MDF or Pine Baseboards?--Painted White

darenkaMay 26, 2007

I was about to buy MDF baseboards when a Lowe's customer started telling me it was a big mistake: MDF would crumble, swell, dent more easily, etc... Does anyone know if this is true? We live in Arizona so humidity is not a problem. I admit I'm a wood snob, but since they will be painted (and aren't bearing any weight) it seemed a perfect opportunity to cheap out and get MDF. Pine doubles the price and since it's raw wood, it would have to be primed--doubling the work. Our home has rounded corners and they sell round corner caps for that purpose so there is minimal coping involved.

Would you professional remodelers spend the money on pine? Thanks much for any help you can provide.

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MDF also needs to be primed---primer has two jobs---sealing and providing a surface to which paint will easily adhere. Besides, if you just paint MDF, the first coat will be absorbed so much a second coat is necessary.

It is true the MDF will dent more easily---but, how many times does the base molding get hit? Vacuuming? Takes a really hard hit to make a dent.

The edges of MDF will break off more easily than solid wood---but if you are careful, that is not a problem.

Get the MDF and use the savings for something else.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2007 at 7:47AM
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MDF is fine for "untouchables" like ceiling mouldings and window casings. Not so great for baseboards or door casings that get knocked into often.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2007 at 11:09AM
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Watch for outside corners with MDF also.
The corner will not stay 'sharp' through very many bumps.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2007 at 1:41PM
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Brushworks Spectacular Finishes

I don't think the OP is talking about unprimed MDF. Most, if not all MDF that is sold retail is lacquer primed on the face. I also recommend a prime on the back and edge surfaces, even when using soft pine woods.


    Bookmark   May 26, 2007 at 4:02PM
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I usually stay away from MDF, the only exception for me is when installing crown moulding on the cieling, its easier and faster to work with.

I dont like using MDF because
1)the nailholes mushroom when nailing the baseboard to the wall and painters usually wont take the time to sand down the high areas on every nail hole, and I dont blame them.

But as a homeowner you can take your time and sand down the high areas.

2) the miters tend to get damaged easier when accidentaly kicked or ran into with something.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2007 at 7:42PM
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We used all MDF (baseboards, door and window casings, crown, etc.) when we remodeled 5 years ago. I have had no problems and that's with a maid who thinks the vacuum is a formula one car. I put a good part of the molding in myself and never had any problems with nail holes bulging. Since MDF has no grain, it has a "smoother" finish when painted. I would go with the MDF and save the money. In the unlikely event of a chip or dent, you can repair it with patching compound just like you would do on drywall. We did use wood baseboards in the bathrooms, because if moisture gets into the MDF it will swell - although if it's primed and painted on all surfaces there shouldn't be a problem.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2007 at 1:03PM
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I think the MDF will do well in AZ.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2007 at 5:42PM
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Thanks everyone for taking the time to educate me. It ended up being a split decision. Mom read all the replies and decided to do pine, I decided to do MDF in my house. However, I've decided that when I win the lottery and do a custom house, I'm going to have custom 8-10" baseboards. Her 6" pine is looking more impressive than my 5" MDF (the biggest Lowe's stocks here). Thanks again and happy remodeling..... do you ever get done?

    Bookmark   June 3, 2007 at 12:18AM
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MDF baseboard comes in sizes much larger than 5". Just go to a lumberyard or molding supply (if your area has one).

    Bookmark   June 3, 2007 at 3:00PM
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MDF - Much Disdain of Formaldehyde

Anyway, you may want to consider the toxic implications when installing materials into your living spaces or work spaces. Chemical (unnatural) off-gassing from the likes of MDF, synthetic carpeting, glued down flooring, paints all contribute to toxic air.

What are the major contributors to cancers? It is suspected that the carcinogens in the atmosphere are playing a big role. So, why breath this stuff when there are alternatives with zero or low levels?

Be smart about what you install in your home. Maybe pine with a non toxic, no VOC paint would not pollute your air to the level of the alternates.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2010 at 11:35AM
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