What is an MDF cabinet?
MDF stands for Medium-density fibreboard, and it means “medium-density fiberboard.” MDF cabinets are more affordable and economical compared to other types of cabinets. It doesn’t seem right to call it an MDF cabinet model, as, in reality, all cabinets, at least on Earth, are made from Medium-density fibreboard (MDF). The core of all cabinets is made from MDF, except for natural wood cabinets. Various kitchen cabinets are made up of two parts that are assembled together during installation.
Kitchen cabinet doors
Please note that all cabinets have a common structure, and the difference lies in the names and cabinet door models. All units are produced from MDF sheets with white coating (melamine sheets), and the material for the cabinet doors is produced and installed according to the customer’s choice. However, when the name “Cabinet X” is mentioned, it refers to a cabinet made from raw MDF with an “X” finish. (As mentioned above, all cabinets are made from raw MDF sheets and coated.) If the used finish has a matte color, it is called “Matte MDF cabinet.”
If the used finish is glossy, it is called “High Gloss cabinets.”
If the used finish is vacuum-pressed, it is called “Membrane cabinets” or “Vacuum-pressed cabinets.”
Therefore, cabinets are named based on the material used for the door finish and appearance.
But what is most popular in the market for MDF cabinets is the matte finish.
For the production of Iranian sheets (MDF core + laminate coating) for making Iranian MDF cabinets, Iranian MDF cores with Iranian laminate coatings are used.
(Examples are the MDF sheets produced by Arian Sina Company)
Laminate coatings are paper with a pattern soaked in adhesive, which is pressed and glued onto the board under pressure and heat.
For the production of foreign sheets (MDF core + laminate coating) for making foreign MDF cabinets, foreign MDF cores with foreign laminate coatings are used.
(Examples are MDF sheets produced by companies like Faramid, Ekstra, and AGT)
But what is the difference between them?
Foreign MDF (Medium-density fibreboard) has a higher fiber density compared to Iranian MDF, which results in better screw retention for installing handles and knobs, and over time, it eliminates the sound of cabinet doors opening and closing.
To distinguish foreign MDF, pay attention to its darker color compared to Iranian MDF, which is due to the use of more adhesive.
Foreign laminates have better color quality and provide a more natural feel compared to Iranian laminates.
Disadvantages of Solid Wood
In its unfinished state, wood is not waterproof. While denser woods like red oak can withstand continuous exposure to moisture, most woods are susceptible to damage. To protect wood, waterproofing is usually necessary.
Warpage and Cracking
Wood expands and contracts with changes in temperature and humidity. As a result, solid wood furniture is prone to warping or even cracking when exposed to fluctuations in temperature and humidity. Cracking is especially noticeable during wood staining. Over time, wood manufacturers have developed construction techniques and structural technologies to minimize warping and cracking.
Susceptibility to Pests – Solid wood is vulnerable to pest infestations compared to engineered wood. To protect wood, it requires regular maintenance and proper finishing.
What is MDF Board?
For those who prefer a more affordable yet still robust alternative to solid wood, there is MDF Wood. What is MDF wood?
MDF stands for Medium-Density Fiberboard, a type of engineered wood. Its full name is Medium-Density Fiberboard. MDF consists of thin sheets made from wood fibers, resin, and wax. When talking about engineered wood, MDF is often considered a step up from plywood. It is denser, stronger, and more durable. For these reasons, it is nearly as versatile as solid wood. Many homeowners tend to look down on MDF wood, assuming it performs poorly when measured against solid wood. However, as mentioned earlier, both solid wood and MDF wood have their pros and cons. There are situations where MDF is the superior choice. Before discussing the pros and cons of MDF Wood, it’s essential to note that there are various types of this engineered wood. They differ in density, size, adhesive type, moisture content, wood species, and thickness. The thicker and denser the MDF board, the higher the cost.
Why is MDF Board Chosen?
In homes, MDF Wood is predominantly used in making cabinet doors. In fact, solid wood cabinets often opt for MDF doors. There are various reasons for this.
