Both melamine and MDF are well-liked options for woodworking, particularly for newcomers or those on a tight budget.
However, although they both play a role in furniture production, their advantages, working processes, and qualities vary.
What distinguishes MDF from melamine, then? MDF and melamine are both types of engineered wood, but MDF is formed from fused wood fibers, while melamine is more like water-resistant particleboard made from several types of manufactured wood.
As a result, it is more durable and similar to natural wood.
Even though they have a very similar design, the two have some significant distinctions that you should consider when deciding which one to use for your woodworking project.
Therefore, all the information you require regarding each material, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of melamine vs. MDF, will be provided in this post.
VIDEO: Melamine Vs MDF
Melamine vs. MDF: A Comparison
Let’s start with a brief overview of each option to understand the similarities and differences better.
What exactly is Melamine?
An original melamine is called a rigid laminate substrate with a base core and a melamine coating. It’s entirely made of melamine resin.
On the other hand, melamine boards usually refer to manufactured board surfaces laminated with a melamine coating.
Melamine boards, for example, are MDF boards laminated with melamine. The same holds for melamine-laminated plywood.
Only the board’s upper (and lower) surfaces are made of hard melamine plastic, in this case, while the core material is made of wood particles.
How Is It Created?
Melamine laminate, used to coat melamine boards, is created by copolymerizing melamine resin and formaldehyde into a durable plastic sheet.
Melamine resin is a white crystalline compound created by heating cyanamide. Meanwhile, formaldehyde (a colorless gas) is a naturally occurring compound frequently used in polymerization.
The two compounds are combined and subjected to specific pressures per square inch, resulting in a complex, durable plastic material.
Melamine is, in fact, a low-pressure laminate (LPL). It is produced at pressures ranging from 300 to 500 pounds per square inch. On the other hand, Formica is a high-pressure laminate made at pressures of up to 1,400 pounds per square inch.
Melamine boards can be made by combining LPL with other surfaces such as MDF, plywood, and particleboard.
Melamine boards can be distinguished from other types of manufactured boards. Some of the distinguishing characteristics are as follows:
- It is highly water and heat-resistant.
- It is resistant to abrasion and scratching.
- It is chemically resistant.
- It conceals stains well.
- It is adaptable and durable.
- It is available in a variety of colors and finishes.
Melamine Advantages and disadvantages
- It is long-lasting.
- Wear and tear-resistant
- Resistant to heat and moisture
- Maintains a consistent grain pattern
- Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen.
- They warp and bend when subjected to heavy loads.
Melamine Board Applications
- Cabinets in the kitchen
- Dining room furniture
- Countertops in the kitchen
- Work surfaces
- Office furnishings
Wood Veneer vs. Melamine
Hopefully, you don’t get melamine mixed up with wood veneers. Both are attached to core wood panels to create flat, more workable surfaces, but they are different.
Melamine, as previously stated, is an artificial product created by combining melamine resin with formaldehyde to form a rigid plastic substrate.
Wood veneers, on the other hand, are thin slices of natural wood and sometimes tree bark. The majority of veneers are thinner than 3mm.
What exactly is MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard)?
Medium Density Fiberboard is made from natural wood. It is made of wood fibers glued together with adhesives and bonded under heat and pressure to form a durable wooden board.
MDF is manufactured from sawdust and wood shavings from industrial mills. On the other hand, some use agricultural byproducts and common wood residues.
A synthetic resin, specifically urea-formaldehyde, is the most commonly used adhesive to manufacture MDF. Urea-formaldehyde is a compound composed of urea (derived from ammonia) and formaldehyde.
Paraffin wax and a preservative are also present in MDF boards. The water resistance of MDF is due to paraffin wax, which is typically added in melted form or dissolved in mineral spirit.
Meanwhile, preservatives, such as Trichlorophenol or Sodium Pentachlorate, improve insect and fungus resistance.
How is it created?
MDF is made from wood shavings, sawdust, and other small pieces of natural wood created during milling. The manufacturer collects these materials and removes metallic impurities with a giant magnet. The materials are then sorted by size.
