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HDF vs MDF | High-Density Fibreboard | Everything You Need To Know

HDF vs MDF | High-Density Fibreboard | Everything You Need To Know

Posted by Skirting World on 22nd Feb 2024

MDF factory showing fibreboards stacked up

HDF and MDF have both dominated the engineered wood board industry and market since the 1980s. Their popularity is a result of their machinability, affordability, weight, density and several other critical factors.

Both HDF and MDF are very similar in structure and formation, yet have drastically different uses, it takes a trained eye and experience to master the use of these fibreboards.

Read on to learn more about HDF, MDF and other engineered wood products such as LDF, OSB, Particle Board. We'll explore the specifications of each board, their practicalities and use cases, strengths and weaknesses in construction and more!

HDF - High Density Fibreboard

HDF Full Form: High-Density Fibreboard

HDF, which stands for High-Density Fibreboard, is a type of engineered wood board, specifically a fibreboard. HDF was originally known as 'Hardboard', by its accidental inventor William Mason in 1925. William later trademarked the name 'Masonite', which is also a generic term for HDF in the US and Canada. 

HDF is similar to  MDF (Medium-Density Fibreboard) and LDF (Low-Density Fibreboard / also known as Particle Board). And as the names suggest, their primary difference is the density of the wood fibres which compose the fibreboard. 

Flat Side Of A HDF Hardboard

Flat side of HDF board

HDF boards have a consistent smooth appearance and texture due to the fineness of the wood fibres used in their construction. This side is ideal for painting due to its uniform surface.

The Textured Side Of A HDF Hardboard

Textured side of HDF board

Not all HDF boards have a textured side, of the boards which do, the wood fibres come into contact with a screen or rollers when compressed, which leaves a patterned impression. This texture can help the board grip adhesives or other materials better.

How HDF Is Made

HDF is made from two main components. Wood fibre and resin

Wood Fibre

Pulled wood fibres

Shredded/pulled wood fibres prior to the chemical pulping stage

Wood fibre is the raw material for HDF, usually obtained from various softwoods such as  Pine, Fir or Spruce. Hardwoods like Oak and Birch and recycled wood from sawdust, wood chips and wood waste are sometimes used.

The wood fibre is refined into ultra-fine particles using mechanical or chemical processes such as chipping, grinding or pulping. The mechanical process involves cutting or shredding the wood into small pieces, while the chemical process involves cooking the wood in a solution of water and chemicals to dissolve the lignin and separate the fibres.

The refining process affects the quality and characteristics of the wood fibres, such as the length, width, thickness, surface area and bonding potential. Generally, longer and thinner fibres have higher strength, whilst shorter and thicker fibres have higher density and stability.


A photo of Urea-Formaldehyde HDF resin in a beaker

Urea-formaldehyde resin in a beaker

Resin is the adhesive substance that is mixed into the fibres at specific ratios to bind the wood fibres together, forming a dense and uniform panel. The resin can be synthetic or natural.

The most common type of resin used is urea-formaldehyde, a low-cost and durable synthetic adhesive, but also emits formaldehyde which is a harmful substance which can  degrade indoor air quality. Other types of resin used for HDF include melamine-formaldehyde, phenol-formaldehyde, lignin, wax and starch.

The ratio of resin to fibres varies on the types of wood and resin used. For every 100 grams of HDF, there are usually 10 - 20 grams of resin and 80 - 90 grams of fibre.

The ratio of resin to fibre by volume can be derived from the ratio of resin to fibres by weight, using the densities of resin and fibre. The ratio of resin to fibres by volume can range from 30% to 50%, depending on the density and type of resin and fibres. This means that for every 100 cubic centimetres of HDF, there are 30 to 50 cubic centimetres of resin and 50 to 70 cubic centimetres of fibre.

Forming The HDF Panels - An 8 Step Process

A diagram detailing the pressing process of HDF

Industrially HDF, MDF and LDF is mass-produced from wood fibres and resin with the following steps.

