Masonite vs. MDF: Which to Choose?

Masonite vs. MDF: Which to Choose?

Handyman's World is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

If you are planning to build something out of wood, but don’t want to use solid lumber, two good choices to consider are Masonite and MDF. These two types of engineered wood are similar, although not quite the same.

Let’s figure out exactly what they are and which of the two works best for specific applications.

Masonite vs. MDF: The Basics

Before we talk about the shared similarities and differences between Masonite and MDF, let’s first figure out what they are.

What Is Masonite?

Masonite is a type of hardboard, also known as high-density fiberboard, which is a type of engineered wood. Through a process that uses steam and heat, wood is broken down into fibers. Both natural resins and added adhesives are combined with these fibers, and along with a specific drying and pressing process, results in a sheet of Masonite.

What Is MDF?

MDF stands for medium-density fiberboard. The way it is made is more or less the same as with hardboard or Masonite, although there are some subtle differences. Wood is broken down into fibers, which are then mixed with wax and resin, and then heat pressed into durable sheets. As you can tell by the name of it, medium density fiberboard is not quite as dense as high-density fiberboard or Masonite.

Similarities of Masonite and MDF

Let’s now take a look at the various similarities that Masonite and MDF share.

1. They’re Both Fiberboards

As explained above, one of the most basic similarities here is that both of these products are types of engineered wood, specifically types of fiberboard. They are indeed fairly similar products, although due to their differing densities, there are some big differences, which we will discuss below.

2. They’re Both Cheaper Than Plywood and Solid Lumber

One reason why both MDF and Masonite are fairly popular is because they are both fairly cost-effective. Yes, one of these is more expensive than the other, but they’re both much cheaper than most types of plywood and solid lumber.

3. They Aren’t Waterproof

Both of these types of engineered wood are not waterproof in the least. You really cannot use either of these things for outdoor purposes.

4. They’re Sustainable

Something that does stand out about both MDF and Masonite is the fact that they’re quite sustainable and eco-friendly. Old sawmill scraps and shavings are used to create the wood fibers which are then used to create both Masonite and MDF. You really don’t use newly milled lumber to create either of these things.

Differences Between Masonite and MDF

Now that we know what makes Masonite and MDF similar, let’s take a look at what makes them different.

1. They’re Made Somewhat Differently

Although the manufacturing process for both is similar, hardboard is made using a lot more pressure, which is why it is so much denser.

2. Masonite Is Stronger and More Durable

As you have probably figured out by now, Masonite is the denser and stronger of the two. Although it really shouldn’t be used for structural purposes, it can bear more weight and is more impact-resistant than MDF. Masonite can handle a bit more punishment.

3. Masonite Is Denser and Heavier

Yes, as the name implies, Masonite is denser, and for this reason, it is also heavier. if you have two identical-sized sheets of MDF and Masonite, the Masonite sheet will be much heavier.

4. Masonite Is a Bit More Water-Resistant

Due to the increased density of it, and therefore less space in between the fibers, Masonite is a bit more water-resistant than MDF. Remember, neither are waterproof in the least, but MDF is even worse than Masonite on this front.

5. Masonite Is More Expensive

Although both MDF and Masonite are fairly cost-effective, Masonite is not the cheapest material out there, and it is certainly more expensive than MDF.

6. Overall Appearance and Smoothness

MDF looks a bit smoother and more visually appealing than Masonite. You can still make Masonite look nice, although it’s not quite as visually appealing.

7. Masonite Is Thinner

Masonite may be denser than MDF, but it is also a bit thinner. It takes a much thicker sheet of MDF to achieve the same strength when compared to Masonite.

8. Ease of Painting

If you are looking for something that is easy to paint and stain, then MDF is definitely the better of the two.

Which of the Two Should You Use?

Which of these two building materials you use really depends on your main purpose. For instance, MDF is best used for lower-end furniture, flooring in bathrooms, decorative items, and for things like cabinets and shelves. However, if you are planning on making something like laminate flooring, door skins, backing panels, and high-use furniture, then Masonite is the better of the two materials.


As you can see, both Masonite and MDF serve a variety of purposes. While they might not be the same things, they are similar, and they can both be used for a wide variety of projects.