MDF vs Wood Baseboards: Which Material is Better?

February 18, 2021
by The Finished Space
MDF vs Wood Baseboards: Which Material is Better?

Medium-density fiberboard (MDF), is becoming a popular material for many home projects, including baseboards. In the past, wood used to be the only option for baseboards, but now there are several options, including MDF.

So, which is better for baseboards? In an MDF vs wood baseboards comparison, which comes out on top?

Let’s look at thepros, cons, pricing, and more of both materials so you can decide which is better for your project.

The Pros and Cons of MDF Baseboards 

The Pros and Cons of MDF Baseboards

MDF is an aggregate engineered wood product. It’s made by taking recycled wood pieces ( leftover wood scraps) or small parts of trees (small branches) and pulping them into a mash. The mashed pulp is combined with resin or binders to create a solid building material with many of the same properties as wood.

There are many advantages to MDF baseboards

There are many advantages to MDF baseboards
Products used in space:1 x 6″ MDF board1/2 x 4″ MDF boardVery Square baseboardbase shoe

MDF Baseboard Pros: 

  • Smooth surface, free of natural imperfections or knots
  • Typically primed , making it a breeze to paint
  • Cut edges have a slight radius for a softer appearance
  • Cost-effective
  • Doesn’t split, making installation easy

Despite its many advantages, MDF also presents some disadvantages that homeowners should be aware of.

MDF Baseboard Cons:

  • MDF can swell with moisture damage, and if that happens, it will usually need to be replaced.
  • MDF baseboards require a structurally sound frame to make them strong. The wall behind MDF baseboards serves as the structural support since the material is much lighter than solid wood. As a result, the outside corners can be prone to chipping.

Overall, MDF is a cost-effective material that’s easy to install and paint. It’s an engineered wood product, so it’s built to be durable. MDF baseboards are beautiful and smooth and look great in any home. 

The Pros and Cons of Wood Baseboards

The Pros and Cons of Wood Baseboards

Wood baseboards that are primed for painting are generally made from softwood finger jointed pine or poplar, or solid pine boards. For staining, hardwoods like hemlock and oak are great choices for people who appreciate the wood grain look.

 Whether natural or primed, wood baseboards are a terrific option for people who love the traditional look and craftsmanship of real wood. There are also plenty of other advantages to choosing wood baseboards.

Other Advantages to Choosing Wood Baseboards

Wood Baseboard Pros:

  • Natural wood grain appearance
  • Stronger and more durable than MDF
  • Cost-effective way to have real wood interior elements
  • They rarely crack or warp once installed
  • 100% renewable and sustainable resource

Wood baseboards also have some disadvantages you need to be aware of.

Wood Baseboard Cons:

  • Wood baseboards are more challenging to install because they can split when nailed.
  • Wood will have knots and it isn’t always completely smooth or level like MDF.

So, how do these two materials compare?

MDF vs Wood Baseboards: Quick Comparison

MDF and wood baseboards are both attractive options. Aside from their pros and cons, there are a few distinct differences between the two materials. Here’s a quick comparison:

  • Cost – MDF is usually cheaper than wood baseboards.
  • Wood Staining – MDF can’t be stained, while wood baseboards can be stained and will maintain a wood grain appearance.
  • Painting – MDF baseboards and wood baseboards can be painted.
  • Installation – MDF will not split when you nail it, and its smooth and even appearance makes installation simple. However, wood is light, strong, easy to handle, and easy to install if you know how to handle it. 
  • Weight – MDF is typically lighter than natural wood, making it easier to handle

So, which baseboard type is right for your next project? 

Deciding Between MDF Baseboard vs Wood Baseboard

Natural Wood Look

MDF and wood are both great materials for your baseboards. Ultimately, it comes down to what is most important to you and your project.

If you want the natural wood look, you can use wood baseboards and choose a natural finish, and then stain them to really bring out the natural grain and knots. If you want the most cost-effective option, MDF baseboards are usually the clear winner.

The other thing to consider is who is installing it. Will a skilled contractor be doing the installation, or will it be a DIY project? MDF is usually more DIY-friendly, whereas wood baseboards require a bit of experience to get right.

Moisture content is also something to keep in mind. If the baseboards are going to be installed in a particularly damp area, primed wood will hold up better than MDF.

Ultimately, you’ll want to choose the baseboard material that best fits your home and project. The reality is that MDF and wood baseboards are both fantastic choices, and either might be the right choice for your home.

If you’d like some help deciding on the perfect baseboards and moulding for your next project, browse our selection of baseboards today