MDF vs. solid wood: which is better?
Posted June 08 2020
When asked to choose a material between MDF and solid wood furniture, most people would probably choose the latter in an instant.
However, rapid technological advancements have made engineered wood much stronger, cheaper, and more attractive than ever before, giving products like flat-pack furniture a fair chance against what we consider an undisputed leader in the industry: solid wood.
So does that make engineered wood the best choice? When it comes to picking up and packing furniture, this is not necessarily the case. Actually, both types of wood can be an excellent addition to your kitchen, living room and bedroom furniture, as long as you are fully aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Learn all about the advantages and disadvantages of both materials and choose the one that best suits your needs and budget.
What we mean when we talk about "solid wood"
When we mention solid wood, we are referring to natural wood that is harvested from trees. The qualities of the material, such as resistance or texture, depending on the species of plant from which it was harvested.
Solid wood - The good news
# 1 It will stand the test of time
The fact that your grandmother's heavy oak table still stands after decades of extensive use is no coincidence. Natural wood from tree harvesting is incredibly strong and durable and has been used in the past not only in the manufacture of furniture, but also in the construction of bridges and homes. Its characteristics vary according to the tree species from which it was harvested.
# 2 It is aesthetically pleasing
You just can't cover natural wood over flat packs when it comes to looks, and each species has a unique look. For example, white oak and mahogany feature captivating grains that are favored by many fans of aesthetics around the world.
While not as exciting, Oak Oak, Pine, and Spruce are perfect if you're looking for aesthetically pleasing home solutions at an affordable price.
# 3 Solid wood furniture increases the value of your home
A shelf, a table o a bed made of solid wood can significantly increase the price of your home. This makes the purchase of Natural wood furniture, especially the more expensive wood species, be a solid investment (excuse the pun) if you plan to sell your home in the foreseeable future. MDF wood, on the other hand, will not add any value to your home, as flat pack furniture is primarily in the lower price range.
# 4 It is highly customizable
You can play around with all the properties of natural wood to give your home a little more personality. Today, stores offer solid wood furniture in numerous shapes, finishes, and colors. Most wood species are also quite soft, making them suitable for small DIY projects around the house.
Solid Wood - The Bad News
# 1 It is not waterproof
While this primarily applies to unfinished wood, any furniture made from natural wood will be damaged by mold if it is exposed to high humidity or left in a humid environment. Even with furniture made of red oak or other stronger materials, a quality waterproof finish is always recommended to extend the life of the unit and avoid the dangerous risks of further mold infestation.
# 2 It is temperature sensitive
Deformation and cracking is a problem that still affects natural wood, despite the advent of modern manufacturing methods and technologies. The damage is usually caused by frequent fluctuations in temperature or humidity. If these changes happen too quickly, the material will expand and contract, making your cabinets, doors, or wood paneling significantly less attractive.
# 3 It is prone to infestations
Without proper treatment, solid wood furniture can become the hotbed for a boring insect infestation. To avoid this, you'll need to clean and maintain your furniture regularly, as well as choose the right finish to keep wood protected from beetles and other nasty beetles.
# 4 It can be expensive
While species like spruce and pine stay within the affordable range, the most luxurious types of wood can really add to the price. The large price difference is usually the result of several factors, such as robustness, visual appeal, and local availability. If you're doing renovation work on a budget, be sure to avoid mahogany, cherry, walnut, or teak furniture.
What we mean when we talk about "MDF"
MDF stands for Medium Density Fiberboard, a type of engineered wood that is widely used in the manufacture of flat-pack furniture and cabinet doors. Although it is essentially a material made from recycled wood fibers, wax, and resin, composite wood is denser than plywood and almost as strong as most types of natural wood.
MDF comes in many varieties and grains that vary in price depending on the size of the material, the thickness, the type of glue used and the species of wood used to make it.
MDF - The good news
# 1 Is MDF strong? Does not warp or crack
Due to its unique structure, MDF is practically immune to deformations and cracks. Its ability to withstand extreme humidity is due to the fact that each plate expands and contracts the unit. This flexibility allows engineered wood to fully retain its original shape. But how strong is the MDF? The standard MDF can support up to 90 kg of weight. This is why the durability of MDF furniture is a superior advantage compared to solid wood.
# 2 It is much more accessible
With a few exceptions, MDF materials are much cheaper than their natural counterparts. They are available at local stores and their panels come in sizes ranging from 1,5 meters to 3,6 meters, making them ideal for projects that require large pieces of seamless wood.
# 3 Can be easily painted or tinted
One of the main differences between MDF and natural wood panels is that the former does not have a visible grain. This makes the job of painting or staining wood much easier as you won't have to worry about any wood grain or knots leaking and ruining all your hard work.
# 4 It is an option for cabinet doors
When it comes to strong MDF cabinet doors, you'll find a variety of styles available, such as flat, inserted, or raised panel designs. Some boards even offer better water resistance, which is why so many kitchen and bathroom cabinets on the market are made of this material.
MDF - The bad news about flat packs
# 1 MDF is easily scratched
This alone would not be a problem if MDF had been sanded. Unfortunately, that's not the case, as sanding engineered wood will only expose its fiber material. This means that any scratches or dents your furniture receives will be permanent. In this regard, solid wood is a better alternative, as even casual sanding work will often suffice to erase the damage.
# 2 It weighs much more
Comparing engineered and solid wood, one would think that the natural equivalent would be heavier, right? Well, it turns out it's just the opposite. In fact, MDF is so heavy that cabinet installation becomes several times more difficult than assembling regular hardwood cabinets.
# 3 Does not react well to heat
If exposed to extreme heat, the core materials of this engineered wood will be irreparably damaged, leaving the material completely unusable. That is why you should try to avoid placing MDF furniture near fireplaces, kitchen stoves, or in your outdoor garden at all costs.
# 4 It is not weight friendly
While this type of engineered wood is very commonly used in cabinets, open wall shelves, and bookshelves, placing too many heavy porcelain books or plates on top of it can cause the material to gradually sink over time. You can avoid this by reinforcing your MDF furniture with solid wood.
Conclusion: What kind of wood wins the fight?
As you may have gathered at this point, the gold medal does not belong to any of these materials. Actually, your choice between MDF and solid wood will generally come down to your personal aesthetic preferences, budget, and how you intend to use each of the materials.
However, when it comes to choosing cabinet doors, medium-density fibrewood clearly takes the lead. We recommend using this material if you want to give your kitchen or bathroom a little facelift, or if you are a person who favors convenience and practicality over visual appeal.
But, if you are a traditionalist who loves classic designs and for whom the budget is not really a concern, then solid wood is the material you need to make the project of your dreams come true and here at Oak.Store We can offer any furniture item.