Inset door with face frame (left) and Partial overlay doors (right) and drawers (below) with face frame

With Face Frames Inset door (left) and Partial overlay doors (right) and drawers (below)

Before we continue with this post of the Cabinet Types Explained series let me preface this article and all others to come by saying that while this information will be helpful in aiding you in your search for “your” perfect cabinets it by no means should be taken as the be all end all to your decision. If you look to the line of text just above this you’ll notice the “your” in quotes. There are seemingly endless choices to make when picking out your new kitchen cabinets and opinions on what looks the best, what works the best, and what is “the best” are as great in number if not greater than the choices that you must make during the process. With this in mind always remember that cabinet styling is a subjective matter. On the other hand the need to seek out quality, reliable craftsmen to get the job done is not. A trustworthy company that does good work will deliver the functionality and durability you demand of them regardless of style. For this post we will go over some of the attributes that framed cabinets are known for. Enjoy.

What is a face frame:

In cabinet making a face frame serves to obscure the edges of the interior box and provides a fixing point for doors and other external hardware. Some argue that the face frame provides significant structural stability to the cabinets. All agree that it is a key aesthetic feature to consider when picking out your new cabinets. By in large the use of face frames is considered to be a feature associated with traditional cabinetry.

Cabinet with a face frame

Cabinet with a face frame

Frameless Cabinet

Frameless Cabinet

Technical Information:

Face frames are made up of intersecting vertical stiles and horizontal rails. Within the frame itself the use of mid-stiles and mid-rails make up individual compartments. Mid-rails separate drawers and mid-stiles usually occur wherever vertical partitions exist within the cabinet box. They can be joined using a number of techniques. Common joining methods include the butt joint and mortise and tenon. For most prefabricated products face frames generally come with stiles and rails measuring 1.5-2 inches in width. When purchasing a truly custom set of cabinets consumers have the ability to distinguish their own preference on rail and stile width.

face frame parts

Aside: It should be noted that the joinery technique used in construction will greatly determine the overall quality of your product and should be taken into careful consideration during the design phase of your project. More on that in later posts-

The material used to construct a face frame will depend on the desired aesthetic. When using hardwoods for cabinet construction the face frame is typically uniform to that  used for the doors.

There are a few different ways that doors can be mounted onto framed cabinets. These illustrations from Hardware Source provide few simple representations.


Face frame cabinet with an overlay door

Face frame cabinet with a partial overlay door. Doors may also be full overlay and cover the entirety of the face frame.

Face frame cabinet with an inset door

Face frame cabinet with an inset door

Face frame cabinet with a partially inset door

Face frame cabinet with a partially inset door


  • As stated above face frames may aid in retaining stability and prevent your cabinet box from getting out of square.
  • A face frame provides a strong place to hang cabinet doors from.
  • Because the face frame is wider than the cabinet box or boxes it provides a seamless look when joining two together.
  • Use of exterior hinges are an aesthetic piece some people prefer


The lip of the face frame may impede functionality and space availability


Face framed cabinets are a traditional style that have been in production for centuries. While arguments have been made that they produce less functionality than frameless as I stated above your decision should be based on what appeals and works for you. To put it simply, if you enjoy the look of framed cabinets then you should employ their use in your home. Always remember that there are countless options available, be sure to do thorough research, and communicate with a trusted professional. Check out our cabinets portfolio  for examples.

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