cabinet is probably the more common of the two, at least in the U.S., and is one in which the
cabinet box is attached to a front frame that is typically made from solid wood to match your
doors and drawer fronts. The wood frame provides an aesthetic element to the cabinet that
is more traditional in nature. It also provides a structural element by giving rigidity to the
cabinet box. A frameless cabinet, also know as a European style cabinet, is basically a box
with 4 sides and a back without a front frame. This box is constructed from material that is
thick enough to provide enough structural rigidity without the need for a wood frame. The
door and drawer fronts have much tighter spacings than framed cabinets and cover most of
the cabinet box so that they are all you really see of the cabinets when looking at them from
the front. All of the pictures in the portfolio page are of frameless cabinetry.
Neither style of cabinet construction is necessarily better than the other. Both can be made
well and both can be made cheaply. When shopping you should see examples of both to
see which style you prefer aesthetically. In my opinion, frameless cabinets offer a bit more
functionality in that all of the interior space can be utilized for maximum drawer widths and
there are no center stiles on a double door cabinet that can make access to the cabinet
more difficult. On the bottom of the interior of many framed cabinets, the frame is not flush
but rather forms a small lip which can make sliding dishes in or out more difficult.
Cabinet boxes in both framed and frameless cabinetry are made out of particle board or
plywood. If made out of particle board, they are usually made from a particle board with a
melamine surface, which is a very thin, yet durable, coating that is either a solid color or an
imitation of a wood grain. Particle board is pretty much standard in most cabinet construction
as it is reasonably strong and cheaper than plywood. Plywood is lighter, yet stronger and is
a higher grade of construction. The structural integrity of particle board can easily become
compromised if it is directly exposed to water.
Framed cabinetry is typically made with a solid wood frame and a cabinet box made from 1/2"
particle board. 1/2" particle board is the minimum thickness a cabinet box should be made
from but I have seen plenty that were made from 3/8" particle board. This is cheap
construction and is usually accompanied by cheap, glued together joinery. The minimum
thickness of material that a frameless cabinet should be constructed from is 5/8". Ideally, a
frameless cabinet will be made from 3/4" material and a high-end frameless cabinet will be
made from 3/4" plywood. Interior shelves should be made from 3/4" particle board or
plywood as anything less will likely sag under the weight of dishes. Melamine is an
acceptable interior finish but cheap cabinet lines will use it for exterior finishes as well. A
better grade of cabinet will use wood veneers or solid wood panels to finish exterior surfaces
that are seen, such as the side of a cabinet at the end of a run of cabinets.