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Face Frame vs Frameless Style

Face frame cabinetmaking has been a popular construction style in North America for years. The cabinet box, often made with plywood or plywood veneers, had a hardwood front frame applied on the North American cabinet. The frameless European style is a simple box without a wood face frame. Many shops use a combination of both methods by attaching a wood face frame to a European style cabinet box to retain the "North American" appearance.

Face Frame Style Kitchen

Frameless Style Kitchen

As you can see, there are very subtle differences between the face frame style kitchen on the left and frameless style kitchen on the right.

However, the style is a matter of personal taste and so both will be explained below.


Option # 1 - Cabinets built using:

"Build Your Own Kitchen Cabinets"


This book details a face frame style of cabinet that uses a traditional solid wood face frame on the front face. Both face frame and frameless cabinets using the same sheet materials for the cabinet box (carcass), only the front edge treatment is different.

A solid wood frame is attached to the front face of a melamine particleboard cabinet carcass when building a face frame style kitchen or bathroom cabinet.

Face Frame cabinets have a 3/4" thick wood frame applied to the front edge. The side view of this upper cabinet illustrates the use of a melamine particleboard box with a wood frame and door.

Note that both frameless and face frame cabinets use the same carcass style so the European hardware (hinges, drawer slides, cabinet legs) can be used.


Option # 2 - Cabinets built using:

"Building Frameless Kitchen Cabinets"



Frameless European cabinets are a systemized approach to building a cabinet without the wood frame using construction techniques and hardware specifically designed to produce a high quality case. Frameless construction is not limited to "white" sterile looking ultra modern cabinets. Any wood veneer sheet material can be used to build European cabinets. Melamine coated particleboard is one of the popular building materials that is available in dozens of colors with matching edge banding tapes.

(click for more info and to order)

The frameless cabinet box does not require a wood frame. Doors are sized to cover a good portion of the front edge.

The cabinet carcass material can be any type of sheet goods including melamine or veneer particleboard or veneer plywood. The front edge is cover with an iron on tape made of melamine or veneer, in any colour, to match the doors installed.

Exposed sides on cabinet bases and uppers are normally covered with an end panel to match the doors on frameless cabinets. Face frame cabinet exposed ends are typically covered with 1/4" thick veneer plywood to match the face frame wood type.

Frameless and face frame cabinets can have any style of door installed. The frameless cabinets often have Thermofoil doors but are not limited to that style.

So what's the difference and which style do should you build?


It's all a matter of preference and the look you want to achieve. Here are some points regarding each style...