5th June 2024

Finger-Joint Pine vs MDF Mouldings

Finger Joint Pine vs MDF Timber Mouldings

Although almost all of Intrim timber mouldings are manufactured from finger-jointed pine, we do provide an MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard) alternative as an option.

We recommend finger-jointed pine over MDF in nearly all applications. In short, it is more durable and water resistant, is easier to install, has less environmental impact, is safer to work with and, in our opinion, looks nicer. We also find that most builders and designers prefer finger jointed pine moulding over MDF.

Let’s take a look at the differences.

Finger-jointed pine, also known as FJ pine, is a solid pine timber in which the length is created using small, individual pieces joined together with glue and small interlocking ‘fingers’, which create a neat zig-zag effect at the join site. This process eliminates all knots.

MDF (medium-density fibreboard) is an engineered composite of sawdust, wood shavings, small wood chips and resin that is compressed to form lengths suitable for manufacturing into skirting boards, architraves and other timber mouldings.

What are the Pros and Cons of Finger Joint Pine Trims?

Although more expensive, we choose to use FJ pine for our range of timber trims because it is a natural wood product and has greater longevity and durability, which is something that is important to discerning designers and builders seeking to build a quality finished product that is going to stand the test of time.

Finger-jointed pine moulding also has several installation benefits, including:

  • Less prone to twisting and warping.
  • Light and rigid enough for one person to install.
  • Less abrasive on cutters and tools, therefore less maintenance to keep blades and cutters sharp.
  • Holds nails well due to the natural grain.
  • An on-site dust room for cutting is not required
  • Easier to scribe cut internal corners for skirting boards
  • Will not swell when exposed to moisture.

Perhaps its only detraction is that it is slightly softer than MDF, making it more susceptible to marks from high impact.

What are the Pros and Cons of MDF Mouldings?

MDF is slightly cheaper than FJ Pine. It has a higher face strength, giving it more strength against surface damage. It also has a smooth surface finish, giving it a flawless look once sanded and painted and reducing the chance of visible voids or splinters.

However, it has some installation challenges, including:

  • Lower edge strength, so care must be taken when cutting and installing, particularly when nailing close to the end of the moulding, where it has a greater tendency to split.
  • Nails can find it difficult to ‘grab’, and screws can easily strip. Also, MDF will tend to ‘pucker’ or become raised where a fixed nail is shot into it rather than compress around the head like finger-jointed pine.
  • Large lengths can be difficult for one person to handle during installation as MDF is heavy and very flexible.
  • Long lengths are more prone to breaking than finger-jointed pieces due to the more significant ‘flex’ in the material. Scribing is more difficult on the end of a piece of MDF skirting board, as the detailed profile section on a scribe has a tendency to break off.
  • Dents and marks are more difficult to repair in MDF mouldings.
  • Due to the potential health risks associated with long term exposure to MDF dust, we recommend that you setup a dust containment room on site and wear appropriate dust respirator.

MDF Moulding and Moisture

MDF reacts poorly when exposed to significant moisture, so it’s important to understand the effects of water on MDF timber.

MDF tends to expand and contract with changes in humidity. It will also swell, creating warping and bubbling if it absorbs moisture, so it is not recommended for use in tropical and high-humidity climates.

When exposed to moisture over long periods of time, such as moisture from mopping a floor or similar, MDF is not suitable for use in wet areas such as bathrooms as it will swell and expand. Moisture from mopping a floor could also cause damage over time if it penetrates the MDF board through a scratched or chipped coating.

Which is Better – Pine or MDF Timber Mouldings?

Although we recommend pine over MDF in most situations for interior timber mouldings, we guarantee the MDF mouldings we supply are the best quality available and the most environmentally friendly.

If you do choose MDF, we recommend having it pre-primed prior to installation to seal the entire surface to give it the best protection from moisture absorption possible. In wet areas or areas with hard floors (which would need to be mopped or steamed to clean), we only recommend finger-jointed pine skirting and mouldings.

Choosing finger-jointed pine mouldings may slightly increase your initial purchase, their ease of installation, longevity, and durability will reduce the risk of early replacement and save money in the long term.

Learn More About Timber Mouldings

Intrim has been supplying the building trade with a wide range of timber trim products and mouldings for many years. We advise on the best timber moulding material for your application. If you are an architect, interior designer, or builder, book a free consult to discuss your next project.