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Kitchen Cabinet Construction – What’s to Understand?

Two Types of Kitchen Cabinets Framed & Frameless

The traditional method of American kitchen cabinetry construction is to attach hinges and a door to a 1 ½” wide face frame around an open box. Cabinet doors designed in this style slab, or lip, over the frame either partially called a “standard overlay”, or fully “full overlay”, or not at all “inset” where the doors are situated within the frame and are flush with it. European style frameless cabinets, on the other hand, don’t use a face frame. With frameless kitchen cabinets the cabinet walls have to be thicker – typically 3/4″ vs 1/2″ for framed cabinets – the door hinges are attached to the cabinet walls vs the face frame.

Our cabinet lines Medallion Cabinetry, Dura Supreme Cabinets and Jay Rambo Cabinetry offer both framed and frameless cabinets.

(1) Framed cabinet standard overlay, (2) Framed cabinet inset doors, (3) Frameless European style cabinet”

The three kinds of kitchen cabinets silver spring

Projects with each door style:

Inset classic design – 16th St DC View Project,   Full Overlay Potomac Kitchen White Cabinetry View Project,    Frameless Bethesda Contemporary Design  View Project

More Space inside Frameless Cabinetry

Advocates of frameless, or European, kitchen cabinets are quick to point out that their favored cabinets have wider openings and, therefore, more space. A framed kitchen cabinet with a 21″ base, for example, has an 18″ opening, while a frameless kitchen cabinet with the same size base has a 19 ½” opening. This makes frameless kitchen cabinets more attractive if you have a small space to work with. Frameless kitchen cabinetry perfect DC, Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Kensington where older homes typically have small kitchens.

Appliance Considerations

Another thing to keep in mind as you choose between frameless and framed kitchen cabinetry is that some appliance brands are designed to fit only certain types of kitchen cabinets. For instance, high-end European appliances made by Gaggenau and Fagor are designed to fit seamlessly into frameless European kitchen cabinets. Appliances made by GE, Turbo Chef, or American Blue Star require the American-style face frame style because of their wider flanges. Our kitchen designers would probably specify Dura Supreme Cabinets Alectra or Bria cabinet lines if you selected an upper end appliance line like Gaggenau or Medallion Cabinetry Design Craft Line.

Kitchen Cabinets – Understand The Difference

Most people could not name a kitchen cabinet brand. Most kitchen cabinets look pretty similar at first sight. This is especially true when you’re in the middle of a larger project and you have other things on your mind. Unfortunately, this is also the time when many builders routinely get away with selling poor-quality kitchen cabinetry. We’ve put together a description of different kinds of modern kitchen cabinets and how they are put together so, you can understand the difference between high and low quality kitchen cabinetry. Signature Kitchens Additions & Baths represents 4 grades of cabinetry & manufacturers which excel in each grade. They are:

StockSt. Martin Cabinetry
Semi CustomMedallion Cabinetry
CustomDura Supreme Cabinets
Furniture GradeJay Rambo Cabinetry

What Makes Some Kitchen Cabinets Higher Quality Than Others?

What, if any, other differences there are. And why are some more expensive than others? Signature Kitchens Additions & Baths, along with the NKBA and SEN, respected Kitchen & Bath dealer associations, recognize six grades of kitchen cabinet quality.

Each grade is based upon these factors:

  • Construction system
  • Material specification
  • Hinge hardware
  • Finish system
  • Interior accessoriesv
  • Styling
  • Guarantee
  • Relative cost
  • Degree of customization available

Kitchen Cabinet Quality

Recognizing the tangible and intangible differences between the different levels of kitchen cabinet quality will help you understand the wide price variance in the kitchen cabinet market. The most important features when you look at kitchen cabinets are undoubtedly style, quality of the finish, and type of drawer action.

Kitchen Cabinetry Drawer Action

Look for cabinet drawers with a smooth slide and a positive closure. A good drawer guide, like the Blum Smartrac FX, will be strong enough to hold 75 lbs while still sliding smoothly. The weight capacity can be upgraded to 100 pounds. Like the door on a BMW or Mercedes a cabinet doors weight capacity is a strong indication of quality. It feels good.

Cabinetry Finish

The primary reason most Americans begin a kitchen remodel, after failure of a major appliance, is the deterioration of the finish on their kitchen cabinets. The natural oils on our hands can deteriorate a lesser quality lacquer finish on a cabinet door and eventually leave a visible discoloration. This is in addition to common spills and cooking residue that over time can wear out builder-grade and shop-built finishes. Determining a high-quality wood finish on a kitchen cabinet can take a practiced eye. The best wood cabinet finishes used by high quality companies such as Medallion Cabinetry and Dura Supreme Cabinets as well as Jay Rambo Cabinetry use a multi-step process of sanding, sealing, hand-wipe staining, finish coating of conversion varnish and baking in specialty ovens.

If you look closely at the cabinet door you can see these flaws in lower quality kitchen cabinets:

  • Stains in the crevices
  • Dirt particles trapped under the finish
  • Rougher areas to the touch where it wasn’t uniformly sanded
  • A murky look where the natural grain has been masked – the result of poor toner stain
  • And other flaws that your kitchen designer can point out

The flaw with locally shop built “Custom Cabinets”

An interesting fact that you might find counter intuitive is that local cabinet shops that advertise custom cabinetry do not always produce higher quality custom kitchen cabinets since they rarely have the capital to invest in the state of the art finishing equipment that manufacturers who deal exclusively through kitchen dealers have invested in. Signature Kitchens, Additions & Baths is an exclusive dealer in Medallion Cabinetry, Dura Supreme Cabinets and Jay Rambo Cabinetry – each of these manufacturers has over a dozen steps to their finishing processes. So when you’re going through our kitchen design process, make sure to keep the importance of a high-quality finish on kitchen cabinets in mind.


medallion cabinetry dc

Signature Kitchens, Additions & Baths

Every designer has had specialized training in Kitchen Design, through NKBA, SEN or ASID, not only in style and structure, but in function and arrangement as well. Unlike our neighbors, we are not a retail store. We are a design build remodeling company, a licensed contractor in Maryland, The District of Columbia and Virginia. Whether you live in DC, Bethesda, Potomac, Olney or Silver Spring, Woodley Park, Adams Morgan or Capitol Hill, Signature KAB can design a beautiful kitchen, addition, or Bath for you.

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