Shaker cabinet doors are arguably the most popular amongst kitchen remodels. The sleek simplistic design functions well amongst both traditional and modern kitchen styles. The most common colors of shaker cabinet doors also work in tangent with most, if not all countertop color options available. With a style so versatile and flexible, many cabinet stores will carry this style in stock and available in various colors. Although the design of the shaker door looks very similar, the construction is different amongst the different manufacturers. 

When it comes to door options, there are two different styles. 5-piece doors versus single piece doors made with different materials and have varying pros and cons. Upon shopping, these two types of doors appear to be the same from far away. The differences come when one starts opening the cabinets and inspecting some details up close.

5-Piece Construction Shaker Cabinet Door

Shaker Cabinet Door
photo: Wood Working Network

The shaker door is assembled from 5 separate pieces. The outside frame has joints that lock the centerpiece in and hold the parts together. The two side stiles and two rails lock the center panel in place. The stiles and rails have the joints that prevent the center panel from moving around or falling out of place. 

Drawer fronts will have the most different design based on the manufacturer.

Pros

Variety

Since the 5 piece shaker cabinet door is made by assembling 5 smaller pieces together, the options are limitless. Different companies will feature different wood types, wood grains, colors, and even assembly. Much like car manufacturers, there are many manufacturers that may make the door similarly, but assembled in a different way.

Durable and long lasting

Five piece doors are commonly made of strong wood including maple and walnut. Since the doors will be assembled from smaller pieces, these doors can be cut from a wide variety of wood options. The durably of some wood translates over to the cabinets. Wood like maple is known for the color and how strong it is. They will last the test of time compared to lower quality wood like MDF.

Sharp Corners

The 5-piece construction door is assembled where the edges of the shaker design are very crisp. The stiles and rails meet the center panel forming perfect 90 degree corners. This detail may not be the most sought after, but different cabinet colors and finishes may bring light to this feature to add that much wanted contrast.

Cons

Hairline cracking

When the temperature changes, wood will naturally tend to warp and bend. The painted lines of the outside rails and stiles are typically locked together by the joints and painted after. Over time, the warp and bend of wood will separate the paint over the seams where the rails and stiles meet. Certain 5 piece doors will naturally show the seams as part of the design of the door to mitigate and reduce hairline cracks that pop up.

Wood grain

Many people love the look of the shaker door as with the smooth clean finish it has. Wood grain may vary and is not always consistent. Some designs of wood grain will look smooth while another will be too prominent and stand out. As inconsistent as the rings of a tree may vary, the wood grains on cabinet doors will not always be the same. 

Single Piece Construction Shaker Cabinet Door

Shaker Cabinet Door

Cut from a singular piece of wood, single piece construction shaker cabinet doors. Rather than having a separate piece for the interior recessed area, a router drills the center area out of the cut door. This means the shaker door is perfectly cut from a solid piece of material. Having the center drilled out means the end product is sleek and clean without any seams or separation.

How does a single piece construction affect the drawer front? It is harder to achieve. Many manufacturers may not be able to cut the shaker recessed area from such a small area. The router used to cut the inlay needs a surface to to move to make the corners smooth. If the router were to cut the door, the shaker gap would only be about 3″ wide which is too small. Thus the drawer front may end up with a flat smooth surface without any design. There may some people who want a full shaker design on all the surfaces. Those looking for full consistency will look to 5-piece construction shaker cabinet doors. Having a full solid piece has its own sets of benefits.

Pros

No movement between the joints

During temperature changes, wood may warp and bend. Since a 5-piece construction door is typically locked by just the joints of the outer frame, the center stile may tend to feel loose. Certain 5-piece doors may feel flimsy if the center panel is not fully locked by the joints and can even sound hollow. A solid single piece door will not have these issues. How the door comes is how it will be. Without any stiles or rails, the single piece door is solid and sturdy.

No hairline cracks or seams

As a 5-piece construction door, the outside frame is composed of four parts. These parts are interlocked by joints that lock the door together. Naturally, the door after painted will still show seam lines in between each section of the door.  Single piece construction will not have any of those. The end product is a clean door without any separation or distractions.

Smooth finish

As the center panel is cut from a single piece of wood, single piece doors have a very smooth finish. The seams on an assembled 5-piece door may be painted over, but may still be slightly visible and present on touch. Single piece doors will not have these interferences nor any hairline cracks.

Affordable

Less pieces results in less cost. 5 piece doors will need to be assembled and that the joints need to be accurate to guarantee the door does not fall apart. The labor to cut and assemble the joints adds up for five piece shaker cabinet doors. Single piece doors are without assembly and just need to be painted. The end result is a cheaper cost overall for doors that are single piece construction.

Cons

Rounded edges in shaker design

Since the center panel is cut out from the door, the shaker cabinet door inlay will not have corners that are perfectly 90 degrees. The router cannot cut out sharp corners compared to how the edges come together with 5-piece assembly doors. From a distance, this feature is not as relevant. The close up details may be extremely cosmetic compared to the other features of the single piece construction shaker door.

Warping and cracking

Single piece door doesn’t not change the properties of wood. Wood will naturally warp and crack under extreme weather conditions. Too or too cold can make wood warp or shrink. Pushing wood to the extreme past warping and bending can even cause it to crack. As 5 piece doors are separated into 5 sections to alleviate the potential of cracking doors, a single piece may be more durable but has its own disadvantages as well.

Less available options 

Since single piece shaker cabinet doors are cut from a single piece, these doors are painted and finished. This means that wood grain doors are rarely, if not available as single piece doors. Single piece doors are commonly made from softer wood that can have the center shaker pattern drilled out. Cutting through wood graining can damage or ruin the look that wood grain provides for the aesthetic. 

Which Shaker Cabinet Door is Best?

Shaker Cabinet Door
photo: Wood Working Network

Each version of the shaker cabinet door has its own strengths and weaknesses. Based on ones preferences and choices, the opposite option may best fit their conditions and expectations for the kitchen remodel.

If material and wood grain surface is the preference, one would select to go with 5-piece construction. There are more options with 5-piece due to the assembly of the door. Routers have a harder time to cutting the inlay shaker into thicker material like walnut wood. The various woods that show beautiful wood grain and detail will be available only in 5-piece. There may be some wood grain option available in single-piece construction, but the higher quality woods will be in 5 piece.

Some want the full smooth and solid finish that a single construction door has. With door weight in mind, some 5-piece doors can become very heavy, especially with large doors. 24″ single doors are the widest individual doors typically possible. Having a large door may be hard to install and adjust. Not only that, 5-piece doors will typically have the same visual on the inside of the door as well. Single piece construction will have a smooth shaker cut on the front and flat clean interior. No separation, no lines, no worry of cracks.

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