I'm putting in baseboards in my kid's bedroom and have only been able to find the profile I want in MDF. I would prefer wood as I understand it is more durable. I've gotten conflicting information re MDF prep and want to make sure it is done right the first time.

We live on the West Coast. What is the proper prep? Do we need to seal the ends of the boards and prime back of boards? Is using MDF apt to be a problem?


MDF isn't a terrible choice since it's cheap, easy to work with, and dimensionally stable, but it will be ruined if a decent amount of moisture ever penetrates into it, and the glue used to bind the wood particles together is full of formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen. Wear a respirator while you're cutting it. If this stuff is for a kid's room, definitely prime all sides after cutting to seal as much of the formaldehyde inside, and maybe even leave the cut, un-primed boards in a ventilated area of the garage for a few weeks or months to let it do most of its off-gassing there rather than inside the house.


I have had trouble in locations where moisture may contact MDF moldings (hard floors, mop use). Any moisture penetration at mitered corners or cut ends can cause it to swell, a lot. For a kids's room on carpeted floor it's probably OK but not as durable to impact as real wood (think dents and scrapes). However, good prime coat with high quality gloss paint will help with durability.

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