Medium-Density Fiberboard (more commonly known as MDF) is a man-made building material used as a substitute for real wood millwork in homes. We most often see it used in trim, cabinetry and interior doors.
This man made material has become very popular in new construction and remodels for a couple of reasons; it’s cheaper than real wood and it looks very nice after it’s been painted.
Remodelers and homeowner alike love this product because of the extra money it puts in their pockets and it looks amazing once the work is complete. Real wood is expensive.
However, our painters have a different take on this product. Painting this product the first time around doesn’t really pose any issues worth mentioning, but when it comes to repaints, it’s a whole different story.
When MDF gets wet, it swells. Attempts to fix the problem in the traditional way (Bondo or other fillers and sanding) are futile and can even make the problem worse. The only way to fix moisture damaged MDF is to replace it.
There are a few areas where MDF should never be used – kitchen or bathroom cabinets and trim in the bathrooms. These are the two areas we see the most failure because of moisture. Window sills are also problematic if the windows have any sort of condensation or leaking problems.
Additionally, if you have a hectic lifestyle with kids and pets, MDF may simply be the wrong choice. If your wood work is going to take a lot of abuse, spending the extra money now on real wood could save you money and headaches down the road.
Most people seem to be satisfied with the MDF product and have experienced great results, but I don’t see this honeymoon phase lasting too much longer. As the product ages, the true test of time is going to bear results and I’m afraid some of the results are not going to be as satisfying as they are at the present time.
Natural materials tend to outperform man made substitutes. This is true for all kinds of materials; not just building materials. For example, natural materials used in clothing and the food we eat are better than man made. Budget restraints may require the use of MDF, but it’s better to make the choice with your eyes wide open so you aren’t disappointed down the road.
Whatever choice you end up making, I hope your project turns out better than you dreamed.