Framed vs. Frameless Cabinets

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

To Frame or Not to Frame

Frameless cabinets, or European style cabinets, have door hinges and drawer runners that attach directly to the inside walls of the cabinet box.

Framed cabinets are traditional American-style cabinets with a frame along the face of the cabinet box. The door hinges and drawer runners attach to this frame.

Comparison Overview

While both styles of cabinets are an excellent addition to your kitchen, there are differences in their design and construction. Read on to learn more.

Framed:

  • -This is a more traditional, American style cabinet.
  • -The addition of the face frame reinforces cabinet alignment.
  • -Framed cabinets are attached with longer screws to accommodate the face frame.

Frameless:

  • -This style offers a sleeker look that’s popular in Europe.
  • -Offers full access to the cabinet interior.
  • -Because frameless cabinets are attached directly through the side panels, they require shorter screws.

Construction

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

Two Types of Cabinetry: Framed and Frameless

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.

Installation

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

Overlays

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.

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

For more helpful tips on cabinet construction, buying online, or kitchen design, check out our Resources page.

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