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Are Melamine Boards Better Than MDF for Kitchen Cabinets?

If you're planning to build kitchen cabinets, choosing a suitable material is crucial. While solid wood might be your preferred choice, it can be prohibitively expensive. That's why many DIY hobbyists look to two other materials for their cabinet building instead: melamine boards and MDF. But which is better for your project? Here are the key differences between the two materials and their unique advantages in furniture building. 

What is MDF?

MDF, or medium-density fibreboard, is a type of engineered wood made by mixing wood fibres and glue together and applying heat and pressure. This means that it does not have a wood grain and instead has a very smooth surface which is great for painting. It is sometimes available in different types, such as moisture-resistant and fire-retardant MDF, as well as various colours. 

Benefits of using MDF boards for kitchen cabinets

It's budget-friendly

One of the most significant benefits of using MDF for your cabinets is that it is far cheaper than solid wood or plywood. 

It's strong

MDF is strong and durable, making it an excellent cabinet material. With MDF, you don't need to worry about your cabinet collapsing under the weight of your kitchen equipment. 

It's sustainable
Because it can be made from recycled and waste wood, MDF is an eco-friendly material for your projects. 
It's perfect for painting

For cabinets that will be painted, MDF is the obvious choice. Its smooth surface is ideal for painting and looks great in any colour. 

It's versatile

Suitable for use both as the visible outer layer of furniture or as the inside filler material, MDF is a versatile choice for cabinet making. 

MDF cabinets: Things to consider

However, there are some things to be aware of if you opt for medium-density fibreboard for your project. Firstly, it is not as scratch-resistant as other options, such as melamine boards -- if it gets chipped or dented, you can see the wood fibres through the paint.

Secondly, it's essential to wear safety equipment when working with MDF. This is because it contains harmful formaldehyde particles, which must not be ingested. 
Thirdly, regular MDF is vulnerable to moisture. If you are building a cabinet for a humid kitchen or bathroom, opting for a moisture-resistant type of MDF to protect the furniture is better. 

Finally, MDF can be tricky to screw into because the individual wood fibres do not grip screws very well. Therefore, it's essential to follow best practices for screwing into MDF, such as making pilot holes, clamps, and sharp drills to make neat holes. 

What are melamine boards?

Melamine boards have engineered wood, such as chipboard (also called particleboard), plywood, or MDF, as a core. Bonded to the face of the board is a thin layer of melamine resin, a type of laminate. Melamine is a resin-covered paper in many attractive colours, textures, and finishes. As a result, melamine-faced boards are a popular choice for a wide range of furniture and kitchen applications. For example, they are often used to build cabinets, kitchen countertops, and even floor tiles.

Benefits of using melamine boards for kitchen cabinets

It looks great

One of the first reasons many people are drawn to melamine boards is their attractive and versatile appearance. It's possible to buy a wide range of different colours and styles of melamine boards, such as timeless glossy white melamine, classic black melamine, or even versions with authentic-looking stone or wood grain for a natural appearance. 

No matter your kitchen aesthetic, there's a melamine-faced particle board or MDF for cabinets that will perfectly fit your look. Choose a type to add a pop of colour to your kitchen, or opt for a natural wood texture for a subtle cabinet build. 

It's durable

Durability is a priority for kitchen cabinets -- you need high-quality materials that will allow the cabinets to remain sturdy over time. Boards coated with melamine are perfect kitchen cabinet materials for this reason. Waterproof, scratch-resistant, and even resistant to stains and spills, melamine-faced boards are ideal for use in kitchens. It can even withstand high temperatures, which is essential in kitchen design. 

It's cost-effective

Melamine-faced MDF, or particleboard, is an excellent option for DIY projects and kitchen fit-outs on a budget. Far cheaper than solid wood, melamine provides a stylish appearance with long-lasting durability for a fraction of the cost. 

It's easy to clean 

The smooth plastic of melamine is an excellent choice in the kitchen because it's easy to clean. Sauce splatters, oil puddles, and food stains are no match for the easy-clean surfaces. Plus, there's no risk of accidentally scratching or denting the material while cleaning it and exposing the wood fibres underneath, as there is with MDF.  

Melamine board cabinets: Things to consider

There are a few things to remember when using melamine-faced boards to build cabinets.

Firstly, while the melamine-faced surface of the sheet is waterproof, the edges are not finished and, therefore, will need edgebanding. This is important to prevent moisture from getting under the surface of the melamine to the board underneath, which could cause it to warp.

Secondly, while the melamine face is usually around 0.3mm thick and adds some strength to the sheet, the material is only as strong as the board underneath. This means it's essential to consider the type of melamine-faced board you use; MF plywood, melamine-faced chipboard (MFC), and melamine-faced MDF all have slightly different properties. 

Finally, melamine-faced boards are not as good for the environment as MDF because they use plastic veneers. 

Conclusion: Melamine vs MDF

With MDF and melamine boards boasting a range of great features, deciding which is best for your cabinets can be tricky. Often, the decision comes down to appearance and cost. While many prefer the stylish appearance and wide range of finishes available from melamine-faced boards, these tend to cost more than standard MDF. 

Whether you choose pure MDF or a melamine-faced MDF, chipboard, or plywood, you'll easily find your preferred material from Cworkshop. Offering a comprehensive range of materials and cut-to-size and edgebanding services, the Cworkshop experts are ready to help you start your project.