MDF vs Wood Cabinets: Which one is better

If you are in the process of remodeling your cabinets, one of the primary concerns that you have to deal with is choosing the best material available in the market. Traditional or contemporary, to paint or to use laminates, brushed or polished hardware — all these are equally important when it comes to aesthetics, but the material that you use for construction is a critical choice since it will determine the lifespan of your cabinets as well as its performance and maintenance.

For homeowners who are building, renovating or simply giving their cabinets a fresh makeover, knowing the difference between the popular materials available in the market is essential.


Below we give you an overview of two of the most used materials for cabinet doors, solid wood and MDF.



MDF vs Wood Cabinets



There are two types of wood available for use in construction, one is (1) solid wood which simply pertains to natural wood, while the other is (2) engineered wood or manmade wood. Engineered wood, also known as composite wood or manufactured wood, is derived from natural wood. It includes a whole range of products which are manufactured by binding fibers, strands, veneers and particles of natural wood with adhesives and resins.


Solid Wood


Solid wood is the primary construction material used in furniture, interior exterior applications. By definition, solid wood is a piece of natural lumber derived from different species of trees. Solid wood may either softwood or hardwood, and both types can be used in structural and decorative purposes. Softwood is not necessarily softer than hardwood, in the same way that the former is less dense than the latter. Hardwood is derived from deciduous trees or trees which shed its leaves annually, while softwood comes from conifers or those which remain evergreen all year round


Solid wood does not have hollow spaces, that is why it is called solid. It is made up of wood only. Engineered wood products, on the other hand are a form of “wood based product”. It is a composite material which is manufactured by binding together fibers, strands and veneers of real wood with adhesives and resins.


Solid Wood Kitchen Cabinets Pros



Here is a breakdown of the advantages of using solid wood cabinet doors :


Natural beauty – The most prized quality of solid wood kitchen cabinets is its distinct beauty. No other material can match the beautiful natural look of solid wood. Most people are drawn to its natural graining pattern, which can be highlighted further when stained.

In addition, the unparalleled aesthetics of solid wood can instantly make a home feel more inviting, warm and cozy.


There is just something about solid wood which can make a space feel “homey” and most homeowners find this lacking in other synthetic materials like stainless steel or laminated wood which usually gives out a more “clinical” feeling.


Of course, each species of wood has different aesthetic qualities – white oak looks better than red oak, cherry wood cabinets have a warmer color when compared to maple which is lighter. But overall, solid wood is the best choice for homeowners who value aesthetics and style above all else.



Extreme durability and reliable strength – Solid wood is one of the strongest and sturdiest construction materials in the market. For years, its impressive durability has been proven and tested effective not only for interior use but also for exterior and structural use. It is naturally tough and can withstand years of use.


Each species of wood has different levels of strength. This is extra useful because you can choose the right type which will fit the application you intend it for. Oak, for example, is much more stronger than cedar, therefore it will last longer and is more resilient to daily wear and tear, making it an excellent material for cabinets.



Long lifespan – Solid wood is an outstanding choice if you are looking for a material which will last for decades. In fact, solid wood kitchen cabinets have an average lifespan of 50 years, provided that they are constructed well. Since each species of wood has varying levels of strength, the longevity of its lifespan is also different from each other.


Flexibility, versatility and customization – Solid wood can be easily customized in numerous ways. It can be modified into different shapes, treated with different finishes and colored using different materials like paint, wood stains, varnish, lacquer, etc.


Solid wood is also very versatile when it comes to design. Because of customization, solid wood kitchen cabinets can be designed to suit any interior design style whether it may be traditional, country, transitional, contemporary or modern.


Wide variety – There are thousands of species of wood and each one has their own distinct look, strength and durability. You can choose from a myriad of wood types which will fit your taste, design and budget. Whether you want light or dark wood cabinets, because of the variety and versatility, you can produce a solid wood cabinet design which is uniquely your own.


