Difference between PVC Foam Boards and MDF

To compare the properties of MDF and PVC foam boards, it is good to first describe their structure. Medium-density fibreboard (MDF) is an engineered wood product made by breaking down hardwood or softwood residuals into wood fibers combining it with phenol formaldehyde resins, and forming it into panels by applying high temperature and pressure. In PVC foam boards, over 90% is made of PVC and carbonate and the remainder comprises PVC additives. It is worth noting that PVC foam boards are much lighter than conventional PVCs because of the bubbles in them (density 0.4 g/m3 compared to 1.3 g/m3).

However, the first difference between these products is their specific gravity, such that 1 m2 of 16-mm MDF sheet weighs 0.9 grams and the same PVC foam board weighs between 0.4 and 0.6 grams. MDF compression gives it relatively high mechanical properties, which is one of the most important advantages of MDF sheets over PVC foam boards.

Disadvantages of MDF sheets such as releasing toxic gases resulting from the decomposition of phenol formaldehyde resin over time, high sensitivity to moisture and low insect resistance, have led to the continuous use of PVC foam boards in various applications. Another difference between these products is their return to the production cycle. MDF is not recyclable because of the thermoset nature of phenol formaldehyde resin. Decomposition of these substances in nature is also time consuming and introduces toxins into nature. PVC foam boards, on the other hand, have the potential to be recycled and reproduced despite being undegradable in nature, which makes their impact on nature much less than MDF. Today, the use of MDF is restricted in developed countries due to environmental considerations.

Alongside these differences, there are many similarities between these products, which have led to their similar applications. Coatability with various films and sheets, such as melamine and high gloss paint etc. is among these similarities. Although both MDF and PVC foam boards are not fire resistant, PVC foam boards are a self-extinguishing such that they extinguish spontaneously by removing the flame source.