“There’s an old adage that the cheapest seller sets the market price, but we should be aiming to keep prices up because that’s the true price we’re paying for our raw material.”

So says Gerard Wilson, sales manager at Co Antrim-based SAM Mouldings. The price increases that the whole industry has seen in raw materials during 2007 have started to affect MDF mouldings after a long period of price stability. The effect has also been felt on solid timber mouldings and compounded by a slowdown in public spending, which has left the market for mouldings fairly static over the past 12 months.

“Interest rates have meant that homeowners are spending less on home improvements than in previous years,” said Jasdeep Deol, assistant product manager at Richard Burbidge. However, there are signs that a revival in home decorating is on the horizon, in which mouldings could play a big part, provided, said Mr Deol, “we continue to develop fresh, innovative designs and position the products in an effective manner”.

Air of caution

There’s no doubt that the past 12 months have created an air of caution about the mouldings market. “The market is up and down: we are finding it hard to develop any consistency within our sales values and volumes,” said Mr Wilson. Availability of board has also become an issue. “Depending on the region you’re in, and the type of customers in that area, timber could be more readily available than MDF or more competitively priced, which is possibly leaking back into usage,” he added.

“Talking to key accounts, one month could be well above budget, and the next month it could be flat – it’s very difficult to do any kind of forward planning.” That said, MDF appears to be holding its own. “MDF is an extremely competitive product compared with solid timber, as the commoditisation of MDF mouldings helps to keep prices as low as possible, making it a cost-effective solution in the face of rising materials costs,” explained Alan Fillingham, manufacturing director at Palgrave Brown.

Pushing the MDF market forward are the consistency and quality of the material. “Time is a precious commodity now and budgets and build programmes are tight,” said Mr Fillingham. “Not only that, but the time allowed for the final fixings gets squeezed and that’s where MDF mouldings come in as the fast fix, hassle-free solution. Each piece is like every other piece – it doesn’t need careful selection or remedial work.”

While Finnforest UK acknowledges the growing market demand in engineered products, it says red hardwoods continue to be popular in the north and in Scotland.

“There is an opportunity to up-sell such products, for example our Impressions range of mouldings which consists of unsorted ex-board material (in principle almost clear and free of knots),” said Simon Messam, sales manager at the Finnforest UK‘s Boston site. “It is encouraging to report that several merchants, particularly in the south-east of England, have seen the benefits of stocking better quality unsorted mouldings.”


Investment in new technology is critical. “It produces a high-quality consistent machined finish and efficiencies in production with full traceability,” said Mr Messam.

While Richard Burbidge does not supply MDF mouldings, it has launched a range of primed decorative mouldings this summer, in response to the growing demand for ‘Done For You’ decorative solutions.

“Demand for alternative materials is rising, as customers seek to utilise a combination of different materials and textures in their homes,” said Mr Deol. “Traditional timbers are increasingly being used in conjunction with modern, metallic finishes.

“In terms of timber trends, white oak is soaring in popularity and we fully expect it to become the timber of choice over the coming 12-18 months.”

Fully-finished and part-finished mouldings are also in demand, particularly among professional joiners who are looking to make time savings.

While there will always be demand for classic profiles such as skirtings and architraves, today’s style-conscious homeowners and specifiers are looking for new and innovative product designs that will help their home or development to stand out.

New profile development

“We are very aware of design trends and are continually developing new profiles that complement the latest styles and fashions in home decoration,” said Mr Deol. Examples could include the development of the company’s Contemporary mouldings range, based on light oak and maple effect finishes accented with a silver trim to suit the current trend for paler timbers and metallic finishes.

In addition, its Historical Mouldings collection was developed in conjunction with the National Trust to satisfy the demand for classic interior features inspired by period properties.

“I think less conventional mouldings materials will continue to rise in popularity as consumers seek to differentiate their homes, as will more contemporary designs that will act as modern finishing touches,” predicted Mr Deol.

“Prefinished mouldings that save time and make installation easier will also prove popular, as in-demand trade professionals and an increasingly ‘cash rich, time poor’ generation of homeowners looks for added-value products that make home improvement easier.”

SAM Mouldings has also been busy with new product development, including a fully-finished MDF coated product which it is currently fine-tuning before launch. “Our bread and butter is still supplying a primed white MDF skirting board or architrave,” said Gerard Wilson. “A year ago, we launched into a wrapping of MDF that is in real wood veneers, papers and foils, which is proving successful for us.

“Merchants want to use MDF veneers as an alternative to solid hardwood, because of price, availability and issues over certification: supplying an FSC-approved MDF board with a veneer WRAP is proving an attractive option.”

Shayne Widdop, national sales manager for BLP, agrees. “We are finding growth in veneer-wrapped mouldings such as skirting and architrave. Customers want to achieve the quality look of solid to match flooring and veneered doors, but have all the advantages associated with MDF.”

Surface materials

When it comes to surfacing materials, Mr Widdop says veneers are being requested more for architectural mouldings and, with the development in foil technology, more quality vinyls with realistic prints are growing in popularity. “The effect of these foils is incredibly realistic, making it difficult to spot the difference between the foil and a real wood veneer,” he said.

“With the developments in foil technology – creating wonderful realistic woodgrain prints – and the spectrum of colours now available, it allows us to be more creative with designs and offer contemporary style mouldings to complement their contemporary ranges,” he added.

“Exotic woods will continue to prove popular as they create a modern look but also give a warmth and richness to furniture pieces as well as interiors.”

Despite the patchy past 12 months, the future for the mouldings market is looking brighter. “I believe there is still potential for growth and that there will be more and more conversion from softwood to MDF, especially as solid timber prices continue to rise,” said Palgrave Brown’s Alan Fillingham.

“The UK is still in urgent need of more homes and, due to its consistent quality and speed of fixing, MDF will continue to be the ideal product for the housebuilder, so the mouldings market will expand in step with the housebuilding industry.”