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MDF vs. solid wood: which is better?

Published on June 08 2020

 MDF vs. solid wood

When asked to choose a material between MDF and solid wood furniture, most people would probably choose the latter in a heartbeat.

However, rapid technological advances have made engineered wood much stronger, cheaper and more attractive than ever before, giving products such as 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 and packing furniture, that's not necessarily the case. In fact, 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 harvested from trees. The qualities of the material, such as strength or texture, depend on the species of plant from which it was harvested.

Solid wood - The good news

# 1 Will stand the test of time

The fact that your grandmother's heavy oak table is still standing after decades of extensive use is no mere coincidence. The natural wood from tree harvesting is incredibly tough and resilient and has been used in the past not only in furniture making, but also in bridge and home construction. Its characteristics vary depending on the tree species from which it was harvested.

# 2 Aesthetically pleasing

You simply can't cover natural wood over flat packs when it comes to appearance, and each species has a unique look. For example, white oak and mahogany feature captivating grains that are favored by many aesthetic fanatics around the world.

While not as exciting, oak oak, pine and spruce are perfect if you are 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 furniturefurniture, especially that of more expensive wood species, is a sound investment (pardon 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 Highly customizable

You can play 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.

ecological solid wood furniture


Solid wood - The bad news

# 1 Not waterproof

While this applies primarily to unfinished wood, any furniture made of natural wood will be damaged by mold and mildew if exposed to high humidity or left in a damp environment. Even with furniture made of red oak or other more resistant materials, a quality waterproof finish is always recommended to prolong the life of the unit and avoid the dangerous risks of further mold infestation.

# 2 Temperature sensitive

Warping 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 a hotbed for an infestation of boring insects. To avoid this, you will need to clean and maintain your furniture regularly, as well as choose the right finish to keep the wood protected from beetle bugs and other nasties.

# 4 Can be costly

While species such as spruce and pine stay within the affordable range, more luxurious types of wood can really drive up the price. The large price difference is often the result of several factors, such as strength, visual appeal and local availability. If you are renovating on a tight 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 about 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 manufacture it.

MDF - The good news

# 1 Is MDF strong? It will not warp or crack

Due to its unique structure, MDF is virtually immune to warping and cracking. Its ability to withstand extreme moisture is due to the fact that each board expands and contracts the unit. This flexibility allows the engineered wood to fully retain its original shape. But how strong is MDF? Standard MDF can support up to 90 kg in weight. That is why the durability of MDF furniture is a superior advantage compared to solid wood.

# 2 It is much more accessible

With some exceptions, MDF materials are much less expensive than their natural counterparts. They are available at local stores and their panels come in sizes ranging from 5 feet to 10 feet, making them ideal for projects that require large, seamless pieces of wood.

# 3 Can be easily painted or stained

One of the main differences between MDF and natural wood panels is that the former has no visible grain. This makes the job of painting or staining the wood much easier since you won't have to worry about any wood grains or knots seeping through 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, inset or raised panel designs. Some boards even offer improved water resistance, which is why so many kitchen and bathroom cabinets on the market are made from this material.

MDF - The bad news about flat packs

# 1 MDF scratches easily

This alone would not be a problem if MDF had been sanded. Unfortunately, that is 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 a casual sanding job will often be enough to erase the damage.

# 2 Weighs much more

When comparing solid and engineered wood, you'd think the natural equivalent would be heavier, right? Well, as it turns out, the opposite is true. In fact, MDF is so heavy that cabinet installation becomes several times more difficult than assembling normal 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, rendering the material completely unusable. That is why you should try to avoid placing MDF furniture near fireplaces, cooking stoves or in your outdoor garden at all costs.

# 4 Not weight friendly

While this type of engineered wood is very commonly used in cabinetry, open wall shelving and bookcases, placing too many books or heavy china plates on top can cause the material to gradually sag over time. You can avoid this by reinforcing your MDF furniture with solid wood.

Conclusion: Which type of wood wins the fight?

ecological solid wood furniture

As you may have gathered at this point, gold medal does not belong to either of these materials. In reality, 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 fiberboard clearly takes the lead. We recommend using this material if you want to give your kitchen or bathroom a little facelift, or if you're someone who favors convenience and practicality over visual appeal.

But, if you are a traditionalist who loves classic designs and for whom 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.








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I enjoy traveling, getting to know new places and cultures, it's the most rewarding thing, reading escapes me and crochet activates me! I design and make my own bags, especially when I have an event.

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