What is the difference between MFC and MDF?



MFC and MDF are popular materials for making bathroom vanities and kitchen cabinets. Do you know the difference between them?


What is MFC?

MFC is short for Melamine Faced Chipboard, aka conti-board or melamine chipboard, chipboard is a product of engineered wood made of woodchips and resin. Melamine is a thermosetting plastic that is applied to paper (the paper can be printed with a pattern to make it look like wood).
These melamine 'faces' are then glued to the chipboard to become the finished product.

MFC Pros

Melamine's Finish

The main advantage of melamine face chipboard is that it does not require any finishing. Once you have built the unit and are ready to sit in that position, it does not need additional treatment. Both solid wood and plywood units will require further treatment with some coating, including sanding between each coat. This may take a lot of time and ultimately the finish is not as stain-resistant as melamine.

Melamine Durability

A major advantage of melamine is its durability. Melamine is resistant to common conditions in the kitchen & batroom, such as heat, moisture and stain. Easy to clean because of the outer coating that contains the compressed wood core. The combination of durable coating and quality core makes the material great for use in cabinetry and cabinet drawers.

Melamine Diversity

Melamine is also popular because it comes in almost any color. Exterior coating is where the color or design is applied as the melamine coating is forged. Any design or color is possible with melamine, including natural wood grain and wood tones.

Melamine Price

The cost of building or rebuilding a cabinet is a frequent concern for homeowners. Unless you are loaded, you'll want better products for less money. Melamine offers homeowners a low-cost option that is durable and visually appealing. This means you don't have to pay extra for cabinet drawers or cabinets made in solid wood style.

MFC Bathroom Vanities



MFC Cons

While melamine has many benefits, there are some cons to using melamine in your bathroom or kitchen. Some of the downsides include weight, difficult installation, chipping and water corrosion.

Melamine Weight

Melamine furniture weighs more than some other types of cabinetry materials. This means you may need to install heavy duty hinges or drawer slides. Hanging melamine on lightweight hardware can damage your cabinetry and the doors or drawers you install.

Melamine Installation

There is a greater risk of releasing melamine than wood or MDF when all cabinetry requires a stable and knowledgeable hand to install properly. If the melamine splits, it will become not only a compressed wood core, but also more sensitive to moisture penetration.

Chipping Melamine Finish

Melamine is made by applying resin to the outer part of compressed wood particles. This means that the wood product has a hard coating on top. Strict effects on the surface of melamine can result in chipping or cracking of the surface material. If this happens, it may require refinishing or replacement of the door, drawer or cabinet facade.

Melamine & Water Damage

In the event that there is melamine splashing, chipping or cracking in the water surface part it will do more damage than solid wood. When solid wood absorbs a little water it is nowhere near the amount of melamine it contains. When a melamine core absorbs water it can swell and lose much of its structural integrity.


What is MDF?

MDF is short for Medium Density Fiberboard. Theoretically, it is a material that contains the recycled leftovers after the solid wood was cut - the fiber and resin all blend with the wax. In terms of compatibility, MDF is more compact than plywood (but not when it was initially introduced as a product). A few years back, MDF was less durable than solid wood, but advanced and high-end MDF boards in technology and manufacturing are as durable as natural wood. Different classes of engineered wood depend on the size of the board, its compatibility, the type of glue and, of course, the type of fiber used. Plate and binder materials produced at high temperatures and pressures are used in natural resins. Therefore, we can say that MDF (finely dispersed fraction) is safer because it emits lower amounts of formaldehyde when administered. It meets the "E1" standard.

MDF Pros

1. MDF is hard to both flex or crack. Although MDF is technically made of wood, its composition is quite different. If you try to bend the MDF board it will snap and then rap. That's why engineered wood has the advantage of being resilient to moisture unlike its opponent. Of course, if you submerge it in water, sooner or later the board will sink into damage. But if you bring it out of the airy humidity, the part will expand and shrink, keeping the overall integrity and shape intact.

2. MDF is more affordable and easier to supply. In general, MDF boards come at a lower price than natural wood. Of course, there are some exceptions if you compare high-priced MDF, with some less expensive types of wood. Another big advantage of engineered wood is that you can find it easier than maple or white oak, especially if you need a certain size.

3. MDF is easier to color and seal. Unlike solid wood, engineered wood lacks a specific grain or texture. This means it's easy to sand and prime without worrying about appearance or worst of all - the knot.

4. Ideal for cabinetry. The advantages of engineered wood for cabinet doors are undeniable. Product flexibility offers interior designers a choice between flat-panel, partial, full overlay, inset, Euro-style and even raised designs. Many types of MDF offer additional resistance to moisture, which is crucial for kitchen and bathroom decor.

MDF Bathroom Vanities



MDF Cons

1. Engineered wood could be easy to damage. One of the main differences between solid and engineered wood is the surface. The outer surface of the MDF is practically the same as its origin, but it is over-compressed so that it can serve as a sealant. If you try to sand it you will reach the fiber-waxed core and thus damage the overall integrity of the board. A polite and delicate approach is required to repaint flat pack units. Unlike solid wood, where a little sanding can hide dents and scratches, damage to MDF is permanent.

2. MDF is heavy. Many falsely assume that solid wood is heavy but the truth is that MDF weighs more. This is the main reason why a flat kitchen needs more anchors and extra support to fit the kitchen, especially when wall-mounted cupboards and shelters. That's also the reason why many furniture designers will just leave the cabinet doors MDF and design the rest from solid wood.

3. MDF is vulnerable to extreme heat. Remember that engineered wood is made of compounds such as wax and/or resin. This is the reason why you should not leave heaters, radiators, fireplaces, ovens, stoves as well as MDF units in the near summer.

4. MDF cannot support excess weight. Nevertheless, engineered wood is widely used for a wide range of wardrobes, bookshelves, kitchen cabinets and a wide range of units. Combining the use of both solid wood and MDF for additional support is a clever solution.


Now you have it, the pros and cons of MFC and MDF. As you might already have assumed, there isn't a winner here. It really depends on your need and personal preference.

Related bathroom articles:

What is the Standard Bathroom Vanity Size?
Can Bathroom Vanities be Painted? How?
Why are Bathroom Vanities so Expensive?

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