Real wood baseboards, such as those found in home centers, tend to be made from softwoods such as long, uninterrupted pine boards and finger-jointed pine or from hardwoods such as oak and hemlock. Softwoods typically are primed and painted, though not always. While hardwoods can be primed and painted, it defeats the purpose of purchasing expensive hardwoods to cover up the beauty of the grain with paint. As a result, hardwood baseboards are usually stained and sealed.
Real wood, even a softwood, is stronger than MDF. So, if you anticipate installing baseboards in a high-traffic, high-impact environment, you would want to purchase real wood over MDF baseboards. Because primed and painted natural wood is better than MDF at standing up against moisture.
Finger-jointed pine offers a low-cost way to purchase real wood baseboards. Finger joints, like scarf joints, create long baseboard runs out of shorter pieces of material. But finger joints are even better than scarf joints because a comb-like profile is cut into each end, then glued together, creating a bond that is as strong as other parts of the wood.
Hardwood moulding tends to be a lot more resilient in terms of durability – its hardness allows for a lot of wear and tear before it becomes noticeable, and beyond that, can typically be refinished to look like new over time.
If you have pets, it is a much smarter choice in terms of your investment to choose hardwood over MDF. Unintentional scratches will always happen, especially with children or animals, and knowing that your investment is safe from everyday use and occasional accidents can offer great peace of mind when making the decision to use hardwood. While generally more expensive than MDF, hardwood moulding will always last longer, in better condition, proving to be worth the investment years down the road. Above all, hardwood is going to look more professional than MDF giving you rich looking trim for years to come.