If you've been avoiding anything and everything that says MDF... Think Again! So, kitchen cabinet boxes (the sides, back, top, and bottom) constructed using MDF (medium density fiberboard) is a huge NO-NO, but would you believe that MDF on at least part of your cabinet door is a huge asset? Really! We're Not Kidding! Read on to learn why an MDF or partially MDF cabinet door is so important and what to look for when you read those super interesting cabinet specification lists.
There are essentially three different types of kitchen cabinet doors that you will encounter. Traditional Wood Framed Cabinet Doors, MDF Cabinet Doors that are designed to look like a traditional framed door, and MDF Slab Cabinet Doors like the ones found on Eurostyle cabinetry . We'll discuss each of these door styles, where you are likely to encounter them, and why an MDF component is so important to their construction methods.
Traditional Framed Cabinet Doors are constructed using a frame (not to be confused with a cabinet face frame) and center panel. The frame consists of 4 boards used to construct the outer part of the cabinet door. These 4 pieces include a top and bottom piece of solid wood called rails and a left and right piece called stiles. The terms rails and stiles are commonly used together and cabinet door frame construction is one example of a 'rail and stile' application. These pieces are joined together to form the frame of the door.
Next, if you look to your left, or somewhere nearby on your mobile device, you will notice the center of the cabinet door surrounded by the lovely frame we mentioned above. This is the fifth piece used to construct a Traditional Framed Cabinet Door. Cabinet doors and drawers that utilize this traditional construction method are commonly referred to as a 5-Piece Door (five piece door or drawer). The door pictured above, QUICK SHIP Dakota White Kitchen Cabinets, features a raised center panel. Other door styles may feature a flat or recessed center panel.
The center panel, this is where everything gets really interesting, or at least important. Traditionally, before the use of MDF products, these center panels were typically constructed using a single piece of wood. While this sounds beautiful, and even preferable, this is the root of all, or at least most evil. Wood is a natural product that consists of wood grain (tiny, long, striated fibers all touching each other). Structurally, solid pieces of wood really serve a purpose, but in the center of your cabinet door, they can have a tendency to crack, warp, or "cup" essentially creating a deformed door. And, the larger the piece of wood is, the more movement it is capable of. Unfortunately, this warping can occur at almost any time. While some people say it is most likely to happen within the first year, I am constantly reminded of my grandmother's bookcases that I inherited. One now includes a 5-piece door that touches the face frame on 3 out of 4 corners while the last corner sticks out about 3 inches! If you ever want to see some examples of deformed wood, just stop by Home Depot and check out their 70% off lumber cart. These boards are really going places. It's pretty hard to believe they ever started out as a straight piece of lumber. So if a solid board can create so much trouble, what is the solution?? MDF.
MDF is now the gold standard for cabinet door center panels. It does not have a tendency to warp or crack since it does not respond to humidity like solid wood products. MDF is often used in painted cabinet doors as it can be used to create a super smooth finish. MDF panels can also be covered in a wood veneer that gives them the appearance of a true piece of solid wood without the risk of a warped center panel. Veneer covered MDF can be stained to match since the veneer used is actual wood. Now you may ask, why is it important for only the center panel to be MDF, but not the entire door? Well, the center panel is the widest component and therefor the one that would be the most likely to produce a warping defect. It is still possible for a rail or stile made of solid wood to warp, but it is much less likely and since the rails and stiles are significantly more narrow, any tendency to warp would be much less noticeable. However, never say never! Every product will have pros and cons. If you really want to enjoy the true beauty of natural wood products, this greatly improved door design does still have a minimal risk. If you would like to eliminate that risk altogether, then let's see door style number two...
The Newport Blue Shaker Cabinet Door to the right is a trendy example of an MDF door. This door is made to resemble a 5-Piece Door, but it is constructed using only MDF. Some people hear this and cringe, but I think everyone just has a bad taste in their mouth from so many cabinet manufacturers using MDF in places it just doesn't belong. As I said earlier, MDF can be used to create an almost perfectly smooth finish. By completely eliminating the solid wood components, you end up with a door that is not prone to twists and warps. Then when you factor in the painted finish, an MDF door will be much less likely to develop hairline cracks in the paint like the ones associated with a wood framed door. MDF is definitely right at home as a kitchen cabinet door. It's only job is to sit flat and look pretty... Mission Accomplished! If you're considering a painted door cabinet style, you should absolutely consider MDF doors, but if MDF doors aren't for you, wood framed cabinet doors are still a good option.
Our third cabinet door type can be found in a variety of door styles including the Carolina White Shaker Cabinet Door to the left. This cabinet door is constructed using a solid piece of MDF that has been routed out to create a shaker design door with visible decorative rail and stile joints. The door is then finished with a laminate style thermofoil finish. Thermofoil wraps and encases the outer portion of the cabinet door, including the door face and sides, to create an easy maintenance finish. Thermofoil doors are cherished because you can wipe them clean with a damp cloth. If you have pets, children, or are just a little messy yourself, a thermofoil door may be a good choice for you, but be warned, there is a downside. While thermofoil may be easy to clean, it can be easily damaged around heat sources and must be protected. If you choose this door style, it is important to protect your cabinets by installing a heat shield around your range, oven, dishwasher, and other appliances that emit heat. Be super mindful of small countertop appliances like toaster ovens as well. We recommend not placing these appliances under your upper cabinets to prevent any damage.
Another example of a solid MDF cabinet door is a slab style door that is commonly found on modern Eurostyle cabinetry. In general, be especially careful if you choose to select Euro-Style cabinetry (also known as frameless cabinetry) as many Eurostyle cabinet manufacturers construct their cabinet boxes using MDF. If you're looking for a durable and long lasting cabinet option, steer clear. It will only be a matter of time before the weight of your cabinet doors can no longer get a grip on an MDF cabinet box (unless of course you're wanting that open shelving look - Don't worry, you won't find MDF cabinet boxes anywhere at PrefinishedCabinets.com). Instead, look for a quality wood cabinet design that features a cabinet box constructed of plywood. You'll thank me when you aren't looking to replace your cabinets again in only ten years.
Now back to this gorgeous modern grey cabinet door. Our Gloss Metallic Grey Euro Slab cabinet door is a pretty interesting find. This MDF kitchen cabinet door features a specialty finish that is 2x's more scratch resistant than thermofoil and 6x's more scratch resistant than acrylic. Although this kitchen cabinet collection looks like a standard Euro style cabinet, it is actually a hybrid design that combines a modern slab style cabinet door design with the strength and durability traditional framed all wood cabinetry.
So there you have it, solid wood cabinet doors are pretty much gone, but not forgotten. And who would have thought that MDF would save the day? Sometimes we just need to know what to look for when weighing the many options available in today's kitchen cabinets. Here at Prefinished Cabinets, we have a large selection of in stock, quality wood cabinet styles with designs, features, and price points suitable for a variety of applications. If you are looking for cabinets for an apartment or rental, office cabinetry, quality builder's cabinets, or durable and beautiful cabinets for your own home, feel free to contact us; we are happy to help you navigate the many options available and select a kitchen cabinet style that is right for you.
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