When shopping for cabinets for your kitchen, you'll find there are two types of cabinetry frames: face framed and frameless (box). In the past, most cabinets were constructed with a face-framed approach but newer designs lend themselves toward simpler frameless methods. Both applications now offer endless styles and design. Stock, semi-custom and custom cabinets designs are available in both framed and frameless construction.
The two cabinet types share some similarities in materials but differ in construction.
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/Box. 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.
Where to Splurge: If you're seeking old-world appeal or a traditional period look, go with face framed cabinets with drawer fronts and doors derived from solid wood. Whether opting for a flush or overlay design, face framed cabinets provide a classic appearance that can't be matched by their more modern counterpart.
Where to Save: Due to simpler construction methods, frameless cabinets involve less labor. Therefore, frameless cabinets are often more economical, although this also depends on the chosen style and material. With a multitude of styles now available in frameless construction, it's likely you'll achieve any desired look at a reduced price.
A complete range of door styles is available for both types of cabinetry but there are two terms you'll need to comprehend before settling on cabinetry style or enlisting the help of a professional.
Full overlay. Full overlay cabinetry covers the entire face frame in framed construction and hides the cabinet box in frameless designs. This case front style shows a continuous façade of door and drawer faces, resulting in a seamless appearance. With so many door styles available, full overlay cabinetry may now be considered modern or traditional in appearance based on the chosen door.
Partial overlay. In partial overlay construction, a portion of the cabinet box or face frame is left partially exposed. The uncovered portion of the box is known as a reveal. In face-framed construction, a half-inch overlay door and drawer front leaves two inches of the cabinet frame exposed between drawers and door fronts. A quarter-inch reveal in face framed construction leaves slightly less of the face frame visible.
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