Quick Guide to Cabinetry Lingo
Do you ever hear your contractor talk about cabinetry and wish you had a mini “Construction-to-English” dictionary? Look no further! While this post may not give you a comprehensive education on how a cabinet is designed, priced, fabricated, installed, adjusted, maintained, etc., it will give you a basic understanding that will help you keep up with the conversation.
TYPES OF CONSTRUCTION
Face frame construction means that the front of the cabinet box has a 1½” piece of wood “frame” lining it, to which the doors are attached with hinges. This is the most common mode of cabinetry construction. There are two types of face frame cabinets:
- Overlay – this is where the cabinet doors are installed so when they are closed, they rest in front of the frame.
- Inset – alternatively, inset face frame cabinets are constructed in a way so that the cabinet doors/drawer fronts lie flush with the frame.
Grameless cabinets are essentially a five-sided box with cabinet doors attached via hinges to the inside of the box. They’re typically seen in contemporary settings where a sleeker design is desired.
We probably don’t have to explain “wood” to you! As the name implies, wood cabinetry is constructed with solid wood. This is most common in custom cabinetry, specifically doors and drawer fronts.
Wood chips and particles are combined and finished with a panel. This is particularly common in manufactured cabinets.
Medium density fiberboard (MDF)
Like particleboard, MDF is made up of chips and particles, however it is compressed under pressure to create a denser, heavier, and finer-finished piece. It’s ideal for cabinet boxes.
Another engineered wood product, only unlike the other two, plywood is made by compressing thin sheets of wood. Plywood can be considered an upgrade from particleboard and MDF.
A common, opaque finish that provides unlimited color potential.
A treatment that dyes the wood and provides a shiny finish. Is especially nice for highlighting exotic woods and grain patterns.
A protective, high-gloss coating similar to paint (but with more shine!)
Adding a glaze on top of paint or stain creates an antiqued finish.
LEVELS OF CUSTOMIZATION
Made-to order, where you have complete control over design and fabrication.
Typically, you are given a catalog with options for size, finish, and style, but you have to stick to what the cabinetmaker offers.
These come in standard sizes, finishes, and styles. They’re typically cheapest and easiest to come across but allow for no customization.
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