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Kitchen Cabinet Types

April 17th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

There are basically two kitchen cabinet types as far as the construction of the boxes is concerned. These two styles of kitchen cabinets are called face-frame and European style cabinetry. Many people refer to their fabrication method as being European in nature but oftentimes the design is a combination of the two. Thus, a third cabinet design could be called a face-frame/European style cabinet.

Each design uses a different kind of hinge and oftentimes the drawer slides will differ as well. Let’s take a look at what the differences are between these various types of cabinetry.

Three Kinds of Kitchen Cabinetry Styles

As previously mentioned there are three different kinds of kitchen cabinetry styles. The construction of these boxes can be fabricated out of various types of materials but the method by which these types of kitchen cabinets are constructed remains unchanged. Let’s first look at the oldest type kitchen cabinetry design, the face-frame style.

Face-Frame Cabinet Designs

This kind of cabinet actually has a frame of vertical and horizontal pieces that are referred to as stiles and rails. The stiles are the vertical pieces and the rails are the horizontal parts that make up the “Face-Frame” design. Usually, the width of these frames are about 2 ½” x ¾” thick. Ideally for Formica cabinets, they should be constructed using pine or spruce but many large manufactures use medium density fiber-board or particle board to cut costs. Some cabinet manufactures will use plywood for the construction of the frames. It is because these styles and rails go on the “face” of the cabinet that it is called a “Face-Frame” cabinet. Real wood cabinet manufactures us solid oak, maple, cherry and other hard woods for the frames.

The hardware that distinguishes this kind of kitchen cabinet from the European style is the hinge type. Face-frame designs are made with Y-5 spring cabinet hinges or decorative hinges that mount on the exterior of the cabinetry. It seems that the majority of cabinet makers years ago used KV drawer slides. But, in recent years with the advancement in technology, the KV slides are fading out as fabricators are using undermount, self closing, styles that are increasing in popularity. Before the invention of metal slides, carpenters would make grooves in the sides of the face-frame cabinet drawers and then attach slats of wood on either side of the cabinet for the drawer to slide on.

Generally, the face-frame kitchen doors have large margins between them of about one to one and a half inches. Except in the areas where there is no frame, then the standard is an eight of an inch gap.

European Kitchen Cabinet Style

The European kitchens are manufactured using a method referred to as the 32 millimeter cabinet system. Another popular name for these European boxes is frame-less cabinetry. All of the doors only have 1/8” margins between them and the hinges are called concealed hinges. When these cabinets are manufactured, each one is its own unit. What I mean is that the installers have to hang a 30” wide upper then attach another 30” wide upper to it and yet another 30” box then another might get attached.

Face-frame manufactures would build one 90” wide cabinet and deliver the whole thing as one unit. Most European style cabinet designs are installed by one installer, because the boxes are small enough for one person to handle. With a face-frame kitchen cabinet type, two installers would be required to handle installing such a large cabinet as the 90” wide one used in the example. The two main distinct differences between a face-frame style and the European cabinet design is the size of the margins between the doors and the hinges that get used on the cabinetry.

Face-Frame European Kitchen Cabinets Style

The name really gives away the obvious reason that this kitchen cabinet type is called what it is. Without a lot of elaboration this kind of cabinetry design encompasses both the European and face-frame design. There was even a special type of hinge designed to accommodate fabricators who build this style of kitchen. The biggest benefit to the hinge design is that it is a concealed hinge which works on a cabinet that has a frame. The concealed hinge was originally designed for the frame-less type of cabinet.

Those are the three types of kitchen cabinets that are the most popular in today’s era. Each design uses a particular style hinge that separates it from the others and the type of door margin determines the name of the design. Face-frames have 1” gaps between the doors and European type cabinetry has 1/8” margins between the doors. There are other styles like kitchen cabinets made from Formica, Thermofoil, or real-wood, but the idea behind this particular article was to explain the various construction types of kitchen cabinets.
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  1. Art Hunter
    May 14th, 2009 at 13:24 | #1

    When we did our remodel, we opted for the framed cabinetry because we liked the more traditional americana style. I have to make a little correction to what the article says, though. It says that European cabinets are their own units, but that face-frame cabinetry would be made as one larger run. That’s not a true distinction. Most manufactured cabinetry in the world, regardless of whether it’s face framed or frameless, is modular, where each cabinet is its own box. You’re not going to find a 90″ cabinet from anyone unless it was custom built in place. Read more about cabinetry where we bought ours, at: http://www.totalkitchenstore.com/kitchencabinetry

    You can even chat the kitchen designers from that page if you have any questions!

  2. admin
    April 15th, 2010 at 07:20 | #2

    Thanks Art, you are correct. Cabinets that are “mass” manufactured are generally in modular units. Custom fabricators very rarely build face-frame kitchens or bathrooms in small sections. I’ve actually removed cupboards that were built as one unit that were over ten feet long.

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