cabinet door options and colors

Cabinet Doors- Advice From The Experts!

Is your kitchen showing its age? Do you long to update your existing kitchen? Perhaps you’ve browsed through various cabinet door styles online, or actual kitchen showrooms, however the possibilities are endless and overwhelming. From the timeless lines of Shaker cabinet doors, to slab doors; from full overlay or partial overlay doors; to inset doors, the possibilities can be staggering. At Homestead Cabinet Design, we help you wade through these questions, and many more. Here is some advice from an expert.

We will be more than happy to help you resource good quality custom cabinet doors. We have a huge selection of custom doors for your tired, dated kitchen and bathroom, for you to choose from! Our specialty is customizing cabinet doors to your needs. Do you need paint grade doors? We have those options as well. With our help, upgrading your kitchen to a hickory, birch, maple kitchen, or any other wood species becomes totally manageable!! For more information on refacing your kitchen check out our blog on refacing.

For a serious DIYer, changing out your cabinet doors is actually one of the easier projects to tackle. Switching to full overlay doors creates a seamless, modern, and contemporary look in your kitchen. This makes an amazing difference in the look and feel of your kitchen!

Along with that, you decide how much of the kitchen renovation process you want to tackle. If you need quality unfinished doors, and only need a resource, just call! If you have the means to paint your own doors, check out our blog on painting kitchen cabinets for detailed instructions.

If you want painted cabinets, but do not have the equipment to give the doors that smooth glossy finish, Homestead Cabinet Design has the proper equipment to help you with this. Perhaps you want a professional to do everything for you; again, we will help you! We help all our clients beautifully finish their kitchen cabinets from a-z. Nothing is too small.

Along with that, remember that door sizes and hinges are related, so replacing your cabinet doors will determine what style hinges you use.  

Oak kitchen refaced with modern mfd Shaker doors.
Swapping out the doors and hardware makes an amazing difference in a tired, dated kitchen!!

 Common Materials Used For Cabinet Doors

Common materials used for cabinet doors are solid wood doors, MDF composite doors, and Rigid Thermofoil doors. Each one has its own pros and cons as you can see below.

What is a Solid Wood Cabinet Door?

Solid wood doors are manufactured from hard or soft wood species, most often birch, maple, oak, pine, or even hickory. Solid wood doors come in two types- one is the totally solid wood doors for that authentic wood look. However, some wood doors also come as a frame with an mdf insert in the middle. This is a budget friendly, good quality option for those who want a cheaper door, yet want a real wood door.

Pros and Cons of Wood Cabinet Doors

Wood doors definitely have their pros and cons. If you want to see the beauty of the wood and will not be painting your doors, by all means, go with solid wood doors. Solid wood doors add timeless beauty to every kitchen and bathroom.

However, if you want to a painted door, use something with an MDF panel. The reason for using MDF, is that it won’t contract or expand like real wood. The panels in doors are usually free floating, with tiny rubber spacers inside to keep the panel from rattling. But wood panels do move, and if you paint these, you may see thin lines all around the inside edge of the door frames when the panel contracts and pulls away from the frame..

What Are MDF Cabinet Doors?

MDF doors are made of engineered wood – Medium Density Fiberboard. These may have a wood frame with an MDF panel in the center, or they may be completely MDF.

A one-piece MDF door can be routed in the center to look like a shaker or raised panel framed door, but it really is only one piece with no joints. For this reason MDF has become an increasingly popular resource for painted doors. Many designs can be routed into the surface of an MDF door.

MDF doors work very well when you are refacing/repainting your kitchen and need new doors, because your old ones need replacing. For more information on refacing check out our blog on refacing.

What IS An MDF Cabinet Door Made From?

MDF is manufactured by first breaking down hardwood or softwood into fine wood particles. Then the particles get glued together with wax and a resin binder. High temperatures and pressure forms these doors. MDF doors do not have a noticeable grain, making them an excellent choice for painted doors.

