Video: MDF and Particle Board Cabinet Shelving

These are adjustable shelves for some pretty expensive cabinets.

You won’t be able to see these ends once the shelf is in place, but looking at the end is the key to knowing what they’re really made of.

These are made of MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) with a very thin paper skin that has a picture of wood printed on it.

MDF has a very smooth and consistent brown texture.

Compare this to particle board, which has a rougher feel and a more speckled look.

Particle Board is used for shelving in about 90% of cabinet lines. And if the particle board shelving has a high-quality, thick plastic laminate on it, it will perform very well over time.

The other main options besides MDF and PB are plywood and solid wood. Plywood and solid wood are great materials, but ironically don’t do very well for adjustable shelves.

Getting to the point though, you can probably guess that I don’t like these shelves.

First, although MDF is a pretty good material, it’s not as strong or rigid as PB. Rigid is important because you don’t want saggy shelves.

The big problem here is this thin surface. It is going to do very poorly under wear and tear, which could allow the MDF to be exposed to moisture. You don’t want that.

The biggest problem, though, is that much of the strength of a quality shelf comes from the laminate layers at the top and bottom. This paper will not help to keep the shelf from sagging, so I would predict that it will show sagging within a few years under a heavy load.

Oh yes, and this seam here is unsightly and just another potential problem area.

Would it be fair to look at this shelf material as an indicator of the overall quality of this cabinet line? Yes, I think that is fair. Being well acquainted with this cabinet line, I know that they have other shortcomings because of similar compromises.

So, when you’re looking at cabinets, you need to actually take out a shelf and look at the core material.