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MDF vs. Plywood: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on February 18, 2024
MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) is a composite wood product made from fine wood fibers and glue, known for its smooth finish, while plywood is layered wood veneers, stronger and more moisture-resistant.

Key Differences

MDF is composed of fine wood fibers combined with resin, creating a smooth and uniform material, whereas plywood consists of multiple layers of wood veneers, glued and pressed together, offering a grainy texture.
The uniform density of MDF makes it easy to cut and drill without splintering, but it's more susceptible to water damage compared to plywood, which is more resistant due to its layered construction.
Plywood holds screws and fasteners more securely, making it suitable for structural projects, while MDF, with its smoother surface, is often preferred for decorative purposes or detailed work.
In terms of cost, MDF is generally more affordable than plywood, which can vary in price based on the type of wood used for the veneers.
MDF is heavier and denser than plywood, which can make handling larger sheets more challenging, whereas plywood offers more strength per weight, making it easier to use for larger projects.

Comparison Chart


Fine wood fibers and resin
Layered wood veneers


Smooth, no grain
Grainy, visible layers

Water Resistance

Lower, prone to swelling
Higher, more resistant

Screw Holding

Less effective
More effective


Generally more affordable
Varies, can be more expensive

MDF and Plywood Definitions


Best suited for indoor applications.
MDF is not recommended for outdoor furniture.


Has a visible wood grain pattern.
The grainy texture of plywood adds a rustic look to the shelves.


Offers a consistent, smooth surface.
MDF is ideal for painting due to its even texture.


Consists of multiple wood veneers.
The plywood's layered structure makes it strong and durable.


Made from wood fibers and resin.
He chose MDF for the cabinet doors due to its smooth finish.


Suitable for various construction projects.
He used plywood for both the flooring and the cabinetry.


A cost-effective wood product.
For budget-friendly furniture, MDF is a good choice.


Better for use in damp conditions.
Plywood is a preferred material for bathroom furniture.


Can be cut and shaped without splintering.
She easily crafted intricate designs on the MDF board.


Offers strength without heavy weight.
Plywood is easy to handle for wall paneling.


A structural material made of layers of wood glued together, usually with the grains of adjoining layers at right angles to each other.


(uncountable) Construction material supplied in sheets, and made of three or more layers of wood veneer glued together, laid up with alternating layers having their grain perpendicular to each other.
After the hurricane there was a severe regional shortage of plywood, especially exterior plywood.


(countable) A specific grade or type of this construction material.
We stock exterior plywoods, interior plywoods, and furniture plywoods.


(transitive) To fit or block up with plywood.


A laminate made of thin layers of wood


What is MDF?

MDF stands for Medium Density Fiberboard, a composite wood material.

What is plywood?

Plywood is a wood panel made from thin layers of wood veneer.

Is MDF waterproof?

No, MDF is susceptible to water damage and swelling.

Is MDF cheaper than plywood?

Generally, MDF is more affordable than plywood.

Can plywood be used outdoors?

Yes, especially exterior-grade plywood which is more moisture-resistant.

Can MDF be used for structural projects?

MDF is not recommended for structural use due to its lower strength.

Is MDF environmentally friendly?

MDF production involves chemicals, but it often uses recycled wood fibers.

Is plywood stronger than MDF?

Yes, due to its layered structure, plywood is generally stronger.

Are MDF fumes harmful?

Cutting MDF can release fine particles and formaldehyde, so proper ventilation and masks are recommended.

Can MDF be used for kitchen cabinets?

Yes, but it's not ideal in areas with high moisture.

Can I use screws in MDF and plywood?

Yes, though screws hold better in plywood.

Does plywood come in different grades?

Yes, plywood comes in various grades based on quality and intended use.

Does plywood warp easily?

Plywood is less prone to warping compared to solid wood.

Is MDF good for soundproofing?

MDF can be effective for soundproofing due to its density.

Can I paint over plywood and MDF?

Yes, both can be painted, but MDF provides a smoother finish.

Is MDF heavier than plywood?

Yes, MDF is typically heavier than plywood.

Can plywood be used in furniture making?

Yes, it's commonly used in both structural and aesthetic furniture parts.

How thick is plywood usually?

Plywood thickness ranges from 1/8 inch to 1 inch.

How do I cut MDF and plywood?

Both can be cut using power saws, but MDF requires a finer blade for a smooth cut.

How do I protect MDF from moisture?

Sealing with paint or a moisture-resistant coating can help.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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