Slab doors look BAD - Need suggestions!!

jessraeOctober 17, 2013

I need HELP! What are your thoughts on shaker uppers and shaker fridge panels with all the lowers cabinets slab?

We built a house and have had many bumps along the way. The current issue is the quality of the kitchen cabinets. They are custom maple slab doors with dark stain. (I told my builder I wanted a very dark espresso stain and he suggested maple - big mistake, but that's a whole other problem!)

We did slab cabinets EVERYWHERE! But the ones that look the worst are the uppers in the kitchen. When the light shines on them you can see every single seam where the maple boards were glued together. And the fridge panels are by far the worst of the worst. We're waiting for the third set of panels to be delivered (that's why it's only partially done in the photo.)

Our builder said he'd be willing to have "12 or so" more doors made, but I have no confidence that this cabinet maker can actually make a smooth slab door. The other option they mentioned is doing a veneer door so while the middle will be smooth, there will be a line all around the perimeter of the door where the solid wood is glued on the edges. I don't really care for that idea either.

So I'm wondering, would it look ok to have all the uppers shaker (then the veneer line would be covered up by the shaker trim around the perimeter)? Or would this look odd? I've seen pictures where all doors are shaker and all drawers are slab and that looks good. While we have all drawers under the uppers, on the island, there are a mix of drawers and doors.

Arggg! I'm so sick of dealing with all these house issues. Any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated!!

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Here's a photo of the lowers along the wall. Sorry for the low quality phone photo : )

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 6:18PM
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First of all, I think you cabinets look great.

Second, I don't see any problem with mixing Shaker with Slab in your kitchen. You had to stand in just the right place to get the pic that shows both lowers and uppers together. The way your kitchen is laid out, if you can see both, you are probably so close that you aren't getting a panoramic view. And you will never be looking at the uppers and the island doors at the same time. You just won't.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 6:25PM
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Thanks cawaps! It's hard to get the imperfections in the photo with the glare, but here's a photo where you can see a small part of the seams. Glad you think the shaker and slabs will look okay. I'm so torn on what to do but shaker seems to be the best option that I've thought of so far.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 6:40PM
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I think it will look great. The glass doors are essentially shaker doors anyway. See if he will replace all the doors with shaker, even the island doors.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 7:45PM
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Sophie Wheeler

Veneered slab are a better option than shaker here. That's what most of your high end Euro cabinets use if they use wood at all. And make sure the substrate is MDF for the veneer.

Or, the best option of all would be to get your money back from the incompetent cabinet maker and find someone else to do it. If he can't' do a decent glue up, there's no telling what type of problems that exist that you can't see, or just don't have "the eye" to see. You would be better off taking that money and going with a national cabinet line than most local makers if you want slab. It takes more specialized equipment to do the veneer layups, edgebanding, etc. than most local small shops will own.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 7:45PM
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While, I agree that there is nothing wrong with mixing slab and shaker, your kitchen looks really lovely with all slab. IMO, you will lose a lot of your kitchen's feel if you switch the uppers to shaker. Right now, it is really perfect(except for the bad doors). The tile, the counter, the hood, the hardware- you nailed it, it's gorgeous. I think you will not be happy with the switch to shaker.
Please note, I say this as a person who has a mix of shaker and slab. My kitchen is 90% slab, but I chose to have 2 cabinets have shaker doors; the upper and lower doors on my hutch upper cabinet-it sits on the counter, and then the small above the fridge doors. And those are the only uppers in my kitchen.
I added the shaker doors to temper the contemporary edge and push the kitchen direction to modern farmhouse. It was a choice, not a result. I think it makes my kitchen more aesthetically in tune with my post and beam house situated on farmland. The house walks the contemporary-farmhouse line.
All of my slab doors are veneer. The edge that you are referring to is very strong and not noticeable. Though I will say I would trust my cabinet maker with my life. Can they make you up one sample veneer door on approval?
Good luck, don't give up on your kitchen design just yet.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 8:14PM
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Wow! Thanks for all the helpful suggestions! Point well taken about the shaker style. Our house is contemporary so I hate to add a design element that will throw that off. Its a great idea to have a sample veneer door made to see what it looks like. And I'll definitely see if there's another cabinet maker that we could use. I'm totally fed up with these guys!

hollysprings - Do you have any recommendations for a national cabinet line? We are in Minnesota if that matters.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 8:37PM
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If you want flawless doors without seams, have them made of solid surface.

