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When you’re considering a cabinet upgrade, it’s important to understand the difference between framed and frameless cabinets. If you’ve never heard these terms before, you’re not alone, but you owe it to yourself to get up to speed. That’s because once you know how to choose between framed vs. frameless cabinets, you’re ready to choose the best option for your kitchen, bathroom, or office. Read on to learn everything you need to know:

What are framed cabinets?

Imagine a typical cabinet. It’s essentially a wooden cube with one side removed. Framed cabinets (also known as American style) have a wooden frame attached to this opening, usually 1-1/2 to 2 inches on all sides or something just 3 sides. When you open framed cabinets and feel around the edge, you will notice the gap between the bottom of the frame and the top of the cabinet. The cabinet door hinges attach directly to the frame.

What are frameless cabinets?

As the name implies, frameless cabinets (also known as European style) do not have a frame around the opening. The opening is the same size as the cabinet itself, which is typically made from slightly larger ¾-inch thick boards. With frameless cabinets, the cabinet door hinges attach directly to the sides of the cabinet interior.

Debating framed vs. frameless cabinets

There are pros and cons to both styles:

  • Framed – The frame makes the cabinet stronger overall, helping framed cabinets perform well for years after installation. They’re also typically less expensive because they use slimmer (and less expensive) boards in the cabinet box thanks to the extra strength from the frame. Maybe most exciting, framed cabinets open up design opportunities for pairing the frames and cabinet faces with the doors — identical, complementary, or contrasting. The only real disadvantage of this option is that the frames cut into some of the cabinet opening, creating a smaller space to reach into. It’s a small complaint, but over years of using a cabinet it can potentially grow into a real annoyance.
  • Frameless – Some people think frameless cabinets have a cleaner, more modern look. And while they don’t have the frame to give them extra strength, they do have thicker boards in the box, giving this option plenty of durability and longevity. However, most people’s favorite feature about frameless cabinets is the large opening. Without a frame to reach around, these cabinets are easy to pull things in and out of, as well as bold to look at. Despite the heightened style, frameless cabinets offer fewer design options overall since you only see doors, not the frames and the doors. Frameless cabinets also tend to be a little more expensive.

Choosing the best option for your space

In the debate over framed vs frameless cabinets, an important fact often gets lost: these options are fairly interchangeable. Both offer plenty of strength, comparable price points, and enough accessibility to be practical. They also come in many of the same styles. For example, with full-overlay cabinet doors, you can have frames on your cabinets but achieve the look of frameless cabinets. Alternately, with the right style of cabinet doors hung on frameless cabinets, you can build a design just as bold and dynamic as what framed cabinets offer. The truth is, the difference between framed and frameless cabinets is quite small.

As you’re deciding, keep a few things in mind. First, if you like the way specific hinge styles look and want to incorporate them into your cabinet design, you need framed cabinets. They are the only option that allows you to mount the hinges outside the cabinet box. Framed cabinets are also a good idea for glass-fronted doors because you can hide the hinge between the frame and the door so that it’s invisible inside the cabinet box. Lastly, think of how much space you have to work with. Frameless cabinets tend to work better in small spaces since they maximize the cabinet volume you have to to work with.

Achieving the Cabinets of Your Dreams

Did you know you don’t have to replace your cabinets to completely transform how they look? Regardless of whether your current cabinets are framed or frameless, the cabinet doors make up the majority of the facade. Basically, the doors are what you actually see and the rest of the structure is hidden behind them. That means if you just replace the doors, it looks like you’ve installed completely new cabinets. Instead of wondering about framed vs frameless cabinets, start considering old vs new cabinet doors. Explore our selection to get design ideas, and browse our FAQ section to learn about how we custom-build each door. We make it as easy as possible to find and order the doors you need, and as exciting as possible to start upgrading your kitchen (or bath, office, rec room, etc.). Browse this guide to learn how to order!