Finishes & Furnishings

Formaldehyde-free MDF


Construction particleboard made with adhesives that do not contain formaldehyde.

Building Use
bullet highrise office
bullet lowrise office
bullet highrise apartment
bullet lowrise apartment
bullet retail
bullet food service
bullet institutional
bullet arena
Building Type
bullet new
bullet retrofit


bullet mature technology

Fibreboard, sheet material made from glued and pressed softwood dust or chips, is commonly used throughout the building construction industry. Fibreboard is strong and has a stable, smooth and scratch-resistant surface. Because fibreboard is made from waste produced during wood processing, it is an efficient use of forest resources. Conventional medium density fibreboard (MDF) contains urea-formaldehyde or phenol-formaldehyde, which off-gasses into interior air. The health impacts of formaldehyde has prompted many building designers to specify formaldehyde-free fibreboard where possible.

Formaldehyde-free MDF is marketed under several trade names; two of the best known are Medex and Medite II. The only formaldehyde in these products is that which occurs naturally in the wood, since the adhesive used in production is a polyurea resin. Standardized tests indicate that the formaldehyde levels from both products is 0.04 ppm, well below most indoor air quality standards. Both Medex and Medite II are homogeneous, industrial-grade panels made from softwoods and are water resistant for exterior use with a proper finishing. The manufacturer of Medite claims that no commercially viable tree has been cut solely to provide wood for their products.

There are other low-emission fibreboards. Most of these are bound with phenol-formaldehyde, which does not off-gas as much formaldehyde as do products made with urea formaldehyde. Rodman Industries produces a low-toxicity particleboard from waste sawdust; the binder is phenol-formaldehyde.

bullet decreases off-gassing of formaldehyde
bullet reduces potential for water damage
bullet higher cost than conventional fibreboard 

Two cautions need to be observed when Medite II and Medex are used because of indoor air quality concerns. Neither product should be stored with materials that can emit and formaldehyde. They should be installed with adhesives, coatings, and finishes that are formaldehyde-free.

Urea formaldehyde-free fibreboard can be used in the same way as conventional fibreboard, but with the added caution of greater potential for water damage. Because not all standard sizes are caried in stock, a good amount of lead time should be allowed when ordering.

Medex is considerably more expensive than conventional particleboard; Medite II is lower in price, although still more costly than particleboard.

Current Examples
Green on the Grand

Example Manufacturers
Medite Corporation
A Division of Sierrapine Ltd.
2685 North Pacific Highway
Medford OR
USA  97501
tel 1 800 676 3339
fax 1 541 773 2522

Rodman Industries
P.O. Box 88
Oconomowoc WI
USA  53066
tel 1 414 569 5820
fax 1 715 735 6148

Information Sources:
Leclair, Kim and David Rousseau. Environmental by Design: A Sourcebook of Environmentally Aware Material Choices. Hartley & Marks Publishers, Vancouver: 1992.

Environmental Building News Web Site

Advanced Buildings Technologies & Practices