Cabinet Type and Quality Guide

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Cabinet Construction,  Finishes, and Cabinet Wood Types



Box Construction

  • Framed and Frameless
  • Particle Board or plywood and thicknesses


  • Wood Species
  • Door Styles
  • Finishes, Stains and Non-Wood


  • Types of slides
  • Construction


Cabinet Box Construction

Framed or Frameless that is the question. Framed cabinets have a solid wood face frame that the door attaches to, and frameless doors just attach to the cabinet body. Framed Cabinets have that classic American look, and frame-less cabinets are usually used in more
contemporary style kitchens,(European look) that sometimes use finishes other than wood.


Framed cabinets, or frameless cabinets can have full overlay doors, but only framed cabinets can have less than full overlay.


Personally I like the framed cabinet construction better for quality because they are usually stronger and easier to install, but the frameless cabinets do allow for a larger opening for storage.
 Framed Cabinet Construction  frameless cabinet construction
    Framed 1/2 overlay Wall cabinet            Frameless Wall cabinets

Plywood or Particle Board is the second main construction decision to be made. Framed, or frameless cabinet construction can be plywood, or particle board. The highest quality cabinets would use 3/4" cabinet grade plywood. The skinnier the plywood the less strong the cabinet.


Particle Board is associated with lower quality cabinet lines, and again the thicker the board the stronger the cabinet. Water damage would show more damage to a particle board cabinet than a plywood. See the Plywood Vs Particle board blog article on this site.


Cabinet Doors

Cabinet Door Wood Species Types  are either solid wood, or veneer particle/MDF/plywood.
The solid wood doors are usually made out of the more common woods like Oak, Cherry, Maple, Alder, Poplar, Pecan, Hickory, Pine, Beech, Mahogany and Black Walnut. The harder the wood species the more durable the door. Maple, Hickory, Pecan, Oak, Beech are among the harder wood types.
The Exotic Wood Species are usually used in a veneer situation because of availability and cost. Some available specialty wood types are Zebra Wood, Red Gum, Rosewood, Birds Eye Maple, Anigre, and Wenge.
Zebra wood cabinets Red Gum Cabinets Rosewood Cabinets Birds Eye Maple Cabinets Anigre Cabinets
Cabinet Door Styles are different with every cabinet company, but most have similar styles. There are simple flat panel doors with square frames (sometimes called shaker style), there are decorative raised panel doors with lots of layers and trim, and there is the simple slab flat doors. Cabinet doors are set three different ways, there are full overlay doors, less than full overlay doors, and inset doors that are flush with the face frame.
Flat panel style cabinet door       Slab style cabinet door  
     Flat Panel Door         Raised Panel Door            Slab Door
Cabinet Door Finishes are typically stains/paints or non-wood finishes like laminates and thermo foil. Stains and paint colors can vary greatly from cabinet manufacturer to cabinet manufacturer so I will not go into that here. There are typically three non wood finishes as in low pressure laminates (melamine), high pressure laminates, and Thermo foil.
The low and high pressure laminates can really come in any color or wood grain match. The Thermofoil finish is a thin layer of PVC heat bonded to the door. Thermo foil can also match any color or grain pattern, but also comes in a high gloss bright color finish.
      thermofoil cabinet door
Laminate Doors with a
metal edge band                               High Gloss Thermofoil Doors
Cabinet Drawers
Cabinet Drawer slides have different quality, and price levels. The top of the line drawer slide would be a 110LB under mounted full extension soft close slide. The soft close action slide is becoming a standard in a nicer kitchen. The lower quality drawer slides would be rated for less weight, be mounted on the sides of the drawer,and not be full extension.
Cabinet Drawer Construction boils down to material it's made out of, and if it is dovetailed or not. The best drawers will be full dovetail, and made out of solid hardwood like oak or beech. The medium grade cabinet drawer would be blind dovetailed and made out of cabinet grade plywood. The lowest grade cabinet drawer is made out of particle board, and joined together with just nails or staples, and not dovetailed. Expect the lowest grade drawer to fail within 10 years.
dovetail drawer

For More information on cabinets visit the pages:


Cabinet Manufacturers:

  • Crestwood: Crestwood is a great lesser known cabinet company with all the options 
  • Medallion and Mastercraft are Elkay companies
  • MasterBrand:  Master brand is a conglomerate that carries different cabinet companies, two of my            favorites are Omega, and Decora.  
  • Merillate: Marillate is a cabinet company under the Masco company.
  • UltraCraft: UltraCraft  offers the more modern sleek finishes like thermofoil and acrylic.