28th January 2020

What is the best material for skirting boards?

Skirting boards are essential in most homes. Whether they are to finish the junction where floor and wall meets, or whether you want to add your personal style stamp onto the home with decorative boards, they are that little element we see in all homes today.

Skirting boards are a relatively small percentage of the total expense during a new build or renovation but are a high impact and increase the value of a home for a larger return on investment. We see customers spending at most approximately 1.2% total project construction costs on timber mouldings, but for that investment, increasing the total property value by up to 30%.

When you invest your time and hard earned dollars into your build or reno, you not only want to add value, but want to make sure the products you’re choosing last – skirting boards are no exception. The humble skirting board tends to take a beating, especially in high traffic areas. Whether it be from the vacuum and mop, foot traffic, pets or children’s toys using them as a stop break, the risk of damage to skirting boards is relatively high. This is why it is critical to choose the best material for your skirting boards, so you don’t have to patch marks or re-install new ones due to the use of poor materials.

Of course, we LOVE skirting boards, and want to help you choose the best materials to get the most our of your skirting boards now and well into the future. Not only is choosing the right profile important to match the style of your home and add to the beauty of the interior, but what they are made from matters too.

There are three main choices for timber skirting boards, Medium-Density Fibreboard (MDF), Finger-Jointed Pine (FJ Pine) and Hardwood Timber (such as Victorian Ask, Tasmanian Oak, Spotted Gum), and we discuss their pros and cons below.

Medium-Density Fibreboard (MDF)

MDF is a combination of sawdust, wood shavings, small wood chips and resin, which have been compacted together to make the lengths suitable for skirting boards and other timber mouldings.

Pros

Cons

Can be cheaper that real timberCan be less durable throughout the years and need replacing sooner – costing you more in the end
The face of MDF is strong – VERY strong.When impacted it can compress the board causing a dent. As it is not timber, these cannot be sanded and repaired in the same way, so will usually require replacement of that section
Is manmade so naturally smooth with a perfectly flat finish and is quite strongCan be tricky to install as it is so hard and smooth, nails and screws don’t always ‘grab’ so we recommend using an adhesive with installation as well (more cost)
Our MDF is one of the safest on the market, but as it is a man-made product, it still comes with some risks.MDF is known for its toxicity, particularly during installation when dust is created. You must be very careful and protect yourself.
The edges of MDF are not as strong as the rest of the product which makes it prone to splitting and chipping at joins and edges.
Can only be painted. Not suitable for staining
Our biggest criticism with MDF is its ability to swell when it comes into contact with moisture, and this can happen slowly over time, especially in wet areas where it might be exposed to dampness from a mop or steam cleaning
Is very heavy to handle for installation

When looking at the significance of water absorption on MDF, we did a test to show you the impacts moisture has to MDF. We can conclude we were shocked by the outcome. MDF absorbed water much faster than we thought and this happened in just 24 hours!

Although your floors will not come into contact with the amount of water we used in the test, overtime from mopping and even spilling liquid, moisture will end up between your skirting board and flooring impacting the skirting boards. To overcome this, painting can protect the MD skirting and reduce water absorption, so it is essential to paint the whole skirting board – not just the visible parts. Moral to the story… have your MDF mouldings primed if that’s the material you choose to use.

Finger-Jointed Pine (FJ Pine)

Finger-Jointed Pine (FJ Pine) is a solid pine timber, meaning it is REAL timber. The length for the skirting board is created using individual pieces, which come together with the interlocking (or fingers) to create longer lengths. A zig-zag is created in the join, which eliminates knotting in the process.

Pros

Cons

It is REAL timber – natural and beautifulThere can be evidence of the timber in its natural state such as gum veins and knots, but these can be puttied over when nail holes are being filled to give a flawless look
Less expensive that solid timberSlightly more expensive than MDF
Has more longevity than MDF, so will need replacing lessIs softer than MDF so can be more susceptible to marks and scratches
As it is timber, marks and scratches can be repaired and sanded out
Much lighter than MDF to handle during installation, and less prone to twisting and warping.
As it is real timber, the nails hold well for installation
Our FJ Pine is FSC certified, meaning it know it hasn’t had any negative impacts on forests, people or wildlife. Buying FSC FJ Pine will assure no deforestation occurred, which promotes sustainability.
As it is a natural product, there are no health risks like MDF during installation.
A Planet Ark study ‘Wood Housing, Health Humanity’ found that wood products in a room improved indoor air quality and improved a person’s emotional state and self -expression.

Natural is always the best option, and if you are looking for REAL timber, FJ Pine is the most sustainable and economical option.

Hardwood

If you’re looking for a traditional feel with stained or raw timber skirting, then hardwood is the top choice. Durable and beautiful, this is the timber you would use when you want to showcase a natural look and let the timber take centre stage.

Pros

Cons

You can stain and lacquer the timber showcasing its features and leaving it in a natural stateIt is expensive…
You get the benefit of working with real timber and all the positive aspects that come with installing itSupply is sometimes limited and can take some time to source
It is hard wearing and will outlast MDF and FJ pineLengths are determined by the availability of timber so can require more joins and time to install
Is moisture resistant by nature

What next?

Now you know the pros and cons of each material we can manufacture skirting boards from and what they can do for your home, you can make an informed decision on what works best for you and your situation.

What do we recommend? It will always be FJ Pine. It is sustainable, impacts the environment much less and will last longer over the journey of your skirting boards. You will get greater longevity and ‘bang for your buck’ from FJ Pine over the long term.

If you have more questions on the material for your skirting boards, please get in touch with us.