Kitchen Cabinet Doors - Full Overlay, Partial Overlay and Inset

Choosing Kitchen Cabinet Doors for Your Remodeling Project

A professional cabinet-maker can present you with a staggering amount of choices for customization. If you’ve been considering a kitchen remodel, you have probably already seen how many options are available to you in terms of wood, color, and construction. One of the most important choices in your kitchen cabinet design is the cabinet door style. As the most obvious, outward-facing part of the cabinet, the door is key in defining the overall look of the kitchen. There are three main styles of kitchen cabinet door to choose from. The ones you choose will depend on your style preferences and the overall look you are hoping to accomplish.

Inset Cabinet Doors

This basement wet bar was completed using inset cabinet doors. Note the care taken to create uniform reveal lines between the door and the frame.

Inset Cabinet Doors

Inset cabinet doors are fully inlaid in the cabinet frame. This is the oldest of the three types and is often featured on cabinetry from the early 1900s. However, the clean lines and flush look of this style also make it a great option for modern kitchens. The cabinet doors and drawers are flush with the frame when closed. This style often features exposed hinges, but they may also be hidden.

Full Overlay Cabinet Doors

This kitchen remodel was completed using full overlay cabinet doors. While this kitchen was very contemporary, full overlay doors also work well using shaker style and traditional raised panel doors. With traditional raised panel doors, a full overlay cabinet door creates an extra sense of elegance or formality in the kitchen.

Part of what makes these cabinet doors so visually impressive is the level of craftsmanship they require. However, this craftsmanship comes with a price tag – these doors are usually about 15-30% more expensive than the others. Additionally, this style has the least amount of interior cabinet storage so for people with many large dishes, it may not be the right choice.

Full Overlay Cabinet Doors

Also called Euro-style, these cabinet doors sit on top of the cabinet frame, covering it entirely, with gaps of less than ½” anywhere on the cabinet face. Although full overlay doors do require precision craftsmanship, this tends to be a “mid-range” style of cabinet door in terms of price. These doors usually feature concealed hinges. Similarly to the inset style, full overlay doors have a clean and continuous appearance that creates a consistent look across the entire kitchen. Also like inset doors, full overlay doors require hardware (drawer pulls and cabinet handles) to be opened.

These doors feature the most cabinet space of any of the three types, as they allow full use of the cabinet box and do not require a vertical frame stile between the cabinet doors. However, many cabinet lines do not build the Euro-style cabinet boxes, still choosing to install full overlay doors on a traditional face frame box. 

Modified Full Overlay Cabinet Doors

This remodeled kitchen uses the modified full overlay style of cabinet door. Notice that there is a uniform reveal between the doors, providing a bit of "pop" and shadow line in the design. The lines are tight and crisp, with just a little space in between. 

Modified Full Overlay Cabinet Doors

With spacing between door panels not as tight as full overlay cabinet doors, and not as wide as partial overlay cabinet doors, this door style provides a look and a price partway in between. Available from a few box lines of cabinets and from most every custom cabinet maker, the modified full overlay door style is the most popular style of cabinet door overlay that our clients choose.

There is enough of a price difference between full overlay and modified full overlay to make it worthwhile to many people to choose this. At the same time, the aesthetic advantage of modified full overlay is typically superior when compared to partial overlay. 

Partial Overlay Cabinet Doors

Partial Overlay Cabinet Doors

Even the budget-friendly partial overlay cabinet doors can be beautiful. 

This is the most popular and affordable kind of cabinet door. Like full overlay, the doors sit on top of the frame, however, they cover only the openings – not the full face of the box. The gaps of the exposed frame are usually about 1 ¼”. With partial overlay doors, the hinges can be either hidden or exposed. Partial overlay drawers are the only style which does not require hardware, which makes them more aesthetically versatile than the other types.

Partial overlay doors often provide a good amount of storage space, although the vertical stiles needed between doors can be restricting compared to full overlay. The aesthetic disadvantage of partial overlay doors it that they can sometimes seem to be dotting the surface of your cabinets rather than defining them. Working with a professional cabinet designer will minimize the risk of having a disjointed design or appearance.

Pro Tip

It's important to pay attention to the use of fillers in your cabinet design. When you choose a custom cabinet maker, the cabinets should be built to the fraction of an inch size so that everything fits perfectly with no fillers used in between cabinets. However, if using a box line, the cabinets typically come in 3-inch increments. That means that if you pay for a full overlay cabinet door on a box line, but your remodeler and designer doesn't pay attention to the size, placement and rhythm of the cabinets, you might end up with large gaps anyway! A great design build remodel company with professional designers will avoid this problem. If budget is a concern, then you might get the best design result and the best price by having a great kitchen design team create your kitchen using partial overlay doors from a box line of cabinets.

Approaching your kitchen remodel with a little bit of technical understanding can help maximize your happiness with the result in the long-run. At Degnan Design Build Remodel, we can answer any questions you might have about cabinet doors. Click here to contact us about your kitchen remodeling project.  In an industry as vast and specialized as cabinet-making, having that technical know-how goes a long way. 

This article was updated by Abe Degnan on 7/30/2018.

About Degnan Design Build Remodel
Since 1981 Degnan Design Build Remodel has provided home improvement and construction services to customers throughout Greater Madison, Wisconsin. Our goal is to WOW you with a "Designed For Your Life" solution using a process that will transform your home into a beautiful living space, delivered on time, and on budget. We are known for our communication, respectfulness, and a commitment to our customers and our community. Contact us to speak with one of our designers about your home improvement project.