Difference Between MDF and Plywood: Which is Right for Your Project?

When selecting materials for cabinetry and other woodworking projects, understanding the difference between MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) and plywood is essential. Both materials have unique properties that make them suitable for different applications. Here, we break down the pros and cons of MDF and plywood to help you make an informed decision.

What is MDF?


  • MDF is made from wood fibers combined with resin and wax, compressed under high pressure to form dense, smooth sheets.
  • It has a uniform structure without grain patterns.


  • Smooth Surface: Ideal for painting and veneering due to its smooth, uniform surface.
  • Cost-Effective: Generally less expensive than plywood.
  • Ease of Use: Cuts and shapes easily without splintering, making it perfect for detailed work.


  • Strength: Less durable and more prone to damage than plywood, especially in high-impact applications.
  • Moisture Sensitivity: Swells and deteriorates when exposed to moisture, making it unsuitable for wet environments.

What is Plywood?


  • Plywood is made from thin layers of wood veneer glued together with alternating grain patterns for added strength.
  • Available in various grades, each suited to different purposes.


  • Strength and Durability: Plywood is stronger and more resilient than MDF, making it ideal for structural projects.
  • Moisture Resistance: Higher grades of plywood are treated to resist moisture, suitable for kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Versatility: Comes in various thicknesses and grades, allowing for a wide range of applications.


  • Cost: Generally more expensive than MDF.
  • Surface Finish: The surface may have imperfections and knots, requiring additional work for a smooth finish.

Making the Right Choice

Consider Your Project:

  • For Painted Finishes and Detailed Work: MDF is excellent for cabinetry, shelving, and decorative trim where a smooth, painted finish is desired.
  • For Structural Applications and High-Moisture Areas: Plywood is better suited for cabinets, flooring, and areas exposed to moisture, such as kitchens and bathrooms.

Budget Considerations:

  • MDF is a cost-effective option for interior projects that don’t require high strength.
  • Plywood, while more expensive, offers superior strength and durability for structural and high-moisture applications.

Cincinnati Kitchens Can Help

At Cincinnati Kitchens, our experts are here to guide you through the material selection process to ensure your project meets both aesthetic and functional needs. Whether you’re considering MDF for its smooth finish or plywood for its durability, we provide high-quality options to suit your requirements.

Our 3-Step Design Process

  1. In-Home Consultation: Our designer visits your home to assess your needs and preferences, taking measurements and discussing your project goals.
  2. Showroom Visit: Explore our range of materials and products, and view tailored floor plans and drawings to visualize your project.
  3. Professional Installation: Enjoy a hassle-free installation with our professional team, ensuring every detail is managed with care and precision.

Visit our showroom to explore MDF and plywood options and find the perfect materials for your kitchen or bathroom project. Contact us today to schedule your in-home consultation and start planning your dream space with Cincinnati Kitchens.

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