1. Preparation

The raw material for HDF, wood fibre and resin, are prepared and stored in silos or tanks. As detailed above, the wood fibre is obtained from various sources and the resin is obtained from synthetic or natural sources, then mixed with additives and catalysts to improve the bonding and curing properties.

2. Blending

The wood fibre and resin are blended together in a specific ratio depending on the desired properties or grade of the HDF sheet. The blending can be done using drum blenders, disc blenders or air blenders. The blending process ensures a uniform distribution of resin and fibre, contributing to the creation of a homogenous mixture.

3. Forming

The resulting wood fibre / resin mixture is formed into a continuous mat or sheet using a forming machine. The forming machine can be either a single-opening or multi-opening press, depending on the production capacity and efficiency. The forming machine applies heat and pressure to the mixture. Causing the resin to melt and bond the fibres together.

The forming machine also controls the thickness and density of the HDF panel, by adjusting the speed and pressure of the press.

4. Cooling

The HDF panel is cooled to room temperature using a cooling system. The cooling system prevents the HDF panel from warping or cracking due to thermal stress and stabilises its dimensions and properties.

5. Cutting

After the HDF panel is cooled, it's cut into the required size and shape. The cutting process can also create different types of edges, such as square, bevelled or tongue-and-groove, depending on the intended use of the HDF panel.

6. Sanding

After the HDF panel is cut,  it is sanded to achieve a smooth surface, using abrasive belts, discs or rollers. The sanding process removes any defects such as roughness, unevenness or scratches and improves the appearance of the panel.

7. Treating

After sanding, the panel can be further treated with various coatings, laminates, veneers or  paints to enhance its appearance, durability and functionality. The treating process can provide different types of finishes such as glossy, matte, textured or patterned. It can also protect the HDF panel from moisture, stains, scratches or UV rays and increase resistance to wear and tear.

8. Testing

The physical and mechanical properties can be determined and verified through testing. Characteristics and qualities such as density, moisture content, bending strength, modulus of elasticity, internal bond strength, surface soundness, formaldehyde emission and more can be determined to establish a grade. Testing is vital to ensure the panels meet required standards, regulations and their suitability for the intended application.

The processes for making HDF, MDF and LDF are virtually identical, the primary difference is the pressing of the panels and the quantity of mixture used per panel to form either a high, medium or low density panel. 

A diagram showing the difference of production between HDF and MDF

HDF vs MDF - The Difference

MDF Full Form: Medium-Density Fibreboard

HDF (High-Density Fibreboard) and MDF (Medium-Density Fibreboard) are both types of engineered wood fibreboards. Both are widely used in construction and design, whilst they share similarities in composition, their primary difference is density, which leads to distinct properties and applications.

Density & Strength Higher density and strength, resistant to warping Less dense and strong, prone to chipping
Moisture Resistance More resistant to moisture and humidity Less resistant to moisture and prone to warping
Applications High-traffic areas, durable applications, laminated flooring Furniture, cabinetry, decorative applications
Machinability & Finishing More difficult to machine and finish Easy to machine and finish, smooth surface
Cost More expensive More affordable
Sustainability Sustainable and eco-friendly Sustainable and eco-friendly

Density: The Defining Difference Between HDF & MDF

The primary differentiator between HDF and MDF is their density. As its name suggests, HDF exhibits a higher density than MDF due to the tighter compaction of its wood fibres. This density difference translates to the following qualities:

Skirting World MDF Board
Sanded MDF Boards

HDF's Unique Qualities

HDF has a higher density than MDF, which gives it unique advantages.

Density Of HDF: Standard HDF (High-Density Fibreboard) has a density of 880 - 1040 kg/m³ (55-65 lbs/ft³)

  • Strength & Durability: HDF is stronger and more durable than MDF due to its higher density and smaller wood fibres. HDF is less prone to chipping, cracking, and warping than MDF, and is better suited for applications where strength and durability are essential.
  • Hardness: HDF's tight fibre structure yields a harder surface, allowing for precise machining and sharp edges. This characteristic lends itself well to applications requiring intricate details, such as millwork and mouldings.
  • Density & Weight: HDF is denser and heavier than MDF due to its smaller and more tightly packed wood fibres. HDF typically has a density of around 50-65 pounds per cubic foot, while MDF has a density of around 30-50 pounds per cubic foot.
  • Edge Holding: HDF excels in holding sharp, crisp edges due to its dense composition, crucial for intricate detailing
  • Stability: The tighter fibre structure of HDF minimises movement and warping, making it suitable for dimensional stability requirements
  • Moisture Resistance: Neither material excels in moisture resistance, but HDF exhibits slightly better performance due to its denser structure.

