When you are shopping for a bathroom vanity, you will quickly understand that you will be buying a solid wood vanity, a solid wood vanity with veneers, or an MDF vanity with veneers. First you need to decide what type of construction is right for you. It may be that either type is acceptable.
A solid wood vanity is just what it sounds like. It is made of wood and will last a long time and will withstand harsher conditions in the bathroom. Keep in mind that because it is wood, it can also expand and contract in extreme humidity. The wood is also unique. It comes with all natural blemishes like knots, streaks, and even discolorations. This is neither positive nor negative. It is a personal preference. Wood will also cost more, so keep your budget in mind.
A solid wood vanity with veneers has a base of wood construction, but is then covered with a veneer, which is a thin decorative covering of fine wood that is applied over the wood (or MDF). It is used to improve the aesthetics of the wood but making it more consistent. Veneers also allow for more variations of wood grain and color.
An MDF vanity with veneers is a medium density fiberboard. MDF is made of very fine wood particles that are refined and mixed with waxes and resins that glue the particles together and then pressed into boards that are laminated with veneers. MDF works great with dowels, but doesn’t work well with screws. Some argue that the formaldehyde used in the gluing process seeps into the room unless the part is well sealed. However, there’s really no way to tell if the MDF is sealed. These vanities mostly came from China or other overseas countries. MDF is also more susceptible to water damage. Steam showers next to an MDF vanity are probably not a good idea.
In my personal experience, I ordered 2 dressers when the manufacturer was switching from wood with veneers to MDF with veneers due to cost savings. Although they said that the veneer held up better on the MDF. Anyway, I have one of each type. On the outside they look the same and no one would have noticed the difference except for the fact that I have 4 small dogs that just won’t stop marking territories. All I do is wipe up the pee but I love them so much and my husband doesn’t want to cut his ‘you know what’. However, due to my personal situation, MDF is a poor choice. The corners of the dressers have been constantly peed on and the MDF dresser is now bloated with rolled veneers. The wooden dresser shows no urine damage. Note that the MDF vanity looks great where it hasn’t been peed on.
At the end of the day, it’s all about budget, style, and lifestyle. MDF dressers are clearly less expensive. There is more variety to choose from. They should last a long time. There may be a problem with formaldehyde, but sometimes plywood is also treated with formaldehyde. Please do your own research on this topic. For me, simply because of my dogs I can’t have anything with MDF in my house. Good luck with your purchases.