The materials are then compressed to remove water.
The dry matter is then shredded in a refiner. The resin is added after shredding to help the fibers bond. The mixture is then placed in a large drier that uses oil or gas. The material is then placed in large, computerized compressor drums to ensure proper mixture strength and density.
The mixture is then sent to a defibrillator, which separates the fibers. The pulp is then passed through a “brown line,” where wax is added, before passing through a “predictor,” where sheet forming occurs.
Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) has the following distinct properties:
- MDF is a dense, stiff, and heavy material.
- It lacks the natural grain of real wood.
- It has a robust internal bond.
- It swells slowly.
- It has a moderate degree of elasticity.
- MDF Advantages and disadvantages
- It has a highly smooth finish.
- It has fire-resistance properties.
- It is soundproof.
- It is water-resistant.
- It is highly adaptable.
- Formaldehyde, a carcinogen, is present in some MDF types.
- It is less dense and weaker than natural wood.
- MDF needs to hold nails better.
- Creating furniture
- Shelving and cabinetry
- Wooden speaker box
- Door frames and doors
High-Density Fiberboard vs. MDF
Some people get medium-density fiberboard and high-density fiberboard mixed up (HDF).
While the two are made in the same way, with wood grain, wood fiber and the same process, high density fiberboard has a higher density than MDF.
The density of standard HDF is 800 kg/cubic meter, compared to 600 kg/cubic meter for standard MDF board.
As a result, HDF is heavier, stronger, and more resistant to moisture than MDF. It’s also more long-lasting. MDF, on the other hand, is less expensive and more widely available.
Melamine vs. MDF: A Comparison
We now have a fundamental understanding of melamine board and MDF. So, let’s see how the two differ and who comes out on top. Then, we’ll compare them using eleven key parameters.
The production procedure
Melamine and MDF are both wood products that have been manufactured. They are created by converting wood milling byproducts into valuable engineered boards used in various industries.
However, the manufacturing processes differ slightly. High-pressure laminating of other engineered boards creates melamine boards with a laminate coat.
Melamine laminates are complex plastic products made by combining melamine resin and formaldehyde. MDF, on the other hand, does not contain any plastics.
Instead, strong boards are created by bonding wood fibers with synthetic resin under high heat and pressure.
The primary ingredients
Many of the constituent ingredients are shared by melamine and MDF. However, the melamine manufacturer includes a few additional products not found in MDF.
MDF comprises four significant ingredients: wood waste/fibers, synthetic resin, paraffin wax, and preservatives. A significant portion of the product (82%) comprises wood waste.
Meanwhile, the other three products help to bond the wood waste and improve the product’s quality. On the other hand, melamine includes all MDF products and a long-lasting plastic material made from melamine resin.
Overall toughness and durability
Since melamine is MDF with an extra coat of hard plastic, you can already guess that it is more robust, durable, and scratch-resistant than MDF. But by how much?
Unfortunately, the information takes a lot of work to come by. On the other hand, MDF has a bending strength of 38-40 MPa, a bending stiffness of 3300-3800 MPa, and an internal bond strength of 0.75-1.10 MPa.
Consider adding a thin plastic laminate on the MDF to make a melamine board. You’d get a much more powerful board. Furthermore, some melamine boards are made of plywood, which is stronger and more durable than MDF.
Regarding waterproofness, melamine and MDF are as different as day and night. MDF, unlike melamine, readily absorbs water (and moisture), becoming wet and damaged.
You may be wondering why MDF is not waterproof, although it contains paraffin wax for waterproofing. The answer is that the method is insufficient to keep MDF boards waterproof. Instead, it protects the boards from average moisture.
It cannot protect MDF from excessive moisture or direct water contact. On the other hand, the melamine laminate on top of melamine boards is plastic and thus highly waterproof. You can make MDF waterproof by sealing it.
The problems begin when the melamine needs to be correctly installed, with gaps leading to the core material.
Melamine and MDF are soft enough to take nails, screws, and sawing. You can also easily paint MDF and melamine. However, the extent to which each surface can be worked or finished varies.