MDF's Unique Qualities

MDF has a lower density compared to HDF, offering distinct advantages:

Density Of MDF: Standard MDF (Medium-Density Fibreboard) has a density of 800-880 kg/m³ (50-55 lbs/ft³)

  • Workability: MDF's looser fibre structure makes it easier to cut, mitre, shape, and machine than HDF. This characteristic favours its use in furniture construction, cabinetry, and decorative applications.
  • Smoothness: MDF's inherent smoothness creates an ideal surface for painting, veneering, and applying laminates. This versatility allows for diverse aesthetic finishes.
  • Weight: The lighter weight of MDF compared to HDF simplifies handling and installation, making it a practical choice for various applications.
  • Machinability: MDF's looser fibre structure allows for easier cutting, shaping and drilling, making it ideal for intricate designs and woodworking projects.

Neither HDF or MDF are water-resistant, both boards suffer from swelling and water damage when soaked in water or with prolonged exposure. However, higher grade MDF can be treated to be moisture-resistant, which allows for installation in environments such as kitchens and bathrooms, outside of direct contact with water.

HDF Grades vs MDF Grades

HDF Grades

HDF generally has fewer grades on the market, although you can find a variety of HDF products, the main grades are Standard HDF and Ultra-High Density HDF.
Grade Density (kg/m³) Properties Applications
Standard HDF 800-900 Good strength, rigidity, stability, machinability, screw holding, edge definition, moderate moisture resistance, smooth, paintable Furniture, cabinets, doors, trim, interior uses
Ultra-High Density HDF (UHDF) Over 1100 Excellent strength, rigidity, stability, machinability, screw holding, edge definition, high moisture resistance, very smooth, paintable High-end furniture, cabinets, musical instruments, speaker boxes, demanding applications

MDF Grades

MDF, being the more popular variant of fibreboard, is available in a wide variety of grades.

Grade Density (kg/m³) Properties Applications
Standard MDF 600-800 Good strength, stiffness, machinable, paintable, can be veneered Furniture, cabinets, doors, trim, general-purpose
High-density MDF (HD MDF) 800-1100 Denser, stronger, improved screw holding, edge definition, more moisture resistant Furniture, cabinets, doors, trim, high-end joinery, demanding applications

Flame-retardant MDF (FR MDF) Varies Fire-retardant additives, meets building codes Wall panels, ceilings, doors (fire safety concern)
Moisture-resistant MDF (MR MDF) Varies Treated resins, waxes for improved moisture resistance Kitchens, bathrooms, humid environments
Veneered MDF Varies Thin layer of real wood veneer on surface Furniture, cabinets, doors, trim (desired real wood look)
Melamine MDF Varies Melamine laminate applied to surface (durable, scratch-resistant, moisture-resistant) Furniture, cabinets, countertops (durable, easy-to-clean)

A popular grade of MDF on the market is High Density MDF, the terms can become a little confusing, however HD-MDF is simply MDF pressed to a higher density than standard, often to the same density as HDF, without possessing the same fibre qualities and unique characteristics of HDF Hardboard. Consider HD-MDF as a superior quality MDF which has increased strength, durability and a more consistent, smooth finish.

A photo comparing low density MDF and high density MDF

LDF - Low Density Fibreboard

LDF stands for Low-Density Fibreboard, also known as Particle Board. As the name suggests, the fibres are more loosely pressed, LDF has a lower density and is less rigid than medium or high-density fibreboard. LDF is lightweight and easier to cut, shape, and nail compared to higher density boards. It also has enhanced acoustic properties. Common uses for LDF include furniture, shelving, partition walls, sound deadening boards, and underlay materials due to its lower cost and workability. 

