Kitchen Cabinet Terminology

Kitchen remodel with modern cabinets
Expert: Rick Spencer, General Manager
DCD Kitchen and Bath Design Studio
Address: 5250 Brook Hollow Parkway, Norcross, GA US

Every industry has its own vocabulary that allows professionals to communicate with one another quickly, so there is no misunderstanding as to what they are talking about.  Doctors, lawyers and, yes, even the cabinet industry have their own unique set of terms. If you’re thinking about remodeling a kitchen or bath, knowing the lingo before you start will ensure that you can clearly communicate the look you want with all the professionals you encounter.
Ready to Assemble (RTA)
Any cabinetry that is shipped in a “flat pack” box that requires in-home assembly. This will typically be the least expensive grade of cabinets because you provide the labor to put them together.
Although only carried by a handful of retailers anymore, this type typically has fewer door styles, colors and options available. Although they may be less expensive, they may make your cabinet design more difficult since not all sizes are available. Sizes start at nine inches wide and go up in three-inch increments.
Cabinet lines that use the standard three-inch increment of a “stock” line, but can be modified per a designer’s specifications. Basic modifications available include changing the depth, matching the interior to the exterior and extending the length of the stiles. Better lines will allow you to modify the height and width as well. These provide a great way to achieve a custom look without the higher price tag.
There’s a wide range of quality in this grade of cabinetry. Typically, anything the designer draws can be built—as long as it can fit on a truck. The biggest difference in these cabinets can be found in their finish. Higher-end companies will custom-match any color you want and will use state-of-the-art finishing machinery to achieve long-lasting durability and color longevity. Watch out, though—even a person making cabinets in their garage can claim to be making “custom” cabinets, so ask questions before you buy.
Framed (Traditional)
A cabinet with a solid-wood face frame attached to a cabinet box, typically made of the same wood as the cabinet doors. This popular type allows for different-sized doors to be used to achieve unique looks, like traditional or transitional.
Frameless (Open-Framed, European, Full Access)
A cabinet that does NOT have a face frame attached to the cabinet box. The front edge is applied with an edge banding that matches or complements the color of the doors. They are typically used to achieve a modern look or, with the right door, change to a more traditional or transitional look.
Standard Overlay (Traditional Overlay, Partial Overlay)
This type of door is a little smaller and allows for the face frame of the cabinet to be exposed. Typically there are fewer choices in door styles, but choosing these can be a great way to bring the cost of a kitchen down. These are available in a framed box type only.
Full Overlay
This type of door is a bit larger and almost fully covers the face frame of the cabinet box. There are many choices of door styles available to achieve almost any look desired. These are available for both framed and frameless box types.
This type of door is made to fit inside of the cabinet face frame and so is not available for a frameless box type. This is considered a higher-end look and typically is available for semi-custom or custom cabinets only.
Recessed Panel
A door that has a solid-wood frame with a thin, flat center panel, typically made of a wood veneer. These will generally be a less-expensive style, unless the center panel is made of solid wood as well. 
Raised Panel
A door that has a solid-wood frame with a center panel that is thicker. This panel can be made of a wood veneer or solid wood. This style has the most variations available. These are generally considered a traditional style of door, but certain versions can push it into a more transitional look.
This door type can also be considered a “recessed panel” door, but it will typically be less embellished and have more squared-off edges and corners that achieve a simplified look. This style can be used in transitional and even contemporary looks, depending on other elements used in the design.
This style is glued up strips of solid wood or a sheet of veneer over a particle board or Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) core. Generally considered a modern, contemporary or minimalist look.
This article is brought to you by
DCD Kitchen & Bath Design Studio logo
DCD Kitchen and Bath Design Studio
5250 Brook Hollow Parkway, Norcross GA
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