Why would anyone build face frame cabs anymore, except for a traditional look requested by the customer?
From contributor S:
Didn't you read one of the latest editions of Kitchen & Bath Design News? They had a survey which showed that nearly 80% of the respondents preferred face frame cabinets, whether for remodeling or new home construction.
To get to the root of the answer you have to look at the beginnings of frameless cabinets. They were conceived in Europe as a way to make cabinets cheap and fast while using less material.
Face frame cabinets borrow their design from furniture. Not necessarily cheap or fast, but built to last. It is no coincidence that kitchen cabinets of the highest quality are full inset face frame cabinets.
Myself, I like the look of either, but for storage and accessibility frameless seems more obliging.
If face frames were done correctly, there might be a reason to use them. In my market, the competition makes boxes with 5/8" particle board stapled together. Drawer boxes and slides are butt jointed with staples, with cheap epoxy coated runners. Face frames are face nailed. Cabinets are sent to the jobsite for finishing by the painter.
You can have that, or a nice pre-finished cabinet using frameless construction, nice interior materials, either ball bearing or self closing undermount slides.
Face frame cabinets may have originally developed from furniture techniques, but they are far from that now (unless you count the cheap import furniture).
I would agree that beaded inset cabinets are the best, but they aren't very efficient in the use of space. If that is not an issue, and neither is money, then it would be the way to go.
They can both look awesome (face or Euro), and in reality who would want to make a kitchen that lasts for 100 years? It won't matter 10 - maybe 20 years from now anyway. Of course, we all want to be appreciated for quality, but with all of the changes we face in the future.
From a purely engineering perspective, face frames are more structurally durable. Would you build a house with no shear support on one wall? 2mm edgebanding can also be quite vulnerable to damage compared to 3/4" hardwood face frames.
Any quality of joinery, materials and hardware can be used on face frame cabinets that is used on frameless. I've seen both types built well and poorly. FF cabs can also be pre-finished. With face frames you can use doors and drawer fronts with finger pulls if the customer does not want knobs and pulls sticking out.
The negatives of face frames is that they are more time consuming to make, therefore more expensive. I charge 15% more for frames and still do about 80% with frames. The other drawback is less space inside due to rails between drawers. I offset some of this by building taller boxes with lower toe kicks.
Many folks will fight against one type or the other as there seems to be a marketing battle that the type they build is superior. The preference seems to be regional, probably depending on the success of the marketing in that area.
Starting in the early 90s, homeowners gradually became more proactive in the design process. They have internet access and scads of design magazines available to them. Most of my clients already have pictures from the internet or clipped from magazines when we have our first meeting. Many of them are also educating themselves on the pluses and minuses of different construction methods.
Comment from contributor B:
The comment by the original questioner "...in reality who would want to make a kitchen that lasts for 100 years?" really bothers me. We live in a 'throw away' society that condones, if not urges, the use of short cuts, cheap materials, and faster methods over building something that lasts and that you can be proud of. I personally would like everything I create to last at least 100 years. What better way to show good craftmanship than to have your great grandchildren still enjoy its use? If you build it right and build it to last, no one except a fool would want to replace it.