Skirting boards are an important feature of the home, even if you might not give them too much consideration. They are a significant feature in terms of having consistent period detail, but in a functional sense, they also hide plaster blemishes, keep out drafts, secure carpet and flooring and hide wiring. On the flipside, skirting boards are also very prominent and prone to damage, they take a lot of hammer from vacuum cleaners, pets and the kids playing, they are also in the firing line of damp and changes in temperature, so they need to be resilient and robust.
So which material is best for your skirting boards? The most common type of skirting boards are made from hardwood or MDF (medium density fibre). There are pros and cons to each of these materials, but in a period property the benefits of using a hardwood skirting rather than MDF are plentiful. So let’s look at the details:
High quality woods don’t warp or bend, which is an often-told criticism compared to MDF. Wood can also absorb changes in temperature. MDF can be susceptible to chips and cracks if it is struck by an object, so it is not as resilient as people think. Furthermore, hardwood can be varnished which adds a further layer of protection and means wooden skirting boards may retain their appearance and condition for longer than MDF.
This is a big factor in choosing skirting boards, and is a common advantage in people choosing wood over MDF. Wood is more easily painted than MDF and can absorb different paints to provide a better appearance. This is critical when you are trying to match skirting to other features in a room. You can also leave wooden skirting un-painted to show off the wonderful natural grain, which of course isn’t an option with the man-made MDF. MDF has a very smooth and flawless appearance, which perhaps lends itself better to more contemporary interior designs.
When styling a period property, the profile of your skirting is absolutely critical. Wood can be machined to adapt it to many different styles. The most common profiles are bullnose or chamfered, but for period properties your skirting can be machined to match Georgian, Victorian or Edwardian styles. It can even match a contemporary style. MDF is much harder to machine and hence, you won’t be able to match your skirting to other period features, such as window and door architrave or ceiling mouldings.
MDF is generally cheaper than wood, and is very much considered to be the ‘budget’ choice. It has long-lasting properties, just like wood has, but the ‘cheap’ nature of it does sometimes mean that inferior materials are used. Skirting needs to be durable and long-lasting so a hardwood probably represents a more value-for-money option in the long term.
The biggest consideration when looking at wood versus MDF for a period property is in the versatility that wood presents. It can be machined much easier and can be adapted to match the period detail of your home. It can also be painted, stained or lacquered much better, whereas MDF can look rough and be chipped when you attempt to machine it. Overall, we would recommend a good quality hardwood for your period skirting to provide the appearance and overall durability you need.