Painted White Cabinets: Wood Quality-MDF or Maple?

newhomebuyer1September 14, 2011

Hi, Our builder offers paint grade or oak cabinets as standard. Since we were considering white cabinets we thought we could go with the paint grade. I now came to realize that the paint grade cabinets being used will not be all wood, but rather poplar with and MDF center. Since we are new to this whole kitchen wood species arena, I am a little skeptical about what exactly is poplar and MDF. If we continued down the white cabinet route we have the option to upgrade to all wood (maple) cabinets and have them painted white but its an upcharge of about 6k! Not sure what to do. Do any of you have experience in MDF paint grade cabinets? Do they look OK or plasticy? Any pictures of such cabinets vs maple white would be greatly appreciated!!!! thanks

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Poplar is a soft wood commonly used for paint grade woodwork. the MDF is a smooth Medium Density Fiber board - its made from wood and will take paint nicely but if you wanted grain showing through it won't give you that. I've had white cabinets for 22 years and I HATE them. The lowers need to wiped down weekly - to stay looking nice. I've scrubbed through the melanine in places. Every drip, splash, etc shows like they are "dirty" and haven't been cleaned in ages. If oak is the same price as the poplar frame - MDF center panel ( cheapest paintable available) I think stained oak is the better deal. Don't tell me if you get goregous hard maple and have it painted. Soft maple has alot of color variation and is not that pretty but is real wood and is a much better quality paint grade product.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 1:35PM
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thanks! what about for resale purposes..will a paint grade kitchen (which will still look stunning in my eyes with the contrast of the dark hard wood flooring and the granite we are choosing)sell for less than stained maple or cherry cabinets?

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 3:15PM
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newhomebuyer, there have been many discussions about the quality of mdf versus plywood for the interiors as well as the doors.

Do some searches both with this search engine and do an advanced search on Google using a link to the Kitchens website.
I myself like wood natural or stained better--that is my preference. However, I have seen some stunning white kitchens on this website. Some posters here have done beautiful kitchens with IKEA products, many of which are mdf.

Ladyshadowwalker also brings up another point is what finish would be going on the doors. They are not all the same.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 3:25PM
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IMO real wood cabinets are always a selling feature and appeal to more buyers. If they are wood they can always be painted, but if there are painted and your buyers want real wood they have a major expensive project.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 4:24PM
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thank u all

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 5:40PM
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I, like LSW and colorfast, happen to prefer unpainted wood. However, it seems that painted cabinetry is quite popular right now, both in GW and IRL ;-) Thus, I do not think painted wood cabs will hurt your resale. (I also think that is an overblown concern, but that is a separate topic.)

If you go with painted, I see nothing wrong with using poplar. Paint-grade soft maple would be a bit nicer (harder). For that matter, you could price a number of less-popular, tight-grained hardwoods (birch, alder, maybe even hickory).

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 7:27PM
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My cabs are poplar, but not mixed with MDF. It's just how my cab maker does his so I didn't have to fuss with decisions about MDF. I saw a kitchen of his in poplar and it seemed good enough not to pay the significant upcharge for maple.

Here are a few shots of them sitting in my garage waiting for install next month.

Inside of my reverse raised panel doors taken at the request of another forum member.

I love my cabs. I've wanted white cabs for about 15 years so there was no question that's what I'd do. I live in a gray, rainy climate so like the brighter interior look of white cabs. I'd be doing them now even if they weren't so popular here! I had no idea others even liked white cabs until I found the Kitchen Forum.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 7:58PM
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thank you guys..Angie_DIY, i agree with you that perhaps this painted wood cabinet/MDF thing is being blown out of proportion and I myself am going crazy thinking about the pros and cons..even though at the end of the day i know i really like the painted white look with dark hardwood floors and java colored island. Breezygirl..your cabinets are just gorgeous..can't wait to see them installed and the finished kitchen pics! I also had no idea that white cabinets were so loved by many people until I came to GW. I do feel that its a timeless look, but I can argue the same for dark colored, rich cherry cabinets as well. DH believes we should scrap the white kitchen, java island, dark hardwood floors and go with dark brown cherry cabinets with lighter stained hardwood..I really enjoy both the looks but can't seem to decide which one to finally put in the home..i wish i could just build 2 kitchens, one of each kind...:-)

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 11:33PM
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If it is any consolation to you, our kitchen designer tried to talk us into painted white cabs, after we had expressed in no uncertain terms that we wanted wood. She was just "staying on trend," I suppose. Now you just have to duke it out with DH! (Don't fight dirty, now... ;-)

i wish i could just build 2 kitchens, one of each kind...:-) Yeah, I know what you mean. As much as I want my project to be finished, I kinda would like to play around with all the wonderful ideas I have seen here!

