MDF cabinet doors are an option to consider if you don’t want to have solid wood in your kitchen. Although the material is often viewed as a cheap alternative for those who cannot afford the best stuff during a kitchen remodel, wooden cabinet doors are not always the best choice for every kitchen. There are times when it is the superior material.
It is essential to understand the differences between medium-density fiberboard and solid wood. MDF cabinet doors are made from wood fibers, resin, and wax. Think of this product as being at a level above plywood. It is durable, stronger, and denser than other forms of pressed board, so it can work in almost any application where a natural wood product would traditionally succeed.
There are several pros and cons of MDF cabinet doors to consider if you’re not doing a full replacement during your kitchen remodeling project. See how many of the following points might apply to your situation.
List of the Pros of MDF Cabinet Doors
1. There are fewer cracking or warping issues with MDF cabinet doors.
MDF is such a useful product that many solid wood cabinets are still going to opt for doors made from this engineered item. It does not crack or warp like regular wood does when it receives exposure to changing levels of humidity and temperature extremes. It still expands and contracts, but the entire board moves as a unit instead of having different elements of the natural grain working against each other. In these two areas, you almost never need to worry about experiencing damage to your doors.
2. You won’t have a noticeable grain on your cabinet doors.
The very fine particles of wood that make up medium-density fiberboard eliminate the noticeable grain that you can see from products made from natural wood. This advantage gives your kitchen a better finish that tends to be smoother, making it the perfect option for painting. Although you won’t get to experience the lines that some people love with solid wood cabinet doors, the consistency levels are a whole lot better when choosing MDF.
This advantage really comes into play when there are excessive knots in the grain of some natural wood doors. Those big circles become weak points where damage could occur to your investment. MDF gives you a smooth surface that provides consistent strength.
3. It is easier to customize MDF cabinet doors.
Solid wood cabinets are usually built to specific measurements based on what a kitchen requires. The doors that come with them can come in a wide variety of different looks and styles. If you choose medium-density fiberboard, then your final décor will look exactly how you want it to be. There are flat-paneled options, inset doors, shaker-style models, raised choices, and several more designs from which to choose.
The reason why this advantage is possible is due to how easily MDF cabinet doors accept customization. You’ll discover that the structure of medium-density fiberboard allows it to be drilled or cut in several different ways without any damage.
4. You can choose options that have high levels of moisture resistance.
If you choose to use solid wood cabinet doors for your home, then you must continue to put some type of sealant on the product if you wish to make it water-resistant. When you opt for medium-density fiberboard, then there are some boards that have a higher level of resistance in this area. There are MDF cabinet doors that are treated specifically for the bathroom or other moisture-intense rooms so that your investment can continue paying dividends instead of needing constant maintenance and repair.
5. MDF cabinet doors are available in larger sizes.
If your cabinet project requires large pieces of wood with no joints, then MDF is going to be your top choice. You can produce bigger doors using this product compared to natural wood. The reason for this advantage is the lightweight nature of this product. When you compare its profile with solid wood, the new doors won’t weigh on your cabinets. They will work with virtually any type of wood in your kitchen. You can also produce the pieces with greater consistency with similar quality levels to manage almost any design.
6. The cost of MDF cabinet doors is cheaper.
This advantage is another reason why manufacturers use MDF cabinet doors with solid wood cabinets. It is a useful option that keeps the prices low. Even though you are going to pay less for this product, it is still as robust in the kitchen or bathroom. It can last for a surprisingly long time with proper maintenance before you’ll need to start thinking about a remodeling project. One of the reasons for this advantage is the fact that it binds to all colors rather easily. The molecular structure of the product can even help you to use less product.
7. It is an environmentally friendly product.
When you choose medium-density fiberboard cabinet doors for your home, then you are using something that was made with recycled wood. The chemicals and resins needed to make the item change that profile somewhat. If you have small children or dogs who like to lick things in your home, then this choice may not be the best one to make. If you want to create a home that minimizes community waste, then this material is worth a closer look.
8. Bug infestation issues are kept to a minimum.
When you have solid wood providing the doors for your cabinets, then this material is more vulnerable to attacks from pests than what you will find with engineered wood. That’s another reason why MDF is the choice for cabinet doors in some areas. If there is a robust presence of termites or cockroaches in your area, then this choice can keep your regular maintenance cost issues down. Rodents won’t chew on it as readily either because of the human-made nature of the product and the VOCs it can contain.
List of the Cons of MDF Cabinet Doors
1. You cannot repair MDF cabinet door scratches very easily.
When you install MDF cabinet doors in your kitchen, then you must be aware of its nature to accept scratches. If you brush up against the surface with a pair of jeans on, that action can be enough to scuff the product. Once a scratch happens, it cannot be easily repair. You could sand a solid wood cabinet door to eliminate surface damage, but that is not a possibility with this product. You’ll need to apply a matching stain to cover the crack, use putty to fill in deep marks, or replace the entire door.
