Shaker cabinet doors are arguably the most popular among 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, with some using solid wood construction to ensure durability and a unique finish.

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.

The dimensions of the cabinet boxes influence the construction and installation of the 5-piece shaker cabinet doors, including the placement of hinge holes and the cutting of the 3/4′ MDF for the doors.

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

Pros

Variety

Since the five-piece shaker cabinet door is made by assembling five smaller pieces together, the options are limitless. Different companies will feature different wood types, wood grains, colors, and even assembly methods. Much like car manufacturers, there are many manufacturers that may make the door similarly but assemble it in different ways. The five-piece construction has become the industry standard for shaker-style doors due to its low defect rate and lower material cost. Manufacturers don’t need to have a whole piece of wood to make the doors, which allows for greater flexibility in materials. Nowadays, many doors’ center panels are made from MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard), which offers stability and reduces the likelihood of warping, further contributing to the variety and adaptability of five-piece construction doors.

Durable and long-lasting with solid wood construction

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 assembly. Over time, the warp and bend of wood can cause the paint to separate over the seams where the rails and stiles meet. Certain five-piece doors will naturally show the seams as part of the design to mitigate and reduce hairline cracks that may appear.

The extent of hairline cracking also depends on the materials used and the assembly process employed by the factory. High-quality materials and precise assembly techniques can significantly reduce the risk of cracking and ensure better durability. Therefore, it is very important to find a reputable store or place to buy cabinets. Choosing a trusted provider ensures that you get cabinets made with superior craftsmanship and materials, minimizing issues like hairline cracking.

Wood grain

Many people love the look of shaker doors for their smooth, clean finish. However, the natural characteristics of wood mean that wood grain can vary and is not always consistent. Some designs of wood grain will look smooth, while others may be more prominent and stand out. As inconsistent as the rings of a tree, the wood grains on cabinet doors will not always be uniform.

This inconsistency is particularly noticeable with stained colors. The five-piece construction can result in different color tones across the pieces due to the natural variations in the wood. While some people appreciate this as it highlights the natural beauty and uniqueness of each door, others may find it less appealing. The natural variation in wood grain and color can be seen as a feature that adds character, but it can also be viewed as a flaw by those who prefer a more uniform appearance.

Single Piece Construction Shaker Cabinet Door

Shaker Cabinet Door

Cut from a singular piece of wood, single piece construction shaker style doors are created by cutting the center area out of a solid piece of wood. 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

A single-piece door doesn’t change the properties of wood. Wood will naturally warp and crack under extreme weather conditions. Excessive heat or cold can cause wood to warp or shrink, and pushing wood past its limits can even cause it to crack. While five-piece doors are separated into sections to alleviate the potential for cracking, a single-piece door may still face these issues despite its durability.

Some manufacturers use one-piece construction with HDF (High-Density Fiberboard) or MDF (Medium-Density Fiberboard) instead of solid wood, which may reduce the chances of warping and cracking. However, if customers prefer solid wood and one-piece construction, they need to be aware of the associated cons. There might be extra labor costs and time delays due to potential defects. For instance, we previously sold our Malibu White Shaker doors, which featured one-piece construction with solid wood as a selling point. We have since stopped promoting them due to the high defect rate. While we can replace the doors under warranty, this process causes significant headaches for end users and contractors.

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. 

Conclusion: Which Shaker Style Doors are 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 more challenging time to cutting the inlay shaker into thicker material like walnut wood. The various kinds of wood that show beautiful wood grain and detail will be available only in a 5-piece. There may be some wood grain options available in single-piece construction, but the higher quality woods will be in 5 pieces.

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 a flat, clean interior. No separation, no lines, no worry of cracks.

It is important to trim all the doors to the final dimension and ensure a proper fit within the cabinet opening, leaving a 3/32″ gap around them. This ensures straight cuts and perfectly flush edges.

At Bestonlinecabinets, we understand that choosing the right cabinet doors is crucial for achieving the kitchen of your dreams. Our extensive selection of shaker cabinet doors offers both 5-piece and single-piece constructions, catering to diverse preferences and styles. With our commitment to quality and customer satisfaction, we ensure that our cabinets not only look stunning but are also built to last. Explore our collection today and discover how we can help you transform your kitchen with timeless elegance and durability. Ready to get started? Contact us now for a free consultation and take the first step toward your dream kitchen!

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Matthew Wright
Matt is a skilled kitchen cabinet designer and writer with over a decade of experience in the home improvement industry. His expertise in creating custom kitchen solutions has helped countless homeowners achieve their dream kitchens. Matt's articles are packed with practical tips and design inspiration, making complex concepts easy to understand. In his free time, he enjoys woodworking and exploring new design trends.