Mantel out of MDF? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 01-23-2013, 08:58 PM Thread Starter
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Mantel out of MDF?

My neighbors have been hinting around about me buidling them a mantel for their fireplace. Nothing too fancy, a simple box with some basic molding around the edges and attached/hung to wall using a cleat system.

The kicker is that they want to paint it white to match their trim. So no matter what type of material/wood I use it will end of up white.

I know that Poplar paints up really well but would there be any drawbacks to simply using 3/4 MDF?

I am still a novice when it comes to material strengths/weaknesses. I think making it out of solid wood would be the sturdiest construction but i also have a full sheet of MDF currently in the shop that can serve the purpose.

any opinions will be greatly appreciated....

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post #2 of 14 Old 01-23-2013, 09:10 PM
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The only thing I would prolly worry about is the moisture around the fire place but it may not be a problem with yours
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post #3 of 14 Old 01-23-2013, 10:24 PM
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I'd be concerned about mdf warping over the years......I've seen mdf sag where it isn't supported when it gets damp.
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post #4 of 14 Old 01-23-2013, 10:48 PM
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i made a new mantle for the house we bought in 2010 out of a sheet of MDF. the whole mantle redo cost around 165.00 including tile.
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post #5 of 14 Old 01-23-2013, 11:00 PM
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What? You think that MDF is going to warp like the mechanical properties of real wood? I hope not.
The floor sweepings and rubbish + glue that goes into MDF should allow for some modest, non-dimensional stability, yes? Some how, I doubt that MDF over a fireplace will get too awfully damp.

But then again, maybe a fire place might be like a billboard advert. All show and no go.
You run around the back and there's nothing to see. I say that only as where I live in the mountains, fireplaces are a daily source of light, heat and social comfort in the winter.
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post #6 of 14 Old 01-23-2013, 11:10 PM
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I wouldn't use it for that purpose, just sayin

The tools don't make the craftsman....
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post #7 of 14 Old 01-23-2013, 11:41 PM
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I would just go with poplar, especially if you are painting it. It's easy to work with, and its not that much more cost wise than MDF.
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post #8 of 14 Old 01-24-2013, 12:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Robson Valley View Post
I doubt that MDF over a fireplace will get too awfully damp.
I wouldn't bet too much money on that. If the fireplace isn't lit, it sets up a perfect place for moisture. Right where the hot air from your house meets cold.
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post #9 of 14 Old 01-24-2013, 01:02 AM
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Most MDF these days should have moisture resistant glue to some extent. If you seal it all round (as I would suggest for timber also) it should be fine. MDF is used for so much it's not funny. Here in Australia and I imagine in USA, it is used for cabinets and kickers ( in wet areas ), kitchens, mouldings, trims, base boards ( in bathrooms as well ) dados, door frames, doors and I'm sure more. I've used it in wet areas, I've used it every where. I even used it to replace glass in a 3 x 3 window and it was facing the sun all day long with only a bit of spouting overhand to protect from the elements. After 4 years it looked like it was ready to be replaced.

Yes I have used it as a mantle. Have only seen problems when used to replace glass in a window or where there has been very poor protection from excessive water.

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post #10 of 14 Old 01-24-2013, 08:51 AM
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I wouldn't hesitate to use MDF in that application as long as you are sure to seal it well. I've used MDF as door panels 4 mud room cabinets and it turned out great. Just be sure to use a good primer coat or 2 and sand smooth to preference before applying a finish coat. For my white finish coat I used Benjamin Moore Impervo and I don't think any moisture is going to get through to that panel.
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post #11 of 14 Old 01-24-2013, 09:22 AM
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You are in Ohio, so you get all 4 seasons and humidity. Maybe put a coat of paint on the backs of all the pieces to keep condensation off it.

Does heat or quick, drastic temp changes affect MDF any more than a soft wood? I don't know the answer to that, but it's a question worth asking.
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post #12 of 14 Old 01-24-2013, 10:25 AM
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I wouldn't hesitate to use it. I would rather us a plywood, like Birch, Maple, or Poplar, as it would be lighter and hold fasteners better. Plywood and solid wood moulding would be less likely to get damaged, like scratched or dented.

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post #13 of 14 Old 01-24-2013, 12:11 PM
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I know a guy who made a very successful career out of that very same thing: Custom mantels he made out of MDF. they came out beautiful and were very sturdy.
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post #14 of 14 Old 01-24-2013, 12:28 PM
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As luck would have it, I was looking at a newsletter I got today and it provided a link to download plans for building a nice fireplace mantel out of MDF. If you PM me your email address ill gladly send you the 6 page PDF document. Looked pretty nice and not too difficult.


"Measuring is the enemy of accuracy." Chris Schwartz
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