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Pros and Cons: Inset vs Overlay Cabinets

Updated: Jul 12

If you're considering a kitchen or bath renovation, you've probably noticed how many different choices of cabinet styles, doors, finishes, and frames there are to choose from. An important decision you'll have to make- and one you may not know about - is whether you want inset or overlay cabinets.


The difference between inset and overlay can make a significant difference in not only the style but also the price of your space. Don't worry, we'll tell you everything you need to know about inset and overlay cabinets including the implications on your design and budget.


Inset Cabinets


Inset doors and drawers fit flush within the frame of your cabinet when closed. The streamlined and classic design will surely upgrade the look of your space. Designers typically incorporate inset cabinets into transitional, traditional, and more custom-looking kitchens. White inset cabinets are super popular to create a charming or transitional look.



Most cabinet lines that make inset cabinets offer customization such as beading and embellishments around the door panel. They also come in any stain, color, or finish you can dream of.

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 about 10-25% pricer than full overlay because they are carefully crafted to fit perfectly inside the cabinet frame. This feature may also sacrifice some space within your cabinet.


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 shift slightly and create gaps or rub against the frame.


Pros of inset cabinets

  • Clean timeless look

  • Great quality- usually fully custom cabinets

  • Hidden or exposed hinges

  • Elevates the design of your space

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 and is a top choice for people who want to leave off hardware. Full overlay leaves no space between each door/drawer and thus requires hardware.


Pros of overlay cabinets

  • Less expensive than inset

  • Offers the most storage

  • Can be used on frameless or framed cabinets

  • Great choice for modern and contemporary designs

Cons of overlay cabinets

  • Not as high end as inset cabinets

  • May not be able to replicate inset look




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