MDF shaker cabinet door- painted gray and glazed.
Gray Glazed Shaker Door

What Are The Pros and Cons of MDF Doors?

MDf doors have more budget friendly options than all wood doors, and has been the common material used for painted cabinet doors. Their stability comes from not having any glue joints to break apart. Neither do you have to worry about hairline cracks in the joints. Yet they are more cost effective than wood doors. This makes them a very good option for people who wish to upgrade their doors, and are painting their cabinets.

What is A Rigid ThermoFoil Cabinet Door?

Rigid Thermofoil cabinet doors look and feel very similar to MDF doors when they are new. They are manufactured from MDF and covered with a laminate foil. However, they bubble with high heat, making them a poor choice for high heat areas. RTF doors are very water resistant and easiy to clean, but once they develop a crack, or get a scratch, they absorb moisture, causing them to expand, making them repairable.

Cabinet Doors and Overlays

When choosing a door style, also consider the overlay of the door on the cabinet. You can take an older kitchen with small overlays (the distance the door edge overlays the cabinet face) and large spaces between the doors, and transform it to a modern full overlay look.

Full Overlay Cabinet Doors

Full overlay, means the face of the cabinet is mostly covered. The doors edges are brought close to the outside edges of the cabinet. Door gaps are also brought close together. This is called the reveal of the cabinet. generally with full overlay application, the reveal is between 1/8 inch and 1/4 inch from all edges and between doors.

Full overlay doors cost you substantially less than inset doors, albeit more than partial overlay doors. Plus you have more storage space, since they are not set inside the actual cabinet space. Full overlay doors do expand and contract, but they have space to move. This effectively eliminates the problem of humidity keeping you from opening and closing your kitchen cabinet doors!

Whit Shaker kitchen cabinets

Inset Cabinet Doors

Inset doors close flush with the cabinet frame. This type of door gives a sleek and smooth, contemporary appearance, however it comes with a price. Inset doors generally cost between 15-20% more than overlay doors. Along with that, since the doors are flush with the cabinets, you have less storage space for those large kitchen items.

One definite disadvantage of inset wood doors, is the normal expansion and contraction of wood. At times, wood cabinet doors expand so much in the heat and humidity of summer that you cannot close them all the way. This causes the doors to rub against the face frame of your cabinet as they open and close, scratching the surface of the doors and cabinet frame. In extreme cases, you may not be able to fully close the doors and drawers, especially in the heat and humidity of summer.

Kitchen with inset doors

Partial Overlay Doors

Partial overlay doors only partially cover the face of your cabinet, leaving a space of about 1-1 1/4″s between the doors/drawers. This style has been popular for many years, and is the most budget friendly of the three types of doors. Partial overlay cabinet doors do not need special hardware, since there is space beside the doors to open them. Definitely think of investing in them, if cost is a factor.

White kitchen upgraded with shaker doors
This kitchen shines as a result of the upgraded partially overlay-ed Shaker doors!

Styles of Cabinet Doors

Flat Recessed/Shaker Door

The recessed panel door consists of five pieces of wood. Basically, a frame of four strips of wood glued together as a picture frame, makes a border around the edge of the door. At times a simple or elaborate wood trim borders the inside edge of the cabinet door frame. However for that smooth, sleek look, most people opt out of adding a lot of extra moldings.

A flat panel inserted into the back side of the cabinet door, finishes off the door. The inside panel sits snugly in a slot inside the frame of the doors. Full inset and full overlay cabinet doors often use the Shaker style of door.

Shaker style doors, with their clean and simple, classic look, blend well with traditional or contemporary kitchens. Their straightforward lines are rising in popularity, because it fits well with a simple and uncluttered lifestyle.  Shaker style strongly appeals to many homeowners, because the fresh crisp look does not seem to go out of style.

