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Old 01-09-2011, 11:50 AM   #1
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Coping MDF base .. is it worth it?


Hi All,

Nice forum you all have here. I have searched a bit but not really found an answer to this question, so please forgive me if I am asking an old question!

We just finished adding on to our house. My wife has long been wishing to replace our old stained baseboard with white, and since I have a new area of the house with no trim yet this seems like a good time to start. Because we are going with white baseboard, I was advised to use MDF since it is already primed and (so I was told) it is a waste of money to use wood trim when going white. I am starting to rethink that last part, but anyhow.

I want my inside corners to look nice so I have been trying to cope the joints rather than mitering. I doubt I have a 90 dgree corner anywhere in this house anyhow, so coping seems like the way to go. The problem is, it seems almost impossible to cope this stuff without breaking the thin point on the top of the baseboard. If I manage to get a nice cope cut, as soon as I try to spring it in place the tip either breaks off (90% of the time) or crushes and needs to be trimmed off. Is this acceptable? Is there a method for coping MDF without breaking the top point off? I'm starting to think I should go with pine or some other paint grade trim, but I have a whole stack of trim already here in the house ready to install.

Thanks in advance.
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Old 01-09-2011, 12:27 PM   #2
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Coping MDF base .. is it worth it?


That is the beauty of painting instead of staining - you can caulk it to make all the joints look smooth. If you're caulking, don't waste your time trying to cope it. Just miter the inside corners.

I've never actually tried to cope MDF for the exact reason you are mentioning. I guess it is possible in theory, but sounds like more hassle and headache than it's worth. I'd recommend just mitering and caulking the MDF. Buying all new trim (real wood) just to have the joints coped seems like a waste of time and money, no?
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Old 01-09-2011, 12:35 PM   #3
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Coping MDF base .. is it worth it?


You should have looked closer at the big box store, starts with an L I think. There is really no difference in price from the preprimed wood trim and MDF, and it sure does a nice job by comparison.

If you stick with the MDF, you can forget about coping, just caulk to complete, I know, I couldn't do it either, like to make nice fitting joints, just a matter of personal pride I guess.
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Old 01-09-2011, 01:44 PM   #4
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Coping MDF base .. is it worth it?


Thanks for the replies. I wasn't sure if it was my lack of skills or the material that was giving me such a problem.

The funny thing is, I did buy my trim at a store that starts with L, but I guess my inexperience showed in not taking a harder look at real wood trim as opposed to composite. Every project is a learning experience I guess. I am going to see if they sell the same profile in wood and if so I will save what I have (not nearly enough for the entire project) for straight runs and move to wood as I run out.
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Old 01-09-2011, 01:46 PM   #5
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Coping MDF base .. is it worth it?


Sounds like a plan, good luck!
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Old 01-09-2011, 06:02 PM   #6
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Coping MDF base .. is it worth it?


If you want to avoid a little caulk at the inside corners you could test each one
as you work through with a short piece and adjust your miter saw as needed to make a tighter fit.
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Old 01-10-2011, 12:29 PM   #7
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Coping MDF base .. is it worth it?


It's worth it (in my opinion) to buy pre-primed pine even if it's a few more cents a foot. Just easier to work with. HD and Lowes both carry it around here. Profiles are the same, the pine is just a tad bit thicker than the MDF....
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Old 01-10-2011, 12:54 PM   #8
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Coping MDF base .. is it worth it?


I have to disagree with the pre-primed pine over MDF in a painted application. Even if you have a perfect cut on your pine, it will expand and contract and that joint will no longer be perfect. MDF does not move. Again, in a painted application.
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Old 01-10-2011, 01:46 PM   #9
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Coping MDF base .. is it worth it?


I'm just speaking from the point of which material I'd rather work with. I can live with having to re-caulk if necessary a year or two down the road....
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Old 01-10-2011, 06:52 PM   #10
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Coping MDF base .. is it worth it?


I appreciate all of the different viewpoints that people have here. It seems like each material has some pros and cons, which is exactly what I found when researching this project. It seems like there is never a clear cut answer to home improvement questions!

I do have to admit that I have found my main problem as described in my first post was more due to inexperience on my part than any fault of the material. I have never coped baseboard before, and my coping technique had one serious flaw. When I cut the profile, I cut the entire profile if you can imagine that. Turns out, that "point" I was talking about that always breaks off isn't supposed to be part of the cope in the first place! I have since learned than the very top of the cut needs to be run perpendicular to the cut, or squared off at the top. Once I tried that my results are much better.

I'm still not sure what material I will end up using more as I need to make a run to Lowes to see how the profiles match up. I would prefer to use wood in the bathrooms and high traffic areas at least.
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