Melamine, like MDF, readily accepts nails and screws. MDF, on the other hand, does not hold nails as well as melamine. Screws can also cause material damage, resulting in a weak hold.
The differences are also noticeable during the finishing process. Although melamine can be sanded (slightly), sanding MDF is not permitted. MDF, on the other hand, accepts paints better than melamine.
Wood’s flexibility refers to its ability to bend. Is it possible to bend the wood without breaking it? If that’s the case, how far can you bend it?
Melamine easily wins here. Although melamine is not the most flexible material, it can be bent to a degree without cracking the board. The thinner the melamine board, the more flexible it is.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for MDF. Any attempt to bend MDF almost always results in cracking and breaking.
Melamine and MDF are both environmentally friendly. Both, as we’ve seen, are made from solid wood waste. As a result, they are an excellent way to repurpose waste wood.
MDF, on the other hand, is more environmentally friendly and long-lasting. The primary reason is that MDF comprises 82% wood fibers and 8% water. As a result, it is 90% safe, natural, and recyclable.
Melamine is also not a harmful material. Plastic laminate, on the other hand, is less eco-friendly or energy-efficient than solid wood and water.
Melamine and MDF applications are similar because they are made from the same raw materials (wood chips).
Melamine is commonly used in kitchen cabinetry because it is durable and waterproof. Melamine cabinets are also simple to clean and wipe. It is also used in shelving, display counters, office furniture, whiteboards, and flooring.
MDF, on the other hand, is commonly used in solid wood furniture. However, it is also used by many woodworkers in cabinetry, shelving, flooring, wainscotting, speaker boxes, and decorative projects.
Finally, melamine boards cost more than MDF boards. However, both are less expensive than solid wood. MDF, on the other hand, is less expensive.
Standard-size melamine boards can be purchased wholesale for as little as $3.99 per piece. However, even the most expensive, thicker, stronger boards for construction applications cost around $12 per piece.
On the other hand, melamine sheets start at $8 per sheet on Amazon, with many brands charging $12 or more per piece. Again, of course, the core material plays a role. MDF melamine can cost up to $18 per piece.
In a nutshell, melamine and MDF differ only slightly. Both are engineered wood products derived from wood waste. Wood waste is selected, resin-bonded, and compressed under heat and pressure.
The only difference is that melamine boards have an additional layer of laminate made from melamine resin, which increases the board’s strength and makes it more heat, chemical, and water-resistant.
What Is the Distinction Between MDF and Particle Board?
The primary distinction between MDF and particleboard is that MDF has a smoother surface than particleboard.
Why? Because MDF is made from fine wood fibers of the same size, whereas particle board is made from varying sizes of wood shavings and wood chips. Furthermore, MDF is denser than particle board.
Sealing particle boards is difficult due to the varying sizes and shapes of the wood pieces used; however, sealing MDF is much easier.
FAQ on Melamine Vs MDF
Does melamine resemble MDF?
Melamine resin, which starts out as an organic chemical, polymerizes to become a tough plastic substance. It is frequently used on particleboard, plywood, or MDF and has good heat and fire resistance qualities. It comes in a range of hues, designs, sizes, and densities.
Is melamine of a high standard?
The best food-safe plastic available is made of melamine. It has a long lifespan, is simple to clean, and is antibacterial. Q Squared has the appearance of ceramic and porcelain but is more manageable and resistant to breaking.
Is melamine used by IKEA?
IKEA cabinet boxes are mostly made of fiberboard and melamine foil. Fiberboard covered in melamine foil, paint, wood, or glass makes up the cabinet doors and drawer fronts sold by IKEA.
What is superior to MDF?
Since plywood is comprised of wood strips, its surfaces more closely resemble solid wood than MDF. Higher grades of plywood have lots of grain and are smooth and appealing, but they lack the knotholes that can detract from solid wood.
Which is less expensive, melamine or MDF?
Engineered Melamine products are often less expensive and have a high level of reliability. Melamine boards have a consistent surface that is tough and resistant to heat, fire, stains, and scratches.