When building or renovating your home, you may think the choice of materials is solely dependant on cost. This may be the case with foundation materials, the quality of insulation, or fixtures. But when it comes to interior décor, specifically mouldings such as skirting boards or architraves, there are factors other than cost to be considered.
MDF Skirting Boards
To understand the difference between Timber and MDF, let’s first explore what MDF is. Medium Density Fibreboard is a composite material made from hardwood or softwood fibres combined with a wax or resin binder. Once machine dried, the product is formed into panels at a high temperature and pressure, creating a result a bit heavier than timber and denser than plywood.
There is no doubt MDF is more cost-effective than timber, but there are other advantages to this product, which may appeal to those working to a stricter budget.
- MDF will not shrink or warp due to changes in heat and humidity like wood can. Wood warping occurs when the moisture content of timber is uneven and certain areas dry faster than others, creating stress on the wood that can cause it to shrink or warp.
- Because MDF is man-made, it doesn’t come with imperfections like knots and other deformities like natural timber. Darker knots in the wood, otherwise known as dead knots, run the risk of falling out if not properly treated.
- MDF can be prepared for installation much faster than timber. Because MDF is free of imperfections, it simply needs to be sanded and primed before adding your final coat of paint.
- MDF can be produced in almost any size for skirting boards. The average dimensions range between approximately 70 – 400mm but can be customised to suit your specific requirements.
- If moisture is a consideration in your home, MRMDF (Moisture Resistant Medium Density Fibreboard) is an excellent choice. MRMDF is slightly more expensive than MDF because it’s made with higher quality fibres, but survives damp conditions without the risk of separating or crumbling.
Timber Skirting Boards
Skirting boards can be produced from various timbers including Finger Jointed Pine, Clear Pine, Meranti, Oak, Western Red Cedar, or Kiln Dried Hardwood.
Choosing a natural timber means using a higher quality product than MDF, but there are other factors to consider.
- The dimensions of timber are more limited than MDF because it’s dependant on the size of the tree. The average dimensions of timber are approximately 70 – 220mm, almost half the size of MDF boards.
- Timber is not as water-resistant as the higher quality MRMDF on the market and is susceptible to shrinking and warping if not properly prepared and primed.
- The cost of preparing timber is higher than MDF because of its natural imperfections. Deformities in the wood can make some boards unusable because of their poor aesthetic.
- Timber is more expensive than MDF because it costs more to manufacture and treat. It also takes longer to prepare for installation.
If you’re aiming for a varnished, wood-trim look in your home then timber skirting boards or architraves may be the choice for you. MDF doesn’t have the same aesthetic as timber because it is made from wood fibres and doesn’t have a natural grain or characteristics such as knots like wood does.
MDF cannot replicate the look of oak or pine, but there are many advantages to using this product above cost including ease of preparation, absence of imperfections, ability to handle moisture, and its versatility of size.
If you’re still on the fence, give our experts at the Australian Moulding & Door Company a call. We’ll take the guesswork out of your decision by matching your unique requirements to our wide range of materials and styles. Alternatively, see more info on our skirting board and architrave profiles here.