Should I use MDF cabinets?
alina13
February 23, 2013 in Design Dilemma
We are building a new home and are trying to figure out if we should go with MDF cabinets because of the durability or stick with wood. Any good or bad experiences with MDF cabinets for the kitchen?
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Main Line Kitchen Design
MDF Doors, sides of cabinets, or MDF frameless cabinetry like IKEA. I would never purchase an MDF frameless cabinet. You barely save money and they are not durable.
February 24, 2013 at 4:51am     
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missykos
IKEA cabinets get great reviews, and, as there ions comment says, are MDF. Don't dismiss them, as they are very durable.
February 24, 2013 at 5:40am   
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missykos
Not ions, prior.
February 24, 2013 at 5:41am   
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carolefleck
I thought mdf was bad, releases potentially cancer-causing particles in the environment.
February 24, 2013 at 6:03am   
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Linda
I would save money elsewhere and upgrade to more durable cabinets. MDF is not real wood and will not hold up like real wood
February 24, 2013 at 6:36am   
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Kevin Twitty- IBB Designer
MDF is stronger than wood and just as durable. The only time you have to worry about health issues is when you are cutting it, just be sure to ventilate properly.

My personal preference is to use real wood. It looks a lot better and feels must nicer.
February 24, 2013 at 6:45am   
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feeny
It is my understanding that MDF does not hold up well around water, so people encounter problems in the sink area. There was a long post about this on Houzz from awhile ago with a homeowner very upset. I am not an expert, however, so you should do some research on MDF before committing to anything. It is my understanding that the most durable and high-quality cabinets have thick plywood boxes, solid wood cabinet doors, and solid wood drawers.
February 24, 2013 at 6:50am   
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R J Hoppe Inc
Coming at this from a custom manufacturer point of view. Every material has its weak and strong points. I can tell you that every piece of commercial office furniture in the country is manufactured from particle board and or MDF. If one uses MDF, properly, it is no weaker then plywood in cabinet construction. MDF stands for medium density fiberboard. There are also hardboard, particle board, plywood or veneer core and lumber core panel products.

The weaknesses of MDF are water, number one, and it is extremely prone to splitting across its small dimension or thickness. Its strength is that one can route a profile into it very cleanly, cleaner then solid wood in most cases.

Would I use an MDF base cabinet in a kitchen no. Would I use an MDF hanger cabinet in a kitchen, yes. I control the construction and I know what to look out for. Different when one buys cabinets from a commercial manufacturer. Its in the construction and use, not an inherent quality in the material itself. What is equally important if not more so is the hardware, drawer runners, hinges etc and their integration into the cabinet. As usually buyer beware, educate yourself and of coarse you get what you pay for.

Good luck !:)
February 24, 2013 at 7:13am     
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lewis + smith
There are appropriate components to use MDF. In our veneered Euro style cabinet drawer and door faces, MDF is the core banded with 1/4" solid wood and then veneered with the particular species we are working with. We make all our carcasses out of either Europly or a pro core plywood, Never MDF or Melamine. I am sorry but anyone who tells you an Ikea cabinet system is high quality is misinformed. There are formaldehyde free MDF products on the market.
February 24, 2013 at 7:19am   
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Main Line Kitchen Design
Consumer Reports unfortunately rates cabinets primarily by customer satisfaction and so if the instructions are good for putting the cabinets together Ikea customers are happy and give their cabinet purchase a high rating. Don't delude yourself into thinking that the cabinets are durable. Ikea also offers a 15 year warranty that is simply a calculated risk vs reward investment. Chinese framed cabinetry in all plywood construction is almost always better made and less expensive.
February 24, 2013 at 8:08am   
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Interiors International, Inc.
Depending on your budget MDF can be an option. I have used Ikea cabinets on jobs and was impressed with the look. We did go a step further in installation by beefing up the way they were installed. With that done I was happy with the result. I would put them in my own home if that was what I needed to do to stay in budget.
February 24, 2013 at 8:28am   
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Linda
IKEA has done a sales job on the American kitchen buyers because they are not a low cost supplier. If you consider the value of the time spent purchasing, transporting, and assembling IKEA cabinets, the low cost will prove to be an illusion
February 24, 2013 at 8:56am   
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missykos
My time doesn't come out of my bank account, and I don't find putting things together to be onerous. YMMV.
February 24, 2013 at 9:20am   
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Main Line Kitchen Design
Of course putting a new kitchen in after the first one falls apart you may find onerous.
February 24, 2013 at 4:55pm     
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Lizabeth
My good friend is now in her 18 th year with an Ikea kitchen. No issues at all. She and I sold Baker furniture and high end eight way custom tied sofas long ago and both of us used Ikea in our kitchens. The cost/value ratio cannot be beat. Main LIne have you lived with an Ikea kitchen for 25 years because I know folks who have done just that.
Of course highend all custom is wonderful for those who can afford that choice. But getting new cabinets for under $3000 versus $10K to $50K is an a consumer choice.

I doubt you would work with a client who wanted one and have first hand experience with the actual product.

