Among many engineered wood products in the market, it’s no secret that melamine and MDF (medium-density fiberboard) work great with different woodworking applications. The only problem is these two materials don’t offer the same range of durability and safety.
In this post, our resident woodworkers will compare MDF vs. Melamine boards to determine the better choice between these building materials.
In woodworking, the word “melamine” generally refers to a durable plastic material often used for making furniture pieces and kitchen cabinets. This engineered wood product is made of melamine resin in every inch, except for its wood particle core.
A melamine laminate also alludes to wooden boards that underwent lamination. It’s a process that wraps the material with a melamine coating.
If the MDF sheets undergo manufacturing with melamine laminates, the materials won’t have labels under medium-density fiberboard. Instead, it’ll be tagged as melamine boards.
Key Characteristics of Melamine
Here are a few crucial attributes that differentiate a melamine board from a medium-density fiberboard (MDF):
What are the Uses of Melamine?
Melamine lamination often produces a durable and smooth surface. After the application, these thin sheets can form protective and decorative layers on wood boards, so it’s only natural that people use them on substrate materials.
How About the Uses of Melamine Boards?
Since a melamine board is easy to maintain and resistant to moisture, we don’t doubt it will work well as a construction material for home and office furniture.
On top of that, it also includes a durable surface that can withstand scratches. Because of this, you can count on it to handle wood exposed to high traffic, like floors and countertops.
If you’ve been in the industry as long as us, it’s easy to spot that melamine cabinets include more consistent wood grains than others. This characteristic makes the material highly suitable for modern interior and office furniture.
It also features high gloss, so today’s whiteboards are often made from this material.
Besides melamine cabinets, many woodworkers use these building materials for manufacturing floor tiles. On top of being more affordable than stones and porcelains, these boards also have more resistance to staining.
How Melamine is Made
Besides resins, the melamine laminate includes a chemical compound called formaldehyde. These substances undergo copolymerization , a manufacturing process that creates durable plastic sheets.
These two materials underwent pressure treatment of 300 to 500 lbs per square inch to form a low-pressure laminate or LPL. After the material’s creation, you can apply this organic compound on different surfaces, like an MDF board or hardwood plywood.
Melamine Pros and Cons
The main reason some melamine cabinets belong to the premium category is its resistant properties against scratching and staining.
Given its consistent wood grain patterns, it’s not surprising that many homeowners consider this selection a budget-friendly alternative to solid wood furniture.
On the downside, you should know that this material can’t withstand heavy loads despite its real wood aesthetics.
Melamine and Wood Veneers Comparison
It’s easy to confuse melamine boards with wood veneers because of their flat surfaces. However, it’s important to note that these materials don’t include the same substances.
While melamine has a formula of resin and formaldehyde, wood veneers underwent manufacturing with real wood materials and tree barks.
Medium-density fiberboard comes from natural wood fibers glued together by adhesives and heat treatments. Typically, manufacturers create MDF boards using recycled wood waste products.
Besides fused wood fibers, MDF’s manufacturing process includes urea-formaldehyde, paraffin wax, and other preservatives.
Key Characteristics of MDF
While the mixture of wood fibers and adhesives makes MDF wood unique, some newbies still mistake it for particle board. Here are the key attributes that’ll make it easier to identify:
What are the Uses of MDF?
Like veneers, you can rely on MDF boards to serve as durable exterior layers of furniture pieces. It’s a light material, so it’s highly suitable for making floors, speaker boxes, cabinets, shelves, and many more.
And thanks to its soft attributes, MDF works great as temporary materials for structures like theater sets.
MDF Pros and Cons
We understand that plywood options can be expensive, so MDF is perfect if you’re looking for a budget-friendly option. Since it includes recycled wood substances, this material is also more environment-friendly than other chemically-treated wood.
If you’re working with untreated MDF, remember that it’s more vulnerable to warping, swelling, and buckling. Because of this, we highly advise buying treated MDF boards for more durability against fire, water, and termite exposure.
Although manufacturers derive MDF materials from wood fibers, their density is lower than natural timbers. It’s a characteristic that makes it not strong enough to hold nails.
How MDF is Made
MDF undergoes manufacturing with fine wood fibers in the form of sawdust or shavings. The process starts by gathering these particles before letting them sit under a massive magnet that eliminates all metal impurities.
See Also: What is Manufactured Wood?
After that, the compression will begin to remove the remaining water residues. It’ll make the materials dry and have them ready for shredding. The shredded fibers are then combined with resin to form a solid bonding strength.
From there, the materials go under an electronic drum compressor for drying. The MDF manufacturing ends after they put the materials on the defibrillator and the sheet formation starts.
MDF and High-Density Fiberboard Comparison
True to its name, high-density fiberboard offers higher density levels than MDF. While the latter has 600 kg per cubic meter density, HDF boasts around 800 kg per cubic meter.
Given these specifications, it’s not surprising that HDF shows more durable and heavier attributes. However, you should know that MDF is more popular because of its affordability and wide availability in the market.
MDF vs. Particle Board
Both MDF and particle boards undergo almost the same manufacturing process, but the latter provides a rougher and uneven texture. Although it’s cheaper than MDF, you must remember that this material is not as dense and durable as its alternative.
