Slab Cabinet Door Basics and Pros and Cons

Modern Kitchen with Slab Cabinet Doors 533766531
Getty / Camilo Morales

The look of kitchen cabinets is so fully centered around the cabinet doors. While the boxes are larger than the doors, it's the doors that present themselves front-and-center.

In fact, with many kitchen cabinet manufacturers, the boxes are interchangeable. Homeowners choose the doors and drawer fronts, not the boxes.

Slab cabinet doors immediately identify a set of cabinets as being modern, contemporary, or mid-century in style.

What Slab Cabinet Doors Are

Slab cabinet doors are flat panel doors that have no ornamentation or beveling.

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.

Flat-panel doors, otherwise known as slab cabinet doors, lend a modern look to any kitchen or bathroom. The front of the door is completely flat, with no bevels. The edges are 90-degree corners.

Slab Door Construction

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 hardwood veneer tape.

MDF Particleboard

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. These doors can also be coated in a melamine exterior.

Slab Cabinet Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Slab cabinets not only look clean but they do stay clean better, as well. With the lack of ornamentation, slab cabinets can easily be wiped down.
  • Slab cabinets have a timeless aesthetic that resists most trends.

Cons

  • 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.
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    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.

    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.

    In the world of ready-to-assemble cabinets, the number of choices sharply drops. You'll find a few online retailers, plus you can build your own slab doors:

    • 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.
    • 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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    Slab Cabinet Aesthetics

    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.

    Slab cabinet finishes tend to be either natural wood or a bold, dramatic color such as red, purple, or black.

    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 migrating into more affordable territory.