MDF Wood doesn’t warp or crack. Like wood, MDF expands and contracts with temperature and humidity fluctuations. However, unlike wood, MDF doesn’t warp. This is because the board, due to its composition, moves as a unit. Even with extreme changes in humidity and temperature, you won’t have to worry about cabinet doors getting damaged.
MDF board is made from very fine particles, meaning it has no noticeable grain. As a result, especially when painted, it provides a smoother and more uniform finish. If you plan to paint cabinet doors, we recommend MDF over solid wood.
Advantages of MDF (Medium-Density Fiberboard) Cabinets:
Toolability of the boards and machining capability.
Smooth and consistent edges.
Concealing imperfections due to the applied finish.
High resistance to compression.
Suitable aesthetic appeal, versatile for various natural looks, and the availability of wood-like finishes.
Disadvantages of MDF (Medium-Density Fiberboard) Cabinets:
The most significant drawback of MDF cabinets is their susceptibility to moisture absorption. Although MDF sheets are laminated with melamine, in areas where they are cut or where the edges are sealed with PVC tape, they can absorb moisture if exposed to it. Over time, this can lead to swelling. Typically, the only part of the cabinet that comes into contact with water is near the sink. Cabinet makers often use PVC (plastic) sink units to prevent this issue, as they are completely waterproof.
Note: The cut edges of cabinet surfaces, especially those near the sink, should be sealed with aquarium-grade water-resistant adhesive to prevent water penetration.
If natural stone surfaces like Corian or quartz are used in the design of MDF cabinets, a noticeable difference in quality becomes evident, and it is advisable to use company-grade surfaces in constructing such cabinets. It’s a common perception that solid wood is the winner in this case, right? This is the most common assumption when comparing wood and MDF. Wood is seen as a sturdy and robust material, while MDF is often perceived as a weaker and cheaper option by many. The reality is that both have their own advantages and disadvantages when it comes to kitchen remodeling. Contrary to popular belief, wood is not always the superior choice. In some situations, an MDF surface may be a better material. For homeowners who are in the process of building or remodeling their homes, understanding the differences between these two materials and their respective characteristics is essential. In the following sections, we will examine both MDF Board and solid wood, highlighting their pros and cons and the best applications for each material.
Solid wood has been the primary material for furniture for centuries. For definition purposes, solid wood refers to natural wood, while the term “engineered wood” refers to various other wood-based materials like MDF Board. While solid wood is composed entirely of wood, engineered wood is a combination of real wood, veneer, fibers, resin, and adhesive.
Advantages of Solid Wood
Strength and Durability – Solid wood is significantly sturdy and robust. If you’re looking for something that will last for decades, solid wood furniture is an excellent choice. Solid wood is so strong that it has been used worldwide for constructing entire buildings and even bridges. However, different types of wood vary in their strength. For example, oak is stronger and more durable than cedar.Aesthetics
In terms of visual appeal, solid wood is unparalleled in its beauty. It possesses exquisite grain patterns that contribute to the furniture’s overall aesthetics. If beauty and style are your top priorities, solid wood is a solid choice. However, just like strength and durability, different types of wood vary in terms of aesthetics. For instance, while red oak is stronger than white oak, white oak is more commonly used because of its superior appearance.
Value – Furniture made from solid wood is often considered to have greater value compared to furniture made from engineered wood, although in some cases, MDF furniture can be quite expensive. For homeowners looking for a better price point for their homes, adding elements of solid wood can increase the price tag.
Easier for customization – Cabinet doors come in various styles, such as shaker-style, flat-panel doors, inset doors, raised-panel doors, and more. The ease of customizing MDF boards is thanks to this variety. MDF boards can be cut and drilled in various ways without suffering any damage.
Some boards have better water resistance. If you intend to use MDF boards in high-moisture areas like bathrooms, you can procure MDF boards specifically designed to be highly water-resistant.
Available in larger sizes than solid wood. If you have a project that requires a large, seamless piece of wood, MDF is a recommended option. Check out the similarities between MDF and solid wood at Wellborn Cabinets.
Finally, MDF is often more cost-effective than solid wood but still offers comparable strength and durability with proper maintenance.
