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Amanda Robinson

Excellent and helpful article. Could we have one on kitchen cabintry rules? Such as how much space you need either side of a stove or minimum space for a Belfast sink at the end of a U shape run (apparently I don't have enough ...). I know the kitchen designers will know all this but I like to have a to scale design in mind before going in.

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Coppice Guild

Do ask what your cupboards are made of and don't feel stupid asking what Mfc and mdf actually mean. Melamine faced chipboard for the former (the stuff that looks like Weetabix when cut) and medium density fibreboard for the latter which can also come 'wr' water resistant. If you can stretch to it plywood is best preferably birch which is really hard and comes oak faced (which means veneered).

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Bucks Eco Furniture

Good advice from Coppice Guild! The water resistant variety of mdf is actually sold as 'moisture resistant' (MR).

We usually use plywood but here is some more information about different types of MDF.

Standard MDF. Quality varies, beware low quality boards can be fluffy or textured on the surface and can be more subject to bending, as can Light Weight MDF

MR MDF: It's still porous, but not so much as Standard MDF and doesn't become so fluffy on the surface after a wetting, so as well as being essential for kitchens and bathrooms, is better for use under water-based paints to avoid raising a rough texture. It is often green, especially as thinner boards, or normally has a green centre core in thicker boards. Beware strong green coloured boards may need an extra primer-undercoat to avoid that green tint altering final pale paint shades, especially when placed near similarly painted paler wood and Standard MDF. It's about 20% more expensive than Standard.

FR for flame retardant, nearly double the cost of Standard. Pink in colour or with pink core.

Also available: Light Weight, Ultra Light Weight, Zero Formaldehyde, Exterior Grade (about double cost of Standard) and Tricoya Extreme Durable MDF which is expensive.

At Bucks Eco Furniture we prefer to use oak veneered plywood for our kitchen and other carcasses. The Oak veneer surfaces are pre-lacquered and are on a very good quality poplar (tulipwood) plywood core, which is quite light-weight but we do also use birch plywood which, as Coppice Guild has mentioned, is an excellent stiff, hard, board with a close-grained, surface for painting or even varnishing. Some companies proudly state that they use solid pine or solid oak for kitchen carcasses, but I have reservations, especially for base carcasses which are usually over 20 inches deep because solid wood is stable in size in its long grain, but varies across the grain according to climatic situation, which can be variable. I think solid pine can be suitable in some situations, so long as fixing points and methods are carefully considered as it is subject to warping and shrinking, and consequently can split or force separations. Oak seems a bit of a waste of resources to me for a kitchen carcass, and there are still the possible shrinkage/expansion issues to consider compared to the stability of plywood. A good feature of MDF is it is completely resistant to woodworm, but as long as conditions are fairly dry, it is not normally a problem in modern houses so good quality plywood is our preference. Beware some of the cheaper Far Eastern plywoods which can have poor surface texture, warp and even de-laminate, as I experienced once a couple of years ago when I bought a board from Wickes which also only had a paper-thin surface veneer under some remarkably wavy base cores.

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