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Types of Kitchen Cabinets Doors

Types of Kitchen Cabinets Doors

If you’re planning on a kitchen remodel, you have a lot of choices that you will need to make. You’ll need to decide on new appliances, countertops, paint, backsplash, and, of course, cabinets. Within cabinets alone, you have many options: you can refinish your existing cabinets, or opt to choose brand new kitchen cabinet doors. If you choose the latter, there are so many styles of kitchen cabinets to choose from, all with different cabinet door types that affect both functionality and aesthetic. Here are the main types of cabinet doors, and everything you need to know about choosing the right kitchen cabinet doors for your home.

3 Types of Cabinet Doors

When it comes to kitchen cabinets’ doors, there are generally three types of doors you should be aware of. They are: inset, partial overlay, and full overlay. These are some of the key terms used to describe cabinets – we’ll go over what each one specifically means below.

#1 Inset Cabinet Doors

One of the oldest and most long-standing styles of kitchen cabinet doors is the inset style. In this style, small hinges are “mounted right on the face frame” or immediately inside of it, so hinges are usually visible with the inset cabinet door style, even when the door is shut (Houzz). In inset cabinet doors, all elements are on the same plane – the inner element of each cabinet door is almost recessed back into itself to create a flush look.

Advantages of Inset Cabinet Doors

Since this style of cabinet door has been around for a while, it is notoriously reliable. The inset style was the first cabinet door type ever designed, and is “associated with Shaker, Craftsman and Mission styles” (Cliq Studios).For this reason, many kitchens constructed in the early 1900s have inset cabinet doors, so this style of door naturally creates a very traditional look, which is appealing to a lot of homeowners.  Inset cabinet doors look especially nice in kitchens which are looking to evoke a farmhouse or classic style.

Disadvantages of Inset Cabinet Doors

Probably the biggest disadvantage of inset cabinet doors is that they are expensive. On a design level, it takes a higher level of craftsmanship to be able to create this antique-level style. The inset design, with its naturally recessed interior, takes great attention to detail to fit perfectly inside the frame. In addition, inset doors require special hinges, and other fixtures, which also impact the price of kitchen cabinets.

Plus, due to this recessed interior, inset cabinet doors also create a smaller interior surface area inside the cabinet, so you’re getting less space for more money, in many cases.

#2 Full Overlay Cabinet Doors

Overlay is a popular genre of kitchen cabinets that has been around for many years. More recently, full overlay has become the more modern and popular style, but partial overlay provides a classic look and feel.

Full overlay cabinet doors (also called “Euro style”) are the most modern type of cabinet doors available. In the full overlay style, the door of the cabinet (or the drawer face) completely overlays the box – it covers the entire surface area, with “as little as 1/4″ to 1/2″ of frame” visible between cabinet units (Cliq Studios). With this style, there is no visible face frame when the cabinet doors are closed, so special hinges (usually concealed) and tactile fixtures are installed to ensure that doors can be easily opened.

Advantages of Full Overlay Cabinet Doors

The obvious advantage of full overlay cabinet doors is the modern look and feel. Sometimes, just upgrading cabinet doors to full overlay is enough to modernize a dated kitchen in need of a renovation.

In addition, with full overlay cabinets, there are very small gaps between each individual door or drawer, which creates a “consistent and continuous appearance” (Houzz). This can help make kitchens look bigger and more spacious. It also creates the largest internal surface area within each cabinet and drawer, which can give you the most bang for your buck in terms of functionality. Full overlay cabinets offer the most sizeable amount of storage space.

Disadvantages of Full Overlay Cabinet Doors

While full overlay cabinet doors look modern and sleek, they have a couple disadvantages that should be considered. For example, since the edges of the cabinet doors are almost flush to each other, there is less available space in between cabinet doors, especially when opened. So, homeowners must be careful to make sure doors don’t bang against each other when opened. In addition, since full overlay cabinet doors require knobs, handles or some sort of fixture for ease opening (the cabinet doors are flush to each other, there’s no “side grip” to hold onto to open), these should be carefully considered as well. Knobs can easily ding open doors if opened to quickly and carelessly. These are easily avoidable scenarios, but they are certainly worth being made aware of.

Furthermore, since every inch (and quarter-inch!) is utilized carefully in full overlay cabinet design, it’s essential that you work with a contractor who has experience installing these types of cabinet doors. Otherwise, you could end up with some dimensional or functionality issues when installing new kitchen cabinets.

#3 Partial Overlay Cabinet Doors

Another style of cabinet doors is “partial overlay.” Also known as “standard overlay,” this style serves as a happy medium between inset and full overlay, since the doors completely cover the opening of the cabinet, and partially cover the finished frame. It is probably the style you are most familiar seeing in either your own home, or the homes of friends and family members.

