Choosing a Cabinet Door Type

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When choosing what type of cabinet door is best for your kitchen, it’s important to consider both style and function. There are three main types of cabinet doors: partial overlay, inset and full overlay. Let’s take a closer look at each of these types.


Partial Overlay

Partial overlay is the type of cabinet door most people think of here in the U.S. as it is the most common type of cabinet door in American kitchens. Partial overlay doors don’t meet in the middle and you see the framing around the front of the cabinet around and between the cabinet doors. They tend to be the least expensive and are the only type that don’t require some kind of hardware to open them. One reason they are less expensive than other door types is because the doors don’t meet, allowing for slight variation in measurements that would be obvious and visible on the other door types. The other reason for the lower price point is their popularity as the most common door type in U.S. kitchens.


Full Overlay

Full overlay cabinets feature doors and drawers that completely cover the front framing of the cabinets. It has a streamlined and stylish look but is more expensive than partial overlay due to the exactness of the measurements required for the doors to cover the cabinet face and meet snugly in the middle without any gaps or variations. This particular door type can be worth the extra cost as it provides about an extra inch of cabinet space. Full overlays are also common in frameless cabinet construction as they cover the entire face of the cabinet opening.



Inset cabinets are constructed so that the doors and drawers fit inside the cabinet framing/face. The doors and drawers fit inside the framing snugly with a streamlined front that is flush with the framing. This cabinet door type is most common in British kitchens. One benefit of this cabinet door type and construction is that it provides additional stability for floor-to-ceiling cabinets.

When choosing new kitchen cabinets, the type of cabinet door you choose can make a big difference. You can go with the traditional American style partial overlay, gain some cabinet space by going with the full overlay or go floor-to-ceiling in a stable, sturdy way with inset doors.