Choosing new kitchen cabinets is an exciting project that can completely transform the look and feel of your kitchen. With so many options for cabinet styles, materials, colors and configurations, it can be overwhelming to decide what will work best for your space. One of the most important cabinet components to evaluate is the cabinet frame or box construction. The frames are the foundation of the cabinets and have a significant impact on the quality, durability and longevity of your new kitchen. Here is a guide on the different types of kitchen cabinet frames and how to pick the best option for your needs.

Types of Cabinet Frames

Kitchen cabinets are constructed with either frameless or face frame designs. Understanding the differences will help you select the right style for your kitchen remodel.

Face Frame Cabinets

Face frame cabinets have a wood frame made up of vertical stiles and horizontal rails that surround the front of the cabinet box. The cabinet doors then attach directly to this face frame.

Benefits of Face Frame Cabinets:

  • Traditional style works well for many kitchen designs
  • Sturdy structure from thick face frame
  • Wide variety of decorative trim and detailing options
  • Easy to adjust cabinet doors
  • Can accommodate customized sizing

Considerations for Face Frame Cabinets:

  • Frame takes up interior storage space
  • Limited access to interior without removing doors
  • Priced higher than frameless options

Frameless Cabinets

Frameless cabinet construction attaches the cabinet doors directly to the front edges of the box without a face frame. This creates a sleek, modern look.

Benefits of Frameless Cabinets:

  • Contemporary, seamless appearance
  • Maximizes interior storage space
  • Easier access to interior contents
  • More affordable than face frame

Considerations for Frameless Cabinets:

  • Not as sturdy as face frame cabinets
  • Limited trim options
  • Doors can be tricky to adjust properly
  • Exposed cabinet interiors

Key Differences Between Face Frame vs. Frameless Cabinets

There are a few key differences between face frame and frameless cabinets:

  • Appearance: Face frame cabinets have a more traditional look with the framed door styling. Frameless cabinets create a streamlined, contemporary aesthetic.
  • Interior Space: Frameless cabinets maximize interior space since there is no front frame taking up room inside the cabinet box.
  • Cost: In general, frameless cabinets are more affordable than comparable face frame cabinets. The face frame requires thicker, more substantial wood materials.
  • Durability: The thick wood of the face frame makes it a stronger cabinet box than frameless versions. This can mean better longevity.
  • Ease of Installation: Frameless cabinets are slightly easier for do-it-yourself installation since getting perfect door alignment on a face frame cabinet can be tricky.
  • Access: The unobstructed interiors of frameless cabinets allow for easier access to contents. Face frames limit the opening space.
  • Customization: Face frame cabinets offer more options for adding trim pieces, decorative accents and custom sizing.

Materials for Cabinet Frames

The most common materials used to construct cabinet frames include:

  • Plywood – Made from thin sheets of wood glued together. It resists warping better than solid wood. Often used for painted cabinet frames.
  • Particle Board – Engineered wood product made from wood particles. Affordable option for hidden cabinet internals.
  • Engineered Wood – Made from wood byproducts fused together. Provides consistent strength. Used for frameless cabinets.
  • Solid Wood – Cut from natural wood sources like oak or maple. Highest quality material, expensive option.
  • Metal – Durable and sturdy option for specialty cabinet frames. Popular for garage storage cabinets.

How to Choose the Best Cabinet Frames

With an understanding of the different types of cabinet frames, here are some tips for selecting the right option for your kitchen:

  • Consider your budget restraints. Frameless and particle board options offer more affordability.
  • Look at the style of your existing kitchen or the style you want to achieve. Contemporary spaces suit frameless best.
  • Evaluate your storage needs. Frameless maximize interior space if you need ample storage.
  • Assess the quality and finish options available. Face frame offers more customization ability.
  • Look for solid wood frames or durable plywood for high-traffic areas like base cabinets.
  • Choose metal frames for laundry, garage or workshop spaces that need extra sturdiness.
  • Consider ease of installation if you plan to DIY. Frameless assembles a bit easier.
  • Review warranty details to confirm coverage for any manufacturer defects.

Cabinet Frame Finishes

Along with the construction of the cabinet box, the applied finish helps protect and seal the wood framing. Typical finish options include:

  • Paint/Stain – Allows for nearly any color but requires careful prep work. Durable and moisture-resistant.
  • Laminate – Durable melamine laminate sheets provide resistance to wear. Available in many colors.
  • Wood Veneer – Thin wood layer adhered to plywood or particle board. Provides natural wood look.
  • Thermofoil – Thin plastic film fused to wood product. Offers extensive color/finish options.
  • Polyurethane – Clear coat applied over wood frames. Enhances natural grain. Requires ongoing sealing.

No matter if you choose traditional face frame cabinets or modern frameless designs, opting for quality construction with durable finishes will ensure your new kitchen cabinets withstand the demands of your home for many years. Carefully evaluating frame materials, design, budget and your lifestyle needs will help you pick the perfect kitchen cabinet frames to bring your dream kitchen to life!

Frequently Asked Questions About Choosing Kitchen Cabinet Frames

What are the major differences between plywood vs. particle board cabinet frames?

Plywood offers more strength and durability for cabinet frames whereas particle board is a more affordable wood product made from composite wood particles. Plywood resists warping better over time.

Do frameless cabinets make a kitchen look cheaper?

Frameless cabinets actually create a very modern, sleek look in kitchens. They are popular in contemporary and minimalist kitchen designs and don’t automatically look cheap or low-quality if installed properly.

How much more expensive are face frame cabinets?

On average, face frame cabinets cost 20-30% more than comparable frameless cabinet options. This cost difference is due to the thicker, more substantial wood required for the face frame construction.

Are frameless cabinets less expensive than framed cabinets?

Yes, frameless cabinets are generally less expensive than framed cabinets. This cost difference is largely due to the fact that frameless cabinets require less materials to construct since they do not have a frame around the front of the cabinet boxes.

Should I get plywood or solid wood cabinets?

Plywood provides greater stability and resistance to warping at a lower cost. Solid wood frames are higher-end options that impart a sense of luxury. Evaluate your budget and needs to decide if plywood or solid wood works best.

What thickness of plywood is best for cabinets?

Most cabinet manufacturers recommend using at least 3⁄4 inch thick plywood for cabinet boxes, with 1⁄2 inch plywood acceptable for interior dividers and cabinet backs. Sturdy plywood ensures cabinets maintain structural integrity.


The frame construction of your new kitchen cabinets makes a major impact on their functionality, aesthetics and cost. Carefully weigh the pros and cons of face frame versus frameless designs to pick what works best for your kitchen layout, storage needs and style preferences. Choosing quality materials for the frames along with durable finish options will ensure your cabinets stand the test of time. With some thoughtful consideration of all the frame factors, you’ll end up with your dream kitchen cabinetry.