The looser bonding however means LDF lacks the strength and hardness required for structural builds or high wear applications. Proper sealing and moisture protection should be applied, as LDF is prone to expansion and deterioration when exposed directly to water over time.

Fibreboard Specification Sheets

Below are three specification sheets for HDF, MDF and LDF (Low-Density Fibreboard) from Roseburgs line of engineered wood boards.

HDF Specification Sheet Physical Properties (Metric)
Density 892 Kg/m³
Moisture Content 5%
Thickness Tolerance ± 0.125 mm
Modulus Of Rupture 35.8 N/mm²
Internal Bond 1.06 N/mm²
Linear Expansion Limit
≤ 0.3%
Length / Width Tolerance ± 1.8mm
Thickness Swell ≤ 0.087" ppm

MDF Specification Sheet Physical Properties (Metric)
Density 788 Kg/m³
Moisture Content 5.5%
Thickness Tolerance ± 0.125 mm
Modulus Of Rupture 33.1 N/mm²
Internal Bond 0.9 N/mm²
Linear Expansion Limit
≤ 0.3%
Length / Width Tolerance ± 1.8mm
Thickness Swell ≤ 1.3mm"

LDF Specification Sheet Physical Properties (Metric)
Density 724 Kg/m³
Moisture Content 5.5%
Thickness Tolerance ± 0.125 mm
Modulus Of Rupture 24.1 N/mm²
Internal Bond 0.76 N/mm²
Linear Expansion Limit
≤ 0.3%
Length / Width Tolerance ± 1.8mm
Thickness Swell ≤ 1.3mm"

Specification Breakdown

  • Density: Reflects the board's mass per unit volume. HDF has the highest density at 892 kg/m³, making it heavier and typically more durable than MDF (788 kg/m³) and LDF (724 kg/m³).
  • Moisture Content: Indicates the percentage of water in the board, affecting its stability and resistance to warping. All three types have similar moisture content, with HDF at 5% and both MDF and LDF at 5.5%, suggesting comparable stability.
  • Thickness Tolerance: The acceptable variation in the board's thickness. All types have a tolerance of ±0.125 mm, showing they are manufactured to precise standards.
  • Modulus Of Rupture: Measures the board's strength before breaking when bent. HDF is the strongest (35.8 N/mm²), followed by MDF (33.1 N/mm²) and then LDF (24.1 N/mm²), indicating HDF is better for high-stress applications.
  • Internal Bond: The strength of the bond between the board's fibers. HDF again leads with 1.06 N/mm², MDF is next at 0.9 N/mm², and LDF is at 0.76 N/mm², suggesting HDF has the highest internal cohesion.
  • Linear Expansion Limit: The rate at which the board expands due to changes in humidity or temperature. All boards have a similar expansion limit of ≤0.3%.
  • Length/Width Tolerance: The allowable variance in the board's dimensions. All types have a tolerance of ±1.8mm, indicating uniformity in size.
  • Thickness Swell: Indicates how much the board's thickness increases after exposure to moisture. HDF has the least swell (≤0.087" ppm), followed by MDF and LDF (both ≤1.3mm), showing HDF is more resistant to moisture-induced swelling.


In conclusion, HDF and MDF are both popular choices for interior design and furniture projects, but there are important differences between the two materials. HDF is denser and stronger than MDF, making it well-suited for high-traffic areas and applications where durability is essential.
MDF, on the other hand, is a more versatile and affordable option that is ideal for applications where a smooth and uniform surface is required.
When choosing between HDF vs MDF, it is important to consider the specific needs of your project, such as the desired finish, the level of durability required, and your overall budget. While HDF may be more expensive than MDF, it is a better choice for applications where strength and durability are essential.
MDF is a more affordable option that is well-suited for a wide range of interior design and furniture projects.


What Is HDF (High Density Fibreboard)?

HDF (High Density Fibreboard) is an engineered wood product made from compressed wood fibres, resin, and wax. It has a higher density and is harder than MDF. HDF is commonly used for flooring, cabinetry, furniture, and other applications where durability and strength are required.

