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Which is greener - MDF or FJ trim

Matt's picture

Which is greener - MDF or fingerjoint wood trim - and why?  The application is simple painted casings and base in starter homes.

Does MDF offgas some bad stuff?  I'm assuming FJ wood is pretty good in that respect.

Edited 8/6/2009 9:01 pm ET by Matt


(post #157773, reply #1 of 9)

According to tests done by the CMHC looking at kitchen cabinets, if the MDF is primed, the rate of offgassing is so low that the levels of any toxins released are easily dissipated in a house with acceptable levels of air changes.

(post #157773, reply #2 of 9)

There are options like this:

(post #157773, reply #3 of 9)


Yea... Googling around all I found was "information" from various companies selling products...  I was more looking for nonpartisan opinions and maybe some actual data - as opposed to sales info....


(post #157773, reply #4 of 9)

Both are made from scrap wood. FJ will have much lower glue content.


(post #157773, reply #5 of 9)

as a designer and a liberal tree-hugger, I believe all this talk about green is getting distorted.
Isn't pine a fast growing species? No need for chemicals to hold it together and factory processes with waste and runoff? If it's built to last, isn't there a better chance that it will be a long time before it will wind up as landfill? We are being fed so much #### and can't tell what's real any more.

(post #157773, reply #6 of 9)

I'm with ya.....

On this project I'm working on the designer who is also a company employee said: "We need to identify items that could be considered green so we can use these as a marketing stratigy.  My response "Oh - so we are gonna green wash it! HAHAHA"  :-)  (no body laughed but me).  I think the comment went over the heads of everyone in the room.  Which is probably good as I don't want to be seen as a "non team player" - not in these economic times....


(post #157773, reply #8 of 9)

Hey Matt,
I'm afraid we who have worked in corporate life have all been encouraged to take this path. Not long before leaving my engineering responsibilities, the green movement got to be the buzz. Unfortunately, it can actually be detrimental to the environment we are professing to be improving. There are just some products that are difficult to improve, but worse may be the processes used to provide "green" may be dirty and profit is the real gain.

In your position, there may be an opportunity to provide a real solution to what others want to cover over with green. If not, at least make it so it has longevity. The Japanese used to revere the tree that was sacrificed for construction material, similar to the primatives respect for the life they took to feed themselves.
Good luck.

(post #157773, reply #9 of 9)

A little more background.  I myself recently became a CGP (Certified Green Professional).  This is a NAHB certification, which truth be told isn't hard to get.  It goes along with the HAHB Green building program.  As of now I have not had the opportunity to build a green certified home.  I want to though.

For now though, builders and building types like myself are hanging on by their fingertips on the financial disaster cliff.   To build some green specs now at above market prices for similar sized homes would almost certainly spell financial disaster.  In NC right now we have around an 11% unemployment rate.  In the new home construction business I think it is closer to 30%.  My actual job title is "construction superintendent".  I fully believe that construction superintendents in our local economy are 'enjoying'  80% unemployment!!!!  Luckily, I do have a job right now.

So Yes I would love to build green but I won't be the one to put myself in the soup line just to have a shot at doing the right thing.

Hopefully, we will find a presale home to build with a home buyer who both is willing to pay the extra for green and the 'green' to back it up.


(post #157773, reply #7 of 9)

They both use wood that would otherwise be waste.

FJ will offgas less than regular mdf, but medex ( mdf is moisture-resistant and formaldehyde free.

Another way to look at it though is that to be truly green, using waste wood encourages tree plantations managed for quick growth.  Using prime lumber instead may seem wasteful, but you are putting a value on forests managed for long-term growth.  We use solid poplar and C-select white pine for almost all of our interior trim, and C-select pine for most exterior trim.