I'm thinking about making my own cabinet doors from MDF, and I think it Can handle it, but I want to finish them with a good paint.

By good I mean something like polyurethane paint, which dries up with a high gloss and is extremely durable and doesn't fade or get sticky over time.

My worry is that from what I hear it shrinks when drying and can warp the doors.

What are people's experiences with this - or are there better alternatives?

  • "PU paint" ???? thespruce.com/cabinet-paint-brands-4134632
    – Alaska Man
    Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 18:47
  • If you plan on making cabinets or anything worth having for a few years use birch, oak or ash plywood unless you plan to flip the house. I have done 20+ remodels or flips over many years and several homes we purchased were “sawdust” or Mdf, particle board cabinets that fell apart after broken pipes , floods. Plywood cabinets held up. Even without a flood cheap particle board cabinets fall apart so spend a few more bucks and have a longer lasting door, cabinet.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 0:00

1 Answer 1


Application quality is probably more important than a specific paint. MDF sucks up paint better than most wet and dry vacs. Sealing it well (especially any edges/routed elements) is absolutely key.

This is a good example of the issue and a possible solution

You would have to get MDF pretty soggy with paint for it to significantly warp the doors. A much more likely issue is gonna be the paint cracking as it shrinks rather than 1 mm of drying polyurethane paint warping a 20 mm MDF door.

If I'm being honest solid wood or birch plywood is probably easier to get a good looking result out of. That way you can go for paint, stain or naked and finish it off with some clear polyurethane for protection.

  • I might agree but you said solid wood birch,,or other hard woods this ie a long gone art . Most are faced plywood even with quality furniture. Some 3 generations cabinets, tables , chests of drawers are rare today. Mdf is a clue of DIY in my opinion but a really good job most cannot see today. But a better answer than most +
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 0:06
  • I agree that real wood would be a lot nicer, but that isn't cheap and requires more time and skill than I'm willing to invest. And, looking for bespoke cabinet door sizes online, I found that they are absurdly expensive: upwards of £80 - compare to a sheet of 12mm MDF, 4' x 8' costing £15, plus a bucket of 2-component polyurethane paint for perhaps £90. Those expensive doors are coated with something like hard, glossy plastic - what I hope to get out of PU paint, in fact.
    – j4nd3r53n
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 11:11
  • My mum always told me to focus on the cake not the icing. I would suggest spending more money on the material and less on the coating. you can pick up a 12mm 2440x1220 sheet of quality Birch Plywood for £60 or if you wanted to save some money a piece of normal plywood for £30.
    – Geoffry
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 11:54

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