When it comes to cabinet refacing, the choice between solid wood, MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard), and wood stiles and rails with an MDF center panel depends on several factors, including the desired aesthetic, the climate of your home, and your budget.
Solid Wood Cabinet Doors
Solid hardwood doors, commonly made from maple, oak, or cherry, are often used for stained doors where the natural beauty of the wood grain is both enhanced and protected by a professionally applied finish. Wood doors are strong and durable, and scratches or dents can be repaired with a little sanding and a coat of matching stain. Stained wood doors are a great choice for homeowners wanting a classic looking kitchen using a traditional design that shows off both the beauty and the sturdiness of hardwood doors.
However, as a painted door, solid wood has its limitations. Solid wood expands and contracts when exposed to varying degrees of humidity. This can cause the joints between the rails to shift slightly as the wood expands or contracts. On a painted door, these small shifts can result in a hairline break in the painted surface, resulting in a dark line at the joint. Over time, these breaks can lead to the paint chipping at the joints, making for a less than perfect looking door in just a few years.
MDF Kitchen Cabinet Doors
MDF, or Medium Density Fiberboard, is a manufactured wood product that combines wood fibers with resin. MDF offers a smooth finish and withstands changes in heat and humidity better than solid wood. If you live in a humid climate or the cabinets will be placed in a room that can become humid, such as a bathroom, the humidity-resistant properties of MDF make it the best choice. This is because solid wood cabinets can retain moisture and swell or warp over time.
The super smooth and consistent surface of MDF allows for a high-end painted finish. With a shaker frame machined as a single piece, there are no joints to split apart like solid wood rails and stiles. The MDF is probably cheaper for the same look
Wood Stiles and Rails with an MDF Center Panel
Most “solid wood” recessed panel doors are not really solid wood. They are plywood panels with wood frames very much behaving like the solid wood with MDF panels. There is zero advantage of a plywood over MDF for the center panel if you are using wood frames.
In conclusion, the best type of door for cabinet refacing depends on your specific needs and circumstances. Solid wood doors are a great choice for stained doors due to their natural beauty and durability. However, for painted doors or in humid climates, MDF doors may be a better choice due to their smooth finish and resistance to humidity. Wood stiles and rails with an MDF center panel can offer a good balance of the benefits of both materials.