Building Closet Shelves with Medium-Density Fiberboard with Video


Under construction closet shelves. Photo by Adam D. Bearup

As a custom builder, I get the opportunity to build closet shelves on a regular basis. When a client asks me to build closet shelves for them, my first question is, “do you want wire shelves or do you want solid shelves?” Sometimes, clients love the wire shelves that can be bought at a box store, and I will buy a kit to install. Wire shelves can be nice, but, most clients do not want wire shelves and ask for custom solid shelving instead.

There are more options for solid shelving than just buying a pre-laminated shelf board and putting into a closet. Custom, built-in shelves are more easily accomplished using the different thicknesses of MDF board that is available at most box stores.

What is MDF?

The acronym MDF stands for “medium-density fiberboard” and is made of a combination of fine-particle wood fibers, glue, and pressure to press it all together. MDF differs from particle board, which is made of larger wood chips and is not smooth. MDF can be molded and custom painted with ease, while particle board is rough and does not handle edging tools very well without chipping.

My go-to material, with regards to MDF, is the ¾-inch, 4-foot-by-8-foot sheet. This is a heavy board that may be hard to handle as a sheet, but is more versatile to build with than any other material I have used. This is because MDF is easily cut, shaped, and sanded, and the material paints extremely well.

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