Kitchen cabinetry is often the biggest and most visible investment you will make during a kitchen remodel and choosing it should be fun. To help you navigate the challenging process Classic Cabinets & Design wants to share our knowledge of cabinetry basics before you start your search.

There are myriad considerations and decisions to make during cabinet selection. Should you choose stained cabinets or painted cabinets? Solid wood, veneer, textured melamine or laminate? 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 caliber of craftsmanship 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 cannot 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 a little flexibility to resize cabinet drawers and doors and modify the depth of the cabinets themselves.
  • CUSTOM kitchen cabinets are built specifically for the space in which they will be used. Custom kitchen cabinets allow the customer complete freedom in the design, construction and look of the cabinetry.


There are 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 drawers, shelving, organizational pull-outs or Lazy Susans and much more.
  • WALL: A wall cabinet is a cabinet typically mounted to a wall (hence the name!) 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 vertically above the countertop height. These cabinets are mainly used for pantry space and appliances.
  • SPECIALTY: Specialty units are constructed for home entertainment, bookcases, mud rooms, home office, mantles/fireplace surrounds and more.


Next we’ll move on to cabinet construction types. There are two types of cabinet construction: framed and frameless. Cabinet construction is a purely aesthetic choice, but framed cabinets will provide a bit more durability due to their solid wood face frame. If your kitchen is a busy heart of the home, framed cabinets may provide the best choice for strength and longevity.

  • 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 manufactured without any front panel or frame so that the doors completely cover the front of the cabinet box. This style 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 finished kitchen remodel will look like. Most cabinets are created 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, birch, red oak, white oak, hickory, ash, cherry and hard maple.

Cabinetry that is not solid-wood or wood veneer is generally laminate or plastic veneer, both of which are applied to substrates. Both laminates and Textured Melamine come in a wide range of patterns and colors. High-pressure treated laminate cabinets are extremely durable but may be heavier than wood. There are many, many alternate 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 the icing on the cake the finish! *This only applies to wood cabinets. Cabinets covered in laminate or melamine 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 include:

  • PAINT – With custom paint, you have a limitless color pallet to choose from including modern finishes such as distressing glazing, highlighting and more.
  • STAIN – Wood stain is a topical color treatment that alters the natural color of the underlying wood while allowing the beauty of 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 have developed a pretty detailed guide covering a substantial majority of standard cabinet dimensions.


Classic Cabinets & Design works with artisan 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 ongoing use of sustainable materials. Our design team develops strong relationships with each company and they become part of the CCD family – making sure your renovation or design exceeds your expectations.

Our custom kitchen cabinetry partners include:

Cabinetry by Karman


Crystal Cabinet Works




Fieldstone Cabinetry


R.D. Henry (Evoke)


As you can see, the world of cabinetry is vast and might take a little research to choose the style and material best suited to your taste. The expert pool of designers at Classic Cabinets & Design are ready to help you navigate the many custom kitchen cabinet choices and make a selection for your kitchen remodel that you will love for years to come. You can see and touch many of the styles we’ve discussed here in our Louisville, CO showroom. Call us today or stop by!

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