Upgrade Your Kitchen Cabinets with Metal Door Inserts

Updated: Sep. 26, 2023

Dress up your kitchen with easy-to-add door panels

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Remodel your kitchen quickly and easily by cutting out old wooden door panels and installing new, striking materials, like metal, glass or fabric. Do it yourself to keep the cost low.

Tools Required

  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • Brad nail gun
  • Clamps
  • Hammer
  • Miter saw
  • Router
  • Tin snips
  • Utility knife
  • Wood chisel

Materials Required

  • Door inserts
  • Quarter-round trim

Installing new panels in old cabinet doors can really dress up a kitchen, and new panels are a lot cheaper than new cabinets. Insert materials include glass, translucent plastic, copper, metal, fabric and wicker. Adding “feature” door inserts to just one or two of your cabinet doors can be striking and inexpensive.

Our homeowners decided to install perforated metal inserts in all their upper cabinet doors. They initially wanted to use stainless steel to match their appliances, but went with aluminum after discovering it costs one-third of the price and offers a similar look.

“Perforated metal inserts kicked our 15-year-old cabinets into the 21st century. Once I got the hang of using the pattern bit, it was a cinch to remove the center door panels and replace them.” — homeowner Steve Johnson.

Buying Metal Door Inserts

Project step-by-step (3)

Step 1

Locate the lips

A door panel fits into grooves in the door’s frame. To remove a panel, just cut away the lips on the back of the door. To cut them, you’ll need a “pattern bit,” a straight bit with a bearing that’s the same diameter as the cutting diameter.

You can buy a pattern bit for about $25, but most are too long to use with a 3/4-in.-thick guide. You may have to shop online to find a shorter bit. One source is routerbits.com. (Search for “3001” to find a bit with a cutting depth of 1/2-in.)

Cabinet Door PanelsTMB Studio

Step 2

Rout away the lips

If you’re working with just one or two metal cabinet doors, a straight board is the only guide you’ll need. If you have a stack of doors to rout, a more elaborate guide will save you time. The stops automatically position the guide without measuring, and you can rout two sides without repositioning.

Examine the back of the door before you rout. If you find any nails, pull them out so they don’t chip your router bit. Before you start cutting, set your router depth so the bit just touches the panel.

After you cut away the lips, simply lift out the door panel. The router bit will leave rounded corners at each corner of the door frame; square them off with a chisel or utility knife.

Rout Away The LipsTMB Studio

Close-up of router bit:

A pattern bit simplifies smooth door cutting.

Router BitTMB Studio

Step 3

Install the metal cabinet door

Frame the back of the insert with quarter-round molding to hold it in place. If you use a nail gun, aim carefully so you don’t shoot through the face of the door.

Prefinish 1/4-in. quarter-round molding and use it to secure the metal cabinet door inserts. When you place the insert into the door frame, make sure the punched side is face up. The punched side will feel slightly raised around the holes.

Fasten the quarter round with 5/8-in. nails or brads. If you don’t have a brad nailer or pinner, you can use a hammer; just be careful not to dent the metal.

Install Metal DoorTMB Studio