MDF Or Wooden Cabinet Doors, Which Is Better

wood vs MDF cabinet doors

How to Choose the Material of Your Kitchen Cabinet Doors

Whether you’re installing your cabinet doors for the first time or refacing existing cabinetry that has been through years of wear and tear, one of the first things you have to consider is the type of material that your cabinet doors will be made of. Hardwood, softwood, MDF, and other specialty materials all offer something different for your home, and knowing a little more about these materials can help your kitchen cabinet door project be a success.


Using cabinet doors that are made of real wood can add coziness and warmth to many kitchens. Cabinetry wood can come from a variety of different trees, and can be all sorts of different colors and display different kinds of grain patterns. Wood can be stained, painted, primed, and finished in a variety of ways to give your kitchen a more polished look.

Hardwoods include oak, birch, maple, cherry, hickory and more. These woods come from seasonally shedding trees that have a more broad leaf shape than those that produce softwood. Unlike hardwoods, softwoods come from trees that produce needles and cones. Softwoods that are popular for cabinetry include pine, cedar and spruce.

It’s important to know that a wood’s classification into “hardwood” and “softwood” doesn’t always necessarily correlate to the physical hardness of the wood itself, so be aware of exceptions. For example, balsa is a type of wood that is in the hardwood family, but is actually one of the softest woods out there. No matter the type of wood you choose, be sure to avoid harsh cleaning chemicals and prolonged exposure to a lot of water.

Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF)

MDF cabinet doors are the most popular runner-up to real wood, as it has some of the properties of wood but is generally less expensive. MDF is a great material option if you have a lot of cabinets to reface on a budget or are attempting to build your cabinet doors yourself. Although medium density fiberboard isn’t natural wood, it does consist of wood— the only difference being that it’s wood fibers being used, and these fibers are combined with glue and pressed by machinery.

MDF is a generally durable material and can fit the needs of the average homeowner without a problem. That being said, they are prone to stripped screw holes because of the material being softer in the middle, and the corners of MDF doors can be easier to crush than other options. Although MDF works well for cabinet doors, it isn’t recommended for other parts of your home such as window sills and baseboards. This is because direct, prolonged exposure to water can seriously damage the material.


If having cabinets that look like wood simply isn’t your style, you’re in luck. There are plenty of options available for those who want a more modern, simplistic style for their cabinets— and as a bonus, these materials tend to be easier to maintain.

Glass cabinets are often used in conjunction with other types of cabinet doors, and help emphasize built-in cabinet lighting and visually appealing glasses, bottles, and dishes. Glass is easy to wipe clean and can help brighten and open up a space, but it’s not a material that is recommended for bottom cabinets or households where children and pets may be running through on a regular basis. The biggest downside of glass is the material breaking, which can cause a big mess and the pieces can be dangerously sharp.

Laminate proves to be another option favored for its ease of maintenance and durability. Laminate doors are actually MDF doors that have been sealed with a hard synthetic material. Although laminate cabinets can look like painted wood, they feel much different to the touch. Acrylic is another material that is used for cabinet doors and it appeals mainly to sleek, modern kitchens and minimalistic settings. Acrylic cabinets are usually flat and smooth, and this material can produce a very high gloss. Although acrylic can be shinier and more fashionable than laminate, it’s also more expensive.