The Anatomy of a Kitchen Cabinet

Posted by Staff on 8th Jun 2023

You don’t need to know the nitty-gritty details of cabinets to get a great set installed. But if you are wondering why some kitchen cabinets cost so much more than others, it's because they are made differently. Understanding these differences will help you find the best cabinets for your kitchen.

Construction Differences in Kitchen Cabinets

Construction Material

Cabinet boxes are normally made of either plywood or particleboard. The all-plywood cabinets with full sides and backs are the strongest. You need cabinets that will not warp during delivery and can hold the weight of heavy countertops. Particleboard is less expensive, but could be damaged from moisture or crushing.

Cabinet Back Construction

The back of the cabinet will impact the strength of the cabinets and the ease of installing them. Full-height back panels in 3/8-inch thick plywood are the strongest. Less expensive models may have thinner backs ranging from 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch, with hang rails, metal rails, picture-frame construction, or even brackets to stay in place.

Cabinet Hinges Cabinet Hinges


Cheaply made hinges may stick, be too loose, be overly tight or stop the door from closing all the way. Soft-close hinges used on quality cabinets will eliminate the sound of your doors slamming. These quality cabinet hinges can adjust six ways (in, out, up, down, left and right) for seasonal changes that make the house expand or contract.

Drawer Glides

The glides (or slides) along the bottoms or sides of your drawers are responsible for the smooth and quiet movement of drawers in your kitchen. Weight and hard use over years can lead to sagging, loud squeaking or sticking drawers. An under-mount with soft-close glides can be chosen to support quite a bit of weight — 90 pounds or more — and prevent fingers from getting caught in a carelessly slammed drawer. These glides are sound-dampening and very durable.

Dovetail Drawer Dovetail Drawer

Drawer Box Construction

A dovetail drawer box is created with a series of joints for a longer-lasting lifespan than those with a simple straight-edge construction. The strength of the joint comes directly from the wood and not wood glue. Then, grooved joints hold the solid plywood bottom in place.

Interior Surface Interior Surface

Interior Surface

Cabinets can be stained wood veneer or made of melamine. While the veneer may absorb stains or food particles, the melamine is easy to clean, stain resistant and durable. Most commonly, melamine is a light birch color for a neutral material look that brightens the inside of the cabinet.

Other things that will impact the look and cost of your cabinets include:

  • Whether and how the front of the cabinet or door is framed (partial overlay, full overlay, inset or frameless/Euro), which provides a base for hinges and glides.
  • Whether they are assembled at the factory (top-quality cabinets and stronger) or you do it yourself (DIY cabinets).
  • Whether they include custom modifications (selecting styles, sizes and specialty features starting with a standard cabinet line), manufacturer stock (limited options), or custom cabinets (fully customized, high cost).
  • Whether they come with a lifetime limited warranty, short-term warranty or no warranty.
  • Whether they are Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association certified.

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