Below is a picture of kitchen cabinets with brand new recessed panel Shaker doors!

cherry kitchen

Raised Panel Doors

The construction of partial overlay doors also consists of five pieces of wood- an inner raised panel, with a frame around the edges. At times, the inner raised panel is manufactured from MDF composite wood, and veneered to match the wood species that the frame of the door is manufactured from. The inside panel sits snugly in a slot inside the frame of the doors. Raised panel doors have been around for years and are quite strong and durable.

Cabinet Painting
See the transformation that white paint makes on raised panel kitchen cabinets!!

Flat panel and raised panel doors can also be made with an MDF center, and a wood frame. This is actually a cost effective door if you wish to upgrade your doors, and need a paint grade door that will last you for a long time.

Slab Doors

Just as their name suggests, slab doors are frame-less, therefore they are consist of one thin flat piece of wood or MDF. European styles have taken this style of door to a new level of modern, and contemporary. In this case, as can be seen below, the slab panel totally covers the face of the cabinet, creating a sleek frame-less cabinet look.

European Slab panel doors, manufactured from MDF composite materials.

Many 50’s and 60’s kitchens here in New England were made with slab doors made from plywood. You can retain the style by painting these or by adding wrought iron hardware and door handles for a vintage farmhouse style kitchen!

White painted kitchen with slab doors.
Lovely vintage kitchen with slab doors, repainted in white!!

At times, door makers become creative and make tongue and groove edges along the long edge of the strips of wood. They then glue the strips of wood together until they have a large enough slab of wood for the doors they need. Usually these doors need a strip of wood to hold them together. These strips of wood run along the top and bottom of the door on the backside of the door.

New slab doors today are made from MDF. The manufacturers use edge banding on all sides and to conceal the mdf composite edges.

Mullion Frame Doors

Mullion frame doors have a small frame inside the outer frame of the door. The vertical and horizontal bars or moldings divide the open door into panes, making the mullion door look like an old fashioned window pane. These doors have a solid wood frame around them. A glass panel sits snugly in a slot inside the frame of the doors. This glass panel sits behind the bars of the small inset wooden frame.

Mullion doors add very attractive, decorative spaces for wine coolers. Use them in spaces where you want to show off those heirloom china pieces or even to house lighting units above a row of upper cabinets. They will definitely make your kitchen seem more open and spacious! Mullion doors have many uses in a kitchen, buffet, or a bookshelf. Below, you see how mullion doors add space and openness to any kitchen space!

Upgraded kitchen with recessed shaker doors, mullion glass doors, and an aged island.

Open Frame Cabinet Doors

Similarly to mullion doors, open frame cabinet doors have no center panel. They consist of a single frame around the edge. Usually, these will have a routed edge for the glass panel to fit into also.

Aged china hutch with open frame glass door.
China hutch with open frame glass doors.

How Do I Create a Modern Contemporary Look in My Kitchen?

Are you looking for a modern, contemporary kitchen? Then install Shaker doors, along with contemporary hardware! These doors transform a kitchen from drab to gorgeous with their timeless simple appeal! Go with full overlay doors to really enhance the seamless beauty of a modern kitchen.

Shaker doors have a timeless, versatile look, making them a very popular choice for modern kitchens. Their simple down home, clean lines fit well into many kitchens- all the way from antique and farm style to contemporary, modern kitchens!!

As you can see in the pictures below, simply upgrading your cabinet doors and painting your kitchen cabinets makes an amazing difference in the feel and atmosphere of any kitchen!!!

green painted kitchen
50’s kitchen with plywood slab doors
50’s kitchen upgraded to shaker cherry doors

Can We Help You Create the Kitchen of Your Dreams?

Call us today at Homestead Cabinet Design to set up an appointment!! We will be more than happy to guide you to the perfect cabinet doors for your kitchen, and for your budget!!

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For more information about our services click here.

Again, we have a large selection of doors for your kitchen cabinets. The sky is the limit. We will help you decide on the perfect style for your own kitchen!

Painted Cabinet doors
Door samples

About the Author Susanna Glick