Defining "Full Overlay" on Face-Frame Cabinets

It's a Euro look on a face-frame cabinet so who's to say what's right? Here's a look at the question from several perspectives. October 2, 2007

Just wondering what constitutes full overlay doors on face frame cabinets? Talking about kitchens here. We do face frame and use 1/2 overlay all around doors and drawer fronts. I recently saw another cabinet shop's work and it was deemed full overlay. Sure, the bottom of the doors on the uppers and bases covered the frame, but on left and right stiles, it appeared to only be 1/2, maybe 3/4, overlay. All of the gaps in the middle of the doors and drawer fronts appeared to be 1/4" or so. The top of the drawer fronts on the bases appeared to be 1/2" overlay. To me it seemed that the overlays were all over the place and I began to wonder how one would sort all these out? I'm looking for standards.

Also, what are your typical rail and stile widths? We do 1 1/2". What do you typically do for the top rail on the upper? Do you keep it the 1 1/2" and install a scrap piece above to rail for crown to be attached to? Or do you make the top rail 2 1/2" or bigger to nail the crown to?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor L:
Euro hinges come in 3 overlays, inset, 1/2, and full. If you are trying to make your face frame cabinets look like Euro boxes, then the standard margins are 4mm+-. The term 1/2 overlay means that two doors meeting on the same side panel will each cover 1/2 the edge of the panel minus the margin. The term doesn't make sense when applied to face frame cabinets. If you want it to look like Euro boxes, why not make Euro boxes? And yes, all we make is frameless casework, the standard in commercial work.

From contributor J:
Being this is a face frame thing, 1/4" gaps between doors. Older style face frame cabinets often had huge stiles and rails, since the cost per square foot for face frame stock is a lot less than the cost per square foot for doors. Smaller doors and bigger face frame parts is cheaper. That look is still around in mobile home manufacturing and cheap box cabinets. If I'm asked to do a contemporary look, I'll go with 1/4" gaps, cover up the top rail on an upper as much I can, but I will do a large light rail and show off the real wood on the bottom of an upper. Looks really nice, and I would say that's a full overlay. KCDw offers a quick set for full overlay in their computer program. You could do a search at their site.

From contributor T:
We have a separate construction method for this; we call it "full access." Use the same hinge, just make stiles and rails smaller. Top rail depends on size or crown.

From contributor Z:
I like 2 or 2 1/4 rail and stiles. I use 3/4 overlay hinges. This allows the same reveal between doors as shown on the rails. On top rail I will make it as large as I need to compensate for the crown and leave the same reveal below it as the rest of the cabinet. For example, if I have 1 3/4 between doors, 1 3/4 from top of door to top rail, then I will have 1 3/4 reveal below the crown.

From contributor J:
I believe that the customer who wants full overlay wants what they see in kitchen and design magazines that they get from the supermarket or bookstore. They see frameless cabinets featured in these publications and that's what they want. I use Blum hinges with a 1/2" overlay ff plate. Stiles and rails are 1 1/4". This allows for 1/4" gaps between rails, for the Euro look. So far my customers do not want to see a reveal above the top of the doors on uppers, so I do a full overlay as much as 1 3/4" on a 2" top rail (no moulding at all, usually has a foot of space to the ceiling). Then I use a 2 1/4" bottom rail with 2" showing. I point out they need a light rail, and this shows some wood and the quality of a real cabinet that's built to last. They always go for it, and are much happier in the long run with a face frame built cabinet, one that lasts and improves the value of their real estate. Frameless is fine, but better off suited for commercial use.

From contributor G:
Contributor J, you're living in the 70's. We have built frameless, high end residential cabinets for 35 years. Door overlays are not even a second thought. Marketing face frame cabinets as superior to frameless is a waste of time.

From contributor J:
I've liked frameless cabinetry ever since the 70's when I went into a showroom that featured a line of frameless cabinets made in Germany. Nice stuff, and I've always loved the look and the construction method. But I can't sell them around here. There's only one guy that does and he's mostly commercial. Everyone else who builds frameless still makes mostly framed cabinets. Our area won't budge on this, contrary to what the experts say about frameless cabinetry (that you can sell them). I like them both, and I'm very tired and worn out from making face frames - that's why my wife and I are getting into real estate (LOL). We're hoping to make more money, and then only make what I want to make in my cabinet shop, mostly mid to upper end inset style face frame cabinets for people who want a dream kitchen, and not to builders who only want to get rich and really don't give a hoot about nice kitchens or nice cabinetry. I'm too old to invest in all new machinery to build frameless cabinets and try to sell them to an unwilling local market.