Hardboard and six favourite projects

There’s one material that I go to over and over for DIY projects: hardboard.


Hardboard is an engineered wood product also known as high-density fibreboard. Wikipedia says that it’s “made out of exploded wood fibers that have been highly compressed.” I’m not sure what exploded wood fibres are. By the time hardboard gets to the store, it has little resemblance to wood. It’s more like a super heavy-duty, super smooth cardboard. The main resemblance to typical construction materials is that hardboard comes in 4×8-foot sheets.

It’s less than a quarter inch thick, fairly light-weight, and cuts and bends easily. Sometimes it’s cut to other sizes than 4×8, finished with white on one side, or it’s also the material for pegboards.


Here are some of my favourite projects with hardboard:

Living room bookshelves – Hardboard makes a very sturdy back for shelves and bookcases. But it’s thin and fairly lightweight, so it doesn’t add bulk to furniture.

Monograms – Letters and words are popular decor trends. Hardboard is easy to cut with a jigsaw, won’t break or crack like solid wood, and is light enough to hang on a wall or sit on a shelf. I’ve found a quick pass of fine sandpaper can be helpful to smooth cut edges.

Ampersand monogram made out of hardboard

Ampersand monogram made out of hardboard

Doors and cabinet makeovers – Faced with boring slab doors in the basement and on the laundry room cabinets, I used strips of hardboard to transform them into barn doors and shaker-style cabinets. I was blown away by how successful the transformation was. I still love these doors. Plus the makeover saved us from spending money on new doors.

Making slab doors into barn doors

Score-keeping chalkboard – Hardboard is super smooth, and with a good primer and a foam roller, it takes paint very well. So I gave a sheet of hardboard a coat of chalkboard paint for a 6-foot tall, but very lightweight and easy to move chalkboard. Much lighter than actual chalkboard.

Cabinet door repair – Our kitchen needs a renovation, but until that day, we’re trying to hold things together however we can. Hardboard to the rescue once again. The cabinet door under the sink was separating from its frame. Backing it with hardboard has seen us through the last three years.

Holding a kitchen cabinet together with hardboard

Nightstand to dresser makeover – This dresser is one of my all-time favourite projects. Combining two nightstands into one dresser worked very well, but the join was very ugly. A panel of hardboard covered the seam and didn’t add much bulk to my narrow dresser.

I continue to find more uses for hardboard. And I’d love to hear if you’ve used it yourself. Any projects to share? What’s your go-to construction material?


7 thoughts on “Hardboard and six favourite projects

  1. You know, I have never used hardboard myself. I wonder if it is similar to what they call “MDF” on all of those home improvement and makeover shows? I have heard them talk about it on there and never knew what they were talking about.

    I really like your ampersand. I am thinking the kids’ rooms could use their initials painted a bright color. I may have to add that to my next home improvement shopping list.

  2. MDF is medium density fibreboard, and this is high density. I think it’s the same, only harder.
    I’ve not used it except for pegboards, but this post has inspired me to get some. I have used the MDF with a white side to make shelves. I need to make an initial for my son’s wedding, and I think this may be the way to go! How did you get the shapes for the letters? A projector?
    You’ve sure done a lot of awesome projects with it! 🙂

    • Ahh. That makes sense.

      Hardboard would definitely not work for shelves themselves. It’s not at all that rigid. But it’s good for backing.

      I got the shape for the ampersand by scaling it up in Photoshop and tiling it so it printed on four sheets. I think there are some simpler programs out there that help you do this if you don’t have PS.

  3. HDF is a good product, but not good where moisture is an issue. It will swell and over time fail. MDF is slightly less dense and does better in moisture prone areas like bathrooms. Also, MDF can be machined like regular wood. It is used in furniture, bookcase and cabinet construction.

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