You’ll need to get that scratch repaired right away too because even small dings, cracks, or nicks will weaken the structure of the product. Once you get beyond the protective outer surface, the vulnerable core materials are exposed. If there is a fault or break, then you’re out of luck.
2. MDF cabinet doors do not work well in extreme heat.
If you keep the medium-density fiberboard cabinet doors inside or underneath shade outside on a patio or porch, then you can avoid this disadvantage. When MDF receives exposure to extreme heat, then the core materials of the product can break down. That makes it so that a complete replacement is necessary because it cannot be repaired. This disadvantage is the reason why it is usually not considered to be a useful material to have available for outdoor furniture.
3. It does not retain its value as well as solid wood.
Furniture and cabinetry that is made with solid wood tends to retain its long-term value better than medium-density fiberboard. That doesn’t mean your cabinet doors are going to be cheap if you choose MDF. There are some pricey items made from the engineered product that will make you wonder why the costs are so high. This advantage is more about the long-term value you want to add to your home. There can be a significant reduction over 20 years with MDF, whereas a solid wood product might increase in value by 20% if it receives proactive care and maintenance over time.
4. Some people prefer the natural grain that you can find in wood.
Solid wood is unparalleled in its natural beauty thanks to the grain, tone, and hue of the final product. If you don’t plan to paint your cabinet doors, then it might be the better choice over a medium-density fiberboard design. Different types of wood have unique qualities that you’ll want to consider.
When your preference is for strength, then a red oak might be the best choice to use for your kitchen. Many homeowners choose white oak because of its appearance, even though it offers a weaker profile.
5. You cannot use an aerosol primer with MDF cabinets.
Because the surface of medium-density fiberboard is so smooth, it provides an excellent option for painting. You’ll need to use an oil-based primer to start that process because the spray options tend to soak right into the engineered wood. If that happens, then the surface of the doors will become rough. It will also waste a lot of your time and money. You must also avoid any liquids or water before the product goes through the sealing process because it can swell dramatically in some situations.
6. MDF cabinet doors cannot be stained.
Your only decorating option with medium-density fiberboard is painting. You cannot stain the cabinet doors for the same reason why you can’t use a spray primer. The material will soak everything up and start to swell, providing an uneven closing experience in some situations. Since there isn’t any visible wood grain on MDF either, there really is no point in staining it because the product would simply turn to a different hue.
7. MDF cabinet doors might contain urea-formaldehyde.
There are some medium-density fiberboard products that contain VOCs like urea-formaldehyde. You can minimize the off-gassing that can happen in some kitchens or bathrooms by creating an immediate layer of paint, but you cannot sand or cut the material because of this disadvantage. If you do saw into the cabinet doors for any reason, then you must take care to avoid inhaling any of the particles. Unless it is impractical to do so, you should make any modifications outside while wearing a mask rated to block the MDF particles from going into your air passageways.
8. There is less density to MDF cabinet doors.
When you choose medium-density fiberboard over sold wood for your cabinet doors, then you are choosing a product that is not as dense. That means you need to be careful about how you install the hinges on the doors. The screws typically need to be placed at closer intervals to avoid dropping or stripping issues. It won’t take modifications very well either. You might find that there can be raising issues that happen around the screw or nails that require sanding to smooth out – which could end up damaging the material.
9. Your tools can get blunted quickly when using MDF.
If you are installing medium-density fiberboard cabinet doors by yourself, then you’ll want to take care when using some of your drills and other tools. The extensive use of resins with this product can make it a challenge to produce a desired result. It’s a tough material with which to work, even taking out saws up to three times faster than what you would experience with real wood. This disadvantage is one of the reasons many homeowners decide to go with an alternative product instead of the MDF cabinet doors.
Conclusion of the Pros and Cons of MDF Cabinet Doors
MDF cabinet doors are a simple and useful way to reduce the cost of installing new cabinets. Even solid wood cabinets will use this product for the door because of the cost advantages that are possible. When you care for this material correctly, it can last almost as long as what a non-engineered alternative provides.
You will also discover that medium-density fiberboard can present a number of unique challenges that could be difficult to manage. The most concerning problem is the fact that this material doesn’t always hold screws very well. You’ll find that it can be very easy to strip the screw holes in your doors.
There are times when the pros and cons of MDF cabinet doors make sense. You can also find installation situations where a solid wood product is the better solution. Consider each key point carefully to help you decide if this option could meet the needs of your home.
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.