MDF vs Plywood Cabinets

Although medium-density fiberboard (MDF) and plywood are sold in the same aisle at your local home improvement store, they are not always interchangeable. Each one of these serves a purpose. Natural wood cabinets are, without a doubt, a gorgeous option, but for many, this option is too expensive for a garage cabinet project. Luckily, MDF and plywood are good alternatives for this type of application. So, MDF vs plywood cabinets, which is better?

MDF and plywood both contain real wood. However, this real wood is processed into their finished forms. MDF is a combination of hardwood and fibers from softwood. These two materials are glued together using different resins. MDF is then put through extreme heat and pressure to create the individual panes. Plywood is created using a similar process. But, instead of using fibers from softwood, extremely thin layers of wood are used from peeler logs.

To help you determine which is the best material for garage cabinets in your home, let’s take a look at the key differences.

Pricing: MDF or Plywood

In general, MDF is more affordable than plywood. Consideration must be given to the thickness and grade of the material. If the price point is your only concern when it comes to deciding on a material for your garage cabinets, MDF is going to be your best bet.

Overall Appearance

If you want your garage storage cabinets to look more like real wood, plywood would be your material of choice. Because it is made of wood strips, plywood gives a better real wood appearance than MDF. Higher grades of MDF will appear smoother than the lower grades, but the simple fact is that it is pressed fibers, not wood strips like plywood. It may come down to being able to match the design style of the rest of your house.

MDF And Plywood Weight

MDF, because of how it is made, is definitely the heaviest of the two materials. This can become an issue when making your garage storage cabinets. Holding them up to secure them onto the wall can become an issue, as well as securing them properly. If weight is an issue, you may want to go with plywood as the material you chose for your cabinets.

MDF vs Plywood Cabinets
MDF vs Plywood Cabinets

Strongest Material

Plywood, again, is the winner of this category. MDF is made of softer materials that tend to sag and break under pressure. Unless you wish to reinforce the cabinets and each of the shelves. In addition to the strength of plywood, you won’t have to worry about extreme temperatures in the garage warping and expanding the material.

Construction Mess

MDF, because of the way it is created, creates a lot of dust when cut. Plywood does not make as much dust as MDF. If you do choose MDF as your material, be sure to cut in a well-ventilated area with the proper protective gear.

Cutting Your Materials

While MDF makes a mess when cutting, it is much easier to cut than plywood. Especially when you are considering an elaborate scroll trim on your cabinets. The lack of grain and softness of the material makes it a breeze to cut. There will be no splintering or cracking along the edges of an MDF board. Plywood, on the other hand, will leave ragged edge cuts. Even without cutting, plywood has very rough edges that will need to be finished. The way plywood is made, you can see the layers on all of the edges of the board which is not very attractive when making garage cabinets for your home.

Painting Or Staining – This May Be Your Decision Breaker

If you are still on the fence about what material you think is best for your garage storage cabinets, how you want to finish them may be the deciding factor. MDF, because of its smooth surface with no grain, is best to use for a painted finish. Begin your MDF painting project with an oil-based primer for the best results. However, if you are more interested in staining your cabinets, plywood works best with stain.

When Using Screws In Your Project

Plywood is your best option when it comes to using screws in your garage cabinet project. Because of the softness of MDF, the screws aren’t a good idea. However, keep in mind, if you are using nails on the edges of plywood that it may splinter or split.

How Elements Affect MDF and Plywood

Although your cabinets for your garage will technically be inside, they will be partially exposed to the elements. Extreme heat and cold, depending on where you live could have an effect on your cabinet material. If your garage is prone to flooding that may be an issue as well. MDF soaks up water much more than plywood. The wet MDF could warp and swell due to the water. Although plywood does damage from being wet after a longer period of time, it is probably your best bet when it comes to your garage storage cabinets.

MDF vs Plywood Cabinets
MDF vs Plywood Cabinets

Irritant Warnings For MDF and Plywood

A word of warning on both MDF and plywood: they both contain formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOC). These contaminants are lung and nervous system irritants. Painting, priming, and sealing or staining both materials will help reduce the off-gassing of the irritants. However, this does not entirely remove the problem. Plywood can be purchased in a formaldehyde-free option, but it is much more expensive than normal plywood.

Deciding Between MDF And Plywood

When it comes down to deciding between MDF and plywood for your garage storage cabinets, it is important to keep in mind your budget, your plan, and the location of the cabinets. These will help determine which is the best material for your cabinets. Our guide helps answer the questions that might arise during your planning process. Each material has its own pros and cons. Chose the best for your project and get started.

Garage Storage Cabinets In Solid Wood

If you are considering purchasing solid wood garage storage cabinets online, Space Solutions offers several options. They have many styles of solid wood cabinets in stock. You can also narrow down your options by searching for manufacturers. Space Solutions offers the best selection of garage storage cabinets online along with incredible customer service. Our design team is ready to help you pick out the right cabinets for you. Don’t forget, we offer free shipping on just about every order!