Most cabinet doors still use a form of contoured design, in which frames and panels are constructed so that the cabinet faces are dimensional rather than flat. This raised panel design, such as is found in Shaker-style cabinets, gives a very traditional look.
However, flat-panel doors, otherwise known as "slab" cabinet doors, are increasing in popularity, largely because they lend a modern look to any kitchen or bathroom.
As is true of raised panel cabinet doors, slab doors can be constructed in many ways, and the construction methods largely dictate the cost of the cabinets. One constant, though, is the fact that slab doors have no frames—they are solid slabs.
- Solid hardwood. This is the most expensive, but also the most durable and solid construction. These doors are formed from solid hardwood boards glued up edgewise. These are found in only the most custom installations.
- Class A, furniture-grade plywood. These are finish-grade plywood panels, in which the face layer is a high-quality hardwood applied over cheaper ply of pine or other softer woods. The edges of the slabs are covered with a hardwood veneer tape.
- MDF (particle board). Medium-density fiberboard is a standard material used for doors that will be painted, or as the core layer for doors covered with plastic laminate or thermofoil.
Slab doors can paradoxically create two different looks in a kitchen or bathroom—one of sleek modernity, the other of plain utilitarianism.
If you're remodeling a modern kitchen or changing your kitchen/bath into that style, consider using solid hardwood or wood veneer slab doors on your cabinets. Slab doors create the smooth, clean, uncomplicated lines of contemporary design.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, doors composed of MDF (particle board) and covered with rigid thermofoil (often white) are some of the cheapest you can find. This may be entirely appropriate for a rarely used bathroom or laundry room, or if your budget is very modest.
A common worry with slab doors is the danger of warping. While this can be a problem with some construction methods, it is generally not much of a problem under normal conditions. Plywood-core doors are dimensionally stable, and even raw MDF will resist warping as long as the laminate or thermofoil covering remains intact. Solid hardwood, too, if properly sealed with stain or paint, should not warp.
Sources for Slab Doors
Nearly every major cabinet manufacturer will offer cabinet lines that feature slab doors. Kraftmaid, for example, offers thermofoil, wood veneer, and solid slab doors, each in a variety of solid colors and stains.
But in the world of ready-to-assemble cabinets, the number of choices sharply drops.
- 27estore is a Las Vegas-based online retailer that specializes in contemporary kitchen and bath styles, and slabs are the only type of cabinet doors that it offers.
- Barker is one of the few that offers solid hardwood slab doors online.
- IKEA sells a few stand-alone drawer and door fronts, but more often you need to purchase the entire unit.
If you are handy, though, it's entirely possible to build your slab-style cabinet doors.
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One riff on slab cabinets is the high-gloss look. You tend to find this in Euro-styled kitchens and going under brand names such as Snaidero, Porcelanosa, Aran, or Smallbone of Devizes. While considered premium cabinets, they are slowly—very slowly—migrating into more affordable territory.Continue to 2 of 4 below.
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While the word "slab" usually means modern, it also means expensive. But not always. On the residential mid-range front, Kraftmaid has a few slab cabinet door styles, such as this Cherry Kitchen in Natural.
To search for slab-door cabinets, use terms such as "contemporary," " Euro," "modern," or "mid-century," as these styles always make use of slab doors.Continue to 3 of 4 below.
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Slab cabinet finishes tend to be either natural wood or a bold, dramatic color such as red, purple, or black.
This example shows high-style Euro slab cabinets from Kraftmaid. These cabinets are finished in the cardinal-red paint—an unusual choice considering the doors are maple, a beautiful wood.Continue to 4 of 4 below.
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Natural Hardwood Maple
This is a classic slab cabinet door look: natural wood finished only in a clear coat. This is a maple wood cabinet from Kraftmaid. Stainless steel pulls work perfectly with this type of natural wood.