MDF vs. Solid Wood?

MDF vs. Solid Wood?

MDF is one of the most sought-after materials for building anything from cabinet doors to furniture, but many homeowners are still wary of it. The assumption is that solid wood will give your cabinets long-term durability, strength, and value. While this is mostly true, there are several places where MDF, or medium-density fiberboard, can actually be the better choice. And so, to make the best choice, it could be helpful to make a pros and cons list for solid wood and MDF cabinets. This way, you will have all the information you need to choose the correct material for your project.


Pro & Cons of MDF

Two floating shelves.

MDF is an engineered building material constructed of thin panels of wood fiber, veneer, resin, and wax. These materials are heated and pressurized into large sheets. From here, you can do pretty much anything with MDF, as it is easily cut for various purposes. MDF is preferred to plywood, as it is denser, stronger, and more durable. MDF has a lot of benefits, let’s check out 6 that make us love this material:

  1. Cost-Effective: MDF is a lot cheaper than solid wood options, but you don’t have to sacrifice any strength or durability. With the proper maintenance, it can also last as long as solid wood.
  2. No Warps & Cracks: MDF expands and contracts with fluctuating temperature and humidity. But due to its structure, this material does not warp or crack. This is because it is produced as large sheets and is a single unit, unlike solid wood doors that are constructed for multiple parts.
  3. Smooth Finish: If you're looking for cabinets with a smooth finish, opt for MDF. If you're thinking of painting your cabinets, we highly recommend MDF for a beautiful smoothness that you can't get from other materials. MDF can be finished with thermofoil, which is a vinyl laminate that is heated and pressurized onto an MDF core.
  4. Water Resistant: If you're installing cabinets in your home's high moisture areas like your bathroom, opt for MDF. Talk to your cabinet retailer and determine what types of MDF have been specifically made to be resistant to water. However, in most cases, MDF should not be used for external construction.
  5. Customizable: From shaker cabinets to inset cabinets, cabinet doors come in a wide variety of styles. If you're looking to opt for one of these styles, go with MDF as it is easier to customize. It is also used in a wide variety of furniture you might not expect. Due to its structure, MDF can easily be drilled into and cut in various ways without causing damage.
  6. Available In Large Quantities: Because MDF is an engineered wood, you can have it manufactured in large quantities. If you're looking for a large piece of wood with no joints, we recommend MDF.

But MDF is not all pros, and does come with a few cons, including the following:

  1. Can't Sand Down Damage: MDF is more difficult to repair than solid wood. With solid wood, scratches can be easily sanded away. But, with MDF, it takes a bit more work.
  2. Not Heat Resistant: MDF does not work well when exposed to extreme heat as it damages the materials it is made of. If you're planning to install cabinets into an outdoor kitchen, avoid using MDF.
  3. Cannot Be Stained: Since it has no grain pattern, MDF cannot be stained. If you are wanted a stained look for your cabinets, you will need to explore solid wood options.

Pros & Cons Of Solid Wood

For decades, solid wood has been the primary material used for furniture and cabinetry around the world. Solid wood is the premier material for furniture and cabinets, as it is strong and sturdy. Most homeowners prefer solid wood over MDF, and here are 5 reasons why:

  1. Durable: If you're looking for a sturdy and robust material to make your cabinetry out of, opt for solid wood. Lasting for decades, solid wood is stronger and lasts years longer than MDF. Keep in mind that certain woods are strong than others, while others last longer.
  2. Great Value: Cabinets made from solid wood tends to have more value than those made from MDF. Adding solid wood cabinets to your home will also increase its value.
  3. Aesthetically Pleasing: If you're looking for a way to beautify your home, opt for solid wood cabinets. No matter what type of wood you choose, all come with a beautiful, aesthetically pleasing grain. For a stunning look, go with maple, red oak, or cherry.
  4. Simple Customization: Even though simple, you can customize solid wood in numerous ways, including color, shape, and finish. The outside edge, inside edge, and panel on the majority of our solid wood-framed cabinet doors are customizable.
  5. Variety in Materials: When it comes to solid wood, you'll have plenty of options for wood species. Various types of wood come in different strength, cost, and look.

Even though solid wood has so much to offer homeowners, it also has a few disadvantages:

  1. Warps & Cracks: In increased temperature and humidity, solid wood will expand and contract, causing it to warp and crack. Luckily, there are methods and technologies that will minimize cracking and warping.
  2. Water Damage: If your cabinets are unfinished, they will not be waterproof. Even though stronger woods are more water-resistant, unfortunately, all wood will be damaged by any sort of moisture. You can protect cabinets by adding a waterproof finish.
  3. Bug Infestation: Due to solid wood being natural, it is more vulnerable to pests. To ensure your cabinets do not become infested by bugs, add the right finishing and maintain it regularly.

MDF vs. Solid Wood

With each having its benefits and disadvantages, you need to know precisely where and when to use it. Here are our recommendations:

  • MDF: Being more water-resistant and available in large quantities, MDF is the perfect material to use in almost any room in your home. If you have an outdoor kitchen or any outdoor space that needs cabinetry, avoid MDF as it is not heat resistant.
  • Solid Wood: If you're looking for cabinets that will last you decades, opt for strong and sturdy solid wood. Even though it will look beautiful in every room in your home, it is prone to moisture damage and needs plenty of maintenance.

Our Verdict

A small kitchen with thermofoil cabinets.

Depending on your needs, both solid wood and MDF are great options. Both have incredible attributes that will have them lasting for years to come, so there is no direct winner. MDF is a great choice for homeowners who are on a budget, want a material that takes little to no maintenance and can be easily replaced.

On the other hand, solid wood is an excellent option for homeowners who want cabinetry to last them a lifetime. Even though solid wood needs to be maintained to avoid bug infestation and moisture damage, those can both be easily prevented with the appropriate finish. It is a beautiful addition to a 'forever home' with a growing family.

If you are ready to ordering or if you need assistance, feel free to give us a call at 1-844-326-6680 or an email to info@cabinetdoormart.com. Our team is happy to help you with everything from measuring to ordering.