Adhering MDF to Drywall

Mastic or polyurethane glue should work. Here are some installation tips. May 5, 2007

I have to veneer a wall in a 2'x2' checkerboard pattern. The wall is 10' tall and 26' long. I want to veneer 2'x2' squares of wood veneer to 4'x6' and 4'x4' 1/2" MDF (6' and 4' is because 10' will not fit in the elevator to the 7th floor). These panels will be pre-finished in a stain, then lacquer. They will be attached to a sheetrock wall. Will construction adhesive troweled on be the best way to adhere them? There is no room for zclips since panels go from floor to ceiling and must only add 1/2" to wall! Any advice? There is a first time for everything; I just want it to be the last time at this apartment.

Forum Responses
(Adhesives Forum)
From contributor L:
Liquid Nails for paneling would do the trick. Apply a zigzag bead to the MDF and press against the wall, then pull off the wall and wait a minute. Place back on the wall and it will stick well. You could also probably use mastic adhesive for tiling. This could be troweled on and the MDF could be pressed into it. Either way you are going to be a little thicker than 1/2" because the glue has thickness. Figure an extra 1/8" for the glue.

From contributor D:
I agree about troweling the adhesive on, but only use a 1/32 inch notched trowel. My reasoning for this is I know veneer is thinner than vertical grade laminate, and if you have ever installed vertical grade laminate, the contact cement has to be very even and thin or the inconsistencies will telegraph through and be visible.

From contributor J:
The disadvantage to mounting the panels in this way would be that you will have to put your adhesive on very thick. I don't know if something troweled on would necessarily make up for the unevenness of the drywall. In a perfect world, the walls would be perfectly flat and your idea would work fine. Unfortunately we all know how un-flat today's walls are.

If you use contributor L's method, the advantage is that you will see areas that are not contacting when you remove the panel. This would allow you to apply additional adhesive, ensuring a good bond. And as contributor L said, plan on at least an eighth for the glue thickness.

Lastly, I would recommend at least giving a second thought to the z-clips. The additional space required is minimal, I think either 1/4 or 3/8". The panels could be removed for repair in the future if necessary, and you could stack 2 - 4'x4' panels with z-clips and then slide a third 2'x4' panel into the top with z-clips placed sideways instead of upright. The panel below would keep it at the right height and the z-clips would keep tight to the wall, allowing the panels to go tight to the ceiling.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for your suggestions. This is the first time I will be attempting this and the biggest problem is I try to think of all the ways it could fail. Having other ideas really helps me sleep at night.