What is the difference between face-frame and frameless kitchen cabinets? These are the two standard methods of cabinet construction and while they are similar, there are variations and subtle differences between the two.
Face-frame cabinets have a wooden frame made of hardwood that is applied on the front face of the actual cabinet (or carcass). The frame will cover the sides of the cabinet (which is most often made of 1/2-inch or 3/4-inch plywood or particle board) and will make the cabinet more rigid while providing a base to attach hinges for the cabinet door.
Face-frame cabinets are a more traditional style and are a very common design for basic cabinets in North America. The doors on face-frame cabinets are slightly smaller than the frame and are not set flush next to each other, allowing a reveal of the cabinet’s base frame behind the cabinet doors.
Face-frame cabinets most often have lipped doors over inset panels or the doors have a raised relief. Hinges on face-frame cabinets may or may not be hidden.
The exposed sides of face-frame cabinets (both uppers and base cabinets) are usually covered with a 1/4-inch thick veneered plywood that matches the rest of the cabinet wood.
Frameless cabinets are the most common style in Europe and in the United States they are often the style of ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets found at most major home improvement stores. Frameless cabinets actually resemble simple constructed boxes with sides, back, top and bottom made of plywood or particle board panels. These panels are covered with a wood or wood-grain veneer, plastic laminate or melamine.
The doors on frameless cabinets completely cover or overlay the actual structure of the cabinets, allowing little or no reveal between the cabinet doors. Frameless cabinets offer a sleek, unbroken appearance, making them a popular choice for modern-style kitchens.
The hinges on frameless cabinets are usually hidden and attached on the inside of the cabinet as well as the inside of the cabinet door.
The exposed sides of frameless cabinets (both uppers and base cabinets) are usually covered with an end panel that matches the cabinet doors.
Face-Frame vs. Frameless Cabinets: Cost, Use and Personal Choice
The cost of frameless cabinets is usually lower than the cost of face-frame cabinets due to ease of construction. Either style of cabinet – face-frame or frameless – can be used universally in a home or garage. Either style works well in a kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, garage or utility room.
When choosing between face-frame or frameless cabinets, the choices comes down to budget and personal preference. Both styles of cabinet can be of equal quality when properly built.