Edge Treatment for MDF

Is it better to edgeband MDF cabinet doors, sand and paint them, or what? June 9, 2012

I'm doing a job with quite a bit of MDF cabinetry that will get a custom paint treatment by someone else. I usually don't do MDF cabinets and was wondering what edge treatment is best. The doors are full overlay with a square edge. I have an edgebander, but I have seen MDF cabinets on other jobs that just come out with raw edges. If you edgeband, what material do you use?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor L:
You can use maple, which has a nice closed grain, or a paper edging that will have no grain.

From contributor S:
We have done a bunch of MDF doors, both cabinet and passage doors. We never edgeband anything, as the edges paint or lacquer great. I think edgebanding would give you problems.

From contributor U:
MDF is great for cabinet doors. They take paint very well and are permanently dimensionally stable. MDF is terrible for cabinet boxes. It is unnecessarily heavy and has poor structural characteristics. We use MDF for all painted doors and edgeband birch plywood for our boxes.

From contributor W:
With raw MDF edges, it requires sanding and 2 coats of primer. We use resin saturated paper. This makes for fast painted edges.

From contributor J:
I used to use birch or maple banding, but on the last job tried the paper. Way better, in my opinion. I think it looks more professional to have the edges banded than raw.

I used MDF on a shelving unit a couple years ago. Never again! Even pre-drilling I had a lot of problems with the material splitting. Particleboard or plywood both work much better for casework. Save the MDF for just the doors.

From the original questioner:
The boxes will be white melamine. Spoke with my supplier and he suggested a polyester paint grade material. He's sending me a roll to look at. He didn't know about the resin saturated paper though. Thanks.

From contributor U:
A primer/sand-and-vacuum/primer sequence will fill most of your MDF edge grain concerns prior to painting. When we are extra concerned about the porosity of the MDF edge grain showing, we mix a glue and water solution and quickly brush it on with an acid brush. We also use a simple off the shelf wood hardener from the pigment stain company. Brush it on with a paint brush, dries in 10 minutes. The MDF sands very nicely and holds the paint well. The glue/water and the hardener are liquid so they contour to any surface.

From contributor G:
We PVC edge the boxes matched to the same color as the painted MDF doors. The painted edges often get nicked with plates and stuff and will look horrible in a year's time.

From contributor Z:
We're in the UK and use it all the time. Sure takes the hard work out of preparing MDF edges. Available in the UK too.