Kitchen cabinets and bathroom cabinetry are a major focal point for any kitchen and bath design.  When you think of selecting your cabinetry, you are probably focused on the finish, door style, and perhaps the storage accessories.  These are all essential parts of defining your layout, style, and functionality. Behind the doors and color schemes, however, cabinetry is essentially a box.  When you understand how cabinet box construction works and the differences in quality and materials, you will appreciate the variations in cost and quality when selecting your cabinetry.

To help you better understand these differences, our kitchen and bath design blog explores the fundamentals of cabinet box construction.

Basic elements of cabinet box design and construction

The cabinet box may not be as exciting as the doors and hardware, but the physical box is the foundation of your cabinet design.  The box refers to the basic structure including the toe kick (in the case of a base cabinet), the floor, shelves, sides, back, and top rail.  Cabinet construction and materials impact the weight the cabinet can hold, the longevity of the box, and your ability to customize the cabinetry.  It also varies across different manufacturers so consult your kitchen and bathroom remodeling expert to learn about what is offered by your preferred manufacturers.

transitional kitchen design

There are two basic styles of cabinet construction.  They are similar, but each gives the cabinet a different appearance and affects the accessibility to the inside of the cabinet.

Framed construction – framed cabinets have a wood frame around the front outer edge of the cabinet box. They are typically a more traditional style and have three variations of door overlay including full overlay, partial overlay, and full inset.

Frameless construction – this option offers greater accessibility to the inside of the cabinet.  The amount of storage space available for drawers increases because the drawer does not need to fit within the frame opening.

Cabinet Box Materials

Cabinet boxes are typically made from particle board, MDF, or plywood, though in some cases other materials can be used.  Cabinet construction usually ranges from 3/8″ particle board staple to 1/2″ full plywood dovetail construction. The quality of the box, how well it holds up, and how much weight it can carry is largely dependent on the quality of the material and construction method used.

Cabinet drawers and shelves are usually made of the same material as the box. Cabinet Doors, on the other hand, are typically made of solid wood.  They can also be made from an engineered wood product; in which case it will be covered with a wood veneer or laminate.

bath design with wood effect tile floor

Cabinet Box Construction

Is the cabinet box just a box?  Don’t be fooled by this unassuming structure.  It must be strong enough to hold all your bathroom supplies, dishes, pots and pans, and pantry supplies.  The quality and strength of your bathroom or kitchen cabinets depends not just on the material but also on the technique used for constructing and holding the cabinet box together.

There are several methods of construction:

  • Cheaper cabinet construction relies only on nails, screws, staples, and glue.
  • Higher quality wood joinery uses techniques like mortise and tenon or dovetailed joints.

Glue, nails, and other methods can be used to supplement joinery to make the cabinet stronger.

green kitchen design

Cabinet Types and Finishes

These not-so-simple “boxes” make up the foundation of your kitchen cabinets or bathroom cabinetry.   When putting together your cabinet design, there are a few key types of cabinets you could incorporate.

Base cabinets are floor mounted and support the countertops and workspace. This includes your island cabinetry in a kitchen design.

Wall cabinets are mounted on the wall, above the countertops.

Tall cabinets are also base cabinets but taller and allow for pantry storage in a kitchen design or possibly a linen cabinet in a bathroom design.

bath design with glass mosaic backsplash

There are a wide range of colors and finishes you can choose from when selecting cabinetry.  Wood cabinets for a bathroom or kitchen design allow you greater customization, with paint, stain, lacquer, or glaze finishes.

When selecting cabinetry for your kitchen or bathroom remodel, don’t forget to ask about the cabinet construction to better understand the quality and price point of your selection.  McDaniels carries the largest selection of cabinets in the mid-Michigan area.  We have trained designers on the team to help you make the right decision for your kitchen design or bathroom remodelMake an appointment today with one of our designers to discuss your cabinetry requirements.