Glossary of Cabinetry Terms
Cabinetry making comes with a lot of funny words. I've put together this guide to help you understand some of the more common terms that come up in my work. If you have a question about something that isn't covered here feel free to get in touch.
These are the cabinets that sit on the floor below a countertop. They can have any combination of doors and or drawers. They are typically 34-1/2” tall and 24” deep with a recessed toe-kick and will support any countertop.
Also known as a pull-out self, but in reality is a drawer-box behind a base cabinet door. Roll outs provide far superior accessibility than do shelves and prevents straining to get at things.
These are used in upper as well as base cabinets where two cabinets meet at a corner. Part of one cabinet bypasses the other cabinet on the adjacent wall. The two cabinets form a 90° angle. The part of the cabinet that bypasses the other cabinet is “blind” meaning that it is difficult to see or get to whatever is being stored in that part of the cabinet.
A pull-out that either pivots into the dead space in a blind base cabinet, or uses a sophisticated track system.
Also known as “cabinet box”. The cabinet carcass/box is what the cabinet doors are attached to as well as drawer boxes and drawers-fronts.
Typically applied to new bare or stained sanded wood or as refinishing over an old existing finished that has been lightly sanded. Typically 2 or more coats are applied. Clear-coats can be: varnish, polyurethane, Lacquer or a number of catalyzed products. Clear-coats for kitchen and baths are typically satin sheen, but can also be semi-gloss or high-gloss.
Typically bought by the client with input from the cabinet maker. The cabinet maker should install all client supplied handles/knobs/pulls and the cost of that should be included in the cabinet maker’s proposal.
Any type of existing cabinet can be painted provided all surfaces are properly prepared snd sanded, and the correct primer is used before painting. Best results for cabinet doors and drawer-fronts are achieved by using professional spray equipment in a dust free spray booth.
The previous existing cabinet carcasses (cabinet boxes) remain. The old doors and drawer-fronts are removed and replaced with new doors and drawer fronts. Sometimes the drawer boxes and drawer guides also get replaced. The fronts of the cabinet carcasses (face-frames) are veneered, as well as any exposed visible sides. The cabinet interiors are typically left “as-is”. Also the underside of the upper cabinets are also typically left “as-is“.
This involves a light sanding of the top coat on the doors and drawer-fronts as well as cabinet carcass face-frames, (fronts of cabinet boxes) then a new stain that matches the old stain is applied where needed, after any minor repairs are made. Next, everything that was sanded, repaired and touched up gets clear-coated with polyurethane or other finishing product.
Typically a thin wood veneered panel to cover an exposed side of a cabinet or the back of an island or peninsula.
Applying stain to either unfinished wood or as touch up to existing cabinetry. There are many types of stains from oil based, to water based, to gel stains.
Crown molding is a decorative molding that sets atop upper cabinets, or any other cabinet such as a tall pantry cabinet or a refrigerator enclosure. Crown moldings range from traditional, to ornate, to very simple and understated.
Drawer boxes can be made of anything from cheap laminated particle board to exotic hardwoods. Typically, quality drawer-boxes are dovetailed together. A very good and inexpensive drawer box is typically made out of dovetailed Baltic birch plywood which has the pleasing aesthetic of wood and is the most durable drawer box (short of metal) that there is.
Drawer guides attach to the drawer- box and also the cabinet carcass. Drawer guides can be 3/4 extension, meaning that the drawer box only come out of the carcass 3/4 of the way, or drawer guides can be full extension and can have soft-close mechanisms.
There are a many hinge types and manufactures. The best hinges are fully adjustable concealed self-closing with soft-close. These type of hinges are available in a wide variety of “over-lays”. Over-lay meaning the amount the cabinet door “over-lays” the cabinet carcass face-frame. Good cabinet makers will use a variety of over-lay sizes to get the most consistent look to a cabinet project. Many cabinet makers try to use only one type of overlay because it’s simpler faster and cheaper, but then that reflects in a cheaper looking project. Also hinges are adjustable as to how far they will open keeping cabinet doors from hitting walls and other adjacent cabinets or appliances. The leading brand of this type of hinge is Blum.
Is a marketing term frequently used by big box stores and large scale cabinet manufacturers instead of the term, “particle board”.
This is a technical term that describes a cabinet carcass that is made with no face-frame. The reason for this is that face-frames end up wasting a lot of space, and with European style cabinetry, tighter reveals (typically 1/8” gaps) between pairs and sets of drawers can be made tighter and more constant. This “European” look can be achieved on cabinet refacing.
