Melamine Vs. MDF: Pros, Cons, and Differences (+ 3 secret Tips)

When it comes down to it, Melamine and MDF are two materials that have transcended the woodworking scene. They are relatively inexpensive and are perfect for several DIY home and office projects. However, we’ve found that many people can’t seem to tell them apart and tend to use one in place of the other.

Melamine, MFC, the acronym for Melamine Faced Chipboard, is manufactured using wood strands that form particleboard. This strands are then fused with resin-impregnated paper to form a water-resistant type of particleboard. Melamine is used mainly as an overlay for wood, plywood and MDF. On the other hand, MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) is made from fused wood fibers obtained from recycled wood. MDF is quite comparable to natural wood in terms of strength and is perfect for making speaker boxes, cabinets and even flooring.

If you’re still reading, it means you want more information on the differences, similarities and all there is to know about Melamine. Stick around to find out.

What exactly are Melamine and MDF?

Here we’ll be going into the details covering Melamine and MDF. We’ll discuss what they are, how they are formed, and how they differ from one another.

What is Melamine?

Melamine can refer to two things depending on the application. First, it can refer to composite boards made with resin or surfaces laminated with Melamine. In this case, the Melamine serves as a coating for substrates like MDF, plywood, solid wood, and even particleboard.

Melamine Features

Melamine can also function as a laminate and substrate whereby the core of the material is Melamine, and it is surrounded by melamine coating on all sides. The variety of colors, texture, patterns, and grains available give it a wide application range.

When you opt for Melamine, you’ll have no reason to worry about heat, water, chemicals, or scratches affecting the Melamine and base material, whether used as a substrate, a laminate, or both. This is one reason why it sees plenty of use as kitchen cabinets, workbench tops, and wooden bathroom fixtures.

You must however know that Melamine laminates are categorized as low-pressure laminates. Others like the Formica laminate with pressure as high as 1400lbs per inch are classified as high-pressure laminates.

How are Melamine laminates formed?

Melamine laminates are formed using high-pressure lamination processes. This process involves combining formaldehyde and Melamine to produce sheet-like durable plastic, therefore ensuring that the material strength is enhanced considerably.

The pressure applied to attain this durable sheet-like plastic is within 300-500lbs per inch and it results in a laminate that is smooth and easy to clean.

What is MDF?

MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) is a type of engineered wood composite made by gluing wood fibers through the use of resin, heat, and pressure.

It’s crucial that you know that the fibers used to make this engineered wood can be obtained from hard and softwood. Also, since MDF is made from wood fibers and not natural wood, it lacks wood grains.

You further need to be aware that people often tend to mistake MDF for particleboard. However, the difference is relatively easy to spot. While particleboard is made from wood chips and sawdust, which gives it a low-density, MDF is made from wood fibers which means it has better strength.

MDF Features

MDF is also the obvious choice for high-strength applications because they do not expand or contract like natural wood. In addition, they can be treated with chemical preservatives to resist chemicals and insects. These chemicals also make them resistant to mildew and mold.

Additionally, you’ll find MDF that has been treated with chemicals like pentachlorophenol or copper naphthenate are flame retardant. This reduces the possibility of them emitting toxic fumes when burned. Finally, you should also know that their density determines their strength (.75 -.85 refers to higher densities and higher strength).

Differences between Melamine and MDF

To properly compare the performance of Melamine and MDF, we’ll be comparing their differences based off five points.


The durability of MDF and Melamine depends on the conditions they are exposed to. For a while Melamine is both a fireproof, moisture-proof, scratch-proof, and dirt-proof material; the same cannot be said of MDF.

When exposed to heat, MDF will not perform as well as Melamine. They also will not do well when exposed to moisture and are unsuitable for use in bathrooms and kitchens. And except they are made moisture resistant, MDF board will expand and warp.

This doesn’t mean MDF doesn’t have its strengths over Melamine. For one, it is more robust than Melamine when it comes down to raw strength, and it is additionally resistant to termite attacks.


Another difference between these two wood types can be spotted in their toxicity levels. While Melamine is known to be quite resistant to heat, moisture, and even chemicals. The same cannot be said of MDF manufactured using Urea-Formaldehyde glue.

Urea-Formaldehyde, a binding agent, will be released as a gas into the air when MDF is cut.


Still, on the differences between MDF and Melamine, one way to tell them apart is their application. MDF finds excellent use in speaker boxes, cabinets, and shelves. They also perform excellently when used to replace wood veneer. Their lightweight further allows them to be suitable as filler materials.

This makes them the perfect choice when making temporary constructions. Theatre sets and tradeshow booths are perfect examples.

However, you’ll find Melamine to be of great use when making kitchen, bathroom, and office furniture. This is because they are less expensive than plywood which is also useful when making wood fitting for kitchen, bathroom and office purposes.

Melamine is the perfect choice when creating whiteboards, manufacturing floor tiles; making them the more economical option when placed side by side with porcelain and stone.

Density and Stability

In terms of density and stability, Melamine boards win. Melamine is engineered wood produced using leftover wood panels which have more weight than the wood waste products used to manufacture MDF.

