Cabinetry 101”: Choosing the Right Cabinets for Your Project

Renovating your kitchen can be one of the most exciting, practical and rewarding home improvement projects you can undertake for the betterment and enjoyment of your home.   When purchasing cabinetry for your renovation project, it’s not unusual for cabinetry to comprise a major portion of your project cost.

Understanding what is available when shopping for cabinetry in the marketplace is a key first step in choosing the right cabinetry for your home, whether you’re planning a kitchen remodel or any other room in your house.

Differences in cabinetry may not be readily apparent to most homeowners who are not experienced with cabinetry shopping (it’s not something you do every day!).  When homeowners meet with our designers to talk about their kitchens, we always include a “Cabinetry 101 lesson” in their experience so that they are empowered to make the best choice for their project.

 Let’s Start With Box Construction: Framed vs. Frameless


There are 2 basic forms of cabinetry construction:

  •  Framed – a “box” with a solid cutout front over-laid on the face creating what’s referred to as a “framed cabinet”.
  • Frameless – a “box” with no front, thicker side panels typically 5/8”-3/4”, which eliminates the need for a structural front frame


This style has the doors and drawers lying completely on top of the frame. Door and drawer sizes are not based on cabinet openings, but rather on using “reveals” around all of the fronts.

Framed cabinets have reveals, or spaces between doors from 3/8” up to 1 ½” or more between doors and drawers.  They can enjoy fully “overlaid” doors that show reveals of less than 3/8”, which is a cleaner, more customized look, however the frame is still behind the doors.  The larger the door and drawer spacing, typically the “less sophisticated” the appearance of the finished product, and the least expensive generally.

Stemming from a desire for more streamlined and clean appearances, frameless cabinetry originated in Europe where original designers virtually eliminated the spacing between doors.  This look is not reserved just for contemporaries however; there are many practical benefits to frameless cabinetry enjoyed by modern design and traditional alike!


The frameless style has the doors and drawers lying almost completely over the edge of the cabinet.

Frameless “Advantages” include:

  • A “cleaner”, more sophisticated look due to tighter door tolerances
  • Literally more “space” in cabinets since there is no front frame infringement
  • Roll-out trays and drawers enjoy up to 1 ½” wider widths and increased drawer and space
  • No need for center supports on cabinets wider than 27”; a major benefit for wall cabinet access and implementation of wide roll out trays in base cabinets
  • No “lip” at the bottom ledge of cabinet making it easily cleanable and eliminating the need for shelf paper

Side panels on framed cabinetry typically range from 3/8”-1/2” thick and can either be made of composite material or plywood.  Frameless cabinets typically have a wider side panel for structural stability 3/8”-3/4” thick.  Depending on the joinery used and the mounting system, back panels typically aren’t structural and range from 1/8”-3/8” thick.

Frameless cabinets are more difficult to install because there is no room for error regarding the near perfection required for a “plumb” and “square” installation.  Rarely are walls and floors perfectly square and level in any home, necessitating alteration of the cabinet by a skilled carpenter for a proper fit and level surface for countertops.  Only highly skilled craftsman familiar with the installation of frameless cabinetry should be hired to install frameless cabinetry.

Stay tuned in our several Part Series “Cabinetry 101”:  Choosing the Right Cabinets.

Our designers are expert at explaining the differences in cabinetry features.  Schedule your one on one meeting today to learn all you need to know about the cabinetry you are choosing for your home.