Before you begin planning your kitchen redesign, kitchen cabinetry is one of the most - if not the most - important components you absolutely need to consider! Cabinets essentially provide the framework for your space, so changing the fundamental design and layout of your cabinets will completely transform your kitchen.
But before you start dreaming of colour palettes and hardware for your cabinets - AKA the fun bit - you first need to decide on the type of cabinet material. Yes… we’re going back to the basics on this one. There are two main types of materials when it comes to kitchen cabinetry; solid wood and MDF. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about the difference between MDF and solid wood kitchen cabinetry!
Kitchen Cabinetry: The Difference Between MDF and Solid Wood
MDF, or medium-density fiberboard, is essentially an engineered board product that is not naturally occurring.
So if it's not real wood... then what is it made of? It’s a combination of wood fiber, wax, and resin, and is commonly used for kitchen cabinets because of its relative cost-effectiveness.
The pros? MDF is relatively stable and less likely to warp or twist. If you live in an area with extreme humidity fluctuations, you may notice that the wood in your home changes shape or begins to crack. The benefit of MDF wood is that it doesn't warp… as long as it’s not damaged or the paint finish is broken! More on that in a bit ;)
The cons? There are a few important downsides of MDF that you need to consider. Firstly, MDF is usually weaker than solid wood and often does not hold screws and nails properly over longer periods of time. Not only that, this type of material can easily become damaged when exposed to water, high temperatures and the wear and tear of daily life (dents, bumps, scratches, dings).
Lastly, once it gets scratched or damaged.... MDF is nearly impossible to repair! Once the MDF is damaged and the paint finish is broken, the material underneath is susceptible to warping and expansion with moisture just like real wood! So although in PERFECT condition MDF doesn’t warp, once it’s exposed to simple wear and tear (like minor chips and scratches) MDF often warps and expands after just a few years of use.
When this happens, the material doesn’t dry out or return to its normal shape or size. What does this mean for the future of your cabinets? The material stays puffed up, and you’re going to have to replace it all together! This is extremely hard to do and very expensive because it’s often fixed components of your kitchen that get the most wear & tear damage (baseboards, face frames, end panels, fridge gable ends etc.). Typically an MDF kitchen starts to show major signs of age and wear around the 5-7 year mark. Although an MDF kitchen might be a less expensive option for a quick refresh, if you want something that’ll last - keep reading!
Solid Wood for Cabinets
Solid wood is frequently used for kitchen cabinets. This material is strong, durable and will last for decades – if not centuries! How is this possible? Simple. Real, solid wood holds screws and hinges extremely well, providing structural strength that is simply unparalleled. The thickness of plywood also allows for extra stability and structure along the drawers, slides and boxes behind the cabinet doors.
On the other hand, many MDF or melamine cabinet boxes are simply glued and stapled because the material is much thinner and less stable. Oftentimes, the glue doesn’t stick to these materials and the staples or screws simply fall out. Not exactly the kind of quality you should be looking for when it comes to the heart of the home!
Not only are solid wood kitchen cabinets more durable… they look fantastic too!
Depending on the type of wood you choose, your kitchen is also going to benefit from the natural grain patterns and textures of your cabinetry. Solid woods come in a variety of different shapes, sizes, and colours, so it’s incredibly easy to customize. From cherry wood to maple to white oak to walnut to mahogany… the options are incredibly endless and customizable if you opt for real wood doors. The best part? If in ten years, you’re craving a new cabinetry style, solid wood doors can easily be refinished to reflect a new design. What about MDF doors? Yep... you’re going to have to completely replace those!
Last but certainly not least… the paint! Typically cabinetry is painted using a spray gun for an even, smooth finish. Although this may sound great, a smooth finish is less forgiving when you need to touch up chips or scratches in the paint down the road. It's like filling a hole in your drywall, and brushing new paint over top - you see the brush strokes vs. the original rolled wall paint. At Bloomsbury we pride ourselves on the longevity of our cabinetry and the ability to refresh your cabinetry with a quick touch-up service. That is why all of our Gold Standard cabinetry receives our signature hand brushed finish, where we apply a subtle brush stroke to the paint. It has a more furniture feel (even for modern kitchens!) and is also very touch-up friendly as any brush strokes from a touch-up just blend right into the original finish. Yes… that’s right! All of our gold standard solid wood kitchen cabinets are hand painted by our team of skilled Craftsmen!
