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Thread: Durability of MDF for door and drawer fronts

  1. #1

    Durability of MDF for door and drawer fronts

    I'm getting into veneering and am looking at using MDF as a substrate for door and drawer fronts on cabinets I'm building. I'm curious if durability is an issue with MDF for this purpose. A specific concern I have is for the drawer fronts. For shop cabinets I've built I just screw the drawer fronts on to the drawer box. If I do the same with MDF do I have to worry about the screws pulling out over time?

    I plan on using hardwood edge banding under the veneer, so the edges/corners should be fine from a durability concern. The issue would be more about the hardware attachment points and getting dents on the surface over time.

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    We've had MDF drawer fronts in both master and guest bathrooms since a remodel about 10 years ago. No specific complaints but I would probably NOT want them for kitchen cabinets, due to the possibility of moisture exposure, more frequent cleaning with damp towels, etc.

    Erik
    Felder USA Territory Representative: Central & South Texas

  3. #3
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    You can inlay pieces of hardwood in the back of the drawer front where screws are going to be.

  4. #4
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    My opinion is that veneered MDF works really well, at least with the shop sawn veneer I use. There's no real concern about moisture once you put hardwood edging all around. I've never had a drawer front come loose or the screw strip out, although that certainly could happen if you horse the screws. But if I did strip out a screw, I'd fill the hole with 5 minute epoxy and sawdust and move on.

    For non-structural applications MDF is an ideal substrate for veneer.

    John

  5. #5
    Screw holding in the face is ok for your application. For better moisture resistance use Medex. Yes, it can be dented, on the order of yellow poplar.

  6. #6
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    Screw / bolt holding will be perfectly fine. Just break the edges ever slightly (chamfer / round over etc) because MDF's corners are very sharp and if left alone can break off surprisingly easily.
    Howard Rosenberg

  7. #7
    Great, thanks everyone.

  8. #8
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    MDF isn't an issue for what you are concerned with ... if you use appropriate screws. A lot of commercial drawer fronts and cabinet doors are made from MDF and other composites. What you don't want is screws optimized for hardwood...you want deeper threading for "more bite". And beware of overtightening them.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  9. #9
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    Kreg "coarse" screws (for softwoods) work great for MDF.
    My granddad always said, :As one door closes, another opens".
    Wonderful man, terrible cabinet maker...

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Rich Engelhardt View Post
    Kreg "coarse" screws (for softwoods) work great for MDF.
    This ^^. I also use a selection of coarse thread washer head screws, for 1/2” drawer boxes, as Kreg is 1 1/4” long.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rich Engelhardt View Post
    Kreg "coarse" screws (for softwoods) work great for MDF.
    Agree totally...I actually use them for hold-down on my CNC machines MDF spoilboard. Much better than any other format screw I've tried.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  12. #12
    If you want something better than low grade standard MDF (home center level) source some double refined or as suggested Medex if your concerned with water. Double refined/door grade is a major step up. Im with Erik on concerns around moisture for anything other than Medex. How long it would be, who knows, but in a heavy use damp area your going to get dings/breaks in the surface even with veneer everywhere and it will eventually fail.
    Sometimes I just want to look at pretty pictures,... Thats when I go to the Turners Forum

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