MDF or Particle Board for a Stage?

Discussion in 'Home Theater Projects' started by Bill*L, Sep 24, 2003.

  1. Bill*L

    Bill*L Extra

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    I am building a stage in my FROG that I am turning into a dedicated HT. I went to local hardware store explaining what I wanted to do and that I needed to buy sheets of MDF for the flooring. They told me that I was crazy and that I should use particle board instead and save the money. The guy told me that it was the exact same stuff just cheaper. I want to do this right and thinking he may be leading me in the wrong direction on this. Can someone give me some advice on whether MDF and particle board should be used for this?
     
  2. Keith Outhouse

    Keith Outhouse Stunt Coordinator

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    MDF is just finer particles than particle board. Either should be fine. You should probably go with 1" thick (or glue up two 1/2" pieces) for strength unless it's not going to get traffic. OSB (Oriented Strand Board) could also be a good choice to save money. It's commonly used as a roof underlayment or wall sheathing. In any case, be sure to seal with a primer such as Kilz to keep possible water / moisture damage from happening.
     
  3. Ron-P

    Ron-P Producer

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    First off, MDF is not the "exact same" as particle. Sure, the process of making it is similar, but MDF is much denser then particle, stronger and much easier to work with (it won't crumble on you).

    What are you going to be using the stage for? Will speakers be sitting on it, a sub perhaps? You want dense material. The harder the material, the better sound waves will travel. Also, you should insulate your stage with either sand or fiberglass insulation.


    Peace Out~[​IMG]
     
  4. MikeWh

    MikeWh Second Unit

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    Personally, I am not a fan of particleboard. Last time I've used it for any project was at least 20 years ago. Regardless, you could still use it if there aren't other reasons not to. My biggest concern in your application is the edge of the stage-- particleboard doesn't handle edge wear as well... (see my #3 below). Sooo... here are some of the reasons I never use particleboard any more--

    1. Particleboard has a varied surface, at least compared to MDF. You can paint MDF with one coat, and it can provide a very smooth, clean finish. Edges don't take paint well at all, but it's worse with particleboard. I regularly paint MDF-based projects, so this is the PRIMARY reason I use MDF now. As Keith indicated, priming is STRONGLY advised, especially the edges.

    2. Second major advantage of MDF (for me)-- MDF glues up better than particleboard. Wood glue holds better in the finer dust-like fibers of MDF.

    3. As Ron-P mentioned, particleboard has a tendancy to crumble. You didn't mention how you were hoping to finish it, but if there is a chance that it could be smashed along the edge, a big ol' chunk of it can come off. The edge of MDF isn't very strong in this regard, either... but it's more apt to cause an "edge ding" or a slight delamination, than a chunk being removed.

    4. The density of MDF allows for stronger fastening with "normal" screws. You can buy special screws that will provide even better strength when using MDF or particleboard, but I've found that MDF will hold drywall screws or wood screws better than particleboard (mind you, screwing into the edge of either is not recommended).

    5. MDF cuts waaayyyyyy more cleanly than particleboard.... not as cleanly as hardwood, but a nice edge can be produced. For the same reasons (due to its uniform density), you can route the edge of MDF fairly well. Can't do that with particleboard. This issue may not be as important for your use (depending on exactly how you're planning on using it), but if you ever try to use it for other woodworking projects, this is something to consider.


    A warning with either product--- the resins and fine dust from cutting are serious irritants. Use an appropriate mask, or better yet, a respirator. I've burned my throat a couple times by thinking that I'd only be working with it "for only a few cuts."
     
  5. Bill*L

    Bill*L Extra

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    Thanks very much for the advice. I plan on covering it with carpeting once I have it constructed. I will have an edge of about 2 inches to allow for me to run lights under the edge. Everything seems to point to me using MDF. I will have to do some research on finding it though. Home Depot and Lowes do not carry it here so will have to look around. What typically does it cost for a 4x8 sheet of MDF? Thanks again.
     
  6. MikeWh

    MikeWh Second Unit

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  7. MikeWh

    MikeWh Second Unit

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  8. Bill*L

    Bill*L Extra

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    The stage will hold a 65" Mitsubishi Television along with 2 front speakers and a subwoofer. Stage will be approx. 14'X 4' in size and approx. 8" high.

    Thanks
     
  9. MikeWh

    MikeWh Second Unit

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    Oh. Ok.... then there's no traffic to speak of. The 2" overhang with 3/4" MDF should be fine (and wouldn't be advised with particleboard). I'd recommend rounding over the edge for the carpet....

    I made a raised platform for a 280-lb. 50" RPTV using 1/2" MDF on a raised 2x4/2x6 frame. The strength was more than adequate. For you, your problem will be acoustics-- Ron-P's comments are well-advised.
     
  10. Mark McGill

    Mark McGill Stunt Coordinator

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    For what he is using this for, it is better to use an OSB type of plywood meant for flooring. You can get it in 1" thickness. For a riser that has seating you can double it up. You can do this for the stage also.

    The reason to use the flooring OSB is that this is what it is meant for. It handles carpet tacks well and does not chip at the edges or is it difficult to cut. MDF has it's advantages for finish work or exposed work (painted, beveled etc). Obviously you can't or shouldn't paint OSB, although I've seen it done.

    BTW the MDF is usually stocked the next aisle over at Home Depot from the regular plywood.
     
  11. Ron-P

    Ron-P Producer

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  12. MikeWh

    MikeWh Second Unit

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    Ron--
    re: Mark's comment about not painting OSB-- I think he is just reiterating my complaints about a non-flat surface (for particleboard or OSB). I agree with him. If you plan on finishing with a painted surface, OSB is not a good choice... that is, unless you don't care what it looks like. BTW, I used OSB as part of my "subflooring sandwich." Like Mark said, it's one of the primary uses for OSB.

    Mark--
    The only problem I have with OSB for this application is the tread edge for carpeting. Unless you can "ease" the carpet over that top edge, the carpet will have a tendancy to form a hard crease in the carpet backing. Depending on the density of the carpet and the thickness of the underpadding, this can create a visible line along the edge, where the carpet backing shows through. This may not always be the case, but I've seen it on a couple of occasions, and I just thought it could be done better. Sooo... I always add actual stair tread to the edge of this kind of project, or I roundover MDF.
     
  13. Brett Loomis

    Brett Loomis Stunt Coordinator

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    Excellent comments here...My two cents after building a stage/proscenium with rounded/routered front edge and a 2nd row riser are as follows>


    It is no contest when comparing the two:

    3/4" MDF wins hands down at $20/sheet

    Much more dense/heavy to help with sound.
    Easier to cut, paint and surface is very true/consistent.


    Downs sides are extremely fine and lots of fine saw dust that goes everywhere....Cut outside when possible. Second is that a 3/4" sheet of this requires two people to move as it is extremely heavy/dense.

    I used one layer for my stage and riser 16" OC and it is as strong as a brick S***house after all joists/surfaces being glued and screwed.

    Good luck.

    Brett
     

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