Painted Kitchen Cabinets — MDF vs. Wood

MDF vs. Wood

If I wanted painted kitchen cabinet doors, which would I choose? Let the battle begin: MDF vs. wood … or even a Hybrid door (wood framing with a MDF center panel)? This has been discussed and debated online in articles and forums with no clear cut winner that I can tell.

So which is better – MDF or Wood

First of all I am talking about the doors, and drawer fronts, not the cabinet box. I am a firm believer in a plywood cabinet box.  They are lighter, stronger and hold up better than an MDF (or particle board) cabinet boxes – but that’s a conversation for another post. Back to the doors.

I would first eliminate the Hybrid door as a possible selection. If only one is the best, MDF or Wood, than why would I want a door that consisted of both materials? Why did they even come up with a Hybrid door? If adding a MDF center panel, when a painted finish is desired, made the door perform better, than why not make the whole door out of MDF? Once a door is painted, assuming a professional paint job, like what you would get from Conestoga, 99% of professionals and homeowners could not tell the difference, just by looking at the door. If you picked the 2-doors up, you could tell the difference, since the MDF would weigh a little more. And wouldn’t a heavier door be more desirable? More substantial? Less flimsy?

What About Durability?

I hear some people say that wood is stronger than MDF, and won’t dent and scratch as easily as MDF. Well, as far as the scratching goes, that would be related to the finish, right? As far as the strength, or denting possibility goes, we are talking about kitchen cabinet doors, not barn doors, or garage doors, that would take a lot of abuse. And we are talking about MDF, not particle board which is relatively soft. I guess what I am trying to convey is that even if wood is harder than MDF, which could be argued either way, we are talking about an cabinet door, inside your home.

Here are the pros and cons of MDF, as I see them:


  • Less chance of joint separation.
  • Less chance of warping.
  • Lower cost
  • Same appearance


  • I can’t think of any, except if someone asked me what my doors were made of, I would have to say MDF 🙁

So in conclusion, I would order MDF doors and drawer fronts if I wanted a painted finish on my kitchen or bath cabinets. Why would I not want a door that out performs, and is less expensive than wood?

To see the difference between MDF vs. wood paneled doors, be sure to check out our kitchen cabinet gallery!


  1. Lauren Galusha on August 7, 2019 at 3:45 pm

    We ordered our kitchen cabinets as well as our bathroom vanities with Pete. From start to finish we had a wonderful experience. Pete was very knowledgeable, patient, and creative. He guided us every step of the way making great suggestions and was always quick to respond. Our final product is amazing. We couldn’t be happier. We thank Peter for his help and we absolutely love the high end quality products we purchased with Conestoga. We truly are thrilled!

  2. Maggie. Johhny on November 7, 2020 at 2:47 pm

    This was a great summary of what material to use for door cabinets. I live in the twin cities and was wondering if anyone knows of someone or a company that could help me build a kitchen and bathroom? Thank you in advance.

    • Pete Sadowski on November 7, 2020 at 5:26 pm

      Hi Maggie,

      We could provide cabinets for your kitchen and bathroom, and depending on how elaborate they become, you may be able to assemble and install the cabinets yourself, or at the very worse, you could hire a local handyman, or finish carpenter to assemble and/or install your cabinets. Do you have a design? If so, send it along and we will take a look at it. If not, here is a link to a kitchen designer that has worked with some of my clients in the past, and she may be of some help to you:

      Good Luck,

  3. Rob Mitch on March 7, 2021 at 2:50 pm

    No matter what review says, go with wood, it gives much better and stronger paint finish and is more durable. MDF is chip prone on the edges and paint finish is terrible. We Learned hard way

    • Pete Sadowski on March 7, 2021 at 3:55 pm

      Hi Rob,

      In 20 years of selling Conestoga cabinets, I have never had a customer complain about paint chipping off of a MDF door. Were your cabinet doors from Conestoga? If not then they may of been made out of a lesser quality of MDF, or even particle board? Since you say the finish on your doors looked worse than it would of been on wood, I suspect your doors were particle board, since paint on MDF look just the same, or better, than if on wood. I would love to hear more details about who provided, or manufactured your doors, how old they were, and what caused the chip?

  4. Louise Knight on July 14, 2022 at 1:21 pm

    I have a beautiful 7 year old kitchen with white painted Shaker cabinets that are maple with MDF panels. I was advised 7 years ago to go with MDF inside panel on cabinet doors instead of all maple. The price was the same back then! I was told the MDF would not shrink and show the unpainted joints like wood will. I went with the MDF but have some regrets. The doors are lighter and don’t feel as solid as a full wood door. The drawer below my kitchen sink collected some water over time and the mdf flaked paint in a spot and it is starting to swell. I read you can use an oil based primer and paint. Who knows if I had done all maple, maybe I would be going crazy due to the shrinkage at joints and maple wood showing through.

    • Pete Sadowski on July 14, 2022 at 1:38 pm

      Hi Louise,

      Yes, back a few years ago, Conestoga was recommending the Hybrid doors (doors with MDF center panels). Now they are recommending all MDF, and preferably a 1-piece MDF door, over a 5-pc MDF door. There is still a chance MDF doors could develop some hairline cracks, but much less than a solid wood door would. And I can tell you that MDF weighs more than wood, so if you think your doors are light in weight now, they would have been lighter, had you gone all wood. The draw back to MDF would be as you mentioned, if water is constantly on the MDF, it will swell, but it won’t wrap like wood would.

  5. Carrie Johnson on November 4, 2022 at 10:44 am

    I am renovating my kitchen for a second time . The first time back in 1997 with white MDF Kitchen Craft Cabinets . It was so problematic. Denting, splitting , cracking, wear marks at the hardware pull area ( no I do not have fake nails) We live in a 1929 classic 2 story colonial. I am again considering painted HDF for the timeless classic look but am so unsure of current longevity, lifespan and resale / perceived value of HDF vs a stained wood.
    Can you please comment or share some resources ?

    • Pete Sadowski on November 4, 2022 at 3:41 pm

      Hi Carrie,

      Without seeing one of the doors, you had issues with, I am only guessing here, but I suspect an inferior MDF (maybe even particle board) was used, and probably poor finishing, due to maybe using a poor primer, or poor surface prep. MDF has come a long way over the last 10 (+/-) years. I can tell you that Conestoga’s painted MDF doors, are just a little less expensive than their PGHM (paint grade hard maple) doors, due to the complexity of getting a good painted finish on MDF. So, if you get a MDF door from Conestoga, it is not to save money, it’s because Conestoga feel the MDF will outperform the hard maple doors, due to expansion and contraction of wood. You really need to research this on your own, and I would Google; Painted MDF doors versus Painted Maple doors. You will find a lot of good articles. Good luck, and feel free to ask me more questions.

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