There has been a lot of changes in the cabinet industry over the years and there is no bigger confusion than a framed cabinet versus a frameless cabinet. Traditionally, American manufacturers have built cabinets using a framed construction. The cabinet box is constructed with a 1-1/2″ face frame that is attached to the front of the box. This allows for the cabinets to be attached via the face frame. Below is a picture of both a framed and frameless cabinet.
What’s the difference in these two methods of cabinet construction? Most people aren’t aware that different types exist. I bet if they were made aware they would be more careful before remodeling their kitchen.
“Framed” cabinets, or “face frame” cabinets have a wooden frame around the cabinet opening. The hinges are mounted to the frame and a lip is created around the perimeter of the opening. There is often a center stile in between the doors of any double door cabinet. This used to be more of an American standard.
“Frameless” cabinets lack the wooden frame on the front of the cabinet box. The doors are a true full-overlay so you aren’t looking at a lot of flat wood – You get more of the visual since the doors and drawers typically have the detail. You could say they are more sleek as the doors and drawers cover the entire cabinet box. There is not a frame to hinder the access of the interior like framed cabinets have so they are also called “full-access” cabinets. This also pertains to the drawers where you get more width than a traditional framed cabinet. Frameless cabinets also lack the center stile in between double door cabinets – This makes most people happy.
The European way of manufacturing kitchen and bathroom cabinets is called a frameless construction. The bathroom or kitchen cabinets are made the same, however, instead of attaching the face frame to the front of the cabinet, the box itself is the face frame.
There are some advantages to this method of construction. The first, when the kitchen is completed, all you see are the doors and drawer fronts. This achieves a “full overlay look” which in my opinion is a much more desirable look. True, on a framed cabinet, you can also manufacture the doors to be full overlay but usually with an upcharge.
The second benefit of the frameless construction is that you do not have that center stile coming down in the middle of your cabinet when there are two doors on the cabinet. Lastly, you get more space for you plates and glasses and your drawers tend to be larger because of the space you are saving by not having the face frame attached.
Below is another diagram showing the differences in a framed and frameless cabinet.