A discussion about the superiority of MDF vs Solid Wood for painted applications

12 thoughts on “Painted Cabinet Doors – MDF vs Solid Wood

  1. I just watched your video on MDF vs Solid Wood for painted cabinet doors. The speaker did not address how mdf responds to nicks, scratches and other such damage. How does the homeowner repair? And what does the damage look like when this occurs vs. wood.

    1. it responds to nicks and damage about the same as a wood like Cherry might. Since it is only used for paint, you would simply touch up any damage with paint, perhaps filling any nick with a wood filler first. Damage is easier to conceal than on stained wood as you dont need to worry about wood tone or grain affecting final color. Painted MDF will look just like painted wood once repaired. No difference.

    1. MDF as a DW panel is OK so long as you wipe excess water away and as long as your DW does not vent steam in a way that the door panel would be jeopardized. We sell lots of them, but if this is a concern you have, we can do pretty much any MDF door as a solid wood door as well and that will alleviate the issue. So long as the finsish is not penetrated by the water, MDF is fine. Its when water gets under the finish (typically standing water getting into the panel/frame juncture) that it may blister. I appreciate your concerns and the thoughtfulness of your question as this is certainly a good one to be asking!

  2. What about plywood vs mdf? Plywood is stable like mdf but it is lighter. Are there any advantages vs mdf other than moisture resistance. MDF also probably finishes better than plywood.

    1. Plywood is not a great paint surface because the very thin veneer “checks” due to humidity and these micro-fissures can telegraph through to the face of the material. Additionally, plywood would need to be “edgebanded” to cover the cut edges and Conestoga does not paint the edgebanded doors (Savoy and Astoria) due to the banding being more visible after painting. So, if a customer desires to paint plywood one-piece doors, they would have to do the painting.

  3. Great video. Three questions:

    1. On the plywood question, what about plywood panel vs MDF panel? I don’t think plywood expands and contracts like solid wood, but im no expert.

    2. Since mdf doesn’t expand and contract, is there an advantage of glueing the center panel in?

    3. To help keep moisture out of the panel/frame juncture is it best practice to caulk that seem? If yes, what brand/type is best for that application?

    1. Plywood panels are faced with a veneer which will develop micro-checks (miniature splits) in the veneer as it is wood also and expands and contracts with humidity. These can/will show up in the paint finish. For paint, MDF is still the superior product for the panel.

      No need to as the panel should be held in place with space balls or some other panel centering device. Gluing the panel in is certainly up to you if you are painting the doors yourself, but not a necessary step.

      We would not recommend caulking the seam where the panel and frame meet as the caulk can crack over time and look unsightly. Again, if you are painting the doors yourself, you can certainly seal that juncture if you would like (would think any latex caulk would work fine), but it is not done from the factory. Some folks like to use wood doors in their sink area to alleviate any issues with standing water getting into the frame of the door, but this is not necessary if water is wiped away quickly and not left to sit in the panel/frame juncture.

  4. Hi Brian. After reading replies to this video, I see your remark- “So long as the finsish is not penetrated by the water, MDF is fine. Its when water gets under the finish (typically standing water getting into the panel/frame juncture) that it may blister.”
    I have painted MDF doors in my 1 year old kitchen. If water ran down the front of the sink base cabinet and settled on the door panel/frame juncture, how quickly could that cause blistering if not noticed and cleaned up immediately?

    1. If may never cause blistering, but if it settles into that juncture in a good quantity and is left to sit, you could see blistering in a week or less. Depends on how much water got in there.

  5. If my cabinet doors are going to be slab type, does it have a better chance with paint since there are no joints?

    Also I ready that mdf doesn’t hold well to screes etc. so when you place door hardware or himges, is there a chance these will break?

    Thanka you!

    1. Hey Samuel – thank you for your question – sorry for the delay getting back to you. Yes, we recommend using MDF, especially for Slab style doors, when using a painted finish. The MDF will be one-piece, versus the multiple staves of wood glued together when making a solid-wood Slab door. MDF will not expand/contract, whereas the solid wood option would be susceptible to both. The MDF product that we sell is very dense (high quality) and will hold screws well. If you strip the screw hole, you would repair it exactly the same as you would a stripped screw hole in solid wood. Once you have an active quote with us, your assigned Cabinet Coach would be happy to discuss this in more detail with you. Have a great day!

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