MDO vs. MDF – what’s the difference? That’s just one of the questions you will encounter when choosing wood materials. When choosing wood, you have to consider the cost, thickness, surfaces, durability, strength, support, etc.

There are lots of types of plywood out there, but we will give you a comparison between MDO and MDF to help you out.

I. What are MDO and MDF?

Grafix Medium Weight Chipboard Sheets

Grafix Medium Weight Chipboard Sheets – Via Amazon.com

MDO, or medium density overlay, is a type of wood panel that uses pressed plywood and a layer of resin. Heat and pressure bonds the layer of resin over the surface either on one side or both. The smooth surface make it ideal for painting.

MDF, or medium density fiberboard, is a type of wood panel that uses wood fiber from hardboard or soft board. It is mixed with water, wax, resin and it’s also pressed under high pressure and heat. The finished product is a material harder than plywood.
mdf

MDF is commonly used in cabinets, shelves, crafts, drawers and other furniture. On the other hand, MDO is commonly used in playground equipment, subfloors, ceilings, walls, and furniture as well.

II. Differences between MDO and MDF

MDO and MDF are common materials in the construction industry. They are both affordable and they use easily available materials. However, when choosing between the two, consider these different factors:

1. Strength, structural support, and durability

MDO is generally stronger than MDF. You can use MDF on countertops and other places that provide support. Otherwise, the MDF, especially if it wide and long, can sink at the center of gravity.
old-mdf-particle-board
MDO, on the other hand, does not have this problem. You can use it to support heavier weights than MDF. Overtime, MDO can hold better.

2. Weight and Density

MDF offers great versatility and strength, but it is quite heavy. MDO is denser, making it stronger, yet still lighter than MDF.

3. Weather Resistance

MDO can handle different weather conditions better than MDF because of the waterproof resin layer. It can take years before it shows signs of degradation. It may not be as solid as real wood panels, but it can handle friction and other conditions better.

MDF, on the other hand, will respond to changes in humidity. Moisture can cause the MDF to swell, which is why it isn’t ideal for outdoor use. If the moisture content is high, it makes it more susceptible to fungi and termites that could destroy the wood.

4. Application

MDF is primarily used for indoor application because of its poor moisture. Because MDO provides better weather resistance, it is often the choice for anything outdoors. For indoors, you can use either MDF or MDO, but generally, MDF is good enough.

KidKraft Nantucket Table & 4 Pastel Chairs

KidKraft Nantucket Table & 4 Pastel Chairs – MDF & Rubber wood – Via Amazon.com

For bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms and other areas that are prone to wetness, consider using moisture resistant MDF.

5. Price

Both are fairly affordable and accessible, but because MDO is stronger and more durable, it is more expensive than MDF. Both are generally cheaper than regular hardwood.

6. Ease of Use

Both materials are fairly easy to use. However, cutting MDF can be quite messy and it should be cut in a well ventilated room or one with a dust collection system. Here are more tips on using MDF and MDO:

  • MDF has a non-directional grain which makes it a good all-around gluing surface.
  • When transporting MDF, fully cover it with a waterproof covering for protection. You should also stack it properly and avoid putting heavy materials that can distort its shape.
  • Always wear your safety gear including a mask, goggles, sleeves, and gloves. MDF and MDO contain formaldehyde and other chemicals that could be dangerous for the health.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s Material Safety Data Sheet. It should contain information about health and safety guidelines related to the material.
  • Use a high-speed drill and back it up with scrap material to avoid chipping. Drill at least 1/4 in from the panel edge.
  • Cut the wood while also backing it with scrap material to avoid chipping.
  • Both MDO and MDF have easy painting surfaces, but the edges should be sealed properly.  Fill the edges first before applying the paint.

III. Conclusion

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MDO and MDF are more different than similar. The biggest difference is that MDO is generally better, especially for outdoor use. It is also slightly more expensive because it is more durable and strong.

Did you find this helpful? Do you have other questions about MDO and MDF?  If you do, feel free to use the comment section below, and we’ll try to answer to the best of our abilities.