Whether to Lay Up Your Own Veneered MDF

Pre-veneered panels are more economical, but there may be reasons for preferring a custom product. April 20, 2007

Which would be more cost efficient to make flat slab cabinet doors - buy MDF and veneer, let's say maple, and veneer both sides, or buy pre-veneered MDF? I've found 2-sided maple veneered MDF for $62/sheet. I can get 3/4 paint grade MDF for $20/sheet. So, is $40 extra per sheet worth it?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor R:
$20 for bare MDF, then another $65+/- for maple veneer. I just did a kitchen with slab maple doors. I used MDF core maple with maple edge tape. Your price of $62 per sheet is right about what I paid also. Even if buying bare MDF and veneering it yourself saves you a couple dollars on the surface, you're going to have more labor in it, thence raising your overall cost.

From contributor J:
In most cases, mill-run sheet goods will be much cheaper than custom veneering if you factor in all costs including labor. The possible exception would be if you have an extremely high waste factor in getting out sizes from standard size sheets.

The main reasons people go to a custom-veneered component are:
1. They want a non-standard core.
2. They want the component edged before face veneering.
3. They want a non-standard face match.

4. They want a non-standard face veneer (species, cut or figure).
5. They want a better quality face veneer.
6. They want a thicker face veneer.
7. They want the faces of all of the components coordinated according to their place in the installation (what's known as a "blueprint-match").

If custom-veneered components are required, many small shops find that using a custom lay-up house is more cost-effective than laying up veneer in-house.

From contributor R:
We made sure to cut doors and drawer fronts out of the same piece of wood, to keep all of the grain patterns aligned. Obviously, that's impossible to do all the way around, but we matched up as best as possible. We did have a little more scrap than normally out of sheet, but the overall look was worth it, certainly not what they would have gotten from a mass produced cabinet, and the customers really like the touch.

From contributor W:
Northern Contours makes MDF core maple veneered slab doors that are bookmatched QS maple for about $13 per sqft. The edges are 1/8" solid wood, then they veneer for a seamless look.