Know Before You Go
Visually, cabinets will set the design tone for the rest of the kitchen. This makes choosing kitchen cabinets one of the most essential parts of your kitchen renovation. You want to choose cabinets that look good, work well, and last. Picking up some basic kitchen cabinet terms before you go cabinet shopping will help you understand what designers and contractors are talking about. You can also learn what to look for in a quality cabinet.
Basic Cabinet Terms
There are four components to a cabinet: the Box, the Shelves, the Drawers, and the Door. The term Box includes everything but the Door on your cabinets. The Box is the sturdy outer part that supports the shelves and/or drawers. It is composed of the top, bottom, back, side/end panels, and a toe kick. The Box’s front will be frameless and supported at the top or have a face frame. Frameless or Euro-Style cabinets offer many advantages, including clear access for storage and a much more modern look. We’ve explained these two terms a little more on this page – Face frame vs. Frameless Cabinets – What is the Difference, and Should I Care?
The interior of the Box can include shelves, pull-out drawers, and/or drawers. Shelves can be either fixed or adjustable. Drawer parts include the drawer box and drawer face, and a glide system. Drawers can also be interior slide-out drawers. The photo shows both.
The Door attaches to the Box’s front and is the part of your cabinet that will set your kitchen’s style. The Door parts include the center panel, stiles (vertical pieces), and rails (horizontal pieces).
What Makes a Quality Cabinet Build?
Kitchen cabinets generally come in three ways:
stock, semi-custom, and custom. The base materials used in the construction of the box and the shelves and drawers can vary widely, and so can the cabinets’ cost. How well your cabinets are constructed will also affect their useful life. Below is an overview of what to look for in a quality cabinet build.
What to look for in a well-built cabinet Box:
- Constructed with 5/8″ or ¾” material with the sides glued and dowelled with concealed joints into the top and bottom. Lower quality cabinets are made with thinner – ½” material and are either glued or stapled at the joints.
- Full top or an intermediate stretcher bar
- Finished or integral toe kick – the bottom part of your cabinet that meets the floor.
- Finished end panels.
- Finished interiors for boxes with a glass front.
What to look for in quality drawers and shelving:
- Is the bottom of the drawer a sturdy material slid into grooves rather than stapled or glued?
- Dovetail or concealed joints where the drawer face meets the drawer box for sturdiness.
- ¾” full depth adjustable shelves with quality hard plastic on steel shelf pins
Cabinet Hardware Terms
Finally, when looking at cabinets, you will also want to ask what kind of drawer glides and hinges are used. While standard drawer slides use a plastic or nylon roller to operate, higher quality ball-bearing drawer slides use a set of stainless-steel ball bearings. These are quieter and smoother than roller slides and are available as soft-close slides.
A soft-close slide or hinge will stop the door or drawer just short of completely closing, and the hydraulics inside the hardware takes over to ensure it closes softly. You also want to look for hinges that are adjustable to work well in your particular kitchen layout. Blum or Salice drawer glides and hinges are two of the best-known brand names for precision-made drawer glides and hinges.
We hope this overview of basic kitchen cabinet terms is a good start. Please take a look at our blogs for even more information. You can also give us a call or stop by our showroom. We can make planning and purchasing your kitchen cabinetry enjoyable and straightforward! If you are looking for visual inspiration to get you started-check out
“95 Kitchens That’ll Make You Want to Redo Yours” on House Beautiful.