Flat Doors for an Appliance Armoire

      What materials would you use for flat-panel doors on a cabinet that will hold a mini-fridge and coffeemaker? February 27, 2015

Question (WOODWEB Member) :
So here it goes. I typically build only solid wood furniture, but the chance came to make some income on some plywood cabinets. The furniture pieces are being made for a 5 star hotel and all specs are coming from a well-known designer. To make a long story shorter the designer I'm having to work with wants completely flat (no panel at all) paint grade doors on some armoires. The armoires will be used to hold a coffee maker, mini fridge and snacks.

What material would you all suggest making these from? You should know they need to be 7/8 thick, and are 48" tall x 18 " wide hung on three butt hinges. I know MDF is an option but I worry about beat up corners and possible damage caused from heat and moisture and stripped screws. Solid wood is not an option because of price and weight. I assume that even multicore Baltic birch will/can warp but will hold up better to abuse. Any suggestions are appreciated.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor K:
A mini fridge in an enclosed cabinet will not cool much at all, been there, done that - read the specs on the fridge. Solid wood is not an option for warping reasons. MDF is heavier than solid wood in most cases. A melamine is your best bet for staying flat over that span but it's not 7/8 thick. Building torsion boxes makes the most sense. Make a frame and skin it on both sides with 1/8 ply while holding it flat to dry -similar to an interior walk door in a home.

From contributor X:
What about 3/4" MDO? You could have a layer of 1/8" MDF pressed on to achieve the 7/8" thickness.

From Contributor C:
MDO with an 1/8" skin is likely to warp. I would stick with the MDF, and switch to euro hinges if at all possible. As for getting beat up, perhaps a durable finish like polyester should be on the table. There are few choices for reliable slab doors, and any sort of V/C panel shouldn't be on the list.

From contributor F:
Maybe 3/4" MDF with a paintable laminate on both faces. Would get you to the 7/8" thickness as well as increase the wear resistance of the door. Of course would also increase the cost, but may be worth it?

From contributor A:
MDF will not hold the screws for butt hinges. The only reason they hold euro hinges is the press in plastic fittings are huge and force fit, also the screws are going into the face of the panel not the edge. Edgeband a high quality multiply. The designer may not get his 7/8", but it will be close depending on your supplier. I suspect they want something more than 3/4" not specifically 7/8". Solid wood may be a no go because of expansion. It could vary 3/16" in 18" of width over the year.

From contributor L:
I'd probably make all MDF torsion boxes with a 3/8" spacer frame and 1/4" skins - all edge grain edges to avoid telegraphing. I'd add wood blocking for butt hinges at some point (it might be easier/better to route and epoxy them in after assembly). Normally I use OneTime filler to seal the edges, but undiluted PVA (a time consuming PITA) would give you a stronger edge. You could also edge-band the perimeter with wood. Use whatever thickness puts the edge profile break point at the MDF/wood seam (to hide telegraphing).

From contributor W:
What about 3/4 MDO with a color-matched laminate on both sides and edgebanded? That would give you the 7/8" thickness and would be (hopefully) stable as well.

From contributor Y:
MDO is plywood and if used for a flat door it might stay sort of flat. Hinge screws into the edge of plywood have never been a very good idea! You could inlay a V edgeband for the hinges but it won't keep the doors flat. The 7/8" thing sounds a lot like a designer that decided to use 45mm for line bore (we've had that). You can get MDF to about any thickness on special order. Minimum order is usually one semi load.

From the original questioner:
The doors are actually overlay doors. The butt hinges are needed because there are drawers that are inside that they insisted stay full width so they wouldn't clear Euro hinges. So if you can picture that the inside face of the door will actually have the hinge mortise and screws. I think edge banded MDF is what will be used with a clause stating I'm not responsible for their design and material choices. I don't think the designer actually has materials in mind, she is strictly aesthetics with a lot of sway with the construction company. I have very little say in any of this.

From contributor E:
What about MDF with a solid wood strip on the hinge side. MDF will not hold screws over time. Tell that designer the facts of life on these materials. A good one will appreciate the info.

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