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16—02—2022

Should you Choose Plywood or MDF Substrate for Your Next Project?

While on the surface plywood and MDF may seem quite similar, there are some really important differences that set them apart. Understanding the strength and weaknesses of both products in terms of performance, durability, flexibility and aesthetics, is the key to choosing the right material for the substrate on your next project.

So to help you uncover the right option for you, in this article we’re comparing the suitability of plywood and MDF for use as a substrate.

How are Plywood and MDF made?

The make up and manufacturing processes behind plywood and MDF are both unique, which leads to two very different products. Plywood is created using thin layers of carefully selected soft or hard wood, which has been conditioned, cut and peeled to form veneers. The sheets are then dried, trimmed and cut to size, before the layers are bonded together using adhesives. To create a strong and durable bond, the panels are placed in a hot press, before being quality tested and graded.

Medium Density Fibreboard, or MDF as it is commonly known, is made using wood fibres rather than solid timber. The process involves breaking wood down into fibre, which means the type of wood and its aesthetic and form are unimportant, allowing the manufacturer to use cheaper timber. This aspect is reflected in the purchase price of products, with MDF panels generally costing less to buy than plywood. During the manufacturing process, the fibres are pressed together with adhesive under heat, to create panels that come in a range of sizes, thickness and grades.

What are their key characteristics?

The visual and internal characteristics of both products are varied, and knowing these allows you to choose the right substrate for the job at hand. Plywood offers a quality finish that retains the look of real wood, making it highly suited for staining or as a substrate for veneer where a finish with exposed edges is required. When sourced from responsibly managed plantation forests, plywood is also a sustainable product.

When it comes to MDF, it has a smooth, consistent surface that is ideal for painting, laminating or as a substrate for veneer. It is the preferred product for cabinetry doors. The lack of durability means it does split more easily and it is also less resistant to impact. Another consideration is that when it comes into contact with water, MDF acts like a sponge, readily soaking up liquid which leads to damage. MDF can be made from any timber products, which means it can be a good choice for the eco conscious, however many MDF products also use unhealthy chemicals to bind the fibres which can counteract the environmental benefits.

Which is the best choice for substrates?

While both plywood and MDF can be highly suitable for use as substrates, the opposing characteristics mean they are each best suited to different purposes. For example, MDF is the choice for cabinet doors and is also used as a wall and ceiling substrate.

Plywood products on the other hand is the preferred choice for most Architects for joinery units, showing off the ply edge grain and as a sustainable, natural option for walls and ceilings.

Both MDF and Ply are a great choice for your next project with the application determining the specification.

 

If you have a question about plywood and substrates, our team would love to hear from you – get in touch on 1300 761 741 for friendly advice today!

Contact us for more information
Posted by: Category: Walls/ Ceilings, Joinery, Technical Info, Facts About Ply

16—02—2022

Should you Choose Plywood or MDF Substrate for Your Next Project?
Posted by: Category: Walls/ Ceilings, Joinery, Technical Info, Facts About Ply

While on the surface plywood and MDF may seem quite similar, there are some really important differences that set them apart. Understanding the strength and weaknesses of both products in terms of performance, durability, flexibility and aesthetics, is the key to choosing the right material for the substrate on your next project.

So to help you uncover the right option for you, in this article we’re comparing the suitability of plywood and MDF for use as a substrate.

How are Plywood and MDF made?

The make up and manufacturing processes behind plywood and MDF are both unique, which leads to two very different products. Plywood is created using thin layers of carefully selected soft or hard wood, which has been conditioned, cut and peeled to form veneers. The sheets are then dried, trimmed and cut to size, before the layers are bonded together using adhesives. To create a strong and durable bond, the panels are placed in a hot press, before being quality tested and graded.

Medium Density Fibreboard, or MDF as it is commonly known, is made using wood fibres rather than solid timber. The process involves breaking wood down into fibre, which means the type of wood and its aesthetic and form are unimportant, allowing the manufacturer to use cheaper timber. This aspect is reflected in the purchase price of products, with MDF panels generally costing less to buy than plywood. During the manufacturing process, the fibres are pressed together with adhesive under heat, to create panels that come in a range of sizes, thickness and grades.

What are their key characteristics?

The visual and internal characteristics of both products are varied, and knowing these allows you to choose the right substrate for the job at hand. Plywood offers a quality finish that retains the look of real wood, making it highly suited for staining or as a substrate for veneer where a finish with exposed edges is required. When sourced from responsibly managed plantation forests, plywood is also a sustainable product.

When it comes to MDF, it has a smooth, consistent surface that is ideal for painting, laminating or as a substrate for veneer. It is the preferred product for cabinetry doors. The lack of durability means it does split more easily and it is also less resistant to impact. Another consideration is that when it comes into contact with water, MDF acts like a sponge, readily soaking up liquid which leads to damage. MDF can be made from any timber products, which means it can be a good choice for the eco conscious, however many MDF products also use unhealthy chemicals to bind the fibres which can counteract the environmental benefits.

Which is the best choice for substrates?

While both plywood and MDF can be highly suitable for use as substrates, the opposing characteristics mean they are each best suited to different purposes. For example, MDF is the choice for cabinet doors and is also used as a wall and ceiling substrate.

Plywood products on the other hand is the preferred choice for most Architects for joinery units, showing off the ply edge grain and as a sustainable, natural option for walls and ceilings.

Both MDF and Ply are a great choice for your next project with the application determining the specification.

 

If you have a question about plywood and substrates, our team would love to hear from you – get in touch on 1300 761 741 for friendly advice today!

Contact us for more information