Cabinets in basement...melamine, mdf, plywood?

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I have a shop in my basement (Chicago area) and am going to build some wall and base cabinets. My plan was to use melamine, but a pro cabinetmaker just told me that they will mold. I don't have any problem with water in my basement so far (house only 1 year old), but he said the glues used in melamine/mdf/particle board WILL mold in time, guarenteed.
I know plywood isn't a whole lot more expensive, but these are just going to be shop cabinets, nothing fancy. I'd rather spend the extra $$$ on a new toy, (you know, tools).
Has anybody had any mold problems with melamine molding in their basements?
Rob
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RobW wrote:

The chief engineer at the first job I had after graduating, asked me one day, "Lew, can you tell me the difference between an oriental and an occidental?"
Being the young smart ass that I was, I stalled for time trying to figure our the question, not wanting to make a fool of myself.
Finally, the chief engineer must have figured he had made his point, and he said, "It's simple, the occidental learns from his mistakes, the oriental learns from the mistakes of others, it's cheaper."
Seems to fit here.
Lew
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RobW said:

Yep, and in the garage too. We have humidity levels over 80% many months of the year. I own quite a collection of green jigs and such.
Greg G.
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Not I. but mine's dry. RH is high in summer (~80%), but doesn't seem to have an adverse effect.
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That's hogwash. Mold and mildew need moisture to grow. Anything that gets moist, and stays that way for an extended time, will develop mold or mildew. Anything that stays dry, won't.
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Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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wrote:

So mold doesn't grow on dry bread?
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Nope. Not if it *stays* dry. Of course, there's a *lot* of moisture in bread, and it will absorb moisture from the air pretty readily, too.
--
Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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correct.
now where are you going to find dry bread that has been out of the toaster for more than 5 minutes?
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Doug Miller said:

I think the problem is that MDF and other 'engineered' products have an affinity for moisture. I don't believe it's the glue, but the broken fibres in the product that absorb water molecules from the air and hold them like a sponge. As seen in this photo, mold is growing on a router jig in my garage. Above ground, absolutely never been 'wet'. But there it is...
http://www.thevideodoc.com/Images/moldy_mdf.jpg
Finished basement is the same way. Absolutely dry - but there it is. Anything that can absorb water, molds. In other words, if you can put a drop of water on a surface and it is absorbed, mold will grow in humid conditions - whether it is "wet" or not - it aggregates in the material in sufficient quantities to promote the growth of mold. All it needs now is a food source, and the paper or wood works just fine. I believe the glues are probably non-reactive, however.
Greg G.
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wrote:

Yeah, well... unless you live in Arizona, your garage is likely to be a pretty humid place much of the year... and that MDF doesn't look like it's been finished with anything waterproof, either. Do you suppose that's how the mildew got started?
Like I said... anything that _stays_dry_ won't mildew. Unfinished MDF stored in a garage is not in the category of things that "stay dry".

That's why it's important to seal surfaces against the entry of water.

That's why it's important to seal surfaces against the entry of water.

That's why it's important to seal surfaces against the entry of water.
--
Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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I think you and Doug might well spend some time reading about cellulose adsorbing (that's the proper spelling) moisture from the air. It is pretty much the same as the sugar in the bowl getting crusty, because cellulose is formed from sugars (and starches in bread). It's why and how _all_ wood moves.
Depending on the type of mold, of course, very little moisture may be required. Mold grows in the desert. If there's nourishment available, there's almost always something that will consume it. Whether by design or accident.
At 85% RH, the EMC of wood (cellulose) shows ~18% by weight. Too low for spalt, but certainly high enough for mildew (`70%RH). http://www.epa.gov/iaq/largebldgs/graphics/appenc.pdf From your pictures, you have black mildew, which will grow on concrete, on gypsum, grout and many other substrates. I'm betting that the urea-formaldehyde glues used are not particularly appetizing, even if the formaldehyde has fully outgassed.
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George said:

Excuse the typo. :-p But Really, I don't want to know anything more about mold. ;-) I wasn't the OP. I do know is that it lives on everything - glass, rocks, vinyl, sheetrock, paint, concrete, steel, you name it. The fuel from your breath is enough to start a patch. Our air is so full of organic and inorganic crap that it can probably live anywhere.

Intelligent design, perhaps? ;-)

My only observation was that, around here, it does 'grow' on MDF much more readily than say, plywood or solid oak. And that is isn't the glue it's feeding upon, but the fibers (or if you prefer, cellulose). And that is doesn't have to be 'wet', only that it has to be exposed to humidity.
I wasn't talking about paint, or shellac, or varnish or lacquer, but plain old MDF. Painted or varnished, it's no longer the MDF but the coating that is exposed to the humidity, so of course it will be more difficult for mold to 'grow'.
This is turning into another "Exploding Dust Collector" thread... :-o Arghhh...
Greg G.
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Wrong again. It will grow _anywhere_ because it does not depend on the substrate for nutrition. Without knowing your particular circumstances, I would guess that you have placed the stuff near a wall where there is no circulation to reduce the RH, and plenty of that supplied by a cold wall. You could have painted the wall or the board with the same result.
Sorry you don't want to learn about mold. Why ask the question if you're not interested in the answer?
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George said:

Again, I never said it wouldn't grow. I said it grew more readily. Bare MDF adsorbs moisture and present a more appealing moist surface for it to grow on. Which probably explains why the formica doesn't have anything growing on it, but the bare MDF does. And while it may not depend on cellulose for nutrition, it certainly doesn't hurt.

Again, I'm not the original poster. Re-read the thread... ;-)
Greg G.
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I'm in chicago also. I can't imagine them molding unless there was a real water problem. But I would go with the plywood anyway. I think it's easier to work with and more durable, even though it's lighter. Particle board likes to crumble also. And I don't like how it takes screws. I use melamine for the tops of utility shop cabinets I make, but the rest of the box is plywood.
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Melamine board cleans up pretty easily with some water and a sponge, add a little bleach as a mold killer. .
If you have humidity problems run a dehumidifier. I have to run one all winter or everything in the house winds up damp. If you have a serious mold problem I would hate to see the guts of some of your tools.
You can also seal any cut edges before assembly.
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The "Pro?cabinetmaker" is right, but not being honest. ANYTHING will mold in a damp basement. but nothing to do with melamine/mdf/particle board........................

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Rob, I'm in Chicago also, and have had melamine cabs in the basement and garage for over 15 years with absolutely no mold/mildew. My basement is dry and I installed the basic white cabinets from the Borg, nothing fancy and a lot quicker than making them.
RobW wrote:

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wrote:

Most (if not all) manufactured cabinets are certified for use below grade. Many of those are made with some type of particle board or melamine. If your basement is dry, I wouldn't be too concerned.
Mike O.
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I buy mahogany for two bucks a board foot (cheaper than pine and poplar!) and I'm making my own shop cabinets, raised panel fronts and all. SWMBO says the shop cabinets are nicer than the kitchen units and when am I going to swap with her?

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