I need informed people to respond to the argument stated by one of my builders. Last week I was questioned about painting and glazing an MDF door. The statement was that the introduction of glaze to a painted MDF door will cause me finish problems and that if I was to change to a real wood painted and glazed, this would take care of the potential problems. I was also informed that no other shops in the industry do a painted and glazed MDF door in a kitchen. I was told this is like putting a dress on a pig. Any thoughts? I would like to provide this builder with some facts, however he has been educated by my competition.
The second argument is about painting melamine. My competition paints melamine and we use a birch plywood and paint it. I was asked by this builder if I would agree that painting melamine is better that painting birch ply.
From contributor L:
Painting and glazing MDF is probably more stable than putting the same coatings on solid wood. MDF will likely be a one piece door, therefore no movement between pieces will occur. This will eliminate any cracking that can occur with solid wood and floating panels. If you use the product correctly on MDF, it will last just as long as if it was on a solid wood substrate. This guy just doesn't like MDF, and neither do I. But for the argument he is using, it is hogwash. If the guy wants solid wood doors, let him have them. Just tell him there will be a premium price that comes along with them.
First off, the MDF and wood door have no difference in a quality glazed finish when applied correctly. Three things will normally cause a glazed finish to fail:
1) Excessive mil application (easy to do in paint grade application where you have to put down at least 2 coats of pigment, possibly a clear coat, glaze, and one or two more clear coats on top).
2) Heavy glaze application.
3) Glaze needs to bite and this usually has to do with recoat windows being correct. Many more failures occur on CV than, say, a pre-cat because of this.
If done correctly, I'd rather have the MDF in my own kitchen vs. a real wood door. Lastly, this builder is out of his mind to rather paint melamine than plywood (maple is better than birch, but birch is way better than melamine). Talk about adhesion issues.
Most GCs know very little about finishing, so I would make samples for them using the same steps on the sample that I would use on the project. If your GC wants something done that you yourself cannot stand by, you might want to add a disclaimer to your sample board and have the contractor sign off on it.
As far as particleboard holding up in a kitchen, it doesn't matter what you coat your doors with, or if it is hardwood/MDF. If it has a floating panel and a lot of water gets into all the wrong places, that door is going to take damage. But real wood does hold up better in reality.
Plywood is stronger than melamine, but when painted, there's a good chance you're going to see the birch grain in your finish. If you painted melamine, it's going to look more like laminate. It may look odd if everything is smooth like laminate, and then you see random areas where wood grain shows. Adding a glaze will worsen this effect.