MDF for closet shelving

homeboundFebruary 25, 2008

I'm in th middle of building a large closet organizer with MDF from Home Depot and regretting that I didn't check the grade of it first (light beige sheets). Anyway, anybody happen to know if the 3/4" stuff they stock is LD, MD or HD? It was like $26 a sheet, and my shelves are 14'deep x 28 wide. What kind of sag do you think I'll get over time. It'll be used mainly for light closet stuff like clothing and shoes, etc.

Also, to screw the fixed shelves into the "end grain", what size/kind of screws to you use? I was going to use 1/4 cabinet screws with the wide flat heads, but am thinking that diam. might be too large. I'm thinking instead of using 1 5/8" coarse thread drywall screws + glue, predrilled. Anybody have a preference on this?

Thanks much.


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A 28" long shelf made of 3/4" thick MDF will eventually sag up to an inch. You can minimize that sag by adding a piece of wood about 2" wide to the front of the shelf---making a lip which adds strength.

Making 1/4" deep dado's and using glue/wood screws with coarse threads(1/4" by 1&1/2" long) will be better. You must predrill and do not use a power driver to fully seat the screws---too easy to strip out the threads in the holes.

If you can't make the dado's, glue/screw 2" strips of wood on which to install the shelves.

Reason is that even glue/screws used on butt joinery will not hold MDF shelving over time.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2008 at 11:13AM
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The HD near me stock MD at around the price you mentioned, so that's probably what it is.

Regarding your plan, I'm with handymac, it will probably sag if installed as you describe. And drywall screws into the MDF doesn't sound strong enough even to hold it up in the long term.

MDF has some wonderful qualities, but it is weak, and very heavy. For those reasons I usually employ strategies along the lines of what handymac described. For shelves, in fact, I often use 1/2" MDF with a glued-on lip and perhaps glued on undershelf support strips of 1/4" or 3/8" dimensional material. This give you the strength of real wood with the smoothness, paintability, dimensional stability and economy of the MDF. (Finding the appropriate strips of wood could be problematic if you don't have a table saw.)

If you don't have a table saw, probably the best strategy is to create cleats made out of 1x2 material to support the MDF, with a 1x2x28" support connected to the front of the cleats to provide longitudinal support. Wouldn't look as good as the dado approach, but it would hold up well.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2008 at 1:53PM
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Brushworks Spectacular Finishes

Cabinet light rails make excellent stiffeners when applied to the front edge of the MDF. They are pre-notched 3/4" to fit over cabinet stock and will slip over the front edge of the shelf about 3/8".


    Bookmark   February 28, 2008 at 9:45PM
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