What Is MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard)?

MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard) is an engineered wood product made from compressed wood fibres, resin, and wax. It has a lower density and is softer than HDF. MDF is widely used in furniture making, cabinetry, and other woodworking projects due to its easy workability and smooth surface.

What Are The Main Differences Between HDF And MDF?

The main differences between HDF and MDF are their density, strength, and hardness. HDF has a higher density, which makes it stronger and harder than MDF. As a result, HDF is more suitable for applications requiring durability and resistance to wear, while MDF is easier to work with and provides a  smoother surface for painting or veneering.

Is HDF Or MDF More Expensive?

HDF is typically more expensive than MDF due to its higher density and better durability. However, the exact price difference depends on factors like product quality, brand, and regional market conditions. It's important to consider the specific requirements of your project when choosing between HDF and MDF.

Which One Is Better For Furniture: HDF Or MDF?

The choice between HDF and MDF for furniture depends on factors like the intended use, budget, and desired appearance. For applications requiring higher strength and durability, such as heavy-duty shelving or cabinets, HDF may be the better option. However, for projects like decorative furniture or pieces that require intricate detailing, MDF may be more suitable due to its easier workability and smoother surface.

Hardboard vs MDF, which is better?

When it comes to choosing between hardboard (HDF) and MDF, understanding their key differences is crucial. Hardboard boasts higher density and strength, making it ideal for demanding applications like high-traffic areas and durable furniture. However, its denser nature translates to more challenging machining and slightly higher cost. MDF, on the other hand, shines with its affordability, smoother surface, and easier workability, perfect for furniture, cabinetry, and decorative elements. However, keep in mind its lower strength and susceptibility to moisture. 

Is HDF waterproof?

Unfortunately, no, HDF is not waterproof. Although it exhibits slightly better moisture resistance than MDF due to its higher density, both materials are susceptible to water damage when exposed for extended periods or soaked directly. The wood fibres that make up HDF can swell and warp, compromising the board's integrity and functionality. While certain treatments can enhance moisture resistance to some degree, neither HDF nor MDF are truly waterproof. For applications requiring direct water contact or prolonged exposure to humid environments, consider materials like marine plywood, pressure-treated lumber, or specialised waterproof composites.

What is meant by HDF?

HDF stands for High-Density Fibreboard. It's an engineered wood panel made by compressing wood fibres with resin and heat under high pressure. It's known for its strength, durability, and smooth surface, making it a popular choice for a variety of applications.

HDF or Plywood?

Deciding between HDF and plywood can be tricky, as both excel in different areas. When it comes to strength and durability, HDF reigns supreme, making it ideal for high-traffic areas and demanding furniture. However, its denser nature means machining it is more challenging, and it comes with a higher price tag. 
Plywood, on the other hand, offers affordability and flexibility, making it easier to work with for intricate designs and various woodworking projects. While generally more moisture-resistant than HDF, standard plywood isn't waterproof. If moisture is a major concern, consider specialised options like waterproof plywood or treated choices. 
Remember, plywood comes in various types, each with unique properties. Opt for Baltic birch plywood for superior strength and moisture resistance, or choose more affordable construction plywood for basic projects. 
Ultimately, the ideal material depends on your specific needs. Prioritise strength and a smooth surface? HDF might be the most suitable choice. Value affordability and flexibility with moderate moisture resistance? Plywood could be a more practical option. Don't forget to consider project complexity, as intricate designs might be easier to achieve with plywood's flexibility. 

Which is better for wardrobe construction: HDF or MDF?

When constructing wardrobes, both HDF and MDF have benefits depending on the specific requirements. MDF provides an affordable option that is easy to work with for intricate wardrobe designs. However, HDF is much stronger and more durable, which is important for wardrobe doors and shelves that will hold heavier items and endure more wear and tear.
Ultimately, using a combination of the two may work best - HDF for the wardrobe carcass, shelves and doors to handle the demands of regular use, along with MDF for decorative external surfaces and design elements if desired. This balances strength with affordability and aesthetics.