Choosing the right kitchen door material for your kitchen

The overall appearance of your kitchen is heavily influenced by your choice of kitchen door design and, no matter what stage of your kitchen remodelling process you’re at, one of your biggest decisions will be the materials you choose; a choice that can set the tone for the entire room. 

Costs, quality and general durability can vary dramatically depending on which material you opt for, which is why we’re going to take a detailed at look at some common and uncommon kitchen door materials, weighing in on the pros and cons of each. Starting with more everyday options, we’ll be sharing some of our experience on how each choice might fit into your own, bespoke kitchen. 

Birch plywood 

Birch plywood is a great material - strong, durable and sustainable. We use it in all our kitchens, almost always for the carcasses and drawers, but often for doors and drawer fronts as well. 

It’s made by gluing together layers of birch (usually just over a mm thick) at right angles to each other. It’s this alternating of the grain direction that give the boards their strength and stability.  

Plywood sold in the UK is usually grown in the Baltic states or Russia. It is a hardwood, but fast growing, so an ideal timber for industrial use. As with all the other timber we use, the birch plywood in our kitchens is always FSC certified. 

Birch plywood always has a distinctive rotary cut grain (meaning the veneer is cut from the log as if unrolling a loo roll) and has a pale, yellow colour, which gives a raw. industrial look to a kitchen when used for the doors.  

  1. It was a popular finish in the 1960s or 70s, so it has a retro aesthetic, which can be a good or bad thing depending on your taste.  We love it! 

Solid wood 

We use solid wood to make doors and frames in our traditional in-frame shaker kitchens. We typically use maple which is very dense and stable, and has a close grain making it perfect for painting. As our shaker kitchens are almost always hand-painted they can be re-painted or touched up over the years, meaning a well-built in-frame shaker kitchen can last practically forever! 

Shaker kitchens have what are called 5-piece panelled doors (doors constructed from 2 rails, 2 styles and a recessed panel in the middle). This construction mitigates the tendency of solid wood to expand, contract and twist, and helps keep the door stable. 

Solid wood is not such a good material for making flat doors, as at 20-24mm kitchen doors are too thin to be stable when made from solid wood (this is when you’d use a veneer – see below). 

In-frame shaker kitchens are timeless. They’ve been around for hundreds of years and will probably be around for hundreds more. They don’t look like they’ll ever go out of fashion! 

Wood Veneer 

We use veneered doors in lots of our kitchens. It’s a great way to get a modern look with a natural product. As mentioned above, solid wood isn’t suitable for making flat doors, so this is where veneer comes in. Veneered panels are made by laminating a thin layer (usually 0.6mm) of real wood onto a stable substrate (usually MDF or birch ply). 

If you use MDF as the substrate then each door has to be lipped and veneered. This means a thin piece of solid wood (usually around 5mm) is glued to the edge of the doors, after which the faces of the doors are veneered. The result is a door that looks like it’s been made from solid wood. 

We use birch plywood more often than MDF because we love the way the birch ply edge looks, but there are often parts of the kitchen that will need to be lipped and veneered.   

Veneered wood doors are beautiful and offer design possibilities that can’t be achieved with solid wood. There are also far more varieties of wood veneers available than solid wood.

Laminate faced birch ply 

Similarly to wood veneer, laminate doors largely consist of an MDF or chipboard base onto which a patterned sheet of paper is heat-bonded using tough resin adhesives. These doors can have patterns that are convincing imitations of wood or, indeed, any other design and since laminate is so easy to clean, it makes a great material for kitchen doors. 

Laminates (sheet plastics such as Formica or Fenix) come in a huge range of colours and effects, and are extremely hard wearing. It can be a great choice for a durable door front, and the birch ply edge gives the finished door a hint of natural wood, which complements the laminate beautifully.  

Laminate-faced birch ply has a classic 60’s feel (though it can easily be used to create a more 2019 look)! 

Furniture Linoleum 

Desktop Furniture Lino – made by Forbo – is a beautiful and sustainable product made from linseed oil and pine rosin, with a delicate tactile finish and a warm fine texture.

It’s easy to work with, durable, easy to keep clean, and doesn’t show finger prints. Typically, we bond the linoleum to birch plywood doors and drawer fronts, lacquering the exposed plywood edges. Sometimes we will lip the substrate with solid timber and bond the lino over that to leave solid wood exposed edges.

Spray Painted MDF 

MDF is an extremely stable material, and the best material for spray painting where the result is a smooth, untextured finish.  

Paint can be colour matched to any colour (Farrow and Ball, Little Greene etc) so the colour options are limitless, and a huge variety of handle designs can be routed in the door before painting.  

Painted doors are not as hard wearing as some other options, but doors can be re-sprayed if damaged.

Every door material on the market comes in an almost infinite range of qualities and prices, so it‘s always a good idea to get the help of a trusted professional who can tell you the best products to suit your unique needs and budget. If possible, get your hands on the material to judge it for yourself and give yourself a clearer idea on how it might be to handle over the day to day life of your kitchen. Kitchen doors go through a lot! So don’t forget to balance style with practicality.