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Framed vs Frameless Cabinets

POSTED ON Thursday, October 3, 2019 IN Doors & Millwork

Understanding the difference in cabinet construction

Installing cabinets in your kitchen or bathroom comes with a number of important decisions, from woods and materials to colors and finishes. There is certainly no shortage of options when it comes to customization, but one that may not come to mind immediately is the construction of your cabinet. Specifically, whether your cabinet is framed or frameless.

What exactly does it mean for a cabinet to be framed or frameless, and what distinguishes one from the other? Exploring the unique differences between the two will help you determine which one is best suited to the needs of your kitchen or bathroom.

What are framed cabinets?

Framed cabinets are the more traditional option. They have been a staple of American cabinetry for years, and they continue to be popular even among today’s modern homeowners. As their name suggests, framed cabinets include a face frame that covers the front of the cabinet box. The 1-½ inch face frame is comprised of rails and stiles and resembles a flat picture frame.

The additional structure with a front face frame in a framed cabinet makes the actual case of the cabinet more rigid and sturdy. The doors to the cabinet are secured to the frame, adding dimension to the door front. The face frame also helps keep the cabinet square.

remington inset white

Framed cabinets are appealing to designers and installers because of their flexibility. Designers can mount the doors inside of the frame for an inset or standard overlay or expose part of the frame by mounting the doors to the front of the frame for a partial overlay. Framed cabinets with full overlay doors can even create an appearance that is very similar to frameless cabinetry.

Bertch’s Lexington style birch kitchen cabinet doors, shown here with an eggshell finish for a contemporary touch, are an example of framed cabinets with full overlay doors.

lexington eggshell

Some installers have also cited a perceived lack of “give” in a frameless cabinetry box to trim, whereas framed cabinets tend to be more adjustable.

What are frameless cabinets?

Frameless cabinets are true to their name, constructed with four sides and a back, counting the top and bottom of the “cabinet box” as sides. Most frameless cabinets can be flipped and installed either way, as there is not a designated top or bottom. But what ultimately sets them apart is the lack of an additional structure frame for support.

Frameless cabinets are frequently referred to as “universal” or “full access” because, with no front border in place for the doors to be secured to, they offer more ease of access to the interior of the cabinet. Only full overlay doors are used with frameless cabinets and the door hinges are attached directly to the sides of the cabinet box.

Considered the modern alternative to the more traditional choice of framed cabinets, frameless cabinets offer a very sleek and streamlined appearance, uninterrupted by the vertical face frames. The sleek and simple aesthetic can be integrated into a variety of design themes. There is also no difference between framed and frameless cabinets in terms of external space, but you’ll find that interior storage space is slightly larger within frameless cabinetry.

As far as installation is concerned, most frameless cabinets are manufactured with MDF core, generally making them much heavier than framed cabinets.

The Jakarta style cabinet doors, shown here as a set of kitchen wine coolers, offer you a glimpse of the versatile interior space provided by frameless cabinet construction.

jakarta cooler area open

The cost comparison between framed and frameless cabinets is virtually the same, so the decision comes down to your personal needs and preferences. Do you want the traditional aesthetic, flexible design, and decorative hinges of framed cabinets? Or would you rather make the most of your space with more modern frameless cabinets that may offer increased interior storage? To see our framed and frameless cabinets up close and in person before you make your decision, visit our nearest showroom.


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