Shaker Style Cabinet Doors with Plywood Panels

Are you looking at shaker style cabinet doors? Will you choose plywood panels or solid panels? Learn why plywood panels are a good option.

Five plywood panel shaker style cabinet doors in a variety of wood species.

Helping your customer choose their cabinet doors can be stressful. Since they use your kitchen daily, they want doors that make the space feel inviting, not cheap or dark. But, you probably don’t have an unlimited budget, either.

Is there a happy medium? If they’re considering solid wood doors, then yes – meet plywood panel cabinet doors.

At Cutting Edge, we produce over 100,000 cabinet doors each year, and about 39% of those – roughly 44,000 – feature plywood panels. Assuming each kitchen has about 45 cabinet doors, about 975 out of 2,220 people select plywood panels.

So, why do so many people choose plywood panels? Keep reading to find out! In this article, you’ll learn:

Shaker style cabinet doors are a simple option

Shaker style cabinet doors have been an option for over 200 years – this design dates back to the Shaker communities in the 1800s

Traditional shaker style doors have a simple and clean design. There are no eye-catching details like decorative profiles

The exterior frame has two stiles and two rails made of solid wood. Originally, the centre panel would have also been solid wood. However, thanks to advancements in machinery, you can now choose plywood panels, a less expensive option. More about the benefits of plywood panels later!

What do traditional shaker style cabinet doors look like?

Traditional shaker style cabinet doors have square inside and outside profiles, like the picture below. This profile selection makes the cabinet doors look simple and clean and works well in contemporary, modern, and farmhouse-style homes, to mention just a few.

An infographic showing the parts of a plywood panel shaker style cabinet door.

What do non-traditional shaker style cabinet doors look like?

As more and more profiles became available, cabinet door makers began considering any cabinet door with a flat centre panel to be a shaker style cabinet door.

Thus, as long as the centre panel is flat, you can call your cabinet door a shaker style door.

There are many decorative inside and outside profile options for non-traditional shaker doors.

Three shaker style cabinet doors. From left to right - a dark grey shaker style door, a dark brown bevelled door, and a light grey stepped shaker door.

Why plywood panels are a good alternative to solid wood

Now, let’s look at why plywood panels are a great alternative for solid wood cabinet doors.

First, you may assume that plywood is a lower-quality option than solid wood. However, this isn’t always the case. While you can order low-quality plywood, usually used where it isn’t visible, you can also order high-quality plywood designed for use in cabinetry. So, choosing plywood panels does not mean sacrificing quality for the price.

Instead, it means you are making a smart buying decision – purchasing a cost-effective alternative of similar quality.

Now, how does solid wood compare to plywood apart from quality?

Solid wood is distinctive, expensive, durable, and heavy. However, it is also a living product that isn’t naturally stable.

On the other hand, plywood is essentially a paper-thin sheet of wood glued to the front and back of a cheaper centre or core. Thus, plywood is also distinctive, costs less, is less durable and weighs less. Thanks to the core, it is also more stable than solid wood.

Let’s take a look at each of these characteristics in-depth.

Benefits of a plywood panel in a cabinet door

There are two benefits to plywood panels: cost and stability.


Because plywood uses only a thin strip of solid wood, it is much more cost-effective than solid wood. In fact, plywood panel cabinet doors are almost half the cost of solid wood doors. This price difference can save you a significant amount of money.


Solid wood is a living product and thus tends to move over time – warping, bending, shrinking or expanding slightly. 

Because plywood has only a thin strip of solid wood applied over a stable centre core, it is more stable than solid wood.

Drawbacks of a plywood panel in a cabinet door

These three drawbacks to plywood panels may mean solid wood is a better option for you.

Plywood isn’t solid wood

This one is obvious, but it’s worth going over. 

Usually, lumber mills cut the thin strips of wood used for plywood using the rotary cut. Basically, this means they rotate a log repeatedly, cutting a thin strip off the surface with each rotation. 

Unlike solid wood, lumber mills do not try to emphasize the natural beauty of wood when they cut plywood.

In addition, because plywood has only a thin layer of solid wood, it can react differently than solid wood when you apply a finish. As you can see in the picture below, the plywood centre panels look lighter than the solid wood frames.

Cabinet doors with a light stain; the stain looks different on the solid wood pieces than on the plywood.
Image provided by Hiebert Cabinets and Fine Woodwork Ltd., customer


Again, plywood has only a thin solid wood layer on top of a centre core. It is easy to scratch, dent or otherwise damage this veneer before you apply the finish. Once you have applied a finish, it is more difficult to damage plywood.

Also, you can repair or patch solid wood doors, but it is nearly impossible to repair or patch plywood.


The weight of a cabinet door isn’t much of a concern. However, you naturally assume that heavier cabinet doors are of higher quality. Since solid wood cabinet doors weigh more than plywood cabinet doors, you might subconsciously notice this difference and feel like plywood panel cabinet doors are of lower quality. 

Why shaker style doors often have plywood panels

Shaker style doors, by definition, are a simple option. And, thanks to their cost-effectiveness and simplicity, plywood panels found a natural home in shaker style cabinet doors.

So, although you can purchase solid wood shaker style doors, there is limited benefit considering the extra cost. In comparison, plywood panels achieve the appearance of shaker doors without the added cost and instability of solid wood.

Learn more about plywood panels

If your customer is considering solid wood cabinet doors but can’t afford them or doesn’t want to spend that much money, plywood panel cabinet doors are a great alternative. Thanks to the plywood panels, they are less expensive but of similar quality.

However, before you help them to make a purchasing decision, you must understand that decision entirely. Otherwise, your customer may purchase a product they aren’t happy with. So, it’s time for you to learn more about plywood panels.

Don't miss out! Get notified about new blog posts and web content.