Inset Cabinet Door Clearance

Three thirty-seconds of an inch ought to be about right... March 6, 2006

I have only done face frame cabinets with overlay doors thus far. A customer now wants inset doors. What amount of space do you leave between the door and the frame? I am assuming that 1/16" all around the door will allow my hinges to work.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor P:
For cabinets, I use 3/32 here. 1/16 is certainly doable, but pretty touchy.

From contributor K:
I agree with the above. 3/32" each side. For one door, take the opening and deduct 3/16"; for two doors, deduct 9/32", allowing for expansion/contraction in the middle. Key is a square frame.

From contributor A:
I put a slight bevel around the inside of the doors, about 2 degrees and use a 1/16" clearance around the doors.

From contributor C:
Another vote for 3/32". An industry standard for many years, I've never had a customer complain and never will. Why make it tougher than it needs to be?

From contributor D:
Furniture should have a 1/16th gap, cabinets 3/32nds (or what I call a heavy 1/16th).

From contributor M:
I build custom furniture. The only kitchen I ever did was my own. In furniture, I use 1/16th around a single door. That means 1/32 on each side of it. Two degree bevel will work fine. My customers like that. But contributor C makes a good point when he asks "why make it tough on yourself?" If your customers don't ask for a really close fit, then go with 3/32. It just seems to me almost a full 1/8" is a lot of gap. Have they shown you a picture of what they want? Pay attention to the doors in the picture because that's what they'll expect.

From contributor J:
I'm not sure why you furniture guys are yapping about 1/16" reveals. Without back beveling the doors, they would never open on a humid day. Perhaps the doors on kitchen cabinets are larger. Also, if someone spent the amount of time to do 1/16" back beveled reveals on doors, it would no longer be a kitchen... it would be a piece of furniture. Basically, the question is how much total expansion will occur with the two stiles. Over the years, it has been found that 3/32" is enough to prevent binding, yet is not obvious enough to attract attention. Also, when the doors shrink (which they will), the gap becomes 1/8" for part of the year. Go with the 3/32" and forget about it.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. I'll go with the 3/32" gap. The customer gave me a picture from a magazine to give me an idea to start with, but it was of light colored cabinets and the gap on those looked huge. I wanted to keep it as small as I could without trouble being hinge-bound. About not making it any harder than it needs to be, I feel that is what they are paying me for. I agree with the thought, but I don't want to go into something thinking that or I feel my end product will suffer. I do understand what you mean, though.

From contributor H:
What are your doors made of? Wider stiles or lumber core plywood can mean some extra movement with inset doors. 3/32" is the thickness of a nickel. I always have a few in the tool box for setting reveals.