Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF)

Medium Density Fiberboard or MDF Panels for Decorative Surfacing

MDF panels_decorative surfaces

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. .

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.

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MDF panels_Decorative Surfacing 

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 countertops_decorative surfaces       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. This unique kitchen is made from colored medium density fiberboard (MDF), which is both the substrate and decorative surface. 

Common Uses for Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF)

  • Doors, Jambs & Millwork
  • Edge Shaping & Machining
  • Embossing
  • Laminate Flooring
  • Laminating & Finishing
  • Trim Moulding
  • Office & Residential Furniture
  • Prefinished Paneling
  • Store Fixtures
  • Kitchen Cabinets

Product Standards and Certification

The American National Standard for Medium Density Fiberboard (ANSI A208.2) is the North American industry voluntary standard. It 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 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 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. For example, HUD and the states of California and Minnesota require third-party certification of formaldehyde emissions for nearly all MDF and particleboard under their jurisdiction.

Formaldehyde Emission Limits

The standard has a tiered system of emission levels allowing either a maximum of 0.21 ppm or 0.11 ppm for panels thicker than 8 mm. Panels 8 mm and thinner shall conform to either the 0.21 ppm or 0.13 ppm maximum limit. To meet the needs of the market many MDF manufacturers have voluntarily developed ultra low emitting and no added urea-formaldehyde (NAUF) products, so there are a wide variety of products available today with reduced formaldehyde levels, as well as a growing number of non-formaldehyde alternatives. Those companies currently producing NAUF products are identified in the product listings in the Buyers Guide.

In addition, CPA’s Eco-Certified CompositeTM (ECC) program (to which a majority of the North American producers subscribe) requires emission limits no higher than the California Air Resources Board (CARB) Airborne Toxic Control Measure (“CARB Rule”).

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.” [PDF]

Recommended Reading

Available from the association bookstore:

Available for download:

  • Buyers Guide
  • 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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