How to stain or paint Replacement Kitchen Cabinet Doors

Today cabinet remodelers and refacers are able to produce a do-it-yourself finish on new cabinet doors that will compare favorably to that of an experienced, expert cabinet maker.

There are different methods of arriving at this superior level of finish, and those methods depend upon whether you intend to stain and lacquer the cabinet doors or paint them. Continue reading

Hybrid Replacement Kitchen Cabinet Doors

While this word often conjures up thoughts of fuel-efficient hatchbacks, it is an increasingly important term that we are embracing in the woodworking industry. Hybrid technology, like the blending of gas and electric engines in a car, creates a system where the sum of its parts is greater than each individual component on its own.

For us, this mixing of two unique materials comes in the form of MDF (medium density fiberboard) and solid wood. It means that we can use new and old technologies and materials in tandem to produce a high quality product, and our hybrid cabinet doors offer our customers the best of both worlds. Not only do they have the look and feel of our traditional wood products, a natural wood frame coupled with an MDF panel, but they also possess the attributes and properties of MDF that manufacturers have been perfecting for decades.

An engineered wood product made of broken down wood fibers, wax and resin, MDF was originally introduced as an alternative to solid wood products in the 1980s, and quickly took off in markets around the world. Today, production takes place in North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Oceania, with a majority of North American production centered around the the Pacific Northwest and eastern Canada.

Unlike hardwood and softwood, MDF resists the natural expansion and contraction from changes in humidity, weather, and temperature. Since it is resistant to these fluctuations, it is less likely to become distorted, warped or bow over time. These unique features mean that when MDF panels are combined with a solid wood frame, like in a hybrid door, the result is a strong and high quality finished product that will hold up to the elements.

Another admirable quality of hybrid doors is the overall consistency in the products. In solid wood products, there are variations in the grains, knots, and unpredictable defects in the wood itself. MDF panels eliminate this problem. The reliability in the production of MDF results in a dependably smooth and blemish free surface that allows for uniform paint and adhesive absorption across the panel face and core.

Not only is MDF strong, expansion and contraction resistant and can eliminate the problem of poor consistency and defects, but it is becoming increasingly environmentally responsible. MDF can be made of a variety of materials, and companies are constantly working on testing non-toxic resins and binders, and using recycled materials and wood scraps.

Hybrid doors are a rising trend in the industry that we are proud to offer our clients. In 2011, just three years ago, we shipped over 62,000 of these hybrid products. That number increased to 94,000 in 2012 and 155,000 in 2013. Through the end of May this year, we are averaging 18,000 hybrid pieces per month. To put that into perspective, we will sell and ship more hybrid panel products this year than we did in 2011 and 2012 combined.

The interest in MDF products and hybrid cabinet doors sees no sign of slowing down, and what started as a trend looks like it is here to stay. With advances in environmental sustainability, higher quality and faster production methods and new styles and combinations, we can’t wait to see what the future of this brings. It’s really the best of both worlds.

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Understanding unfinished Paint-Grade Cabinet Doors

Although any cabinet door can be painted, not all materials used in cabinet doors paint equally well. Here are some tips on how to get cabinet doors that will paint well and remain beautiful for a generation.

The reason some wood types will give a perfect looking stain finish and a disappointing painted finish is the prominence of the woods grain and the way the different woods react to changes in relative humidity.

The finished look of a painted cabinet door made of Oak will have a noticeable grain pattern showing through the paint. A similar door made of Poplar, Alder, or Maple, when painted exactly the same, will show very little grain through the paint.

Most major manufacturers use Poplar for paint-grade cabinet doors, with Alder and Soft Maple sometimes used as well. Poplar is most often used because it sands very smooth and, after one or two coats of primer, paints exceptionally well.

Now lets look at the different styles of cabinet doors and how humidity changes affect the finished appearance of stained vs. painted doors.

There are two basic styles of cabinet doors: Inset (also called recessed or flat) panel doors and Raised panel doors.
Inset panel doors consist of a solid wood frame and a Plywood (or veneered) flat panel. Because plywood (especially plywood with an MDF core) doesn’t react dimensionally to humidity changes nearly as much as solid wood, the panels in recessed panel doors will not expand or contract significantly with changes in relative humidity.
Raised panel doors have a solid wood frame and a solid wood, glued-up panel. These glued-up, or solid wood panels significantly expand or contract to changes in humidity. This dimensional change in a solid wood panel is significant in the horizontal (against the grain) direction but insignificant in the vertical (with the grain).
In most woods the movement of a 16-inch panel in the horizontal direction will exceed 1/16-inch with a change in relative humidity of 30%.

In stained cabinet doors this panel movement goes unnoticed because the floating panel simply moves within the doors frame.
Painted doors aren’t so forgiving.
The problem with panel movement in a painted door is that the panel movement causes the paint to crack along the moving joint where the panel and frame meet.
Now you have a noticeable crack around the inside of the cabinet door.
This is not so much the fault of the door, which is behaving exactly as all wood has behaved for millions of year. The cracking is caused by the fact that the paint, once dried, is no longer as elastic as the wood.
Wood will always react to changes in humidity but dry paint can’t. Using primers, sealers and multiple coats of paint will slow the humidity-change caused dimensional changes buy won’t completely prevent them.

Now for the best partial-solution the industry has yet devised: MDF.
MDF, or Medium Density Fiberboard doesn’t react dimensionally to changes in relative humidity.
MDF also happens to take primer and paint better that most hardwoods.

That’s why we use MDF in all our Paint-Grade cabinet doors.
Better painted finish, greatly reduced panel movement, and much less likely to crack the paint around the panels.

An example of our Inset Panel Doors is the Shaker which can be seen, priced, and ordered online here.
An example of our Rained Panel Doors is the Heritage which can be seen, priced, and ordered online here.