Kitchen Cabinets Dictionary | Terms and its meaning

Planning to buy new kitchen cabinets or renovate existing ones? These kitchen cabinets terms may help you in the process. We listed all the basic terms and their meaning in easy and simple ways. You don’t have to be a kitchen cabinet manufacturer or designer to know them. This dictionary will help you to ease your research in hunt of kitchen cabinets.

Base cabinet: Base cabinets refer to the cabinet box that sits on the floor. They provide base support to other services and storage. Base cabinets define floor plans and hold up countertops.

Carcass: It is a framework of a cabinet. It is the main element part that is the basic structure of the cabinet.

Concealed hinge: Hinge that is hidden (concealed) on the front of a cabinet door. Concealed hinges are attached to the inside surface of the door and not visible when the door is closed. Good quality hinges are nickel plated, steel hardened and have soft close mechanism.

Custom: Custom made cabinets are one which is made for specific order. They have no limitation of size, material, and other hardware. They are specially made according to designer or customers specifications. They cost more than ready-made kitchen cabinets.

Dado: Dado is kind of joint which is very strong and functional. In this type of joint a groove is made into a material and another part is slid into the grove. Consider it as a lego where one part is inserted into another part. This is usually done for the back panel of the cabinet. Space is grooved on the surface of side and base panel. Then back panel slides inside to join them.

Dovetail: Dovetail joint is the most common joinery technique used in woodworking and traditional timber framing. This type of joinery is a sign of true craftsmanship. This technique offers a tight, strong and long-lasting joint between two pieces of joints. This is used to join sides of cabinets to the front piece in the right angle. In this edge of the wood is grooved with V-shaped notches. In this pin on edge of one part of the wood is interlocked with tails of the other part.

Drawer face: The visible front part of the drawer is called drawer face of the drawer front. They are different style such as:

  • Solid wood slab drawer front
  • Raised panel slab drawer front
  • Raised and flat panel mitered
  • Contemporary veneer edge banded
  • Melamine and high-pressure laminate

Engineered wood: They are called by many different names such as composite wood or manmade wood. Some common example of them is MDF, particle board and plywood. They are manufactured by binding strands, fibers, veneers or even particles of wood with each other.

Exposed hinge: They are the type of hinges which are visible from outside when the door is closed. These hinges are mounted to the cabinet frame and most commonly found in antique cabinets.

Face frame: It is the wooden frame which enhances rigidity to the box. This wooden frame is around the front of the cabinet. The face frame is like a flat picture frame attached to edges of the top, bottom, and sides of the cabinet box. Most American has traditionally used this type of construction design for kitchen cabinets.

Finish: The surface coating on the wood cabinet surface is called coating. The finish can consist of different layers such as stain, sealer, and clear coat. Finish surface gives the final appearance to cabinets and enhances durability. They are important for protecting cabinets from stains and moisture.

Flakeboard:  They are the type of engineered wood. They are manufactured by using flakes or particles of wood that is the by-product in sawmills. These flakes adhere together with resin and then the extreme pressure is applied. Another common name used for them is furniture board or particle board.

Framed: Framed cabinet design is used for cabinets which have face frame construction design. This style is popular in American cabinet manufacturer.

Frameless: Frameless cabinet construction is originally from Europe. They are also called Euro-style, contemporary, or modern cabinets. As the name suggests they have no face frames in this style of cabinets. In this style, doors, and drawers of cabinet sit directly across the edges of the cabinet boxes. The door hinges are attached to the side walls of the cabinets.

Full-inset: This is the type of cabinet design in which cabinet doors are flushed with the face of the frame when closed. In other words, the cabinet door doesn’t overlap of sit on the top of the face frame. This system gives clean and smooth appearance but is around 20% costlier than others.

Full overlay: In this type of cabinet design, doors completely cover the cabinet face frame and provide flat cabinet front. With this only cabinet door is visible and the face frame is hidden when the door is closed.

Furniture board: This is the type of engineered wood manufactured from wood chips and resin. For aesthetic appeal, they are often laminated or covered with veneer or lacquer. They are prone to sagging or splitting. They are less sturdy then plywood and swell or discolor easily. This kind of wood is used in less qualified kitchen cabinets to make it more economical.

Glaze: It is the transparent or semi-transparent coating which is applied on kitchen cabinets to add depth and color to the finish. The glaze is applied in a thin layer after cabinets are painted or stained. Glazes highlight the surface detail and give antique look to cabinets.

