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Inset vs. Frameless Cabinetry

What Are Inset Cabinets?

The main distinguishing factor between inset and frameless cabinetry is the construction of the boxes. Inset cabinets are made with framed boxes – each cabinet box has a 1.5-inch-wide face-frame. The doors are installed flush with the frame, hence the term “inset.” Visually, when you look at an inset kitchen you will see a frame around/between the doors and drawers.

What Are Frameless Cabinets?

Frameless cabinets do not have a face-frame like inset cabinets. Frameless boxes are constructed with ½” – ¾” thick sides, tops, and bottoms. The doors on frameless construction fully overlap the box and always conceal the door hinges. Visually, when you look at a frameless kitchen, you see the doors and drawers flush with each other, with very tight gaps between them (no face frame). Other terms for this style are “Eurostyle” and “Full-Access.” Without the frame, these cabinets allow slightly more access to the cabinet interiors, especially with drawer bases. Construction specifics, such as hinge styles, box material, and interior finish vary between cabinet manufacturers.

Inset Hinge Options:

Inset cabinets can be made with exposed or concealed hinges. Traditionally, inset cabinets were only made with exposed hinges. This made them easily distinguishable from frameless cabinets, which can only be made with concealed hinges. Now, concealed hinges are
available on inset as well.

Exposed hinges:

If you select exposed hinges, be mindful of coordinating the hinge finish to other metals in your kitchen (i.e. hardware, faucet).

Concealed Hinges:

Aside from Aesthetics, a benefit to concealed hinges is the option of a soft close mechanism. A disadvantage is that it restricts the door opening to 110 degrees. (exposed hinges open 180 degrees)

Flush Inset Vs. Beaded Inset:

This is a detail only available on inset cabinets. The opening of the frame can either be made as flush or beaded. The Flush opening is a basic squared edge. The “beaded” opening is routed with a grooved detail called a bead that runs along the doors and drawers. The latter adds more detail to the cabinet design overall.

Is Cost a Factor?

Typically, inset cabinets are more expensive than frameless cabinets. However, the cost varies based on cabinet manufacturer and finish options. So, a lower end manufacturer will likely have inset cabinetry available at a lower cost than frameless cabinets from a higher-end manufacturer. We typically provide price comparisons between inset and frameless for each kitchen project.

Which is Better – Inset or Frameless?

The difference is subjective, and with all else being equal, quality is a non-issue. It mainly comes down to personal preference and budget. When shopping, be aware that some stock or semi-custom manufacturers may limit which colors or door/drawer styles they offer in frameless vs. face-framed. We use our showroom cabinet displays, photos, and door samples to demonstrate the contrast between the different styles. Side-by-side comparisons are helpful in deciding which is a better fit. Remember to consider the existing style of your kitchen and home.