And for the interiors, our gold standard custom cabinetry is formaldehyde free, and made usingNorth American PureBond Plywood Lumbar in our quality-controlled workshop. The added strength of the plywood interiors, without chemical off-gassing into your home, combined with our hand brushed wood doors, means your Bloomsbury kitchen is built to last, and even handle the bumps and scratches along the way!
Design Tip: Colour can look different in every space because it’s so 3 dimensional depending on lighting, surrounding colours, etc. Some shades will have undertones not obvious until you’ve painted a large section in your home. Imagine painting your walls “white” only to realize the white you picked has a pink undertone and now your kitchen looks like a baby girl’s room?!This is why we have a signature colour collection of 32 curated colours that we’ve hand picked for our clients.
Solid wood provides an incredible value for your investment. Although it’s more expensive than MDF initially, the quality reflects the price and you won’t have the big expense of replacements or completely redoing your kitchen in 5-10 years. If you have a specific vision in mind, you can rest assured that our Bloomsbury Team will be able to bring your vision to life with solid wood kitchen cabinets.
MDF vs. Solid: Which is Best?
If you’re still struggling to decide between MDF and solid wood, think about which qualities are most important to you. If you're after a cost-effective, simple-looking solution, MDF will work for you... for just a few years.
With wear and tear, MDF doors become susceptible to warping and expansion. Once this happens, you’ll have to replace them completely which will be COSTLY and TIMELY.
The bottom line? Solid wood doors may at first appear to be a larger investment, however that’s exactly what they are…. an investment! If you're looking for a durable, long-lasting kitchen solution the quality of MDF simply cannot compare to solid wood. In fact, you may end up spending more in the long run, if you opt for MDF cabinetry.
Solid wood, while slightly more costly, will last for decades in comparison to MDF. Not to mention, because the material is high-quality, your kitchen is going to feel much more luxurious and high-end.
What’s more? The Bloomsbury difference. Let us explain...
All of our solid wood cabinetry doors are custom made in house to ensure quality,consistency and predictability of timing. They’re made to order in small batches, and sized on a per job basis. Talk about custom made ;). Many companies simply buy cabinet doors which means they can't control the quality of the product or the delivery timing!
All of our cabinetry face frames and doors are made together as a set to ensure best fit. Why is this important? Many companies make these pieces separately, which can cause sizing inconsistencies in the end product.
Our Bloomsbury kitchen cabinetry doors are glued and clamped for a minimum of 45min to ensure the pieces remain square. This also guarantees the door remains the correct size as the glue dries. It may seem inconsequential, but as glue dries it naturally expands. Believe it or not, this can actually push the cabinetry pieces apart and change the sizing by fractions of an inch... which can make a big impact on the final fit!!! Trust us… we know!
All of our kitchen cabinetry doors are made using formaldehyde-free North American poplar wood for the stile and rails. This is the four main outer parts of the cabinetry doors. It’s incredibly important that these are made from solid wood because this is where the screws and hinges are attached… in other words, it needs to be sturdy!
MDF does provide door stability. This is why we use MDF material for the flat, middle center panel of our cabinetry doors….but that’s it! The MDF works here because it's protected by the surrounding wood, reducing the risk of damage immensely.
Before they head out to their new home, each of our kitchen cabinetry doors is hand inspected and hand sanded by Gail, one of our highly-skilled craftsmen... or craftswoman in this case!!
It’s the time, attention to detail and quality inspections throughout every stage of the design process that make our solid wood kitchen cabinetry doors unique. With endless styles and looks to choose from, we think it’s safe to say that our Bloomsbury Team only recommends solid wood over MDF kitchen cabinetry! Want to get started? Book a virtual appointment with our Bloomsbury team here!