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OSB, MDF & Particleboard What's the Difference?

Trying to figure out the differences between plywood can be confusing enough. But deciding which reconstituted wood product (like OSB, MDF and particleboard) to use can be a nightmare if you're not familiar with them. Use the chart below to help plan the materials for your next project. Reconstituted woods products are made by mixing leftover wood parts with glue or resin at high heat and pressure. Since they don't have a grain pattern, they won't bow or warp like traditional plywood.

What Is MDF?
What Is Particleboard?
What Is OSB?
Where to Use MDF, Particleboard and MDF

Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF)
What is MDF?

MDF is a waste-wood product that is made with fine wood fiber.


What Is Particleboard?

Particleboard is a waste-wood product that is made by mixing sawdust. Although it won't bow or warp like plywood, it does swell and become unstable when exposed to water.


Oriented Strand Board (OSB)
What is OSB?

OSB is an engineered wood product that is made with flakes or large chips of wood. The panels are formed from layers or plies glued together with their strands at ninety-degree angles to one another. The cross orientation of the layers adds strength to the panels and makes OSB well suited for use as a structure board.


Where to Use MDF, Particleboard and OSB






Furniture, Shelving, Cabinetry, Molding

Furniture, Underlayment, Substrate for countertop.

Sheathing, Underlayment

Cutting and Shaping

Easily milled with all power tools. Resists tear out.

Can be milled with all power tools. Moderate tear out.

Can be cut with all power saws.

Since this product is a structure board, it is not suited to shaping, sanding, or other milling operations.


Laminate, Veneer, Paint

Laminate, Veneer

Paints and primers will adhere to OSB, however the board is designed for use as an underlayment or sheathing and shouldn't require finishing.

WARNING: Due to the resins and glues used in manufacturing, waste-wood products produce an inordinate amount of fine dust when machined or sanded. And, since the dust from waste wood products can be more harmful than natural timber products, always wear goggles and a dust mask.


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