The Truth about Inset vs. Overlay Cabinets

Author: Sydney Piwowar

Inset Cabinets

Inset doors are set into the frame and provide a custom and smooth overall appearance. The doors, drawers, and frame all sit flush when closed.

Inset cabinets are priced quite a bit higher than overlay cabinets, and they do require hardware (or a push system) because you can’t simply open them with your fingers.

Pros: Custom and high end look and cleaner lines. Hinges can be visible or hidden.

Cons: Higher cost. Gaps can be obvious in places. Can be less storage space because the doors are inset.

Full Overlay Cabinets

Full Overlay cabinets offer a similar appearance to that of inset doors but with a lower price tag (yes, please!). The doors and drawers completely cover the cabinet face, providing a flat cabinet front similar to inset cabinets.

This is the way to go if you want a higher-end look but your budget doesn’t allow for inset cabinets.

Pros: Less expensive than inset. Gapping between frame and door (or drawer) is not obvious.

Cons: N/A

Partial Overlay Cabinets

Partial overlay cabinets are the most common and least expensive option. If you have a tight budget, this is the route you want to go! These offer more of a traditional look and do not require hardware because there is finger space between cabinet doors. The door sits on the cabinet face, leaving a gap of about 1” between the doors. 

Pros: Least expensive option.

Cons: Doesn’t look as high-end.