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MDF Vs Solid Wood: Which is Better for Your Cabinet Doors?

While buying kitchen cabinets (or any cabinet for that matter), homeowners often find it perplexing to choose between MDF vs Wood. The common perception is that solid wood is stronger and sturdier than MDF which many consider being a cheaper and flimsier alternative to solid wood. However, the truth is both solid wood and MDF have their respective pros and cons, which the buyers need to factor in before deciding on cabinets for their kitchen renovation. In this post, let’s talk about the different use cases of both solid wood and MDF and finally, which one you should prefer over the other while buying kitchen cabinets.

MDF vs Solid Wood

In layman terms, solid wood is essentially the natural lumber while the MDF is categorized as “engineered wood”. As a matter of fact, engineered wood is a mixture of redwood, fibers, veneers, resin, and adhesives. More often than not, solid wood is primarily used for the construction of cabinets while MDF is used for specific components such as the door center panels. If this makes you conclude that MDF is inferior to solid wood, hold your horses. Read on to find out why cabinet manufacturers use MDF for specific cabinet products.

Why Solid Wood is Used in Kitchen Cabinets

There are many compelling reasons why solid wood is chosen as the primary choice for cabinet construction. Here are some of the reasons.

Strength and Durability

Without a doubt, solid wood is very strong and sturdy, which makes it a compelling choice for furniture manufacturing. Solid wood furniture tends to last decades without a fuss and it’s the very reason why it’s used everywhere from skyscrapers to bridges. However, not all solid wood materials are built alike  – for example, oak is stronger and is likely last longer than, say, cedar.


When it comes to aesthetics, solid wood is second to none. What really helps solid wood stand out from the rest are its beautiful grains and patterns. Just as different solid wood materials have different durability, they also differ in aesthetics too. For example, white oak is more beautiful (hence, more popular in use) than read oak even as the latter is stronger.


Apart from being strong and beautiful, solid wood allows ample customization which makes it a winner for cabinet construction. Being available in a wide range of size, shape, finish, and color, solid wood enables makers to create cabinets that are both sturdy and elegant.


Due to the obvious benefits and prevailing perceptions solid wood enjoy over MDF, it’s invariably considered to offer more value. If you’re a homeowner looking for better pricing for your property, consider adding elements of solid wood to improve the perceived value.

Cons of Solid Wood

Despite having compelling advantages over MDF, solid wood is not always free from weaknesses. In order words, sometimes, MDF is a better choice than solid wood. Here are a few things about solid wood that make it a bad idea.

Moisture Damage

Most solid woods are prone to water and moisture damage, especially in an unfinished state although strong woods such as red oak can endure constant moisture exposure. Therefore, quality waterproofing is a must for solid woods to last longer.

Warping and Cracking

Solid woods tend to expand and contract with the change in temperature and humidity, which makes them a poor choice for cabinet door panels. Most solid woods are highly prone to warping and cracking in hostile temperature. The cracks remain visible even if the cabinets are painted. That’s why MDF is used in center panels in cabinet doors.

Bug Infestation

Unless maintained well, solid woods are highly prone to bug infestation and pest attack. On the other hand, engineered wood such as MDF ward off bugs and require lower maintenance.

What is MDF

MDF aka Medium-Density Fiberboard is a type of engineered wood, consisting of thin panels constructed from wood fiber, wax, and resin. It’s one of the most popular (and cheaper) alternatives to solid wood with its own share of pros and cons. Generally considered superior to plywood for being stronger and denser, MDF can be found in a wide range of cabinet products for its wide applications and durability.

Are Birch Wood Cabinets Strong

Recommended: Check Out These MDF Cabinet Door Styles on Pinterest.

As with any solid woods, MDF boards can also vary in terms of size, density glue type, and moisture content. As a thumb rule, thicker and denser MDF boards tend to be costlier.

MDF Cabinet Doors Pros and Cons

MDF Cabinet Doors Pros and Cons

Homeowners looking for cheaper alternative to solid wood while focusing on sturdiness and resistance, always find MDF a compelling option for furniture, especially kitchen cabinets. Let’s take a look at the benefits of choosing MDF over other types of engineered woods.

Withstand Warping and Cracking

Unlike solid wood, the typical structure of the MDF board, it doesn’t warp or cracking under severe fluctuations in temperature and humidity. This is the main reasons why we use MDF as door center panels in all our cabinets at Maplevilles.

Smooth Finish

Constructed from fine particles, MDF doesn’t have any noticeable grains that are usually found in solid woods. As a result, they have a smoother finish after the paint is applied. Again, this makes MDF a winner over solid wood when it comes to cabinet doors panels.

Easy Customization

Kitchen cabinet doors come in a wide range of styles such as Shaker inset doors (especially in Shaker style cabinets), flat paneled doors, raised doors and so on. Since MDF boards are flexible, they are easy to cut, drill and customize as per the door types.

High Water Resistance

When it comes to water resistance, MDF performs exceptionally well. In fact, some MDF boards are specifically crafted for bath cabinets and they are exceptionally water-resistant.

Cheaper Alternative

Arguably, MDF boards are cheaper than solid woods. With proper maintenance, MDF boards can last as long as some of the solid woods.

MDF Cabinet Doors: Cons

Despite their potential pros, MDF cabinet doors aren’t perfect for certain situations. From being susceptible to water to scratches to heat, MDF cabinet doors may need extra care on your part. Let’s take a look at some of those aspects.

  • MDF cabinet doors aren’t ideal for high temperatures.
  • Compared to wood or plywood, MDF is considered less strong.
  • Since MDF consists of fine particles, it may not be great for holding screws in some circumstances.
  • If not sealed properly, MDF can fall prey to water absorption.
  • Once the MDF get scratches, it’s usually difficult to repair it.

MDF vs Wood Cabinet Doors: Which One is Better?

When it comes to kitchen cabinets, both solid wood and MDF boards play an equally important role in their own merit. While solid wood makes the cabinets sturdy and durable, MDF (especially doors and shelves) offer smoother finisher and tougher resistance to humid temperatures. As a homemaker, you need to consider the various aspects of these wood materials and select your cabinets accordingly.

At Maplevilles, we have a wide range of premium inset cabinets crafted out of solid birch wood and MDF elements. They are sturdy, durable, customizable as well as designed to elevate any modern kitchen decor. Check out our inset cabinet galleries and take your pick.

Give Us A Call At (310) 212-3321 Or Go To Maplevilles Reseller Application.

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