High value – Items made from solid wood generally have more value compared to those which are made up of engineered wood. Solid wood kitchen cabinets can also increase the value of your home not only because of the added visual interest but also because of its long lifespan and durability.


Cost effective – Although MDF is cheaper than solid wood, the latter proves to be a reasonable investment because of the numerous benefits it offers.



Solid Wood Kitchen Cabinets Cons


Here is a breakdown of the disadvantages of using solid wood cabinet doors :


Sensitive to moisture – Wood, in its original state, is not waterproof and not all species can withstand excessive exposure to moisture and changing humidity and temperature. Moisture can cause the wood to soften and make it susceptible to fungus and wet rot. These problems can become expensive to treat.


While some species like the Red Oak can withstand constant exposure to moisture, most woods can get damaged from it. However, this weakness can be rectified by treating the wood with a waterproof finish. Consequently, special treatments translates to additional cost in terms of construction and production of solid wood kitchen cabinets.


Prone to warping, expanding and cracking – Changes in humidity, varying temperature and aging can cause the wood to expand or contract. Warping, twisting, swelling, shrinking and cracking are also potential damages which arise from the constant exposure to changing elements. Unless your home has a controlled climate, solid wood kitchen cabinets may warp or crack over time. When a kitchen cabinet door contracts or expands, functionality is reduced as it may not fully close. This damages are also noticeable and can be an eyesore.


Prone to the growth of molds, mildew and bacteria – Constant exposure to changing elements and temperature can increase the likelihood of mold and mildew. Solid wood is more prone to this than MDF varieties. Leaking faucets and sinks can create an environment where mold and mildew are more prevalent and should be monitored to avoid problems.


Prone to pests – One of the greatest drawbacks of solid wood kitchen cabinets is that a lot of insects and pests are attracted to it. Carpenter bees, ants, powderpost beetles, wood devouring fungi and termites are common wood destroying pests which you have to deal with ,and more often, they are hard to treat, expensive to eradicate and can do great damage which are often not visible to the naked eye and costs a lot of money to repair. Unlike engineered wood, solid wood needs regular maintenance and has to be treated to keep it protected from bug infestation.


Termite infestation is one of the most dreaded threats to solid wood kitchen cabinets and dealing with this problem can be a huge stress to homeowners. As we all know, once a part of a home gets pestered with termites, you have to get the whole house treated, or else the damage can spread and unsalvageable.


Combustable – Wood is a combustible material and can burn. Even though it can be treated, wood will still burn, making it less than ideal to use in applications where fire safety is a priority.


MDF Cabinets



What is MDF? If you are looking for a cheap yet strong alternative to solid wood, one of the most common materials you’ll find in the market is MDF. MDF stands for Medium Density Fiberboard , a type of engineered wood that is consisted of thin panels made from a combination of wood fibers, resin and wax. The wood fibers can either be derived from softwood or hardwood, ground up into tiny little pieces, mixed with resin and wax, then heated up and pressed together to create a fiberboard.


How does it differ from other boards? Ever wondered why MDF is classified as medium? And what is this gauge relative to? To give a quick overview, fiberboard is classified into different densities, namely low density fiberboard, medium density fiberboard and high density fiberboard. Low density fiberboard or LDF, which is also known as particle board, is made from finer pieces of wood fibers and sawdust and has a density of 160 to 450 kilograms per cubic meter.


Although generally inexpensive, in terms of durability, LDF is weaker than MDF and HDF. High density fiberboard or HDF, is the hardest of the three and has a density of 800 to 1040 kilograms per cubic meter, that is why it is also referred to as “hardboard”. High density fiberboard requires more heat and pressure to make it more durable. Compared to its softer counterparts, HDF is very strong but is also the most expensive one.


Now, MDF or medium density fiberboard, as its name suggests is somewhat in between the two and has a density of 600 to 800 kilograms per cubic meter. It has just the right amount of hardness and thickness to make it suitable for cabinet use and its price is also reasonable.

Compared to other types of engineered wood, MDF is often considered a level above plywood in terms of density, strength and durability. Because of these, it can be used in the same applicati