Cabinetry is often the biggest investment you will make during a kitchen remodel, so it’s important to know a few cabinetry basics before getting started.

There are so many considerations and decisions to make during this process. Should you choose stained cabinets or painted cabinets? Wood, veneer, textured melamine or Thermofoil? Do you want stock cabinets, semi-custom or custom? Here you will learn some of the cabinetry basics everyone should know before setting out to make this crucial decision.


There are three different methods of production employed to manufacture cabinets. The terms used to describe these methods are: Stock, Semi-Custom and Custom. The terminology has nothing to do with the quality of the cabinet rather the method in which it was produced.

  • STOCK kitchen cabinets are ready-made, pre-manufactured and ship when an order is received. They can’t be altered or customized. What you see is what you get.
  • SEMI-CUSTOM kitchen cabinets come in basic sizes similar to stock cabinets but give designers the flexibility to resize cabinet drawers and doors and modify the depth of the cabinets themselves.
  • CUSTOM kitchen cabinets are built specifically for the area in which they will be used. Custom cabinets allow the customer complete freedom in the design and construction of the cabinetry.


These are the four basic types of cabinets:

  • BASE: A base cabinet is a cabinet that sits on the floor. A base interior can have several options such as shelving, drawers, organizational pull-outs and much more.
  • WALL: A wall cabinet is a cabinet typically mounted to a wall. They come in several different heights and most commonly contain shelving.
  • TALL: A tall cabinet is one that sits on the floor, but it stretches tall above the countertop height. These cabinets are mainly used for pantry space and appliances.
  • SPECIALTY: Specialty units for home office, home entertainment, bookcases, mud rooms, mantles/fireplace surrounds and more.


Next we’ll move on to construction types. The types of cabinet construction are framed construction and frameless construction. Cabinet construction is an aesthetic choice, but framed cabinets will provide a bit more durability due to their solid wood face frame.

  • FRAMED cabinets (Full Overlay, Half Overlay, Inset) incorporate a wood frame around the front outer edge of the cabinet box. This face frame is generally made of solid wood and adds strength to the cabinet by reinforcing the open side.
  • FRAMELESS cabinets are made without any front panel or frame so that the doors completely cover the front of the cabinet box. This is sometimes referred to as European construction.


After choosing the construction of the cabinet, you will need to decide what material you’d like to use. The material your doors are made from plays a major role in what your kitchen will look like. Most cabinets are made from hardwoods, but to reduce costs, these hardwoods are often applied as veneers over a substrate, such as plywood. There are several species that top the list of cabinet woods: walnut, alder, red oak, white oak, hickory, cherry, hard maple, birch and ash.

Cabinetry that is not solid-wood or wood veneer is generally laminate or Thermofoil, both of which are applied to substrates. Both laminates and Textured Melamine come in a wide range of colors and patterns. Thermofoil is a good choice if you are looking to replicate the look of wood. High-pressure treated laminate cabinets are extremely durable but may be heavier than wood. There are many, many options out there, so be sure to do your homework to find the product that’s right for you.


Now that you’ve picked out your cabinet construction and cabinet material, you need to choose a finish. This only applies to wood cabinets. Cabinets covered in laminate, melamine or Thermofoil aren’t coated with these types of finishes. The type of finish and wood species you choose will depend on your aesthetic preference and budget.

Common finish treatments for wood kitchen cabinets:

  • Paint – With paint, you have a limitless color pallet to choose from including modern finishes such as glazing, highlighting, distressing and more.
  • Stain – Wood stain is a topical color treatment that alters the natural color of the underlying wood while allowing the grain to show through.
  • Varnish – Varnish is a combination of oil and resin used to provide a protective layer over the wood.
  • Lacquer – Lacquer is another top-coat protective sealer used on cabinets. It is made by dissolving a resin in a solvent.
  • Glaze – Glaze is a pigmented but transparent or semi-transparent coating that’s applied over a base coating such as paint or stain.


Unless you are dealing with custom cabinetry − which can have any dimensions − you will find better prices and predictable sizing with stock or semi-custom kitchen cabinetry.  The writers over at The Spruce provide a guide covering a substantial majority of standard cabinet dimensions.


Classic Cabinets & Design works with suppliers who care deeply about the work they do and stake their reputation on it every day. We are proud of our partners’ commitment to the environment through their use of sustainable materials. Our design team has strong relationships with each company and they become part of the kitchen remodel team – making sure your renovation or design exceeds your expectations.

Our custom cabinetry partners include:

As you can see, the world of cabinetry is vast and might take a little research to get it right. The expert pool of designers at Classic Cabinets & Design are ready to help you navigate the choices and make a selection for your kitchen remodel that you will love for years to come. Call us today!

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