Cabinets 101: Framed vs. Frameless Cabinets

A guide to kitchen cabinet construction

By Sue LeVee, Kitchen Designer
When a client begins a kitchen project, one of the first choices we discuss is the cabinetry. Most of us will only purchase a new kitchen a few times in our entire lives, and yet it is a major purchase, and we need to make educated choices. This is where ‘Cabinets 101’ comes in - basic information that a consumer should consider.

Here is a great place to start when learning about cabinets: In the world of cabinets there are 2 main branches: Framed and Frameless. This refers to the two different ways that cabinets are constructed.

Rather than offering a rewrite, I would like to share a well written piece from It’s a great article explaining how Framed cabinets are different from Frameless:

Framed  In face frame cabinetry, a 1.5-inch to 2-inch border or frame is constructed to hide the edge of the cabinet box. The face frame adds strength and sturdiness. With face frame construction, the cabinet door is attached to the frame's side. Doors can be mounted to the inside of the frame, creating a uniform, flush-mounted look or to the front of the frame, leaving a reveal (partial overlay). Few cabinets are made of solid wood and framed cabinets typically have a box made from wood substrates, such as plywood, particleboard or medium density fiberboard (MDF).
Frameless  In frameless construction (also known as Euro), there's no face frame and the cabinet doors attach directly to the sides of the cabinet box. Doors typically cover the entire cavity and box, which is called a full-overlay. Because they don't require a frame, frameless cabinets feature full access, allowing maximum use of space. Cabinets and drawers are slightly larger than those constructed with face frames. Most frameless cabinets are composed of manufactured wood products, such as plywood, structural particleboard or MDF and edged with a laminate or wood veneer.

And, because we all love visuals, there is a video too:

I sell both frameless and framed cabinet lines, and I don’t really have a preference as to cabinet construction. I think it comes down more to appearance – the esthetic a client is looking for.

When a framed cabinet is built with partial-overlay doors, it has a ‘furniture’ appearance – perfect for some clients.
When a framed cabinet is built with full-overlay doors, it looks almost just like a frameless cabinet. With the strong European influence in the kitchen industry today, the majority of framed cabinet door styles offered right now are full-overlay style.

If a client, (or contractor, or builder) has a construction preference, that gives me a direction to start in. After that, it’s all about The Look. Every cabinet line offers different styles, colors, paint treatments, and even wood species. Each cabinet line has something they specialize in, so that I have options for every client, no matter how unique.

One point to remember – each construction method requires a different mode of installation, so talk to your Installer about your choice. When you purchase a quality product either type of construction will last you a lifetime, so have fun and look at all the options!

Posted by Sue LeVee –

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