Glazing MDF versus Real Wood

I get so many comments and emails about my glazed cabinets.  Wonderful…Sweet…Kind…and curious comments!

I thought it was time to blog about Glazing MDF versus Real Wood.

Glazing MDF versus Real Wood

Glazing MDF versus Real Wood

Most people are really looking into painting their own cabinets and just want to know how will the glaze look for them.  It is really hard to say exactly how it will look for everyone but I thought I would at least give you two perspectives.

My kitchen cabinets are MDF, which means there are no wood grains.  They are smooth and when painted and glazed you will get a more precise, factory finished look.  You can add glaze over the entire cabinet giving it a faux finish but for my style of home glazing only to showcase the details was what I needed.

On the other hand, when you glaze over a wood such as Oak you will get a totally different look.  The wood grains will show up.  My advice when painting real wood cabinets is to be sure you work with what you have.  Don’t think if you use the same technique as someone else you will get the same look.  The wood determines most of the look! Painting is one of the best and biggest impacts you can do on a very low budget if you are willing to do it yourself.

Glazed MDF cabinets:

Glazed MDF cabinets

Glazed MDF upper cabinets

Glazed Oak cabinets:

Glazing Oak Cabinets-Full Kitchen

Glazing Oak Cabinets

Glazing Oak Cabinet Doors

As you can see from the different pictures, the glaze makes it’s way into the grains of the wood.  I happen to love this look.  This was a full kitchen paint project that I completed for a client last year and it turned out great.

The difference in the way you apply the glaze is this, when working with MDF you will only need to add the glaze in the detail areas then wipe away what you don’t want.  For the real wood cabinets you will add the glaze to the entire cabinet so that the glaze will fill in the grains of the wood. Then you would wipe away any excess glaze.

I would love to know if any of you have used glaze before or if you are planning to!

You may also like to visit my other post that involve my kitchen:

Kitchen Tour, Painted Kitchen Cabinets, and Kitchen Makeover Part 1




  1. I used Olympic One Paint+Primer and it worked great. You will need to make sure any oil or food splatters of cleaned off. I did use the same color but had it color matched at Lowes where I bought the paint. I did use a sponge brush as well as a rag to wipe glaze on with. The a clean dry rag to wipe away the excess. Hope this helps. ~Sonya

  2. Hi Sonya, I love this! I’ve been doing tons of research to decide what to do with my cabinets which are wood oak. This is what I want to do. You said sanding is not necessary, did you use a primer on these? Also, did you use the same color SW Cashmere in antique white? Did you use the foam brush for the detail parts?

  3. Sure…For the foam roller I use the 6 inch and for the glaze I use all different sizes of foam brushes. I buy them in a multi-pack at Walmart or Lowes.

  4. Can you give a list of items that you used? I have the names of the paint and glaze, but I am hoping to get more specifics with the type of paint brush and size of roller you used. I just picked up my stock, unfinished cabinets yesterday and can’t wait to work on my first new home project. Thanks!

  5. Not dumb at all…mostly the obvious distinction is the wood grain. MDF is pressed boards and doesn’t have any grains that you see in real wood. If you cabinets are currently painted and you can’t see any wood grains, more than likely they are MDF. Also, you can’t stain MDF.

  6. How do I know if my cabinets are MDF or real wood? Sorry, dumb question but I just don’t know!

  7. It totally depends on the surface you plan to paint if it will need sanding or priming. If your cabinets have been sealed with a varnish or poly you may have to do a little sanding before you prime. If it is a surface that primer sticks to easily then no need to sand. Always clean them well with a de-greaser especially in the kitchen.

  8. Do you recommend sanding first? Or can you use something like Zinnser and skip sanding?

  9. What color/brand of paint did you use on the Oak cabinets you did for a client? I have been debating on color and I love this look….Thank you!

  10. I’ve never seen this method in action, I’m so glad I found your post! We’re debating several different finishes for our kitchen cabinets, glad to have another option to consider!

  11. I would love to hear all your tricks and findings. we have Thermofoil on our cabinets right now that are 13 years old. I have been pondering the thought of taking that off and painting and glazing the cabinet doors that are MDF underneath. I would like to go with light on the top and a medium grey on the bottom to match my island I am currently working on right now.
    yours are the first I have come across that I like an envisioned mine to be. I have read that the edges are very porous . did you prep your edges a certain way? you mentioned you painted with a foam roller I think, how many coats did you use? did you use a primer? also did you clear coat them after you applied the glaze. thank you for sharing your projects. I always have so many on the go. taking something that you like and changing it to something you love is so much fun!
    take care,

  12. Wow, a wall is a big project! Good luck on your new cabinet decisions…I would do the stock because I know I would want to paint them!

  13. I LOVE Valspar glaze! Years ago, I glazed the walls in our previous house (my first project using it) and although it was labor intensive (because of the scale of the project) it turned out amazing, giving it an old world, plaster look. When I moved into my husbands house (then, boyfriend), he had already painted his oak cabinets a cream color so of course I had to whip out my little jug of glaze! In our new house, we are still debating the cabinets in the kitchen (custom vs. stock) and honestly, I am leaning towards grade oak finish so I can paint and glaze. Valspar glaze is very user friendly too. It’s water based so you can play with it a little to get the perfect effect you are looking for. I have used it for all of my crafts, as well. It works exceptionally well on textured wallpaper giving it an antique look.

  14. Great illustrations in this post! My cabinets are all wood, but not oak and I used glaze all over them. You are so right, every project is going to look unique based on the wood and the technique. Very informative post!

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