Choose the right screws
To keep the chance of splitting as low as possible, it's essential to opt for a screw with a small diameter and preferably a straight rather than a tapered screw. This will reduce the amount of tearing it causes to the fibres. Long and thin screws are preferable for use with MDF. You might use MDF screws instead of standard wood screws, fully threaded screws, type A or AB sheet-metal screws, or Twin Fast screws to join your boards.
Clamp the sides of the sheet
Clamping the sides of the sheet of MDF makes it very hard for the material to split. You can use a handscrew clamp to do this.
Make a pilot hole
The best way to avoid splitting is by using a pilot hole. Pre-drilling a hole in the board means less tearing of fibres, reducing the chance of splits. It's essential to use a very sharp drill, such as a brad point drill, to pre-drill the pilot hole. You will need a drill bit with a diameter just slightly smaller than the root of the screw and drill the hole a little deeper than the screw's length. If you drill slightly deeper than necessary, this ensures that the MDF doesn't split if you accidentally screw in too far.
To make sure you get the size of the pilot hole right, it can be helpful to practise on a scrap piece of material first.
Use a countersink bit
A good trick is to use a countersink bit for the head of the screw to rest in. This prevents the screw head from forcing the fibres apart and causing a split. Plus, it looks nice and neat in your MDF panel.
Or use epoxy for more strength
After drilling your pilot hole, you might drop a small amount of epoxy into the hole before screwing. This helps secure the screw to the board for strong joints with less risk of splitting.
Avoid screwing near the edge
Another tip is to avoid driving your screws into MDF too close to its edges where the fibres are weaker. This way, even if the sheet splits a little, it won't end up cracking to the edge of the board. We recommend avoiding screwing within 75mm of the edge of your MDF.
Don't tighten your screws too much
Over-tightening your screws can sometimes lead to breakages. MDF is less robust than natural timber due to its use of wood fibres. Take care to tighten your screws firmly but not too much.