Pros and Cons: Inset vs Overlay Cabinets

Updated: Feb 17

If you're considering a kitchen or bath remodel, you've probably noticed how many different types and styles of cabinets there are to choose from. An important decision you'll have to make is whether you want inset or overlay cabinets.

The difference between inset versus overlay can make a significant difference in the style and overall price of your kitchen. Don't worry, we'll tell you everything you need to know about these two cabinet types including the implications on your design and budget.

Inset Cabinets

Inset doors and drawers fit flush within the frame of your cabinet when closed. This creates a streamlined smooth look but sacrifices some space within your cabinet frame. Designers typically incorporate inset cabinets into transitional, traditional, and more custom-looking kitchens. The custom smooth appearance of inset cabinets elevates the look and quality of any kitchen.

Depending on the cabinet maker you choose, inset doors and drawers can be

customized to include beading around the panel and can come in any stain, color, or finish. Check out a few of the different inset door styles custom cabinet maker Wood-Mode offers. You'll notice the hinge can be exposed or concealed, based on preference.

Inset cabinets tend to be pricier than full overlay cabinets because of the way they are carefully crafted to fit inside the cabinet frame. Additionally, they may require maintenance and adjustments over time to ensure they continue to open and close properly. Sometimes, with changes in humidity or just after years of wear, the doors and drawers will slightly shift and create gaps or rub against the frame.

Pros of inset cabinets

  • Clean, custom look

  • Great quality- usually fully custom cabinets

  • Hidden or exposed hinges

Cons of inset cabinets

  • Pricier than overlay

  • May require maintenance after time to adjust drawers and doors

  • Less storage than frameless cabinets

Overlay Cabinets

Overlay cabinets can have a full or partial overlay. Full overlay doors and drawers cover the face frame of the cabinet completely. Because they aren't set into the cabinet frame, there is additional storage and utilization within the cabinet. Depending on the door style you choose, overlay cabinets can be incorporated into almost any style of kitchen. Our designers typically use a slab door for more modern and contemporary spaces and opt for a raised, recessed, or flat panel door to create a more traditional or transitional feel.

Partial overlay cabinets cover most of the cabinet frame but leave space between the drawers and doors. This is typically the least expensive cabinet option. Another benefit of partial overlay- if you don't desire hardware on your cabinet, the space between the doors/drawers allows you to open them with your fingers.

Pros of overlay cabinets

  • Less expensive than inset

  • Offers the most storage

  • Can be used on frameless or framed cabinets

Cons of overlay cabinets

  • Not as high end as inset cabinets

  • May not be able to replicate inset look

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