You may never have thought about what material your skirting boards are, possibly only when you are looking to replace them. And while there are plenty of options out there, typically this is reduced to the ongoing debate between solid woods and Medium Density Fibre (MDF).

A bad decision on your skirting boards can lead to years of frustration as your eyes are routinely drawn to problems in appearance, blemishes in machining or the material you have chosen has split, cracked, bent or absorbed moisture.  So let’s have a look at the properties of solid woods and MDF and see what we think is the most suitable material for your skirting boards.

Solid woods

These are mostly durable to withstand damage from knocks and accidents, a pre-requisite of any skirting material. The best advantage of solid woods over MDF is that they look great when finished in a paint, lacquer or varnish.

Solid woods are also extremely versatile, in that they can be sold in standard lengths or made-to-order, so the cost is really down to what your budget is and you can apply this accordingly. However, depending on the type of wood you choose, there are some specific tips and tricks that may apply when looking to woodwork the material, so it is worth getting some advice and maybe a professional to do the joinery for you.

Softwoods offer more versatility in styles and sizes as they can be machined more easily, and they are easier to sand down and re-finish. This means a solid wood will typically last longer than an MDF skirting, because you can alter or repair it in situ, rather than replace the whole skirting.

In general, all solid woods can be painted, lacquered or varnished, and so you can very easily adapt the skirting to match woodwork around the home to improve the visual appeal and flow of your interior décor.

MDF

This is a man-made material that is very durable, easy-to-handle and doesn’t warp or swell easily, although it is a myth that MDF will never warp or swell from moisture, it is possible. MDF is flat and smooth and therefore lends itself well to contemporary properties where a flawless, minimalist look is desired, but as a consequence, MDF is not really suitable for period properties.

MDF has no knots or visible grain, and can’t be machined with grooves or mouldings, so has no character or natural wood effect. So you couldn’t match MDF skirting with period architrave or door or wood mouldings.

If you are machining MDF, it can chip very easily and the surface can become rough, which means it won’t then finish very well, whatever you are using. You may also find that MDF can’t be repaired as well as a natural wood, so if you want to sand or re-finish MDF, you may have to completely replace it.

MDF is generally known as the cheaper option for people on budgets, but the flipside of that is that it is less versatile, less adaptable and lacks the character of natural wood, and hence, is not without its problems and limitations.

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