Plywood vs MDF vs Particle Board

Difference between plywood, MDF and Particle Board


We have done articles on what are each of Plywood , MDF or HDF and Particle Board. While individually, we have tried to list down the good and the bad of each of them, the usual question that comes to mind is the different between plywood, MDF and particle board.

There are several factors which determine the quality of a material. We are keeping in mind that each of these is used as raw material for making things like kitchen cabinets, wardrobes, office cubicles and basic boxes. Here, these factors are taken and the comparison done for the three materials.


Particle board is by far the cheapest as far as price is concerned. Its because its made using chips of wood which come from wastage and quality of the raw wood used to make these chips is of no concern. A good quality HDF and plywood will be of similar pricing. It is possible to get some very low quality plywood which is cheaper than MDF as well. Its difficult for a person not from interior industry to figure out the quality of the plywood just by looking at it. Hence its better to put trust in a brand which gives good warranties on plywood.


If we have to rate plywood, MDF and particle board on basis of strength, we will rate plywood at the top and particle board at the bottom. MDF is not so bad but not preferred for structural work. Thinner particle board can actually be broken with hand as well making it very fragile.


Grip means the ability of the material to hold on to screws and nails. This ensures that the screws do not come off easily or don’t start moving around inside. To give a better understanding, think of driving a nail into a wall to hang a frame. The wall has cement and POP on top with some sort of brick inside. Why do we use a piece of wood or a dowel to first fill up the hole made and then drive the nail in? Its because the cement can start powdering and slowly, the nail becomes lose. The same logic holds true for these materials as well. Plywood by far is the best material for grip. That is why, coupled with its superior strength, it’s a great material for making framework for cabinets. Particle board is the worst and many times, even within few days, screws start falling off.


What happens when a carpenter tries to work on a particular material? He needs to use hammer, saw and all sorts of machines to make the raw boards into something beautiful. For that reason, its important that the material does not break or split when being machined. Plywood and MDF are good materials for machining. If you are getting on-site work done, good quality plywood and HDF are the best material you can choose. Particle board has a lot of issues with machining and hence is generally used in factories with paper laminates stuck on it which prevent breakage as well as look good.

Durability / Life

I think if you have read this article till here, you will have realized which material have the best durability. Plywood has some ISI standards associated with the kind of treatment that it has gone through. These treatments increase the shelf life of plywood and make it a lot more durable compared to either of MDF or particle board. Particle board is already made using recycled wood and is not made to be able to last beyond few years.

If you are searching for material for homes, preference should be given to plywood for framework. Either of plywood or MDF or HDF (better than MDF) can be used for making shutters. Particle board should only be used in case budget is really a major concern. For offices, particle board works because usage is rough and usual office cabinets are changed in 4-5 years. Cubicles made in particle board become a non-issue since they are placed in one place and never moved from there.

Our comparison engine sorts the quotes of designers and contractors based on the material usage as well which can be of help to you.

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