My rambler had an Ikea kitchen and within 48 hours on the market garnered five full price and above offers inthe $300,000 price range. There is a place for the product in this current economy. I trust Ikea more than Chinese made given the recent sheetrock scare and toxins in children's paint.

I would also direct you to the very fine article in Fine Homebuilding which gives a fine introduction of cabinets, face frame, frameless, custom and what to expect and yes they do speak to the market and quality of Ikea.

Here is a link to that article which does a great job of explaining the different levels of construction and pricing http://www.finehomebuilding.com/PDF/Free/021191040.pdf
February 24, 2013 at 5:07pm     
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Mark Harpe
Wet areas and MDF do not make for good bed fellows.
February 24, 2013 at 5:16pm   
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Main Line Kitchen Design
!8 years ago Ikea or Home Depot's Mills Pride was the only option for people with small budgets in need of a kitchen, and they were a fine choice if you couldn't afford another.. Now there are many options, and Ikea isn't inexpensive compared to some of the better made Asian, all plywood constructed, framed cabinet brands.

We don't even carry any of these brands, so I have no vested interest in my advice, I'm only trying to help as a knowledgeable professional with 30 years combined experience as a kitchen designer and general contractor with an engineering background. Unfortunately many articles on this issue, reviews, and the information that's out there is not reliable. That is one of the problems in my industry.

Another problem as a kitchen designer is that people in general are so passionate about their opinions concerning kitchens, independent of their level of experience. Some days I wish I was in another profession like accounting, law, or auto mechanics. People don't seem to believe as strongly that they can do their taxes better than their accountant or repair their car better than their mechanic. But, many contractors, real estate agents, architects, and home owners that redid a kitchen once or twice, consider their opinions better than the trained professionals who design and sell kitchen cabinetry 40 hours a week for many years. Maybe in my next life I'll get to be nuclear physicist, but then I would miss out getting to design thousands of kitchens.

I guess I'll just be happy that I have a job that is the envy of so many.
February 25, 2013 at 4:23pm   
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Lizabeth
Main Line,

Perhaps you could share your info on these better made Asian brands with those of us who have only done a dozen kitchens. I for one would love it if you would share those brands. I have used vendors other than Ikea but those sources are now 2500 miles from my current home. I have also used small local cabinet shops to great effect but find myself in a town where I don't have those connections.

Ikea is a resource for a certain kind of homeowner and I don't think it should be dismissed out of hand.

Perhaps you could enlighten all of us. Please do share your brand names.

So far you have told us not to trust Consumer Reports and apparently not to Trust the articleI I linked to in Fine Home Building.

I would love to trust some concrete information beyond Ikea is bad.
February 25, 2013 at 5:36pm     
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Main Line Kitchen Design
Hi Lizabeth,

Your article had a lot of good information. The source of the information was from the cabinet companies themselves so it tended to be more positive. Our industry works very hard to mislead the public. Consumer Reports is trying to do a good job but when the reviewer knows nothing about cabinetry their hands are somewhat tied and the process is sort of a cabinet popularity contest. The funny part is when cabinet companies like Timberlake that is sold as American Woodmark at Home Depot and Shenandoah at Lowes gets completely different reviews even for construction quality, when they are exactly the same thing. Many cabinet lines do this and they also get different reviews. When some of my customers questioned my opinion about the Consumer Reports review, it turned out that Consumer Reports had also done reviews in their field of expertise like insurance or financial planning and that they thought those reports were from a very uninformed prospective and misleading.

Here is one of our blogs on the topic of cabinet construction:
http://www.mainlinekitchendesign.com/general/let-the-cabinet-buyer-beware/

I am not an expert on the different Chinese framed cabinet lines, as I said, we don't carry them. I do know that there are many varieties. These are not the cabinets advertised as all wood cabinets that you put together yourself. They are a better version of frameless cabinetry then Ikea, since they are made the same just made out of plywood, and sold for less. The framed cabinets are the better constructed cabinets and are around the same price.

Armstrong's cabinets I believe are now Chinese. You can also call around to your local dealers to find a framed Asian brand.

Clique Studios is a great cabinet sold on line that is made in the US with the doors and fronts coming from China. These will possibly be a little more than Ikea but not much more, and they are framed glued and assembled cabinets delivered to your home with all plywood construction, solid wood dovetail full extension buffered drawers, and 3/4 inch plywood sides on the exposed ends.

All this being said. The most important thing when working on a kitchen is who is the designer and how knowledgeable are they. A great designer will shock you with ideas and products you never considered and save you money simply by knowing the products out there and how they are made and priced. Here is an article on this issue:
http://www.mainlinekitchendesign.com/general/you-have-to-see-our-new-kitchen/

Cheers,
Paul

I
February 26, 2013 at 4:57am     
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Lizabeth
Thank you Paul,

I do appreciate your help on this topic. You are right it is confusing in a large part due to the marketing techniques in the industry.

And I hearitly agree that a good designer brought into the process makes all the difference.
February 26, 2013 at 8:08am     
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