Wood – Plywood, MDF or Chipboard for painted bookshelves


I am starting to plan some built-in bookshelves that will be painted with mat or eggshell paint.

The fronts of the shelves and upright will be moulded maybe with a router or softwood mouldings glued on. We have not yet decided if the shelves will be fixed, or adjustable using an inset bookcase strip.

The two areas of concern I have are:

  • I don’t wish the shelves to slag under the weight of the books.
  • I want a good paint finish.

MDF gives me the good finish and the option to router edges; however is it stiff enough for book shelves?

Chipboard is a cheap option, but can I router slots in it for the bookcase strip?

Is it possible to get a good paint finish on plywood without spending a long time sanding it?

Best Answer

I would use MDF. It is uniform, takes paint well and doesn't warp. It also routes well.

It should hold the weight I'd expect in a bookshelf (supported at both sides, about 30" wide and no deeper than 18")

If you're really concerned with the sagging you might add a single center support bracket.