On the downside, MDF boards are easily scratched and cannot be repaired after such damage occurs. This is in contrast to wood, which can be sanded to remove surface imperfections. Additionally, MDF boards do not perform well in extreme heat as the core materials can be affected. For this reason, MDF boards are not a good choice for outdoor furniture.
Where MDF is Used
MDF finds its most prevalent use in kitchen cabinets. Most kitchen cabinets are composed of a combination of solid wood and MDF elements. MDF boards are typically present on cabinet doors and interior panels for reasons mentioned above (easier painting, resistance to warping, etc.).
There are various types of wood, each differing in terms of durability, cost, and appearance. You can take a look at our project gallery to get ideas about your cabinet options. You can combine this with various stains and finishes, allowing you to find something truly unique for your home.
Uniformity in cabinet doors is not as noticeable in MDF cabinets compared to other kitchen cabinets. If you intend to purchase MDF cabinets, it’s advisable to stick with two colors (typically white and brown).
Where MDF Is Used
MDF finds its most prominent use in kitchen cabinets. Most kitchen cabinets are composed of a combination of solid wood and MDF elements. MDF boards are typically used for reasons mentioned above (ease of painting, easy cleaning, non-warping, etc.) on cabinet doors and internal panels. However, it’s not just the kitchen where MDF comes into play. In bathrooms, where there’s high humidity, MDF is the preferred choice over solid wood. This is because it doesn’t get damaged by fluctuations in humidity and temperature. When procuring MDF for use in a bathroom or any other humid environment, ensure it’s specifically moisture-resistant. Natural MDF boards are susceptible to water damage upon contact.
For fire resistance, fire-resistant MDF is recommended. Although this type of MDF is more commonly seen in commercial settings, it can also be used at home, especially in places like the kitchen and bedroom, to provide fire protection.
Another consideration when using MDF is comparing it to plywood. While this isn’t necessarily a comparison you make for kitchen cabinets, in other construction scenarios, choosing between plywood and MDF might be a factor to consider.
MDF can also be purely used for aesthetic purposes. A good example of this is veneering. Unlike years past when wood was the sole material used for veneering, today various materials, including MDF boards, are used. MDF veneer can be customized in many styles and is applicable not only in kitchens but also in living rooms or even bathrooms.
Another area where MDF is utilized is shelving. Whether it’s inside cabinets, open wall shelves, or bookshelves, MDF is preferred due to its smoother surface. However, be cautious about placing heavy weights on it as it may sag over time. If you plan to put heavy loads on MDF shelves, consider reinforcing them with solid wood.
Finally, MDF is widely used for both interior and exterior doors. Custom-made MDF boards are stylish, durable, and resilient. In fact, MDF doors can offer more customization options compared to solid wood doors.
Both types of wood are good, and we can’t definitively say one is superior to the other. This is because both have their pros and cons, and there are situations where one might be better than the other. However, when it comes to cabinet doors, we highly recommend MDF Wood. It offers many advantages over solid wood.
If you’re in the process of upgrading your kitchen, consider cabinets with MDF doors. As always, we’re here to assist with any questions or inquiries regarding the use of MDF in your home.
Frequently Asked Questions About MDF Cabinets
What is MDF?
MDF stands for Medium-density fibreboard, which means “medium-density fiberboard.”
What are High Gloss MDF Cabinets?
If the finish used on kitchen cabinets is glossy, they are referred to as High Gloss cabinets.
What is Membrane Cabinet with MDF Core?
If the used finish is vacuum-pressed, it’s called a membrane cabinet or vacuum-pressed cabinet.
What is MDF Board?
MDF stands for Medium-density fibreboard. It consists of thin sheets made from wood fibers, resin, and wax.
What is the difference between Iranian and foreign MDF?
Foreign MDF cores have a higher fiber density compared to Iranian ones, which results in better screw retention for installing knobs and handles, and over time, it doesn’t produce the sound of doors opening and closing.
How can we distinguish between foreign and Iranian MDF?
To distinguish foreign MDF, pay attention to the MDF core; Iranian MDF cores are generally darker due to the use of more adhesive.
Do MDF cabinets have good quality?
You might think that due to their affordable price, these cabinets have low quality, but that’s not the case, and they have decent quality.