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MDF Vs. Plywood: Which One is the Right Choice for Your Next Project?

We know that for some projects, solid wood isn’t always the right material. Thankfully, there are alternatives, prime among which are medium-density fibreboard (MDF) and plywood. However, how do you know which one to choose for your project?  


Well, it depends on what exactly you need from your material, but don’t worry, we’re here to help lay out some key characteristics of each as well as some uses to help you decide whether to use MDF board or plywood sheet for your next project.  

What is MDF?

MDF stands for medium-density fibreboard. This extremely uniformmanmade material is achieved by breaking down soft and hard woods into a fine material before adding waxes and resins to bind it and subjecting it to large amounts of heat and pressure to produce MDF sheets ready to be cut to size.

MDF Sheets layered

What is Plywood?

Also a manmade material, plywood is a composite of thin layers (plies) of wood veneer that are glued and compressed to make a single sheet of plywoodPlywood has been in production in one form or another for thousands of years, and has found its way into a huge range of products from construction to aircraft.

Plywood close up of vertical wood grain


Plywood Vs. MDF

  Pros  Cons 
  • Smooth, uniform surface 
  • Ideal for painting or varnishing  
  • Cost effective  
  • Free from natural impurities/oddities like knots 
  • Easy to machine and work 
  • Available with fire and water resistance built in  
  • Often susceptible to moisture damage  
  • Heavy  
  • High exposure to constituent chemicals can be carcinogenic – use relevant safety equipment while working  
  • Can be made to look like real wood from the outside  
  • High strength  
  • Workable  
  • Available in different grades with different levels of flexibility  
  • More cost efficient than real wood  
  • Relatively lightweight  
  • Also susceptible to moisture damage, although less so than MDF 
  • Not quite as cost effective as MDF  
  • Also contains chemicals which can be carcinogenic in large quantities without proper protection 

 Typical Uses of MDF

MDF is a highly versatile material with a number of qualities that make it ideal for a vast array of diverse applications, such as:  

  • Furniture construction  
  • Flooring and subfloors  
  • Wainscoting  
  • Speaker housings and other audio equipment 
  • Decorative items  
  • Temporary construction projects where workability and versatility are prized, such as trade stands or theatre sets  
  • Cabinets and shelves  
  • Doors  
  • Hobby projects such as model railways 

Typical Uses of Plywood

What we now know as plywood has origins dating back to the ancient Greeks and Egyptians, and has been used in a long list of products including:  

  • Interior walls  
  • Exterior walls (as a base material for the addition of bricks etc.)  
  • Roofing components 
  • Furniture  
  • Cabinets
  • Flooring
  • Aviation applications including aeroplane components
  • Boats
  • DIY and hobby projects
  • Skate rams
  • High-end audio equipment
  • Sports equipment


So, Which One Do You Need? MDF or Plywood?

Both MDF boards and plywood sheets have their own sets of pros and cons that lend each material to different applications. If price is your only discerning factor, then MDF is usually more cost-effective than plywood, but both are more cost-effective than real wood.  

The best way to choose is to consider what you need from your end product. For example, if you need your product to be lightweight and moisture-resistant then choose plywood, if you need your product to have a smooth, ready-to-paint finish, choose MDF.  

Hopefully our comparisons and suggested uses for each have helped you, but if you’re still feeling lost don’t hesitate to drop a message to the expert team here at Coventry Timber and we’ll help find you the perfect material for your project.  

You can reach us using our contact form, by dialling 02476 581 904 or by emailing

For more information on MDF Vs. Plywood: Which One is the Right Choice for Your Next Project? talk to Coventry Timber Products Ltd

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