Sierra Pine’s Medite II and Medex, Excellent Eco-Friendly Plywood Alternatives


Updated 12/11/2011

Just to keep you updated, this is my third installment regarding my favorite top ten green building products that I used when I built my house in 2003 to 2005.    Hands down, my third item on my favorite building products’ list is Sierra Pine’s no added formaldehyde medium density fiber board.

At the time, when I built, Sierra Pine had two brands of  MDF called Medite II and Medex.  Both Medite II and Medex are medium density fiberboards, which are comprised of post industrial/pre-consumer recycled wood fibers bonded together with a  formaldehyde free resin (glue). Medex can be used in high moisture applications.

As I indicated in my prior posts, I would only recommend products that I used to build my house.  Fast forward, a couple years, there are some great eco-friendly products that exist today that did not exist when I built.  However, I would use Sierra Pine’s products again if I had to build a new house today.

How Did I Use the Products?

I used Medite II for all of my wainscoting and some shelves. It can be painted or veneered, and does not need to be edge banded, if you are just painting the MDF.  In my house, the wainscoting is painted and you would never know that it was not wood.

In addition, all of my bathroom cabinets were made of Medex.  I was worried that the bathroom moisture would make the MDF swell.  Consequently, I opted to use Medex because it can be used in high moisture applications. I was being overly cautious, and could have used Medite II.

In the northeast, wood is susceptible to shrinking or swelling during the year. Since I used these eco-friendly MDFs, my cabinets have held up beautifully and my wainscoting pieces have not separated from each other like wood does in the winter. It looks as good as it did the day it was painted.

Why not use Columbia Forest Product’s no added formaldehyde resin plywood if given the choice, you may ask.  It did not exist when my cabinets were being made.  However, I like the fact that both Medite II and Medex are made out of pre-consumer recycled wood fibers. (Update:  Now you can obtain upon request FSC certified Medite II and Medex.)

Some New Kids on the Block

On a side note, since I built, there are more eco-friendly wood composite products on the market. Listed below are a few eco-friendly particleboard and MDF board products.  These boards contain a phenol resin binder which emits a very low level of formaldehyde.

  • Aerris is another Sierra Pine’s no formaldehyde added MDF, which is less expensive than Medex and Medite II.
  •  Rosenburg’s  Skyblend which is a particleboard. (FSC certified particleboard is available upon request.)
  •  Encore, made by Sierra Pine, which is a particleboard.  (FSC certified particleboard is available upon request.)

For a more in-depth discussion of the above products, read my article, “Do You Get a Headache When You Walk into Your Closet?

What’s the Difference Between Fiberboard and Particleboard?

Some of the differences between particleboard and medium density fiberboard are as follows:


Very fine particle waste wood products, much more like layers of paper than wood, make MDF. Particleboard comes from very coarse sawdust mixed with special glues.


MDF is reasonably water-resistant, although you do not want to expose it to water if you can avoid it. Particleboard will soak up water easily, lose its stability and can fall apart.”

For further information, read here.

In addition, as mentioned above, Columbia Forest Products makes a no formaldehyde added plywood.

Which One Should You Use?

What is the difference between all of these products?   It depends on your application and your budget.  Before using anyone of these products, throughly investigation which of the above is the correct product for your project.

Photo courtesy of Sierra Pine

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    Another great blog and one that is becoming increasingly popular as a reference and guide to alternative materials. I am also interest to here how the production and process occurs as often this can be as damaging and therefore reduces its benefit to the ecological savings.

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    It is impossible to over-emphasize the health benefits of using formaldahyde-free wood products when you construct, or remodel your home. Wood, meaning your walls, breathes for years, chemical treatments can be silently leaking into your environment decades after construction is finished. For how many years do you want to be breathing poisons while you sleep?

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    Great post on the alternative mdfs out there. I am wondering where you ended up buying the medite II? My Home Depot has the PureBond plywood, but I can’t seem to find sources for the healthier mdf choices available.

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    With the Sierra Pine MDF (or SDF as they call it, haha)… how’s it on holding screws? I definitely want to be eco-friendly and save money (on utilities, etc.) where I can, but I want to make sure it’s structurally sound first and foremost… any firsthand experience on how well it holds up?

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    The number of eco-conscious and chemical free construction materials being introduced every year is fantastic. Thanks for sharing this, I’ll definitely be on the lookout for Medite MDF when purchasing for my next project.


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