Marketing Frameless Cabinets

How to play up the advantages of Euro-style cabinet systems. January 21, 2007

I have been researching and talking to some customers about the advantages of frameless cabinets. I was thinking about trying to go in that direction over the next year, but most of my customers seem very hesitant to consider it.

One of the big complaints is melamine being just particleboard junk, and how frameless just looks cheap. I was wondering what some of you frameless guys were telling potential clients in your area to persuade them to try frameless.

I believe there are a lot of advantages for a small shop like mine in the 32mm system, but I could use a little advice on how to promote it. As far as I know, no one in my area is doing frameless.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor J:
First off, the biggest resistance to frameless cabinets will be justified (perhaps unknowingly) by you, by your reluctance to cheer their many benefits to the user. Most customers don't have a clue as to what or how their cabinets are constructed. I promoted them with their space gains, wider door and drawer openings, adjustable shelves, etc., then backed that up with the fact that without a switch to frameless, a substantial price increase was inevitable. My frameless cabinets are detailed a lot more than my competitor's framed cabinets, with stack crowns, light rails, RP ends, furniture feet, etc. to resemble furniture, and that is how I promote it. It's all about the doors, drawer fronts, drawer boxes, and mouldings. Most of these DA builders and homeowners don't know or care how the case is assembled. Just open any magazine and 99 percent of the cabinets you'll be looking at are frameless.

From contributor M:
I never even mention the cabinet construction, which is frameless, to my customers. With all the trimmings on a frameless cabinet, most customers don't have a clue or care. Those customers that do have a clue will state clearly that they want either/or. If it's framed they prefer, I kindly recommend them to one of my friendly competitors to supply their needs. Those same competitors kindly direct referrals for frameless to me. Up to this point it has never bitten me. All you need to hear at the end of the day is "these are beautiful."

From contributor B:

I totally agree with the above responses. Clients don't know the difference. But don't refer to your cabinets as frame*less*, which implies taking something away. Instead refer to them as "full access." Point out what the face framed cabinets lose, interior useful space and drawer width, is what the full access gains.

You don't have to use particle board boxes. Sell UV maple ply and if they want to save money, suggest the PB. If you don't have a lot of photo samples of your work, show them magazine clippings of full access kitchens. They'll want it too.

I have never lost a job because a client insisted on having face frames and I wouldn't do it. If no one else is doing full access in your area, I would say you're in the driver's seat.

From contributor J:
I lost one job to a psychopath woman that insisted on face frame so she could use finger pull apartment doors - the ugly kind in section 8 government apartments. I recommended her to a local Mennonite friend of mine. That was five years ago, and he's still not satisfied that loon. I am the only shop around rigged up to do frameless. If they want it, I'm it. I get all kinds of recommendations from the face frame guys because they get way bogged down on the frameless because they lack the edgebander and a work process. The savvy builders in my area get real tired, real quick of dealing with the 2 car garage frameless. The process makes all the difference in the finished product. The one thing I suggest is a good edgebander - nothing will kill your frameless niche like loose edgebands. I switched to frameless about 8 years ago and won't build anything else.

From contributor P:
I've been doing frameless for ten years, face frame before that. The subject of being frameless never comes up anymore. I just show them my own cabinets, redone a year ago in hickory, with soft closing doors and Tandem Blumotion drawers, fancy crown molding, drawer fronts from one board on a run of cabinets, so the grain is continuous,
and they just say "wow."

It costs a lot more to make face frame cabinets. There's just no comparison between making a face frame and putting edge banding on the cabinet box. Installing hinge plates and drawer glides before you assemble the cabinet is a breeze compared with crawling into the cabinet to do it after assembly.

The job I'm currently on, the client requested frameless, even used that term, because they had seen a previous job I had done and loved it.

I agree - call them "full access cabinets," and point out all the features, and they'll go for it. Besides, some of the frame type cabinets I've seen in Home Depot still look like frameless before you open the door, for the hinges have that much overlay.

Go for it! One caveat. Your machining must be much more precise for everything to fit.

From contributor E:
Frameless cabinetry and the 32mm system have revolutionized our field. There was a time not so long ago that I swore I'd never build a face frame again. It is my opinion that a traditional overlay face frame is and always has been a design flaw. It screams "cheap" or "70's site built." An inset beaded face frame, on the other hand, is a sign of true custom.

It is possible, using frameless construction, to incorporate wide fillers, light valances and crown platforms (or backers) all in plane with the front of the doors, to achieve an inset face frame look without building a face frame.

Once again, in my opinion, frameless cabinetry alone, without some type of added detail (decorative fillers, carvings, changes in depth and dimension, etc.) tends to look boring. Ultimately, though, we still build lots of frames.

From contributor R:
I refer to them as "Euro style," and stress the full-overlay doors. Funny, when people hear "Euro style," they seem to think, "oh, that's got to be better." When the doors are closed, you don't see the face frame, anyway. It's been my experience that most people tend to like it better.

When we use melamine, I stress the clean look inside, and how easy it is to clean inside, if you so choose. Also stress the cost savings, although the price of melamine seems to be increasing faster than plywood. I've only had a few customers not choose the melamine.

Let's face it, the vast majority only care about what it looks like when the doors are closed - they don't really care about the construction, as long it holds their stuff. My guess is your customers sound hesitant because of your approach - you probably sound hesitant when talking to them about it. If you make it sound like you think they're better, your customers might be more interested.

From contributor T:
We also call 'em European style cabinets. If the customer is hesitant or has never seen them, I direct them to the Merchandise Mart, so they can see them and see what designers are spec'ing for kitchens.

One other thing I add is that they are flexible. If they want a new look in 10 years, they replace doors, drawer fronts, end panels and toe skin and they are done. Need a bank of drawers in 5 years where there is a door now? No problem. No face frame to refinish, re-veneer and finish, or modify for drawers.

From contributor D:
Have you ever thought about going commercial? A slab door run around an edgebander, or a wood door with five pieces to cut out, machine, assemble and sandů Hmm, that's a hard choice. I don't have to put no trim on them, either. Also, IBM has more money to throw around than the Joneses. I rarely deal with any customers - the contractors and architects do all the dealings with the client, not me.

If you go frameless, make sure you set it up 32mm. Buy an inline bore machine. Even a single 18-21 hole for 2500.00 will pay for itself in the first few jobs. Make sure you set your system up where all of your hardware fastens into the 32mm holes, with euro screws. Figure your end panels out to where they are reversible (holes same distance from either end). Even if you build a std. 30" upper, it may come out to be 30 1/4", no matter. I figured out by 32mm, then converted it over - it is just hard for me to envision how long 1277mm is. I cut out what would be my standard end panels, then draft out so my doors are reversible as well. Pretty much a monkey could build my cabinets, without a tape measure.