Cabinetry is a moving, functioning product that needs to be well built to maintain its beauty and functionality. It lives in tough environments like the bath, laundry and kitchen with spills, grease, hot, cold, kids and pets. It carries a lot of weight, opens and closes, slides and swings. How do you know you are getting a product that will add value to your home for years to come? This is a five part series on Cabinetry Styles, Materials, Construction Methods, Quality and Installation.  We will cover basic terminology you will encounter when shopping for cabinets and well as what to look for to determine if you are getting a quality product. We are sticking to wood cabinets for the purpose of comparison here.


There are two types of cabinetry styles: face framed and frameless. In the past, most cabinets were constructed with a face-framed approach but both applications now offer endless styles and design. Stock, semi-custom and custom cabinet designs are available in both framed and frameless construction. The main difference is how they look and the accessibility you have to the inside of the cabinet.

Framed boxes

Framed cabinets incorporate a wood 'frame' around the front outer edge of the cabinet box. The face frame is made up of a 1.5-inch to 2-inch frame of wood that is fastened to the forward edge of the cabinet, framing the box. The outside edges of the frame are flush with the outside surfaces of the cabinet box and the inside portion of the frame extends past the inside edges of the box. The cabinet door is attached to the frame's side.

Framed cabinet construction is generally considered more traditional looking and offers some style variety based on the amount of door overlay. Door overlay means the extent to which the door covers or "lays-over" the face frame.

Door styles

  • Partial-overlay :  the doors and drawers cover only part of the frame.
  • Flush-inset :          the doors and drawers are made to fit within the face frame opening.
  • Beaded inset:       the frame has “beaded” molding detail inside the frame openings.
  • Full-overlay:          the doors and drawers completely cover the frame

Frameless boxes

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 box, which is called a full-overlay. Because they don't require a frame, frameless cabinets feature better access, allowing maximum use of space. This is because there's no inside edge of a frame that's partially blocking the perimeter of the cabinet opening. This also allows cabinets and drawers to be slightly larger than those constructed with face frames.

Frameless construction gives a more contemporary “clean” look. Modified frameless uses vertical fillers to give an inset look. Having no horizontal rails between drawers and doors provides greater capacity than true inset particularly in drawer banks. A frameless drawer box can provide up to 50% additional usable space.