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MDF vs Plywood

1716 Views 14 Replies 13 Participants Last post by  b2rtch
Going to build a cabinet for my closet tomorrow. What are the major differences between MDF vs Plywood? advantages? disadvantages?
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Here are a few differences off the top of my head.


Cheaper to purchase
Smoother surface which can be useful for painting or veneering
Edges are prone to damage
Prone to water damage unless it's a waterproof variety like Extira
Poor screw holding ability on the edges


Holds screws better on the face but not much better on the edges
Less prone to sagging
More resistant to flexing and less likely to break under flex load
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I vote for birch plywood and poplar for the face frame if you are building the cabinet with one. You project should paint up nicely.
Columbia purebond plywood is my go-to plywood now.
Lightweight, flat, good veneers, little to no voids, not too expensive.
Good stuff.
Buy a piece of mdf and try cutting it…that will send you running for plywood. It has it's uses, but not for cabinets (IMHO).
I have yet to find a project or use that plywood isn't better than MDF. MDF is kinda like thick cardboard on steroids.
For a closet? Melamine particle board is my vote. :)
I don't have a disdain for MDF, as it does have its place. That place is anywhere but in my hands wherever possible.

That said, the surface does paint up to an automotive finish with little effort. Small spans? Not a bad option. It's just heavy, and the dust is yucky~. (~The proper term isn't polite to use in a forum). It's also generally less fun to use than plywood, which is less fun to use than solid lumber.

Another consideration is durability. In my opinion, plywood is easier to maintain over the long haul. When MDF begins to turn on you, it will remain your enemy. There is little chance to win back its allegiance. You must kill it.
In re-reading my post, it seems I have used poor sentence structure. My apologies. It's the sentence in parentheses. The structure itself is sound, it's just not grammatically correct. Sure… I could have used this time spent to correct it, but there wouldn't be much fun in that. Woodworking should be fun, no?
MDO ( medium density overlay ) and poplar face frame

is my vote for paint grade.
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I hadn't heard of MDO before. Thanks, Wahoo.

Oooops. Wrong image ;-)

Table Rectangle Wood Wood stain Flooring


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What NiteWalker said.
Plywood, get whatever grade you feel looks the best and fits your needs. MDF is breakable and the dust it produces is volumous and nauseating.
You will get what you pay for. I would never use MDF in cabinetry.
I hate working with MDF because of the weight, the dust it makes and it is brittle.
I much prefer working with plywood.
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