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The Problem(s) With Inset Cabinets

At Wayhome we like to help homeowners consider all the information so they can make informed decisions about their home projects. Inset cabinets undeniably have their rightful place in formal, glam, and traditional designs; nevertheless, it's important to acknowledge some extra considerations that come with them. I'm not suggesting you should avoid using inset cabinets (in fact, they're my personal favorite), but there are distinctive details specific to inset cabinetry to keep in mind.


(Design and photo credit: Alison Giese Interiors)


They're Often More Expensive


While partial and full overlay cabinets can be a little out-of-square, both the door and the face frame opening need to be absolutely perfect with inset cabinets. This requires more time and precision to achieve, and are therefore often a more-expensive option. If either is even slightly out-of-square, doors and drawers may not function properly.


(Design and photo credit: Holt Design House)


Less Usable Space


While frameless or "full-access" cabinets do not have a face frame that can encroach into the usable space inside, inset cabinets do. Depending on how they are constructed, the usable interior space can sometimes be a full 1 1/2" less than the actual depth of the cabinet. In the extreme case, we've seen dinner plates not fit into 12" deep upper cabinets! While this isn't always the case (and most major inset cabinet manufacturers are well aware of this), it is definitely something to double check before placing any orders.



(Design and photo credit: deVOL Kitchens)


They Require Additional Maintenance


Wood doors and drawer fronts will slightly shrink and swell throughout the seasons. This is completely normal and should be expected, however we want to make sure they're not rubbing against the face frame of the cabinet. This could ultimately damage the finish if doors and drawer fronts are not adjusted regularly. More traditional English-inspired cabinets like deVOL use butt hinges that have little to no adjustment. These are perfectly fine, though extra measures have to be taken throughout the manufacturing process to ensure consistent moisture content in the wood that will significantly reduce the seasonal movement (one of the reasons their cabinetry is at a higher price point).


The alternative is to use an adjustable hinge, also called "euro" or "concealed" hinge. These hinges have 3 different ways to recenter the doors and drawer fronts back perfectly within the face frame. Seen below is the butt hinge (also called a "mortise" or "no-mortise" butt hinge):



And the full adjustability of a concealed "euro" hinge (these can move the door up and down, in and out, and side to side with just the twist of a screw):


(Photo credit: Popular Woodworking)


Making Informed Decisions


As I mentioned above, I personally love inset cabinets and are necessary to achieve certain design aesthetics (in fact, if I were to re-do our kitchen today, I would use them!). There are, like most things, additional considerations to be made when thinking of inset cabinets. With these, and so many other details to consider on a large-scale project, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. If you need help with a specific inset cabinet line, deciphering those beautiful finishes on Pinterest so you know exactly what to ask for, reducing costs (like this recent example where we saved a family $95,000 on their cabinet order... yes ninety-five thousand!!), or anything else with your project, consider booking a Cabinetry Consultation.


We're here to help give you the peace of mind knowing that your project will go as smoothly as possible with the support of our unbiased expertise. No matter your project, we'll help you find your Wayhome.

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