The Difference Between Framed & Frameless Cabinets

When choosing cabinets for your space, you may be confronted by the options of framed and frameless cabinets. So, what is a frameless cabinet, and how does it differ from a framed cabinet?

Framed cabinets are considered traditional-style cabinets and are more prevalent in the U.S. Framed cabinets have an extra component connecting to the box of the cabinet called a frame. This piece tends to be about 3/4 inches thick and 1 1/2 inches wide. The hinges for the cabinet doors are then attached to the frame rather than the actual cabinet. 

Frameless cabinets don’t have a frame attached to the cabinet box– instead, the door hinges attach directly to the cabinet box. This design is considered more modern and is growing in popularity throughout Arizona and the country. 

Keep reading to learn more about the differences between framed and frameless cabinets. 

Are you ready to update your kitchen cabinets? Contact us online or call 480-641-9611. One of our cabinet experts will come to your home for a same-day, no-obligation quote to reface your kitchen or bathroom cabinets and help you decide which cabinet style fits your vision and budget. 

Difference #1: Face Frame

The primary difference between framed and frameless cabinets is the framed cabinet is constructed with a face frame made from solid wood between the cabinet box and the door. 

The construction of the face frame is made up of vertical supports called stiles and horizontal members known as rails. The addition of this face frame reduces “racking,” an alignment issue where the cabinet box can become easily tilted out-of-square. This will result in vertical and horizontal components not being level and cause difficulty in aligning drawers and doors.

Another benefit of the face frame is that it keeps everything aligned, giving a more robust construction. The cabinet is likely to last much longer than a frameless equivalent. On the downside, the frame can sometimes obstruct the opening of the doors, and framed cabinets are more expensive. Additionally, some people just prefer the look of cabinets without face frames.

Difference #2: Installation Hardware 

Framed and frameless cabinets require different hardware due to the differences in construction.

Framed and frameless cabinets require different hardware due to the differences in construction. Framed cabinets attach through the frame, which allows the screws to anchor more deeply, providing a more robust joint. This means that a longer screw, usually around 2-½”, is required to fix framed cabinets together. Also, as the screws are being driven into natural wood, it’s recommended to drill pilot holes as the wood can easily split.

In comparison, frameless cabinets anchor together through the side panels, requiring a screw typically 1″ to 1-¼” in length. As this provides more shallow anchoring, more screw points are generally needed. However, this may still be less robust than the connection between framed cabinets, meaning that there is less durability.

Difference #3: Overlays

In the construction of cabinets, an overlay is the amount of the cabinet’s face over which the doors and drawer fronts overlap. The amount of face frame or box that remains visible when the drawers and doors are closed is known as the reveal. When frameless cabinets are constructed, the faces are almost identical in size to the cabinet box, leaving only a tiny portion visible. While this provides an aesthetically pleasing streamlined appearance, installation is more difficult as ensuring the doors and drawer fronts do not obstruct nearby cabinetry or walls can be a bit of a challenge.

On the other hand, framed cabinets can be constructed with three different types of overlays: inset, standard, and full.

Inset Overlays

The door and drawer faces are recessed to align with the face frames and are made slightly smaller than the openings. This offers the most amount of visible face frame and the most significant reveal. However, keeping the doors and drawers from becoming stuck is challenging when there are changes in humidity.

Standard Overlays

In this arrangement, the drawer and door faces are larger than the openings by a small amount and overlap the face frame slightly. This provides less reveal on the face frame than inset overlays and makes door and drawer alignments easier.

Full Overlays

With full overlays, only a tiny reveal is visible as the drawer and door faces are significantly larger than the openings.

Difference #4: Door Mounting

Framed and frameless cabinets differ in the way that hinges can be attached. On a frameless cabinet, the hinges must be connected directly to the sides of the cabinet so they can be internal only. Unfortunately, internal hinges are more fragile than external ones because they are usually adjustable to compensate for the doors being close in size to the cabinet box. However, many prefer internal hinges as they give the cabinets a sleek, streamlined appearance.

Framed cabinets have more options for fixing hinges as they can be attached to the frame itself. If the doors are inset, external hinges can be used, which some people prefer for that old-fashioned, rustic look. With standard and full overlays, internal hinges are needed, but how they attach to the frame allows for a much sturdier hinge. Overall, framed cabinets offer more door mounting flexibility, providing more opportunities for custom designs.

Difference #5: Accessibility

The difference that most users will notice between framed and frameless cabinets is accessibility. 

The frame overlaps into the cupboard or drawer space, making a smaller opening. This will mean that in a framed and frameless cabinet of the same dimensions, the drawers in the framed version will have less capacity. This might be a dealbreaker for those who prize storage space above other considerations.

While framed cupboards may not lose any internal space, the opening is smaller, with a lip around the opening that might be troublesome. Items might become obscured if pushed to the side, and if you’re used to sliding your plates out from a frameless cupboard, the lip at the bottom might be irritating. However, manufacturers of high-end framed cabinets may sand the bottom lip down so it is level with the bottom of the cupboard.

Want to Reface Your Old Cabinets? Call Cabinet Coatings Today.

Schedule an appointment online or call us at 480-641-9611. We’ve been refacing cabinets in the greater Phoenix area for the past 30 years. Our finishing pros will talk with you about the kind of changes you want to make, then give you a free in-home or virtual consultation that same day. We’ll help you update your old cabinets, so they look brand new.

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Chuck Derouen

For 20 plus years chuck has been helping homeowners make decisions on how to bring new life into their kitchens. Most homeowners know what they want but don’t know how to communicate it. When chuck does the in-home consultation he draws from the client and uses his expertise to help them bring their imagination to life (achieve the look they imagine.) Chuck dubs himself a “professional mind maker upper.”

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