Framed vs. Frameless Cabinets

When choosing cabinets for your space, you’ll find that there are two types of cabinetry – Framed and Frameless. Both have advantages and offer various styles and design options. To help you decide which best suits your project, here a few details to help you differentiate between framed and frameless cabinets.


  • This is a more common, American style cabinet.
  • Face frames allow for easier installation and door/drawer adjustment.
  • Require separate skin panels to be installed on site, on exposed sides.
  • More options in sizes and modifications in a framed cabinet line.


  • This style offers a sleeker, modern look that’s popular in Europe.
  • Offers full access to the cabinet interior, and larger drawer box capacity.
  • Cabinet sides are ordered finished at the factory.
  • More fillers are recommended in the design, to assure minimum clearance is met for door and drawer openings. (see image below)
  • Less options in sizes and modifications due to the difference or limitation of the construction.

Two Types of Cabinetry: Framed and Frameless


The key difference is the addition of a solid wood face frame between the door and cabinet box of the framed cabinet.

The face frame is constructed of horizontal members called rails, and vertical supports called stiles. The combination of wood grain directions in the face frame helps to reinforce the horizontal strength of the cabinet at the front opening.

As another perk, the addition of a face frame minimizes an alignment issue known as racking, where the cabinet box is easily tilted out-of-square. If a cabinet racks, the vertical and horizontal components will not be level, and the doors and drawers will not align properly.


Because of the difference in construction, frameless and framed cabinets will require different installation hardware.

Framed cabinets are attached to each other through the width of the face frame. This allows the screws to anchor more deeply into the attachment points of the adjacent cabinet. Framed cabinets can accommodate a longer screw length (usually 2-1/2") due to the width of the face frame and the solid wood material. (Pilot holes should be pre-drilled into the face frames to prevent the natural wood from splitting.)

Frameless cabinets attach to each other directly through the cabinet side panels; therefore, a shorter screw length is used (usually 1-1/4" max). This shallow anchoring into adjacent cabinetry may increase the number of screw locations required in order to attach the cabinets securely.

How to Install Framed vs Frameless Cabinets


In cabinetry, an overlay refers to the amount of cabinet face the doors and drawer fronts overlap. The amount of cabinet face frame or box visible when the doors and drawers are closed is called the reveal. Framed cabinets offer three types of overlays: inset, standard, and full. All Cabinets are Full Overlay.

Inset: The door and drawer faces are slightly smaller than the openings and recessed to align with the face frame. This offers the largest reveal with the most amount of face frame visible, but it is very difficult to keep the doors and drawers from binding and sticking when there are changes in humidity.

Standard: The door and drawer faces are slightly larger than the openings, and slightly overlap the face frame. Standard overlays offer less reveal on the face frame and are more forgiving with door and drawer alignments.

Full: The door and drawer faces are larger than the openings and overlap the face frame, leaving only a small visible reveal.

In frameless cabinet construction, the door and drawer faces are nearly the same size as the cabinet box, leaving only the smallest portion visible. These offer a streamlined appearance and must be very carefully installed to ensure the doors and drawer fronts do not bind into adjacent cabinetry or walls.

Types of Overlays on Framed vs Frameless Cabinets

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