The Best Cabinet Door Styles & Material Guide

There are dozens of cabinet door styles and materials to consider. It can seem overwhelming to navigate all the details. As a Milwaukee custom cabinet shop, MKE Cabinetry is here to guide you in choosing the best cabinet door styles and material for your project. 

We get a lot of questions: What type of cabinet doors do you offer? What material is best for my cabinets? 

Here is a guide to cabinet door styles and cabinet door materials that will help you choose the right items for your project.

Slab Cabinet Doors

Slab doors are flat-panel doors without any ornamentation or beveling. For this style, a form of contoured design is used and the edges are 90 degree corners. This style gives a modern or contemporary look to kitchens and bathrooms. Slab doors are easy to clean and perfect for a minimalistic look. 

Cabinet Door Styles: Raised Panel Doors 

One of the more formal designs, a raised panel door features a center panel that is a little higher than the surrounding wood. The effect is to make the cabinet door appear as though it was carved out of a single, large plank. The overlay around the panel is generally grooved or has a decorative edge. This cabinet door style is predominantly used in traditional style kitchens.

Shaker Cabinet Doors

The most popular door style – the shaker style – is known for its functionality and polished, well-crafted woodwork. A shaker door is a five-piece door with a four-piece frame and one recessed flat panel. This classic, timeless style can be described as austere and utilitarian. Stained or painted shaker doors are used in many design styles from farmhouse to contemporary to traditional.

Glass Cabinet Doors or Mullion Doors

Mullions, or muntins, are the dividing bars that separate glass panes in a door, much like those found in window panes. Most commonly, they serve as decorative accents over a single pane of glass. For years, mullioned glass cabinet doors were the most popular choice among homeowners. Glass doors are a great way to display glasses, dishes and collectibles. Glass and mullion doors are most commonly used in traditional and transitional design style. 

Wood Cabinet Doors

Wood doors are made from a slab or wood or construction from five-pieces. They are versatile and can be easily customized. Because of this, you can “mix and match” a variety of finish options to meet the specific remodel project. Choose from a variety of wood species including maple, oak, cherry, hickory alder and walnut. Wood doors are durable and easier to repair than cabinets made from any other material.

The drawbacks to wood doors include susceptibility to humidity, higher cost and more maintenance. You should also know that when painting a wood door, the seams are often exposed over time where the frame is connected in the corners. Because wood moves (expands and contracts), hairline cracks in the paint may appear. 

Most people think that all-wood cabinet doors are the best option. However, there are other great door material options!

High Density Fiberboard (HDF) Doors

One of the most popular choices in cabinet doors is HDF or “hardboard”, a composite wood building material. While you might think that wood is the strongest material, HDF is hard and durable. Because of its versatility, it can replace wood in many interior design aspects like cabinets, molding and flooring.

A 1-piece HDF door has no seams because it is constructed from a 4-foot by 8-foot sheet of material routed out on a CNC machine. It is very durable and impact resistant; however, it is not waterproof or as strong as plywood. HDF is a more affordable option than wood, not because it’s a lower quality product. It’s because these doors are constructed using CNC automation, which takes less time and labor than constructing a 5-piece wood door.

Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF)

Another material used in cabinet making is MDF,  an artificial wood product made from wood residuals. It has a large-scale use in furniture making. Like with HDF, there are no seams in the door because it is a 4-by-8-foot sheet of material. At MKE Cabinetry, we use MDF for making anything from fillers between cabinets, to shelving and decorative elements. This material is flat and durable, making it great for paint-grade pieces.

Combined Material Doors (Wood & HDF)

Another great option for painted doors is a 5-piece door made with combined materials – a HDF center panel and solid wood frame. The HDF center panel will paint nicely and not warp over time. The solid wood frame is good for screwing in the hinges and hardware. Remember that with solid wood frames, you may notice hairline cracks in the seams over time. This is normal and expected.

Laminate Doors Pros and Cons

Laminate doors have many upsides. They are quite durable, affordable and offer an extensive variety of unique designs. They are very easy to clean and disinfect. The only cons to laminate doors is they can’t be used outside and if they are not properly manufactured, you can run into issues that are not easy to repair. These include peeling, chipping and cracking.

Melamine Doors Pros and Cons

Melamine is a popular option because it is durable, inexpensive and is available in many different colors. Many people view melamine as a good alternative to solid wood and MDF. It is resistant to heat, moisture and stains, and very easy to clean. Some drawbacks include weight, difficulty to install, and susceptibility to chipping and water damage.

Thermofoil Doors Pros and Cons

Thermofoil is a plastic material that is “thermoformed” to match the profile of an underlying engineered wood core. It features a high-quality sheen that may include metallic elements. Easy to mold into just about any shape, thermofoil can be used with most styles of cabinets. The color remains consistent and they are very easy to clean. Cons include they are sensitive to heat and because of this, they are susceptible to other types of damage. They tend to easily scratch, chip and dent.

Choosing the Best Materials

Best Material for Painted Doors

If you want painted cabinets, we highly recommend 1-piece HDF cabinet doors. These doors finish beautifully with no joints, no movement, no caulking, and a smooth flawless finish. When temperatures fluctuate in your kitchen during cooking or humid weather, you don’t need to worry about the center panel moving or the joints cracking because there are none. Another great option we recommend is a 5-piece combined wood/HDF door – a HDF center panel and solid wood frame.

Best Woods for Stained Doors

Remodeling your home is a big undertaking and choosing the right wood and stain is important. You want to choose a wood that is durable and will absorb the stain color you desire. Speak with our staff at MKE Cabinetry to discuss what you are looking for. We will help you choose the right wood and stain color for your project. Some woods absorb stain color well while others are blotchy and streaky. Every wood has a unique grain and color undertone, which affects the final results.

Woods that stain the most consistent color include oak, ash and hickory. Woods that have more variation and blotchiness when stained include maple, cherry, birch, poplar and pine. In the end, remember that color variation is normal, which is part of the beauty of stained cabinets. 

How to Get Started

When shopping for bathroom or kitchen cabinets for your Milwaukee home, be sure to investigate all your options. There are many types of cabinet doors in a variety of materials. Each material has pros and cons, so be sure to do your homework. At MKE Cabinetry, we are here as your resource to help you find the perfect custom cabinet doors. Give us a call or request an estimate today to get started.

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