Picking the Perfect Cabinet Doors

One of the hardest parts about redesigning your kitchen or bathroom is all the decisions! Cabinet doors are a big part of your remodel and there are many, many choices. This article will attempt to streamline and simplify this process. These are just the basics! Of course, there are a billion more options but when you discuss what kind of cabinet door you want this is always a very good starting point.

Step 1: Pick your design - Traditional, Modern, or Contemporary.

Traditional / Classic Cabinet Doors

Classic style or Traditional cabinet doors are also called an "inset" or "5 piece". This kind takes more wood, therefore is generally more expensive if it is in solid wood. The design gets its various names because it is a traditional style and is 5 pieces of wood with a raised center inset. Traditional doors usually require exposed hinges.  While you may get the hinges as a part of the cost with other cabinet door styles, they rarely come with traditional doors. Be sure to ask so you can budget properly.

Traditional 5 Piece Cabinet Door with Inset

Combo of Classic and Contemporary Cabinet Doors

Is considered traditional, but is missing the middle raised piece. This is also sometimes called "Shaker".  It looks like the traditional 5 piece inset but it's missing the middle section.  The middle piece is flat.  This has become the most common because it goes so well with everything. It costs less than the 5 piece, too. You can also save more money by going with a natural finish rather than painting on a solid wood option. To save even more money think about Thermafoil doors.

Shaker 4 Piece Cabinet Door with flat center panel

Modern / Contemporary

Is a solid slab without any design. The wood grain can be showcased in a dramatic way. It's a clean look and it literally stays clean! Without the design, there is less to catch dust. Modern cabinet doors in Thermafoil are one of the most durable and cost-effective choices you can make.

Contempoary 1 Piece Cabinet Doors

Step 2: Decide if you want Glass Inserts

Doors with Glass Inserts

Cabinets with glass inserts can be used for the entire room or just in a couple of places to highlight an area. Glass comes in clear, translucent, opaque (can't see through it at all), and with designs.  You can also use stained glass doors. Glass inserts look very good overlaid with latticework, too. A few strategically placed cabinet doors with glass inserts can really change the look and feel of the whole kitchen.  Combine this with the proper lighting and you won't want to leave the room!

cabinet doors glass options

Step 3: Choose your Types of Materials


Real wood, painted or stained. Damage is easily corrected. Lasts a lifetime when treated with care. The type of wood affects the price.  All real wood is going to cost more than Thermafoil.


Usually, metal cabinet doors are made of aluminum because it's lighter.  Brushed is a favorite treatment.  Metal combined with glass inserts is a modern look with flair.


Thermofoil is a medium-density fiberboard, also called an MDF. It is plastic coated and heated to create a solid seal.  It comes in imitation wood grain and any color you want. It's durable and more cost effective than real wood or metal, but some damage is harder to repair and will require you to replace the door.

Step 4: Pick your stain/color

The choices you have in the color of the cabinets will be influenced by your choice of materials. Some woods look really, really good in darker stains that show off the intense patterns. Some woods, such as bamboo, look amazing in lighter stains. Metal doors are limited to the colors of metal offered. Usually, this is going to be just plain stainless steel. Thermafoil doesn't have any limitations on the color!

Step 5: Match up the Hardware!

If you are going to have handles on your cabinets, after picking the color is the time to choose it. Your hardware can either be very non-intrusive when you want the eye to focus on the cabinets themselves or they can add a little bling! Do you want simple or ornate and what color or metal finish do you prefer? These are two questions that, once answered, get you really close to narrowing down exactly what you want.

Last Thought

When you go through so much effort to choose cabinet door design, materials, and then especially hardware it might be a good idea to think really ahead. If you are planning on doing other rooms in your home it is best to do them at the same time or to buy the materials at the same time for all the areas. Why? Because then you will have matching cabinet doors and hardware throughout your home. A total remodel leaves you with a congruent flow from room to room. It pulls the house together to give it a polished, professionally designed look. Unless you have a mansion, each room having different cabinet face designs and hardware can be jarring and take away from your efforts.

*All of the cabinet doors and glass examples above come from one of the many catalogs our representatives will bring to your free estimate session.