Melamine or MDF: Head-to-Head Comparison
After enumerating the strengths and weaknesses of each wood type, it’s time to compare MDF vs Melamine based on crucial material parameters. Here are the factors you need to watch out for during wood shopping:
As we mentioned, both melamine and MDF are chemically-processed wood products. Most manufacturers create these materials using the byproducts from wood milling.
The difference between the two starts with the reality that melamine is a plastic substance that you can only utilize by laminating over other wood surfaces. In case you forgot, it’s a combination of resin and formaldehyde.
Meanwhile, MDF doesn’t use plastic substances in its mixture. The treatment for this material only includes putting together fibers using synthetic resin while under high levels of heat and pressure.
You may not know, but 82% of MDF materials are from wood waste, like wooden chips/fibers. It also includes chemical preservatives, synthetic resins, and paraffin waxes to enhance material adhesions.
While both melamine and MDF share almost the same ingredients, the only substance that makes all the difference is the melamine resin that makes melamine boards long-lasting.
Durability and Strength
Since melamine is more than a mix of wood chips, it’s not surprising that it offers more durability than medium-density fibreboard. Now, if you coat an MDF material with melamine, our resident woodworkers can assure you that it’ll have maximum strength.
Both materials are known to resist moisture and water exposure. However, melamine provides better waterproofing. If you observe closely, you’ll notice that MDF wood is more water-absorbent, which leaves an open window for potential damage in the long run.
These wood materials are soft enough to accommodate nails, saws, and other tools. We doubt you’ll encounter any issues painting MDF and melamine boards.
If you ask us, the difference in their workability stems from the fact that MDF can’t withstand nail installation better than melamine. Driving screws into these materials can also cause potential damage to the surface.
When it comes to finishing, it’s safe to sand melamine lightly. However, it’s a process we don’t advise for MDF.
Many environment enthusiasts recommend these boards specifically because they are sustainable materials made from repurposed wood waste. If we have to choose which is more eco-friendly, the crown goes to MDF.
It’s a wood board with 82% wooden fibers, so it’s generally more suitable for recycling. On the other hand, melamine has a plastic laminate that’s not exactly sustainable.
The great thing about melamine is that you can lightly bend the material without worrying about reaching a breaking point. This category isn’t where MDF shines because it often shows signs of cracking and breaking.
Despite having almost the same ingredients, these materials suit different applications. For example, melamine is more common for kitchen cabinets because of its durability and water resistance. It’s also glossy, so it’ll fit office furniture pieces, floors, and whiteboards.
Meanwhile, MDF works better for solid wooden furniture. However, it’s still a sought-after material for applications like cabinetry, shelves, floors, and other decorative wood projects.
If you scan today’s market, these boards are both budget-friendly. Although they’re close in price range, MDF materials are undoubtedly more affordable than melamine in wholesale and per sheet cost.
Unfortunately, MDF doesn’t have a similar grain as regular lumber. Because of this, many woodworkers prefer melamine, as it offers a more consistent grain pattern.
Medium-density fiberboards have tight grains, making them the perfect material to paint. Painting these boards will go smoothly if the surface undergoes proper treatment and primer applications. And here’s how to seal MDF before painting!
And since melamine produces smooth surfaces, it’s not unlikely for the paint to not adhere properly to the material.
Overall, the most remarkable feature of melamine materials is their plastic laminate. It provides an extra layer of strength and protection on the surface. Meanwhile, MDF offers more flexibility, making it less vulnerable to cracking and breaking.
Which is the Better Option Between the Two?
Between MDF vs melamine, the better option depends on your intended usage. If you want a material that can withstand scratches, you can consider melamine, as long as you don’t intend to paint its surface. If workability and versatility are what you seek, MDF is the solution you need.
Are MDF and Melamine Comparable to Natural Wood?
No, these materials aren’t comparable to natural wood. However, it’s worth noting that they’re economical alternatives for different woodworking applications.
If we’re being honest, they have specific edges over natural wood options. For example, MDF provides more consistent density and thickness. Because of this, these materials are easier to work with and beginner-friendly.
At the same time, melamine offers more resistance and durability when exposed to environments with high moisture levels.
Are Melamine-Made Cabinets Good Quality?
Yes, melamine-made cabinets are good quality constructions. Here are some of the reasons why:
Can You Combine MDF and Melamine?
Yes, you can combine MDF and melamine. You can accomplish this process using different methods, like adding melamine coats on MDF materials. Besides that, you can also use a melamine-coated MDF to create a furniture piece.
Are There Similarities Between Melamine and MDF?
The substances used in manufacturing melamine and MDF isn’t where the resemblance of these materials stops. Read along as we discuss their key similarities.
Compared to solid wood, these boards are more budget-friendly. Because of this, they’re more sought-after by homeowners and DIYers.
The formation of these boards includes wooden fibers and resin adhesives, so they belong to the category of engineered woodworking products.
Same Purpose and Usage
You can use MDF and melamine boards in different projects, from cabinetry to furniture-making. They also work well for making decorative molding and panels.
Which is Better Between melamine and plywood cabinets?
Like it or not, plywood cabinets are better than melamine ones. Although the latter is also an excellent option, the reality is plywood accommodates nails and screws better. It’s also more sturdy and last longer than other alternatives.
When comparing Melamine vs. MDF boards, our resident woodworkers suggest considering the material’s intended use.
These materials are cost-effective and versatile, so confusing and interchanging them is easy. Regardless of their similarities, don’t forget that fulfilling your project requirements come first.
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