top of page

Did You Know You Have Options?

This is an educational post, folks, so I’m gonna apologize upfront for lukewarm subject matter. Even though I have to school you on a basic cabinet design aspect, stick with me because it’s an important one. By the end of this post, you’re going to be surprised at what you didn’t know. And if you happen to have just done a cabinet remodel and this subject matter was lost on you until now, shame on your designer. Send them my way and I’ll be glad to set them straight.

Most clients come in with a cabinet door style in mind when they want to talk kitchen or bath remodel. They might not know what the door style is called, but they can easily pick it out on a selling center.

Well guess what? That doorstyle you chose has 2-3 options on it’s overlay profile! Yeah, you’re probably not excited by me telling you that so let me explain further.

First, here are a couple terms you will need to know so you can grasp the concept I’m trying to explain…

What is a Faceframe? The faceframe of the cabinet is the “outer shell” that gives your cabinet’s front it’s shape and structure. The cabinet doors are hinged to this.

What does Overlay mean? Overlay is the correlation of your cabinet doors to the cabinet face frames. The amount of overlay determines the type of hinge and door you will be using.

Now that you know what the faceframe and door overlay of a cabinet is, let me explain the options you have when choosing a specific door style.

Standard Overlay

Do you see the 1/2″ reveal of faceframe where the door doesn’t reach? That’s what we call Standard Overlay. If you have bathroom or kitchen cabinets that are 10 years or older, you probably have standard overlay. This is typical of older cabinets.

The benefits of standard overlay are that they are more cost effective than the other options and less fillers are needed since the faceframe reveal gives you the extra space so the doors can open without interfering with a wall or another door.

Here’s an image of a standard overlay kitchen. Pay attention to the faceframe spacing between doors.

(Image by Kountry Wood Products – HJ Oldenkamp)

Personally, this is my least favorite option for overlays. It’s more dated than the other two options and it makes your cabinets look smaller than they are. They also have a center stile between butt doors (think larger cabinet with two doors) since the doors do not touch. This can be obtrusive if you are trying to store large objects.  Keep this option in mind though if budget is a concern. You can always dress it up with a fantastic design and awesome hardware

Full Overlay

Notice how the cabinet door/drawer fronts are larger than the standard overlay option above? They reveal a very minimal amount of faceframe (typically 1/4″) making your cabinets look larger. This cabinet option dominates the cabinetry market due to it’s door enhancing qualities. When cabinets are installed next to one another, it isn’t apparent to the naked eye where one cabinets box ends and another one begins.

Here’s an image of full overlay bathroom kitchen cabinets. Note how close the door frames are to one another.

(Image by Waypoint Living Spaces)

As you can see, the cabinet looks like one consecutive piece, but it’s actually three separate pieces. Gasp!

Some cabinet lines include a small upcharge for full overlay door styles, but it’s worth the extra cost. I recommend you lean towards full overlay if your budget allows.

Inset Cabinets

This one is my favorite. Notice how the door/drawer fronts are set flush with the faceframe? The entire front of the cabinet aligns so there is not a door panel sitting on top of of the faceframe.

This overlay option is the most expensive and if you look at the photo below, you will see why.

(Image by Humphrey Munson, Oak Lodge, Norfolk UK)

Because the doors and drawers are set in the faceframe, it shows a small seem which actually enhances the look of your door style. In a way, the doors are outlined.

If this is your favorite too, I say go for it! Just be aware of the region you live it. If like me, you live in the Midwest, you have major temperature fluctuation with the seasons. Remember in junior high when we learned about solids and how they can expand and contract due to moisture absorption and all that junk? That can apply to inset cabinets. If the wood swells too much, your doors and drawers can stick. This can be avoided by purchasing a top of the line cabinet. The construction and wood will be of a higher quality, and therefore, the cabinets won’t absorb as much moisture. So if you’re set on inset cabinets, don’t try and cut costs by going with a cheap line. It will end up biting you in the butt later.

Now that you have been educated on overlay door styles, you can proceed with your design having some advanced cabinet knowledge. I would recommend avoiding standard overlay door styles as much as possible in an effort to give your kitchen the best look possible. If your budget and space can afford for full overlay or inset cabinets, please please please go that route. Your space will look much more updated.

Sorry I had to go all school on you all for this post, but the knowledge needed to be shared in order to make this world a more beautiful place for all of us to live.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page