Which is better MDF or plywood

Wood-based materials in comparison: OSB, MDF and Co.

For most do-it-yourselfers, they are old acquaintances, the panels made of coarse and fine chips, hard or soft fibers, medium or high density. Anyone who builds furniture or their own interior design has hardly any alternative to them.

Buy wood-based materials

What all chipboard and fiberboard have in common is their bad reputation. That stems from verifiable Formaldehyde outgassing that are harmful to health in the long term in closed rooms. When buying wood-based panels, make sure that they have the Blue Angel eco-label for "low-emission wood-based materials". This ensures that the formaldehyde load is roughly in the order of magnitude of pure solid wood.

Advantages of wood-based materials

The Advantages of panel materials are obvious. While solid wood changes volume and shape more or less constantly due to the absorption and release of moisture, the panels remain dimensionally stable. They either owe that to the strong ones Fiberization and a high one Glue content or layered and cross-wise production, in which the shrinkage and swelling forces virtually neutralize each other.

In order not to impair this dimensional stability, a few important rules apply during processing. For example, you should always surface treatment of both sides of a panel, even if one of them won't be seen later. The lacquers, oils and waxes influence the ability to absorb moisture. If only one side is lacquered, the different diffusion means that even the most stable material panel will eventually become crooked.

How are wood-based panels made?

The production of fiberboard is always similar. Coarse (OSB or chipboard) or fine chips (MDF or soft fiber boards) from wood residues from industrial wood, waste wood, construction and residual wood as well as unusable forest wood are dried to a very low residual moisture level of up to 2 percent. They are then mixed with binding agents and / or glue and pressed together under high pressure and temperatures of up to 250˚C.

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What types of wood-based materials are there?

Basically, the wood panel materials can be divided into four groups. Chipboard and OSB panels form a group. They contain relatively coarse wood chips. Fiberboard (hard, medium-density and soft) consist of much finer wood fibers that are made from the coarse chips in special mills. Veneer panels are made up of individual layers of thin plywood. This includes plywood, screen printing and multiplex panels as well as laminated veneer lumber. Composites like that Blockboard or chopstick plywood consist of solid wooden strips that are glued between cover layers of veneer.

Wood-based materials at a glance:

  • Chipboard
  • coated chipboard
  • MDF board
  • Softboard
  • Hardboard
  • Chipboard
  • Flexible plywood
  • plywood
  • Multiplex plate
  • Screen printing plate
  • Blockboard
  • Chopstick plate
  • Glued wood panel

The proportion of glue in the wood-based panels decreases from top to bottom. In the following we explain the properties and advantages of the most important panel materials.

So that the wood is not damaged in your projects, you will find the most popular products for wood protection here:


Chipboard are primarily cheap. That is why they are often used in furniture and interior design. Otherwise they don't have much to offer that other records can't do better.

Chipboard is pressed more tightly on both surfaces than in the panel core. This is how the biggest shortcoming of the chipboard arises - rough and unpolished edges. The only functioning form of edge processing for you as a do-it-yourself maker is therefore to iron on edge strips. Screwing and nailing close to the edges is possible, but these connections cannot withstand greater pull-out forces.

Hardware stores offer pre-coated and glued chipboard in various sizes. If you want to cut yourself, there is a problem: the coating tends to tear off the cut edges. Tip: Stick a packing tape along the cutting line so that the coating remains intact.

MDF panels

MDF panels (medium-density fibreboard) consist of fine fibers instead of chips and are therefore essential denser and more homogeneous. A big plus point: the panels do not splinter when sawed to size. Before painting, you must first seal the edges with filler, sand everything smooth and prime the surfaces with an MDF primer.

When screwing MDF, you have to pre-drill with about 80 percent of the screw thickness. In addition, keep a minimum distance of about 20 millimeters from the corner of the tile - otherwise the corner could burst open. MDF costs about half as much as solid wood and is mainly used in furniture construction, interior design and door construction.

OSB panels

OSB stands for the English term "Oriented Strand Board". The OSB panel consists of coarse chips aligned in two directions. In this respect, it is also a chipboard, but the properties differ considerably: OSB panels are much more rigid than chipboard. The proportion of glue is significantly lower at 4 to 6 percent. The adhesives used are lower in formaldehyde than those in the chipboard and make the OSB panel waterproof.

You can nail, screw and staple with a clear conscience. When gluing on a miter, you should use lamellas (also flat dowels or wooden connecting plates). The edges can be screwed easily.


Hardboard is only 3 to 5 millimeters thick and is mainly used in Furniture making used. As a drawer base or stiffening back wall of small and large cupboards, everyone has probably already installed it. The light yet very stable panels are inserted into grooves that have been pre-milled all around. But they are also ideally suited as panels for doors and screens.

Hardboard usually has a smooth, sanded front and a rough back, or they are coated on both sides. The only surface treatment that makes sense is sticking with foil, because you will hardly find a smoother surface on wood-based panels. The coatings offered range from simple white to different types of wood such as beech, oak or maple.


The Softboard have a low density and a porous structure and are therefore ideal for insulation. They are suitable wherever fiberglass mats are too thick and polystyrene sheets are too stiff. The starting material is leftover wood, so the panels are one ecological alternative to plastic insulation material.

To attach it to the wall, you need special screws in addition to the screws Rosette washersthat you can get at the hardware store. They claw into the surface of the plate and hold it tight. Original tip: wood fiber insulation boards are also wonderfully suitable as large-format pin boards.


Blockboard are composite materials. They consist of strips of different thicknesses in the middle. Block plywood is used when strips 24 to 30 mm thick are glued between the top layers. If the strips are only 8 mm thick in the middle, the board is called rod plywood. Both variants have relatively similar properties and areas of application.

The shrinkage direction of the wood is compensated, the panels are very dimensionally stable. They are lighter than chipboard and have a high bending strength. They are mainly used for furniture construction: bodies, shelves, built-in furniture or cladding can be built from them. They are also used as formwork elements in concrete construction.

Kitchen countertops

Kitchen worktops have to withstand a lot. Sharp knives are used to cut, containers are set down and pushed around. When shopping, you can choose between solid wood (hardwood such as beech or ash) and so-called postforming panels.

Postforming This means that at the end of the manufacturing process, the panel edge is milled into shape and a durable laminate is placed around the edge. This laminate can withstand hot pots up to 230 ° C, is shock and abrasion resistant and insensitive to household chemicals. Good quality can be recognized by a watertight weld on the edges of the laminate. Solid wood panels need regular care with oil.


At veneer These are thin sheets of wood (0.3–6 mm) that are separated from the trunk by sawing, knife cutting or peeling. They are then glued onto a carrier material such as MDF, multiplex, chipboard or plywood.

Almost all types of wood are suitable for the production of veneer. The veneered panels can be used to make inexpensive furniture with the look of fine woods.


Plywood, multiplex and laminated veneer lumber are also summarized in a group. Plywood consists of at least three layers of veneer that are glued and pressed at a 90 ° angle. It is light, stable, dimensionally stable and therefore ideal for any wood construction work. Plywood usually has one side with a smooth surface and one rough, untreated side.

Multiplex consists of five or more layers, is at least 12 mm thick and therefore also suitable as a workbench worktop, for example. With laminated veneer lumber, the individual layers are not glued crosswise, but parallel. All three panel materials are stable and dimensionally stable. Laminated veneer lumber is even stronger than solid wood.