Cabinets exposed

Knowledge is power and a basic knowledge of how kitchen cupboards are built will allow you to differentiate between the various types and help you to decide on which option best suits your needs. This cabinets exposed article is intended to give you the pertinent information in order to choose the cabinets that fit not only your lifestyle but also your budget.



The two major categories are framed and unframed. The advantage to framed cabinets is that they can be built of less expensive wood because it is only the frame that shows. The doors are installed on the exterior and the hinges are visible, giving a more traditional look. The frame should be made of 1″ wide hardwood and the balance is usually made of 3/8 ” to 1/2 ” plywood.

Frameless cabinets are finished with surface strip that covers the exposed wood around the edge. The doors are installed from the inside of the box and the hidden hinges not only give the cabinets a more contemporary look but allow for a bit of additional space since there is no frame.


Stock cabinets, most of which are frameless, are those that can be purchased off the shelf of many retailers and home renovation centers. They are available in widths from 9 ” to 48 ” in 3 ” increments. Because of their low cost, the options are extra and must be added to the price. Cabinets made of presswood must be between 5/8” and 3/4” thick and have a vinyl or melamine coating to protect from water damage. If your kitchen sees a lot of traffic, durability might be an issue and if you are thinking about a granite or cement countertop these cabinets will not support the weight. If, however, your kitchen is not subject to extreme use or you are thinking of a short term installation, stock cabinets have their advantages and are the quickest to procure as the lead time can vary from a couple of days to a week.




Semi-custom cabinets provide the best of both worlds as they are build to order from stock dimensions. They offer more choice in styles, accessories and materials than stock cabinets and are often found in dedicated show rooms. They may be a better choice for the consumer who wants a higher quality product or when special features such as a vent hood cover or baskets instead of drawers are required. They are a better choice when a durable product is required to stand up to use by a family. Since they are made once ordered, you must usually allow a three to eight week lead time.




Custom cabinets may be the best choice if you plan to add many options as the price  will quickly increase with the extras chosen. Considering the quality of the product and the almost unlimited choice in materials and options, especially for those who spend a lot of time in the kitchen and need special storage space, a custom made kitchen may be your best choice. It’s a good idea to shop around as prices can vary widely and you will have to allow six to twelve weeks for delivery.


Cupboard doors must have a protective finish that will help them endure years of use. Presswood doors should be laminated with plastic, much like the counter top. This finish is durable and washable and is not to be confused with melamine which is a thin coat that can chip easily.





Drawers should be made of solid wood or plywood with dovetail or dowel construction. If you see staples and uneven lines of glue, better to avoid this model. The drawer slides should operate smoothly without binding or making noise and should have little side to side play. Steel is better than plastic, which can crack and cause binding that may even render the drawer useless. A 75lb load rating is fine for utensils and spices but should be 100lbs. for drawers in which cookware and dishes will be stored.


With all of the available options to maximize the space in your kitchen, all that’s left is to choose what best suits your particular requirements.



Written by Marie-France Roger View all posts by this author →

Daughter of Drummond House Plans founders, I was only 3 years old when my parents started the company, which explain my passion for residential architecture! I love travelling, red wine and HGTV! Mother of three beautiful young adults and co-owner of Drummond House Plans since 2002 with my best friend and husband, Yves Carignan.

There are 2 comments for this article
  1. Madeline at 18 h 35 min

    Custom cabinets can add design to your interior theme. Cabinet shape and size are important to take down in order to fit the cabinet to the intended location.

    • Deb at 5 h 07 min

      I defiantely agree and if you can afford them, custom cabinets are a wonderful investment that will last for years to come.

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