Most typically found in most homes. Face-frame cabinets have a sold wood frame on the front of the cabinet carcass. (Carcass = box) The cabinet doors are then attached to the face-frame. Face-frames tend to be 1-1/2” to 1-3/4” wide and 3/4” thick. They tend to be either screwed together or doweled together. Typically mass produced face-frame cabinets will have 1-1/2” gap in between sets of doors and between pairs of doors.
Instead of veneered panels: this is when a cabinet door, usually the same proportions, color and style of the cabinet doors, is fixed to an exposed visible side of a cabinet. Fixed door panels help make a kitchen be more “high end” by adding elegance and detail.
Typically a wood frame around a center flat-panel such as a shaker door and /or drawer-front.
Typically used inside a corner base cabinet, or corner upper cabinet. A lazy susan is typically a set of two-tier round rotating shelves. Lazy susan’s give the most usable space for a corner cabinets. Lazy Susans can be made out of plastic, steel, or wood. Plastic is the most common... even in high end kitchens.
Also known as MDF. MDF is like particle board only the particles are as fine as talcum powder and the glue that holds it all together is a high density resin. MDF has virtually no variance in thickness and density and lays absolutely flat. It is a great substrate for paint, enamel, RTF, wood veneer or plastic laminate. Medium Density Fiberboard is far denser and of better quality than particle board.
In cabinetry is commercial grade particle-board with a melamine coating in both side. Melamine comes in a variety of colors and patterns, but white and wood-grain are the most common. The vast majority of modern prefabricated as well as custom cabinets are constructed using melamine. High quality melamines are impervious to water and most household chemicals.
Also known as stock cabinetry, or mass produced cabinetry. Almost all modular cabinetry comes in 3” width increments from 6” to 48”. Base cabinet heights are standard at 34-1/2” (36” with countertop) upper cabinets can have a height of 12” to 48”. The most typical upper cabinet height tends to be 30”
Same as a flat panel only the center panel is “raised” as might be found in a traditional or formal door and/or drawer-front.
Basically a box to enclose a standard size refrigerator to make it appear to be built-in. Typically there is storage above the refrigerator that can be up to 24” deep. The cabinet above the refrigerator can be configured with shelves, or vertical pull-outs.
Same as a refrigerator enclosure only it’s a one sided box where as the other side of the refrigerator is against a wall.
RTF: Rigid Therma-Foil: basically a plastic that is heated and then vacuum pressed on to a medium density fiberboard (MDF) substrate. Typically colors can be white or almond, but many other colors and patterns are available. There are also wood grain RTFs which in some instances are almost impossible to tell from real wood. RTF doors, drawer-fronts are not only the least expensive way to go, they are also the most durable. There is no finished wood that is as hard and durable as RTF.
Also known as cabinet trim. This is that skinny piece of wood that typically is found where a cabinet meets a ceiling, soffit or wall. Ceilings, soffits and walls are never as straight, level and plumb as cabinets are, and a scribe molding covers those slight imperfections for a finished
Typically a wood veneer over medium density fiberboard with veneered edge banding. But slab doors and drawer-fronts can be solid wood. Slab doors can also be as simple as painted or enameled Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) or rigid thermafoil.
Styles are the sides of cabinet face-frames and rails are the tops and bottoms of cabinet face-frames. This is also true for a “frame and panel” cabinet door.
This is the recessed area of the bottom of base cabinets where they meet the floor, typically the toe kicks are recessed at around 4” and are around 4” tall. This is mostly to protect the bottoms of cabinet doors and the bottoms of the lowest drawer-fronts from becoming marred from brooms, mops, and vacuum cleaners etc.
Typically a veneered piece of wood that covers the toe kick. Toe skins can also be ceramic tiles and in a kitchen or a bath a tiled toe-skin is way more durable than wood as far as resisting scratches and being marred. However, because a toe-skin is 4” or so back from the front of the cabinet, scratches and mares are usually not noticeable.
Also known as wall cabinets. These are the cabinets that typically sit 18” above the kitchen countertop and above the stove and above the refrigerator.
Also known as task lighting Typically 2700k dimable LED strip lighting to illuminate the back splash and more importantly to illuminate the shadows on the countertops that emanate from the ceiling lighting blocked by the upper cabinets. Under cabinet lighting is also great as mood lighting and as a night light.
Are basically a drawer-box that has been turned on its side and has a shelf or two in it. Verticals pullouts are particularly useful above refrigerator enclosures or the the top section of a pantry cabinet. So instead of finding a ladder to access what is in the back of a cabinet, you just pull out the vertical pull-out. Another way to understand a vertical pull-out is that it is essentially a cabinet inside a cabinet that pulls out using heavy duty full extension drawer guides.
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