Which wood for fireplace surround

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Forum topic by Dophi posted 01-04-2013 07:07 PM 2272 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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27 posts in 2821 days

01-04-2013 07:07 PM

I want to build a surround to overlay our current red brick fireplace. We found a design we like. Selecting a material is proving difficult. Most of my research recommends using MDF, primarily for its cost and simplicity to finish. Our surround will be painted, not stained. It seems to me I would not be able to reproduce the design we have chosen using MDF. I considered using poplar. My research indicates there could be an inconsistency in the painted finish. I’ve looked at numerous projects created by members of LJ. I’m confident someone can provide me with the help I need. I am relatively new at woodworking and would appreciate any suggestions on material choice and anything else to do with the project. There is one detail in the picture I will be changing. The rail will have a straight lower edge.

9 replies so far

View shampeon's profile


1775 posts in 2180 days

#1 posted 01-04-2013 07:17 PM

I don’t know why you think poplar would cause an inconsistent finish. Tons of painted wood furniture is made from poplar. Do your prep work correctly, and you should have no problem with poplar.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View GaryL's profile


1099 posts in 2827 days

#2 posted 01-04-2013 07:21 PM

You can use MDF or poplar and get an excellent finish. The work is in the priming. Sand, prime, sand, prime and if need be, repeat. Get as smooth of a primed surface as you need then do your top coats.
I’ve used oils, lacquers, and acrylic latex (top coat) on both and optained excellent results. In my case they were all sprayed.

This is all MDF and poplar.

-- Gary; Marysville, MI...Involve your children in your projects as much as possible, the return is priceless.

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1099 posts in 2827 days

#3 posted 01-04-2013 07:31 PM

Could not get a second pic on the first post…..but anyway, this is during the build. Pre-primed the MDF panel edges before assembly to get a head start on the “sealing” prime.

-- Gary; Marysville, MI...Involve your children in your projects as much as possible, the return is priceless.

View newwoodbutcher's profile


740 posts in 2846 days

#4 posted 01-04-2013 08:10 PM

Made one with poplar the other with Mahogany

-- Ken

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5849 posts in 3582 days

#5 posted 01-04-2013 08:19 PM

I personally like the Mahagony one best the other is nice too though.It’s just more to my taste have fun. Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View pintodeluxe's profile


5657 posts in 2810 days

#6 posted 01-04-2013 08:32 PM

I dislike working with MDF so much, that I would look at poplar or maple first. Spraying the finish will be key to a top notch project.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Tennessee's profile


2873 posts in 2511 days

#7 posted 01-04-2013 09:20 PM

I would skip the MDF, personally hate working with it. Poplar for me.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View WDHLT15's profile


1741 posts in 2472 days

#8 posted 01-05-2013 01:40 PM

Poplar or red maple. Get good grade so the knots do not show through.

-- Danny Located in Perry, GA. Forester. Wood-Mizer LT40HD35 Sawmill. Nyle L53 Dehumidification Kiln.

View Dophi's profile


27 posts in 2821 days

#9 posted 01-08-2013 01:07 PM

Thank you to all for the suggestions and advice. After reading what you have to say, it appears my concern about poplar is overcome if I do the necessary prep work. It was suggested I spray paint. I don’t have the equipment or facilities for the process. Perhaps I will look into sending the finished unit out to be spray painted. Thanks again for everything.

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