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Slab Cabinet Doors: Modern Style for Kitchen or Bath
Slab Cabinet Doors
© Behr Process Corporation; By Courtesy of Behr
Kitchen and bathroom cabinets greatly influence the look of the rooms because they cover so much of the walls.

While not a rare, exotic thing, slab doors as a conscious design choice still haven't caught on like wildfire, at least in the U.S. Raised panel doors (think of Shaker, with its "window frame" perimeter) are far more popular.

What Are Slab Cabinet Doors?

All cabinet doors have a profile--a side view. If you were to look at a door cross-section from the side, you could see various ridges and depressions created by beveling out the wood with a router or building it up with extra pieces. A slab cabinet door's profile is completely flat.

You will find three types of slab cores:

  1. Solid Hardwood
  2. Class A, Furniture Grade Plywood
  3. MDF (Particle Board)
And in conjunction with those cores, you will find four types of outer layers or finishes:
  1. Wood Veneer (on plywood and MDF cores)
  2. Natural Finish/Stained (on solid hardwood)
  3. Laminate (on plywood or MDF cores)
  4. Rigid Thermofoil (on MDF cores)
Though edges tend to be squared, the doors can have a slight rounded edge and still be classified as slab.

For a Modern Look...or Just Plain-Jane

The slab cabinet door has two faces--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 wood veneer slab doors on your cabinets. Slabs have the smooth, lean, uncomplicated lines of contemporary design.

So it's ironic that a different type of slab cabinet door has a reputation for being the kind of thing you might find in an apartment or low-cost condo. Doors composed of MDF (particle board) and covered with rigid thermofoil (often white) are some of the cheapest you can find. An entire 24" IKEA AKURUM white slab front base cabinet goes for around $100.

Slab Cabinet FAQs

  • Q: Are slab cabinets more expensive than other door profiles? A: No. I have found these doors to be in line with other doors. But because purveyors of Euro-design cabinets tend to offer this style--and they tend to be more expensive--by extension their products may be more expensive.
  • Q: Can you get framed cabinets with slab doors? A: No. You'll need to choose frameless cabinets for slab doors.
  • Q: Can I get pure wood slab cabinet doors? A: Yes. Be careful when shopping for cabinets because materials are often specified in cabinet sections, rather than cabinets as a whole. So, you might have shelves made of MDF but doors made of solid wood.
  • Q: Why are there different materials? A: Cost savings. But if you're going to get higher-grade materials, these materials will be on the doors. Lower quality woods are relegated to the less-visible areas.

Do Slab Cabinet Doors Warp?

The possibility of warping is the most common criticism of slab doors. But is this true?

Cabinet doors have traditionally been constructed from several pieces of wood to better allow for wood expansion, contraction, and movement in response to changes in temperature and humidity. If you've ever put together a jigsaw puzzle, you're aware that it's possible to shift the puzzle's shape in minor ways while still keeping it together as a whole. A multi-piece door works in much the same way.

I believe that warping is not a worry with slab doors under normal conditions. Plywood core doors are dimensionally stable. Raw MDF is not known for being dimensionally stable, but as long as the thermofoil wrap or laminate remains intact it should not warp. Solid hardwood, too, if properly sealed with stain or paint should not warp.

Resources for Slab Cabinet Doors (Links Below)

First, nearly every major cabinet manufacturer will offer 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 DIY, ready-to-assemble cabinets, the number of choices sharply drops. At the time of this writing (August 2012), the largest online RTA store, RTA Cabinet Store, only offered one slab door, Villa Cherry.

27estore is a Las Vegas-based online retailer that specializes in contemporary kitchen and bath styles, which automatically means that they have cabinets with slab doors. In fact, slabs are the only type of cabinet doors that they offer.

If you're handy, our Woodworking Guide has a detailed step-by-step on how to make slab-style cabinet doors.

Barker is one of the few that offers solid hardwood slab doors online.

IKEA sells a few stand-alone drawer and door fronts, but mainly you need to purchase the entire unit.

A Note About the Picture

This image comes from Behr, and features Candlelight Yellow paint on the wall.
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