Ease of Installing

When it comes down to the ease of shaping, cutting, and installing these different wood types, MDF comes out on top as it is easier to shape. Melamine projects will take longer to complete successfully.

Melamine pros and cons

Now that you’ve gotten to know what Melamine is and how to differentiate it from MDF, it’s time we hit you with the benefits of choosing Melamine and, of course, some of the drawbacks that come with using it.

Benefits of Melamine

First, we start with the fact that recently Melamine has become a very cost-effective alternative to natural wood. The durability of Melamine, which translates to resistance to moisture, heat, chemicals, and dirt, is one reason why its popularity has continued to rise over the years.

Also, when you choose Melamine, you would be saying goodbye to the inconsistent grains that come with solid wood. Its resistance to scratches and wear is also a bonus, and since it has no open pores, it won’t be stained with dirt as quickly as other types of wood.

Drawbacks of Melamine

As we said earlier, Melamine is not without its drawbacks.

The first of which is that even though the melamine-formaldehyde, which serves as a binding agent in the manufacture of Melamine boards, should not be emitted under normal conditions, it is still considered a Carcinogen by the EPA. Formaldehyde, an irritant, can set off respiratory problems and migraines.

Melamine is also known to have the possibility of emitting toxic fumes in the event of a fire. Finally, when subjected to heavy loading conditions; they’ll warp.

MDF pros and cons

Let’s now take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of using MDF wood.


MDF is known for its extra smooth finishing that comes as a result of its being manufactured using wood fibers that are uniform and combine quite nicely. This translates to more pros like being relatively easy to paint and insulative properties that follow adequately primed before painting.

Since MDF has insulative properties, it finds great use in acting as a sound barrier and is also termite-proof and easy to cut and shape.

Finally, this wood type is more budget-friendly when compared to plywood, and since it is made from recycled wood veneers, it will look quite like natural wood.


When working with MDF, the first con you’ll notice is the difficulty that arises when it’s time to nail or screw it. This is because of its not very dense nature, so pilot holes are crucial when trying to nail or insert screws into it. Also, it is known to be very difficult to repair and is prone to dents and scratches.

Finally, they are not designed to absorb water, and when exposed to moisture, you’ll have to deal with warping and splitting.

What is Melamine Best For?

Melamine is best used for creating whiteboards used in most office furniture and countertops that will see much exposure to moisture. They are the perfect and more aesthetic option compared to particle boards when making shelves and cabinets.

Common uses for MDF

MDF is great for making electrical panels and appliances, mainly because of its insulating properties. You’ll also find it helpful when trying to make closets and shelves since it can be treated to absorb moisture and prevent warping to an extent.

MDF can be used to produce furniture, speaker boxes, furniture, and flooring. The use depends on the type you choose.

The exterior grade is the most common, which as we have mentioned, is treatable, and makes MDF warp, moisture, and insect resistant. There is also the cheapest grade which is untreated and suitable for studio use. This type is paintable and appropriate for covered areas.

Melamine vs. MDF cost

The cost of MDF and Melamine, when compared, varies only slightly. They were created to be cost-effective alternatives to natural wood and plywood. But since we are placing them side by side, MDF will be the more expensive choice.

MDF doors have been found to cost as much as Maple framed doors. Not to mention that the low expensive maintenance routine for Melamine also aids in translating to lower cost.

Melamine Vs MDF weight

When placed side by side, MDF weighs more. This is because Melamine is made from wood chips from particleboard that is less dense than the wood fibers and resin used to produce MDF.

Three Secret Tips for Working with Melamine and MDF

Tip #1: The Secret to prevent Chipping in Melamine and MDF

The secret to preventing chipping in Melamine is to first ensure that you use double-sided Melamine or laminate blades.

Melamine blades are specially designed to cut at the same time. Also, we recommend using 60-80 teeth 10″ carbide table saw for the job and setting the saw to cut a ¼” into the Melamine. Finally, ensure that you pull the Melamine through the saw very slow and smoothly.

Tip #2: Tip to remember when Screwing Melamine Boards and

When working with Melamine, you might be tempted to use standard metal or wood screws; please do not succumb to this temptation. Use a drywall screw instead and ensure they are large, from #8 upwards.

Also, you want to make sure that you drill guide holes first and do not drill close to the end of the Melamine.

Tip #3: Tips for working with MDF

Methods used to screw and prevent chipping in MDF are pretty similar. But there’s more to MDF. For example, we recommend using trim nailers in situations where you don’t have the luxury of creating nail holes.

Also, since painting MDF is recommended and since MDF accepts paint well, it is essential to apply paint properly.

First, ensure that you sand the MDF sheets using 100-grit sandpaper, prime the MDF using a solvent-based primer, sand again, leave to dry overnight, wipe away sanding dust and finally paint the MDF.

Final thoughts

You’ll notice that MDF and Melamine, although quite similar, see very diverse applications. For example, Melamine will perform well in moisture while MDF will warp. Ensure you take note of the differences and decipher which will be suitable for the project at hand.

Martin Swizz

Hi! This is Martin, I like to research, experiment, and learn new things related to wood carving and other kinds of woodworking.

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