The HUX Report Vol 7: The Building Blocks Of Joinery

The materials you choose directly affect the look, feel and cost of your joinery. There are myriad options available and here we explore the most commonly used board materials to help you choose what to specify.

Flush Spray Painted Doors – View Project Arlington

1. MDF (Medium-Density Fibreboard)

This is a man-made product made from wood fibres. Glued together with resin, heat & pressure, it comes in smooth boards with no knots or grains. MDF is the most flexible option for joinery production where the finished product is spray painted. It is also most commonly used as the core for veneered boards due to its cost, strength and flexibility. 

3D Panelled Wall – View Bedrooms & Dressing Rooms

Widely available in different board sizes and thicknesses, easy to cut and shape, and ideal for contemporary 3d doors and panelling. MDF is also available in a moisture resistant version (green) which can be used for internal areas where there will be a lot of moisture (for example in the bathroom). 
Lacks the natural grain & texture of real wood, and some customers will want to spec a painted wood finish with visible grain instead of the smooth finish MDF offers.
Best Use Case: Ideal for smooth front-facing doors, infills and side/end panels, in either hand, semi-matt or high gloss spray paint finish.

2. MFC (Melamine-Faced Chipboard)

This is the most cost-effective option for the production of bespoke joinery. The melamine is either wood effect or decorative (plain / patterned) and there are hundreds of options to consider in a huge range of colours, wood grain and metallic effect options.

Carcass in sand beige by Egger – View Bedrooms & Dressing Rooms
Carcass in sand beige by Egger – View Bedrooms & Dressing Rooms

These boards do not need any finishing other than edging tape appiled to the cut edges. Most frequently used for internal carcassing, but also used as a more economical external finish

There are also ranges of premium finishes such as the matt, gloss and metallic effect boards which are being increasingly used for front-facing elements in both commercial and residential applications.

Best Use Case: Carcass material

3. XyloCleaf

Reinventing the world of MFC, this category busting range of decorative surfaces is available on panels, laminate sheets and matching edging. These versatile surfaces come in a range of styles and contemporary finishes, ranging from linen and leather effects, copper, driftwood and textural timber. 

Kitchen Fronts in Rovere LK99 Matrix – View Project Westfields

They can be used in many different contexts, including kitchens and bathrooms, as worktops, and cupboard doors. Xylocleaf is a man-made rather than natural product with very slight visible rubber strip to side of edging.
Best Use Case: Premium carcass material and/or front facing doors and panelling.

Display Cabinet in FA42 Confort Penelope – View Living Spaces

4. Veneered MDF Boards

Pre-veneered boards comprise a 0.8mm layer of wood glued either side of an MDF core. These are cut then edged in matching real wood veneer to create an invisible edge detail. Boards come in a range of oaks, walnut, cherry & Nordic timbers and can be stained to give a bespoke finish.

Oak Veneer Open Dressing Room with Faux Leather Upholstered Drawers – View Bedrooms & Dressing Rooms

Pre-veneered boards are much more economical than buying loose sheets of leaf veneer, or using real wood, and we offer a bespoke range of stains to give even more flexibility.
Best Use Case: Premium carcass material, front-facing doors and panelling, Inset panels for solid wood shaker-style doors.

5. Hardwood Ply

A cabinet-grade natural wood substrate built up in cross-laminated layers and finished with a high-quality face veneer with consistent wood grain. Typically comes in a Birch ply top veneer for lacquering or painting, but also available in oak, walnut and other topcoat veneers.
Some clients prefer not to use MDF or MFC, in which case ply is the ideal substrate, however they are more expensive than veneered MDF boards. Not suitable for intricate designs as edges tend to splinter.

Best Use Case: Carcass material and small format slab doors & panelling. Inset panels for solid wood shakers tyle doors. Can be lacquered, stained or painted.

6. Richlite

An incredibly durable, evocative and tactile board material made from many layers of high quality recycled or sustainably harvested decorative paper, pressed and bonded together with an eco-friendly thermosetting resin.

Richlite Black Diamond Kitchen – View Kitchens

Richlite is great for worktops, slab doors and panelling and has a luxurious and tactile feel. A natural eco-friendly product that adds major wow factor to larder units and combines beautifully with timber but comes in a limited range of earthy colours.
Best Use Case: Carcass material, worktops, slab doors & panelling.

7. Fenix

Fenix is an innovative material created by undergoing a series of processes including multi-layer coating, use of nanotechnology and acrylic resins. It is a high-tech material that is made unique by its characteristics including – thermally repairable, anti-fingerprint, soft to touch, hygienic, durable and waterproof.

Fenix Nano Tech Matt Kitchen – View Kitchens

Rather than being reflected the light is diffused making Fenix highly matt. Fenix materials are highly resistant to scratches, abrasion, dry heat, acid-based solvents and household reagents, and micro scratches can be removed by a warm cloth. They come in a muted range of F&B style colours and you can also get matching worktops in the same material.
Best Use Case: Premium and highly durable flat fronted kitchen cabinet doors

8. Veneer Leaves

Natural timbers sliced in .8mm sheets which comes in a vast range of natural and man-made/dyed natural veneers. The leaves are then pressed onto an MDF or ply substrate before being cut to size and edged. Perfect for bookmatching longer runs and can be dyed to any colour.

Specialist Veneer Doors with Upholstered Centre Panels – View Bedrooms & Dressing Rooms

Veneer leaves are more expensive than pre-veneered boards as they are labour intensive therefore more costly. Some veneers accent stain/lacquer better than others and all veneers will discolour over lifetime.

Best Use Case: Carcass material, front-facing doors and panelling.

9. Tri-Ply

Triply is a natural hardwood three-layered panel with both outer faces each 5mm thick timber staves, a similar thickness to the top timber layer of an engineered wood floor, with a solid cross-banded core of the same timber. Great material for solid wood carcassing, large solid doors and large format shelving for clients who want a natural wood product with no compromises.

Available in a variety of hardwoods, tri-ply offers more structural stability than jointed solid wood for large format pieces. Can be edged with a matching hardwood lipping or the edge detail can be left on display and can be lacquered, oiled, stained or painted. Tri-Ply is extremely expensive however and more time-consuming to cut and shape than traditional board materials.

Best Use Case: For solid wood carcassing, large solid doors and large format shelving for clients who want a natural wood product with no compromises.

10. Solid Wood

This is undoubtedly the most traditionally elegant but not always the most suitable option. Some joinery elements can only be made up in solid wood such as handle details, carved elements or framing for in-frame doors, but other items such as carcassing or large format slab doors are best done in a veneer if you want a wood finish, as large-format pieces of solid wood need to be jointed and are prone to warping and other movement. 

Solid Timber Dining Table with a Live Edge

Solid timbers can also be extremely decorative, for instance if you use accented burr wood or a live edge piece on a table, bar, shelf or worktop. 

Best Use Case: For traditional rail and stile shaker style doors, smaller format shelving, intricate hardwood carving, legs and tabletops