Fillers on frameless cabinets

Filling the space around cabinets set in uneven alcoves or against bowed walls. January 3, 2001

I would like to hear from manufacturers of frameless cabinetry on how you infill cabinets in alcoves and against walls. For instance, if an alcove measures 40" wide, do you build a 40" wide cabinet or do you build a 39" cabinet to allow for bowed walls, bad sheetrock joints, etc? If you build the cabinet smaller, how do you fill in the gap? Do you use a scribe piece on each side? How do you attach it and how do you scribe it? Do you make the filler flush with the cabinet front or with the doors?

Forum Responses
We build AWI commercial millwork. We allow for a 1" filler on both sides of the cabinet. One filler is cut at 1" and attached to the cabinet in the shop at assembly with glue and staples. It is attached flush with the face of the cabinet. The other filler is cut at 3" and sent loose to the job site so the installer has plenty of material to work with if the walls are extremely bad. Once the cabinets are installed the installer can take a dimension at the top and bottom of the cabinet and cut the filler to match the wall. This filler is then attached with 1 1/4" chrome screws from inside the cabinet.

I build custom cabinets and many are done frameless, depending on the look the customer is going for. The only problem I have encountered is that if the walls in the alcove are really off, the fillers might look strange, being of different sizes (fillers not equal around entire unit). In this case, I would actually build out the alcove with furring strips and build the cabinet to fit in a nice square opening. This is a worst case scenario, but higher-end clients tend to notice the details.

We build high-end kitchens. We too use 1" fillers on each side, but both of these are sent to site loose so they can be scribed to be equal on both sides of the cabinet. We attach ½" cleats to the back of each filler and fit flush to the doors.

We also use the "L" shaped filler. Some shops that produce laminated products laminate over the "L" shaped filler so that no joint shows to the front.

An inside corner with a wire pull requires a minimum of 1.25" so we use 1.5" everywhere. Sometimes ceilings are taller to allow for a smoke detector, sprinkler, etc. The L shapes can be miter-folded on a simple Betterly setup.

Fillers serve two purposes—one, to allow for deviations in bad wall work and two, to prevent the door handle from hitting the wall. In addition, build an inside corner cabinet (base) and try to open the drawer without a three-inch filler (with handles, two-inch without).

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor B:
In a wall to wall application, allow for 1" on both sides for the filler. After building the box, screw a stick of 3/4" thick pine about 1 1/2" wide and about 1" less cabinet height to each side, with 1/8" sticking out past the cabinet face; so when installed the filler will be flush with the doors. Then when you set the cabinet you can scribe your filler to the wall, allowing 1/8" reveal between the filler and the door to match the 1/8" between doors. Once scribed, and you're happy with the fit, install with Liquid Nail. You can use wedges to hold it until the glue dries.