Medium density fiberboard (MDF): This is another example of engineered wood. They are manufactured using fibers of hardwood or softwood residuals. These dehydrated wood fibers are mixed with resin or wax or similar bonding agents to form panel. High heat and intense pressure are applied to the panels to give rigidity and durability.

Melamine: It is a hard thermosetting plastic material made by polymerization of melamine and formaldehyde. Melamine is durable and very easy to clean. They give uniform finish and are cheaper than solid wood cabinets. On the downside they are heavy, hard to work on, can chip easily and susceptible to water damage.

Mortise and tenon joint: This of another type of joint which is very strong and reflects the quality of furniture. They are hard to construct but incredibly strong and aesthetically appealing. In this type hole or slot is made into one part of the wood. Then another piece of wood is flushed fit into the slot.

Overlay: It refers to the area of the face frame covered when cabinet drawer or door is closed. Cabinets overlay can be of two type full overlay or partial overlay. In full overlay face frame is completely hidden when closed. In the partial overlay, the face frame is partially covered and remains partially visible.

Partial overlay: In this type of cabinet design, doors partially cover the cabinet face frame. With this when the cabinet door is closed it partially overlaps the face frame hence partial face frame is visible.

Particleboard: This is a type of engineered wood made up of waste wood and resin. Wood chips, sawmill shavings, and resin are mixed together. After that mixture is heat pressed into sheets to give wood boards. Particle boards are cheap, light and good for readymade furniture. On the downside, they have low strength, expand and discolor easily.

Plywood: This is the type of engineer wood which has high strength and stability as compared to solid wood. It is made by using different sheets of wood veneer. Several layers of wood veneer are pressed and bonded together to give 1 solid piece of plywood. This process improves the strong consistency and reduces shrinkage and expansion property. Kitchen cabinets with plywood are expensive but of better quality.

Rail: Rails and stiles are common terms used by builders, cabinet manufacturer and interior designers. These terms are used in cabinet face frames and the doors (if the door has a center panel). Rails refer to the horizontal pieces which run in face frame or door frame. The top and bottom horizontal pieces on cabinet frame are referred to rails.

Semi-custom: Semi-custom cabinets are manufactured within a range of standard sizes and styles. This kind of cabinet offers a wide range of customization and extra detailing options. This kind of cabinets offers an option to change certain dimensions such as increase or decrease in cabinet depth. You can resize the cabinet drawers and door fronts.

Stiles: Rails and stiles are common terms used by builders, cabinet manufacturer and interior designers. These terms are used in cabinet face frames and the doors (if a door has the center panel). Stiles refer to the vertical pieces which run in face frame or door frame. The vertical side pieces on cabinet frame are referred to stiles.

Stock cabinets: Stock cabinets are mass produced with very little to no customization options. They are pre-manufactured and readymade according to fix standard dimensions. They are affordable and delivered quickly but have limited option in shape, style, colors and wood types.

Thermofoil: Thermofoil cabinets are inexpensive and easy to clean type of kitchen cabinets. They are commonly manufactured by applying a thin layer of vinyl into cabinet doors and drawers of MDF. The thin layer of 100% vinyl is vacuum pressed under high pressure to surface. They are non-porous, inexpensive, and easy to clean with smooth color consistency. On the downside, they are heat sensitive and difficult to resurface. They have the problem with chipping, delaminating and peeling in the edges.

Toe kick: Toe kick is also called as toe space which is a space (area) between the base cabinet and the floor. This allows comfortable working in the kitchen as it gives room for person’s feet when standing and working on the countertop.

Varnish: Varnish is the type of clear finish which is often used to enhance workpiece. It is translucent which gives satin, semi-gloss or glossy sheen which allows natural characteristic. Varnish is made of resin, oils, and solvents to give a clear coating layer. It provides protection against water, scratches, and dents.

Veneer: Veneer wood is a thin layer of wood which is added to engineer wood (such as particle wood). Veneer is attached using adhesive glue, nails or screws. Veneers are usually used to cover visible part of cabinets which are made of MDF or particle wood. This enhances the aesthetic appeal of the cabinetry.

Vinyl laminate: Vinyl laminate is manufactured using a thin layer of paper and vinyl. They are used to protect interior surface and sometimes external surfaces of the cabinet. They are resistant to scratching and tearing. It is very durable and easy to clean.

Wall cabinet: Wall cabinets are a type of cabinetry which is suspended above the counter space. They are mounted on the wall and helps in saving space of floor.