Wood grows on trees. What did you expect?

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 8:37PM
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jess, the problem is with the finishing. You could have twenty glued seams on a door and not see a single one of them (at least while the door is new) if they were properly glued, sanded, and finished. It's something you should ask your cabinet maker to fix.

If you want to see a beautiful veneered slab door, look at Barker Door. They are flawless. Samples are inexpensive, and the doors are reasonably priced. They're manufactured in Oregon and ship throughout the US.

Here is a link that might be useful: Barker

    Bookmark   October 18, 2013 at 12:35AM
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Thanks for the suggestion EAM44. Yes, it's definitely a finishing issue. I will look into Barker about getting a sample.

Trebruchet - While I don't expect perfection in a wood door, I also don't expect to be able to see 7 vertical lines running the length of a slab door.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2013 at 10:53AM
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I have to agree with those that said it looks great with slab. Try to stick with that if you can find a way to do it that isn't seamed. I think that the shaker would throw the style off what you have so successfully achieved. It wouldn't look bad but just wouldn't be in line with your objective.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2013 at 11:21AM
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Sophie Wheeler

To be fair, you shouldn't expect to see the join lines on a slab door constructed from solid wood when it's first delivered to your home. (Which I'm assuming that your cabinets are newly installed.) A newly created slab door should be smooth single slab in appearance.

Subsequently, you WILL see those join lines telegraph. It's unavoidable. It's the nature of using solid wood that contracts and expands with the waxing and waning of the humidity. Different pieces of wood expand and contract at different rates, leading to those join lines appearing between the boards. In extreme cases, the entire door can warp inches out of flatness. That's why solid wood slab doors are constructed with battens on the back. It prevents major warpage. It does NOT prevent the join lines from being seen over time though. And it's part of the reason that all cabinet companies require you to maintain the humidity in your home as part of their warranty coverage. If you don't use your AC in the summer or have a humidifier running in winter, you've just voided your warranty.

And that is why the majority of people who want slab doors prefer to have them in veneer over solid wood. It presents a much more stable surface over time. It warps less. And you get the opportunity for some beautiful graining patterns that aren't "striped" because of the many different pieces of wood required for solid doors.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2013 at 12:52PM
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Here are solid slab doors by Holiday Kitchens in Wisconsin.

I also think your kitchen is beautiful. Maple is not a great wood if you want dark. If you've seen dark maple that isn't streaky, it's usually been applied with a toner of some kind. I would NOT want a toned finish....cheaper companies use this to tone out wood for finishing.

I can't believe your cabinetmaker suggested maple.

Cherry, Alder or Poplar all would have been much better!


    Bookmark   October 18, 2013 at 1:23PM
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Thanks for the explanation hollysprings. No one had mentioned that to me. I do have some veneered woodwork by our cabinet maker. He made a bench, table and part of the TV cabinet out of veneer and there is a very noticeable line around the edges. It doesn't bother me on these other items due to their large size, but I think it would bug me on the cabinet doors. I may need to find someone who can do a better veneer job.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2013 at 1:38PM
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Thanks for the recommendation Kompy. Those cabinets look great!

    Bookmark   October 18, 2013 at 1:40PM
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sounds like you need a better cabinet maker. Maple is notorious for not accepting stain well, so you get streaks. But the bad joins on the doors and the TV cabinet sounds like he's a bit sloppy - cabinetry requires a high degree of precision.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2013 at 7:52PM
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My slabs are solid rift sawn oak. The sample door I got with the stain on it showed every stripe, because the slab was glued up with 3 inch boards. I asked the cabinet maker to use a wider board, and they turned out very nicely. The cabinets just got delivered yesterday, so I can try to post a pic later with the two different glue ups.

While I can see the glue up on the final product, it isn't as busy as the narrower boards. The cabinet maker warned me about warping, but because of my wood species, I decided to take the risk.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2013 at 9:47AM
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Thanks hazeldazel - I agree. He is being sloppy. I think he'd irritated b/c he's had to remake a number of doors/drawers/cabinets so the newer ones are coming back even worse than the first ones we had.

LoPay - that is exactly what the doors look like - stripes every 3 inches. A wider board would definitely make it look better than what I've got.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2013 at 10:00PM
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