Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF)

Medium Density Fiberboard or MDF Panels for Decorative Surfacing

mdf uses

Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) panels are manufactured with a variety of physical properties and dimensions, providing the opportunity to design the end product with the specific MDF needed. MDF is a composite panel product typically consisting of cellulosic fibers combined with a synthetic resin or other suitable bonding system and joined together under heat and pressure. Additives may be introduced during manufacturing to impart additional characteristics. The surface is flat, smooth, uniform, dense and free of knots and grain patterns. The homogeneous density profile of these panels allows intricate and precise machining and finishing techniques for superior finished MDF products. 

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MDF panels_Decorative Surfacing 

Trim waste is significantly reduced when using MDF compared to other substrates. Stability and strength are important assets of MDF, which can be machined into complex patterns that require precise tolerances.  Because MDF is a type of unfinished composite panel made from residual wood fiber, such as chips and shavings, it is carefully value engineered for each application. This results in product solutions which are substantially less expensive than alternatives.

MDF panels kitchen cabinets_decorative surfacting  

Medium Density Fiberboard Panels (MDF) is widely used in the manufacture of kitchen cabinets and is well suited for residential construction of modern homes where cabinets and built-ins showcase the performance of MDF beautifully.  It is the material of choice in home interiors where tight tolerances, smooth surfaces and intricate machining are critical.

  MDF panels for offices_decorative surfaces

Interior trim and mouldings are easily machined and laminated or painted. MDF can be machined with extremely tight tolerances and is used frequently in interior trims. 

Product Standards, Regulations and Certification

The American National Standard for Medium Density Fiberboard (ANSI A208.2) is the North American industry voluntary standard that classifies MDF by physical and mechanical properties and identifies product grades. Specifications identified in the Standard include physical and mechanical properties, dimensional tolerances and formaldehyde emission limits. The consensus-based Standard was developed through the sponsorship of the Composite Panel Association (CPA), in conjunction with producers, users and general interest groups. A summary of the ANSI Property Requirements are included in the CPA's Surface & Panel Buyers Guide, and copies of the Standard are available from CPA.

Third-party certification to ANSI A208.2 is required for many applications of composite panels. 

Regulations by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) establish formaldehyde emissions limits of 0.11 ppm for MDF. Panel emissions are measured using an ASTM test procedure conducted by an accredited laboratory, and the results are reviewed and certified by a third-party certification body. To meet the needs of the market, many particleboard manufacturers have voluntarily developed no-added formaldehyde (NAF) and ultra-low emitting formaldehyde (ULEF) products. A list of companies currently producing NAF/ULEF products is available here

CPA’s laboratory and certification services have been recognized by both CARB and EPA. For more information on our state-of-the-art testing and certification programs click here. In addition, CPA’s Eco-Certified Composite (ECC) is a voluntary industry standard that establishes key environmental criteria for composite panels. To earn the ECC label, a manufacturer must meet CARB and EPA formaldehyde emissions requirements for 100% of their panels 100% of the time, even if panels are manufactured in countries where these regulations do not apply. The standard also specifies carbon footprint, life-cycle inventory, and other verifiable environmental practices and emphasizes the responsible use of wood fiber. For more information on the ECC program, click here.

Finally, various overlays and surface treatments have been shown to significantly reduce product emissions. For additional information about emissions, see the CPA Technical Bulletin “VOC Emission Barrier Effects.”

Recommended Reading

Available from CPA's online store:

Available for download:

  • CPA Surface and Panel Buyers Guide
  • VOC Emission Barrier Effects [PDF] 
  • Standard Method for Measurement of Warp in Composite Panels [PDF]
  • Dimensional Stability of Particleboard and MDF Technical Bulletin [PDF]
  • MDF Mouldings Technical Bulletin [PDF]
  • Minimizing Warp in Laminated Particleboard and MDF Technical Bulletin [PDF]
  • Particleboard and MDF for Shelving Technical Bulletin [PDF]
  • Storage and Handling of Particleboard and MDF Technical Bulletin [PDF]


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