Furniture remains the most important market for European MDF producers
The UK market for wood panel products is dominated by the construction industry, which uses all varieties of panel products for structural, aesthetic and fitting-out purposes.
However, the second most important market for panel producers is furniture. The growth of flat-pack DIY products during the latter part of the 20th century created a demand for both particleboard and MDF that continues to grow strongly.
Its consistent and reliable physical characteristics and the ease with which it can be machined also lend MDF to manufacturing and it is used widely in the manufacturing sector for carcassing and framing.
Norbord produced the world’s first MDF (in 1966 at its factory in New York State) and in 1979 its Cowie factory became the first to produce MDF in the UK.
Today the company manufactures a full range of MDF products for a variety of applications, including light and standard grades and moisture-resistant versions. Its top-quality grade, CaberWood MDF Industrial, is designed specifically for the production of high-grade furniture and fittings. Its consistent close-grained texture ensures clean edges and surfaces that will take a smooth finish.
While the furniture industry is an important consumer of all types of wood product (including expensive high quality hardwoods) the bulk of its production relies on sheet materials and in particular, products like Norbord’s CaberWood MDF.
According to the Wood Panel Products Federation, the UK furniture industry consumes around 28 per cent of all domestically-produced wood panel products, a similar proportion to the total amount of all roundwood products consumed in the UK (the Timber Trades Federation estimates that furniture production accounts for 30% of all imported and domestically produced wood).
The industry is especially important for MDF producers, half of whose total production is consumed by furniture manufacturers. Only 40 per cent of UK MDF goes to the construction industry in stark contrast to particleboard and OSB where construction accounts for 55 per cent and 80 per cent of annual production respectively (source: WPIF).
As a proportion of the UK total, WPIF estimates that MDF accounts for 29% of annual UK consumption of domestically produced panel products (compared to particleboard, 64 per cent, and OSB, 7 per cent).
In 2016, UK MDF production reached 950,000 cu m compared with 320,000 cu m of OSB and 2,310,000 cu m of particleboard. Demand for the product currently exceeds supply and imports remain steady at around 25 per cent. Last year, total UK consumption of MDF reached 1,245,980 cu m.
Demand for MDF is currently growing throughout the UK and Europe. The European Panel Federation reports that MDF production throughout the region grew by 2.7 per cent in 2015 from 11.5 million cu m to 11.8 million cu m.
At the same time, the value of wood furniture production increased 4.4 per cent to €31.2b across the Euro 28 while, in the UK, the market grew by 1.1 per cent.
Norbord is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of engineered wood-based panel products. All products are FSC®-certified and used extensively in the construction, DIY and furniture sectors. Norbord’s brands, SterlingOSB, CaberBoard, CaberWood MDF and ContiBoard are well known and are commonly specified by architects, national housebuilders and specifiers.