MDF For Doorframes. Is It As Good As Solid Timber?

Chris Robinson , Jun 18, 2021 10:08:46 AM

On face value, solid timber must be the ‘solid’ winner here, surely?

This is a common perception when comparing wood to MDF board. Generally speaking, timber is seen as a strong, sturdy material whilst MDF is the cheap and weak alternative. Does flat-pack furniture spring to mind?

These perceptions probably hark back to a time when MDF was an emerging product. And yes, it was less durable than solid timber.

However, advancements in technology mean that MDF is becoming a “solid” contender amongst doorframe manufacturing, making it a reliable and cost-effective alternative to its natural wood counterpart.

Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that MDF is better than solid timber; it’s just an option you should consider.

In this post, we explore the advantages and disadvantages of both solid timber and MDF for your doorframes, helping you specify fire rated doorsets with confidence.

Read on to find out more…

Solid Timber Doorframes For Fire Doorsets

Quite simply, solid timber refers to natural lumber, consisting only of wood. This means that you won’t find a mixture of veneers, fibres, resins or adhesives that you would do in ‘engineered wood’.

Advantages of Solid Timber Doorframes

  • Longevity – Solid timber is strong and sturdy, meaning it will last for decades. In fact, solid timber – has been used all over the world to provide support for entire buildings and bridges. It also has a greater supporting structure, meaning it doesn’t require intensive fixings.


  • Aesthetics & Finish – When carefully selected, you can achieve a consistent finish which provides a substantially greater aesthetic. It can be painted or polished, delivering an excellent end result, no matter what option you choose. With this, it is easier to machine, achieving a better overall machined finish.


  • Meets fire certification up to FD90 – In other words, a solid timber doorframe will be able to withstand a fire for up to 90 minutes.


  • Lightweight – for high volume orders, timber is easy to handle, making the installation and assembly process less challenging on busy sites.


  • Cost – Many solid timbers can actually be cheaper than MDF!


  • Resilience – Solid timber has some resilience to water, meaning they may be effectively used in environments susceptible to water/moisture.


  • Availability – When compared to MDF, solid timber is readily available, supplied by more than one country and from many different factories.


  • Green Credentials – fewer materials, less manufacturing, fewer resources. This makes it better for the environment than other engineered wood alternatives.


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Disadvantages of Solid Timber Doorframes

  • Cost – If you’re looking for premium hardwoods, they will be more expensive than veneered MDF – but with good reason: they will be more durable.


  • Waste – As solid timber comes in random lengths, waste cannot easily be calculated.


  • Vulnerable to heat and cold – Wood will expand or contract when exposed to rapid changes in temperature and humidity. This, however, won’t be a problem if your building is well regulated (which, for pretty much every commercial project in the UK, it will be).


  • Moisture can be an issue – not to be contradictory, but unless your doorframe is properly finished and sealed, it may become vulnerable to water damage, for example, rot and mould.


  • Natural Defects – As with anything natural, you may come up against certain natural defects like knots or splits. Your fire doorset manufacturer should be able to identify this though.


MDF Doorframes – Pros & Cons

In essence, MDF is a material that consists of recycled wood, fibres and resin that is mixed up with a wax. The strength of MDF will depend on a number of factors, including size of the board, consistency, type of glue, and type of fibres used during manufacture.

Advantages of MDF Doorframes

  • It’s manmade – This provides it with a consistent finish. Ideal if you’re looking to specify a series of doors that look exactly the same in appearance.


  • No knots, splits or natural defects – Again, as MDF is a man-made material, you won’t get any natural defects that you might find in natural wood alternatives.


  • Excellent paint finish – It’s smooth and consistent texture makes for easy paint application, delivering an aesthetically pleasing result.


  • Meets fire certification up to FD60 – whilst this might not be as fire resistant as some solid timbers, FD60 fire doorsets are permitted in a wide variety of applications.


  • Extra Wide – Can make extra width doorframes from one piece.


  • Standard lengths – meaning waste can be easily calculated.



Disadvantages of MDF Doorframes

  • MDF is heavy – despite common misconception, MDF weighs more than solid timber. This is mainly due to the fibres, glues and other components that go into the manufacture of the material.


  • Not resistant to water – overexposure to water will cause the material to disintegrate, so it’s crucial that the type of MDF used is considered. For more cost, moisture resistant or semi water resistant MDF is available but in limited thickness and length.


  • No supporting structure – Anyone who has assembled flatpack furniture will know that MDF can’t support too much weight. This means the structure of your MDF doorframe will need careful fixing in order for it to fulfil its function.


  • Consider your finish – if not painted correctly, the finish around the edges of the doorframe may be poor. This means that on-site finishing won’t be your best option. Instead, consider factory finishing your MDF fire doorset frame instead.


  • Short supply – This is a very recent phenomenon. MDF factories are fewer than timber suppliers and recently these fewer factories have limited their supply to the market. This has driven availability down and the price up.


  • Not as cheap as you think – MDF was widely sold as the ‘cheaper alternative’ to softwood. However, this is no longer the case; MDF is as expensive as lower grade hardwoods.


Conclusion – Which is better? Solid timber or MDF for your doorframe

As you’ve probably noticed, there is no true winner, and the best solution would depend on the individual aims, circumstances and requirements surrounding your project.

Why not pick up the phone and give us a call? We’d love to help you with your product research, and we’d be happy to advise you on your options around MDF and solid timber.

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