Building Kitchen Cabinet Doors

Kitchen cabinet doors get a lot of use yet get very little recognition or respect. Indeed, the only time they get any notice is when they fail to operate properly.

You might have a need to be building kitchen cabinet doors because the old ones have run their course and are ready to retire or perhaps you are installing brand new cabinets and just need to put the finishing touches on them.

Getting Started on the Right Foot

The first thing to consider if you are going for a natural (varnish, polyurethane, or tung oil) finish is that the cabinet doors have to match the cabinets themselves. Well, ok, you might want them to be different, but if so, they need to be consistently different and portray a common theme.

To match, they need to be the same kind of wood so that the color is reasonably similar, but more importantly, the grain matches. For example, oak has a distinctive “pin” grain, but not all varieties of oak are the same color, ranging from a bleached color to dark red.

If you are building cabinets and doors from scratch, be aware that cabinet doors use a LOT of linear footage of trim. If your budget is an issue, you might want to avoid oak, walnut, and pecan, and have a look at poplar. This is a hardwood that is easy to work, glues up well, and has an interesting range of color streaks.

A Cabinet Door's Architecture

The basic cabinet door is just a flat piece of wood or plywood, with beveled edges, hinged to the cabinet in such a way that it covers the cabinet opening.

If you want more intricate cabinet doors, you can think of kitchen cabinet doors as picture frames. But you are not limited to glass, you can have a backing of the same kind of wood the cabinet is made of – in all likelihood a veneer or plywood.

The typical door is comprised of a frame which is sized to fit within the cabinet opening, molding around the edges of the frame to add a decorative touch and to act as a stop (it is flush with the cabinet), and perhaps an inlay (when the frame has an inside portion cut out and the wood inlay or glass is attached from the backside). This will give the door depth.

Cabinet Door Hardware

All cabinet doors must have hinges and there are many styles on the market. You can use recessed hinges, spring loaded hinges, flush mount hinges, etc. The more intricate the hinge, the more involved the installation process.

You will probably want your cabinet doors to have catches. There are basically two kinds: magnetic catches and friction type catches. The idea is just to keep the door snug to the frame. This will keep the door from swinging open inadvertently and the family pet from exploring your cache of food.

If you have a baby or toddler, there are many products available to baby-proof your cabinets. This is not only recommended – it is obligatory.

Finishing the Cabinet Doors

There are many good ways to finish your new cabinet doors. They need to be finished in the same manner as the cabinets themselves. If they are just to be painted, use a good quality primer and then finish them with the paint of your choice, preferably spraying for an even finish.

The best looking cabinets are finished with a clear finish to showcase the hardwoods used to build them. They may be stained prior to the finish coat if desired or simply finished with varnish, polyurethane, or tung oil. Tung oil is particularly good for kitchen applications because of its water shedding properties.