Industrial MDF on an upward growth curve

It’s hard to imagine where the interior fit-out market would be today without Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF). This versatile material – first manufactured in the UK by Norbord in 1979 – is used for a wide range of on-site applications, both in sheet form and as pre-formed profiles for architraves and skirtings.

But MDF is also one of the basic raw materials for the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom (KBB) industry and large volumes are consumed by the manufacturers of fitted kitchens, bathrooms and bedroom furniture.

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 m3 to 11.8 million m3.

Manufacturers of products such as door and drawer fronts, fitted wardrobes and kitchen worktops are now major consumers of high quality MDF, such as Norbord’s CaberWood Industrial which is formulated to give a superior routed finish, especially with the more angular deep profiles in use today.

The KBB market has increased steadily since 2013. Market analyst JKMR calculated that the UK market for fitted kitchen products grew by 5 per cent in 2013 when the total value exceeded £3bn.

The KBB market grew a further 7 per cent in 2015, with bathroom products representing the largest sector, followed by kitchen furniture, worktops and sinks.

Another important industrial market for MDF is residential doors. Traditionally dominated by solid timber, the door market is now highly dependent on MDF which is one of the principal materials in today’s composite doors.

With its ability to be easily moulded and textured to mimic natural wood, MDF has become a cost-effective favourite with door manufacturers and consumers alike.

A study of the sector published last year by AMA Research revealed that the UK residential door market grew by 7 per cent in 2015 to around £700m, the decline suffered during the downturn having been almost completely reversed due to greater confidence in the home improvement sector.

The report found that “composite doors in particular have continued to take share across all sectors of the market”. Manufacturers that originally focused on single materials (aluminium, PVC and timber) had extended their product ranges to include ‘alternative’ products including MDF. “It is likely that composites will continue to gain share of the entrance door market, mainly at the expense of PVC-u,” said the report, which estimates that the UK market could be worth £800m by the end of 2018.

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