Cabinet Types: Inset Cabinetry vs. Overlay Cabinetry

Photo of overlay cabinetry

Let’s talk cabinets, shall we? We can all agree that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of different types of cabinets on the market. From color to style, to varying materials, there are more than a few options to choose from when selecting which is best for your home. However, one aspect of cabinetry that is often overlooked—and even sometimes unknown to homeowners—is the choice between inset or overlay cabinetry. Confused? Don’t worry! Most homeowners are unaware of what this means. Luckily, we’re here to explain.

 examples of inset, overlay, and full overlay cabinets

Inset Cabinetry – Inset cabinetry is built to fit within the cabinet’s frame, creating a flush appearance. This means that when the door is closed, it will align with the frame, rather than rest on top of it. However, due to the door being set within the frame, pulls and/or knobs will be needed for this cabinetry type. Additionally, the hinges of the doors can be either exposed or hidden. Inset cabinetry appeals to homeowners for its smooth, clean finish and craftsmanship overall. However, inset cabinetry comes at a cost as they require more labor to create. Humidity can also affect this type of cabinet making it difficult to close or for rubbing to occur with wood expansion.

Overlay Cabinetry – There are two types of overlay cabinetry: full overlay and partial overlay. Full overlay cabinets provide a similar appearance to inset cabinets at a fraction of the cost. The doors (and drawers) of these cabinets have extra-large fronts that sit on top of the frame. Unlike with inset cabinetry where the cabinet frame is fully visible, full overlay cabinetry frames are completely concealed, along with their hinges. This cabinetry style requires hardware to be adhered, as well. Partial overlay cabinetry exposes the cabinetry frame, leaving a gap in between the doors and drawers. This type of cabinetry is the most popular and most budget-friendly. Most notably, due to the exposed frame, or gap, hardwood is not needed for these cabinets.

Already have your cabinetry picked out, but stuck on hardware? Read our blog: Hard Choice for Hardware

Special thanks to our friends and Partners at Williams Lumber in Pleasant Valley for allowing us to photograph their showroom!

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