more common uses for MDF sheets is within furniture. MDF can be considerably cheaper than authentic wood products, making it widely used in economy and flat-pack furniture. Options like white melamine MDF, which comes with a flat white facing on both sides, are a very popular choice. Flexible MDF sheets can also allow the creation of smooth and rounded designs. Depending on the thickness, MDF is used in cabinets, shelving, wardrobes and more.

Wall Panelling

MDF sheets can be a great way to construct smooth and beautiful wall panelling within a property. Due to its ease of painting, MDF can easily be coloured to fit, with differing thicknesses used to create lines, grids, or more experimental patterns on your wall. This can create either a classical look or a more modern style and is popular within contemporary buildings. Wall panelling is a cost-effective method to create a novel look for a room.

Flooring

The comparably short lifespan of MDF in comparison to other types of flooring material makes it more of a temporary solution, but MDF, whether laminated or veneered, can be used to create flooring in a house. When looking to use MDF sheets as flooring within a kitchen or bathroom you will need to make sure you opt for a moisture-resistant variety, as regular MDF will warp when it comes into contact with water.

What Sizes of MDF Sheet Are Available?

As MDF can be made and cut to any size, you’ll have a wide range of options when shopping for MDF sheets. At Building Materials Nationwide we stock regular MDF at the universal sizing of 2400mm x 1200mm in a range of thicknesses. MDF sheets can be easily cut to size, and due to their consistency and lack of grain, they will retain the same look.

How to Cut an MDF Sheet

MDF can be prone to chipping when cut, so it’s important to use quality cutting equipment. A circular saw should be used for straight cuts, while a jigsaw with a bi-metal blade should be used for rounded cuts, preferably a fine-toothed model. Due to the high level of dust that will be thrown up, and the potential of formaldehyde within the construction of your MDF, you should wear a full gas mask and safety glasses. You should also cut in an area that is well-ventilated and easy to clean. Once you’ve cut the edges of your MDF you’ll either need to sand them down or use a wood filler or MDF edging tape if the edge will be visible.

How to Paint an MDF Sheet

A key advantage of MDF is the ease with which it can be decorated, requiring just a base level of primer. Paints like gloss or satinwood work best, with two to three coats required. Between each coat, you can sand and clear away dust to maintain the smooth surface offered by MDF. MDF sheets can be painted in a wide variety of colours for use within furniture or as wall panelling.

Our Range of MDF Sheets For Sale

Building Materials Nationwide stocks a wide array of Sheet Materials for sale, including MDF. We offer traditional MDF sheets in a range of thicknesses alongside flexible MDF sheets. We aim to simplify the process of sourcing building supplies for people throughout the industry, offering a comprehensive selection of products, competitively priced and delivered across the UK. Our customers within the industry can also take advantage of our trade accounts, which give access to a dedicated account manager, capable of sourcing specific components from our huge network of suppliers. Sign up for a trade account on our website today.

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