Advantages of Partial Overlay Cabinet Doors

One of the advantages of partial overlay cabinet doors is their accessibility – the relative affordability of partial overlay cabinet doors make them a popular choice in homes throughout the country (and the world). Partial overlay cabinets tend to be the most affordable because the doors and drawer fronts are smaller, which means they naturally use less material, and manufacturing costs are naturally lessened. This also makes partial overlay cabinet doors a top choice for contractors and those who work in the business of “flipping” homes.

In addition, the construction of this style of door makes it much easier to install. Since each cabinet door has about 1-2 inches of face frame exposed between units, functional hardware can be more easily installed.

Disadvantages of Partial Overlay Cabinet Doors

Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of choosing partial overlay cabinet doors is that they have come to be associated with affordability. Partial overlay cabinet doors are not modern, nor necessarily unique, so if you’re really looking to make a statement with your cabinets, you will either want to customize, or choose a different door style.

In addition, since the partial overlay affords a lot of extra space between cabinets, it can make cabinet doors and drawers look disproportionate – like small doors on a larger surface area. You will also likely have to be okay with visible hinges if you opt for a cabinet design that uses partial overlay doors.

Different Styles of Cabinet Doors

Now that you have a handle of the three kitchen cabinet door types, it’s helpful to also understand specific styles for each type. Here are some of the most popular styles of kitchen cabinet doors, and the names that they go by. These styles can be used to customize the types of cabinet doors listed above.

Raised Panel Cabinet Doors

As the name implies, raised panel cabinet doors have “a center panel that is raised from the rest of the door, many times with a contoured edge that gives it a specific style” (MasterBrand Cabinets). This is one of the most popular and versatile styles of cabinet doors out there, and is available in many colors and wood materials. They are often employed in a more traditional design aesthetic (similar to the inset cabinet door type).

Recessed Panel Cabinet Doors

Popular in modern designs, recessed panel cabinet doors (or “flat panel cabinet doors”) are characterized by a center panel that is recessed and appears lower than the rest of the door. The outer edges are higher, and can be unique stylized to create a desired aesthetic.

Arch Cabinet Doors

Arch cabinet doors are characterized by a signature arch at the top of the interior panel, which is raised. The half-oval or circle-shaped curve is the signature of this door style, which lends itself well to a very classic, homey look. This style of door is making a comeback in recent years, as the “farmhouse” and antique styles are becoming more popular in home renovations and remodels.

Cathedral Cabinet Doors

Cathedral cabinet doors are similar to arch cabinet doors, however the raised panel is marked with a more open, medieval-style arch. Cathedral doors are often used to “enhance entryways, or they may used for decorative touches on cabinet doors” (Kitchen Cabinet Kings). They are sophisticated and elaborate.

Shaker Cabinet Doors

Shaker-style cabinet doors are inspired by the original cabinet style and are an example of the inset cabinet type. They are simple, which light finishes and minimal hardware, which is where their beauty comes from. Homeowners who appreciate a truly classic look and feel will like Shaker-style doors.

Slab Cabinet Doors

Slab doors get their name from their simple and straightforward design, with flat panels that are even. These types of doors are typically employed in “transitional and contemporary designs” (Dura Supreme). Despite the name of this style, slab doors can be created in a number of materials, including wood and even acrylics.

Glass or Mirrored Cabinet Doors

A style that’s becoming increasingly popular installing glass or mirror panels within traditional cabinet doors. These are also often referred to as “open frame” cabinet doors, since the interior is open. There are also options for glass-types in these doors, including lead glass, painted glass, and even stained glass. This creates an open aesthetic, and is also functional in that it allows the homeowner to see what’s inside the cabinets (in the case of glass panels). On the flip side, this also means that the interior of cabinets are exposed – and there’s extra pressure to keep them tidy!

Mullion Frame Cabinet Doors

Similar to glass-frame cabinets is the mullion-frame style. Mullion is a unique pattern in which wood is designed in a striking pattern overtop a glass interior panel. The wood can be laid out in horizontal and vertical directions, or patterned in more geometric or curved shapes. This is a truly striking cabinet style, but these types of doors can also be expensive and difficult to wrangle.


Another style element of cabinet doors that should be considered is beading. Specifically with inset cabinet styles, these doors can be personalized with “either beaded or non-beaded inserts” (Master Brand). With this type of customization, a beaded insert is added to create a custom edge detail.  The beaded insert is fitted into the cabinet door itself, providing an edge detail that evokes fine craftsmanship.

The use of beading can also be paneled to create a “beadboard” look, which is popular in many different styles of decor. Beadboard paneling is available in many different kinds of wood and materials for cabinets and can add a nice finishing touch to any cabinetry display.

Now that you know all the terminology and categories of the different types of kitchen cabinet doors, hopefully you will be able to make a more informed decision on which type of cabinet door will work best in your kitchen. If you feel overwhelmed with choices, you can always choose to go the route of refinishing or resurfacing your cabinets. There are so many possibilities for how to make your kitchen, and your cabinet setup, uniquely yours. For more information on kitchen cabinet remodels, contact our San Diego home renovation experts at Remodel Works today.









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