    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 12:17AM
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We have white cabinets (no glaze). The boxes are maple, but the doors are mdf. We talked to many people about this because we thought the mdf would cheapen our kitchen. Everyone we talked to said go with the mdf doors because they will not expand and contrast like maple, and so the paint on the shaker frame will hold up better. Our cabinet makers said this is "industry standard". They were very willing to make the maple doors, for the same price, but they strongly recommended the mdf. Interestingly all of the glazed and stained cabinets they made for our bathrooms are all maple. The glaze helps the paint hold better.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 6:23AM
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thanks, everyone for their suggestions and advice. i think we finally made the decision to do dark cherry cabinets. it will have a stain on it called antique brown, which is dark brown and pulls a lot of black as well. but i dont want to give up on bianco antico granite...i just love love love it. do you think it will go with the dark brown cabinets?? floor will be light stained gut instincts tell me that the cabinets are warm and the granite is very cool..but since i always liked lighter tones in the kitchen i think maybe the bianco antico can break up the darkness created from the brown cabinets..please advice??

    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 12:20PM
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I would also lean toward lighter counters with your dark cabinets. I think a honed limestone would look nice with what you are describing. A white marble or white/off white quartz would also brighten things up and add some contrast.
Also, depending on your layout, natural light, and number of upper cabs, I would also throw in some glass fronts in the uppers to keep things feeling a little more open.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 12:38PM
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I'm thinking the bianco antico is maybe a little dark with the dark brown cabinets. When you have a sample of the cab color and a sample of the granite, try them out together in a space with similar light to your soon-to-be kitchen.

Also, do check out the various quartz colors before you make a final decision. You may find you prefer something there. If not, shopping for granite is always fun.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 1:32PM
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I think BA would go nicely with dark cabs. Kitchenaddict has dark cabs with a granite similar to BA. While I don't like a room full of dark cabs myself, KA's kitchen is really beautiful. I don't have a link to her kitchen at the moment, but perhaps you could search for it.

FWIW, I would not do limestone in a kitchen. Limestone is even more soft, porous, and prone to etching than marble. My kitchen will be Carrara, and I'm doing limestone on my master bath, which to me is pushing the limit of endurance acceptability.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 1:47PM
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I love your granite ideas! That makes your dark cherry fresh and modern. (So many times dark cherry gets paired with a brownish or orangish granite with the beige travertine backsplash.)

    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 2:05PM
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MDF cabinets are commonly used by manufacturers for white painted cabinet applications. MDF is stiff, has no knots or holes to deal with, it is hard, and it fairly strong. Additionally it is primarily used to take paint over solid wood because it does not expand and contract throughout seasonal weather changes. This will prevent the finish from cracking over time.

Here is a link that might be useful: Kitchen Cabinet Kings Door Style Selections

    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 3:01PM
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thank you guys..actually i realized that the granite we liked is not Bianco Antico but a very similar granite called Delicatus. I love it! But no matter how many searches I do online, I dont see it paired with antique brown cabinets. I have seen it with almost every other stained cabinet there is but not the stain we are choosing. DH does not want to go darker or lighter on the cabinet stain and thinks Delicatus will go just fine. Our designer is trying to push a more golden granite on us and thinks that I should stick to all warm tones...although she is the expert I somehow feel that Delicatus just might work. It has so many colors in it that I think it will compliment the brown cabinets pretty nicely. But then is the question of the flooring..Dark brown cabinets, Delicatus granite, and nutmeg stained oak floors scraped lightly. Do you think there are too many different colors going on there?

    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 10:07PM
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I think I found your kitchen and it looks amazing! ( I'm not a fan of dark cab generally but maybe i should re-think based on this )

Here is a link that might be useful: awesome

    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 10:40PM
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Here's Kitchenaddict's kitchen I referenced earlier. Her cabs are peppercorn, darker than yours sound. Maybe it'll help you visualize.

I have trouble seeing why Delicatus wouldn't work with your cabs, but maybe I'm not sure I know what color they are exactly. Do you have a pic or link to show the color?

Do you have a sample door you can take to the slab yard to hold the two surfaces together? That was invaluable to me when looking at stones. Taking a pic is also a good idea. If you can do that and show us, you'll get no shortage of opinions. :)

Here is a link that might be useful: KA's delicatus and peppercorn

    Bookmark   September 16, 2011 at 12:50AM
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I came across this feature on Bianco Antico. Some of the kitchens shown have cab colors I'm guessing are similar to yours. Delicatus, being similar to BA, would give you about the same look depending on your slab.

Here is a link that might be useful: BA on different color cabs

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 2:59AM
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