Overlay Explanation

Probably the most confusing aspect of door and drawer front replacement is understanding and figuring out the Overlay.

Fortunately, our Overlay Guide  covers this subject from A-Z

Cabinet Overlay can be difficult to understand but is essential to ordering the proper size doors and drawer fronts, especially if you are going to change from your existing Overlay.

The Overlay will play a huge role in your kitchen's overall appearance, so making the right decision on Overlay size is key to creating a fantastic look that you can be proud of.

To understand Overlay, we have to first understand the cabinet.

The image to the Right illustrates a typical Face Frame Cabinet.  A Face Frame cabinet consists of the cabinet box or carcass, that is usually built using plywood or particle board.  A solid wood frame, Face Frame, is then attached to the front of that box in order to create an attractive wooden face that the doors can attach to.

The Frame consists of Horizontal and Vertical pieces of wood, called Stiles and Rails.  These create the openings that the drawers slide into or doors attach to.Stile and Rails may vary in size by manufacturer, so be sure to measure accurately in order to get the perfect size door for your application.

European cabinets, commonly referred to as Full Access or Frameless cabinets, do not have a Face Frame. 
Their Side panels are what the hinges attach to.



The next image to the Right shows a side-by-side look at both, a Frameless cabinet and a Face Frame cabinet.  

Notice how the hinges attach to the Frameless cabinet's box while the hinges on the Face Frame cabinet attach to the Face Frame itself.

Frameless cabinets are less common but are typical of some companies such as IKEA and some RTA or Ready To Assemble companies which offer both, Frameless and Face Frame cabinets.

Some home furnishings, such as bookshelves and desks commonly purchased that require assembly are usually Frameless.

Big box stores such as Home Depot and Lowes offer mostly Face Frame cabinets but some of the manufactureres that they carry, such as KraftMaid, Hampton Bay, Midtown, American Woodmark, Diamond, Shenandoah and Schuler offer custom cabinets in either Frameless or Face Frame.

If you aren't sure of the type of cabinet you have, please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected] or Toll Free at (833) 308-3667


For Face Frame cabinets, there are 4 common Overlay sizes, 1/2", 3/4", 1" and 1 1/4" or Full Overlay.

The most common are 1/2", often referred to as "Half Overlay" or "Partial Overlay", and 1 1/4" or "Full Overlay".  Overlays can vary by manufacturer, so be sure you measure your existing Overlay is you plan on simply replacing your doors.

The image shows what each looks like and how much of the Face Frame is covered depending on the amount of Overlay. 
Most Face Frames are 1 1/2" wide so a 1/2" Overlay will cover 1/2" of the Face Frame, leaving 1" of Face Frame.  The space between the doors on double door cabinets as well as adjoining cabinets will be 2".

Full Overlay, 1 1/4" on a 1 1/2" stile, doors will only leave 1/2" between doors, creating a more modern look.


It may be difficult to envision the differences and what they really mean. 

The image to the right shows the most common Overlays and what they look like in real life.

Manufacturers may have custom sized Doors, Cabinets, Overlays or any combination of these, making door replacement more difficult.  Fortunately, a simple solution is to measure the Stile, measure the opening and decide what look you want to achieve. 

Our Door Size Calculator, located on each Door Style page, will tell you exactly what size doors you need to order!


Frameless or European style cabinets do not have a face frame so their Overlay is generally called "Full Overlay", although there are variations throughout the industry, our Door Size Calculator only calculates for Full Overlay on Frameless cabinets.

Blum©  is who we recommend for hinges.  They have extensive documentation concerning hinges, which we reference more in the next section called "Types of Hinges"


Overlay is a quick and easy way to change the entire look of a kitchen, however changing your overlay requires the Hinges to also be changed.  

In the next section, we'll discuss Hinges and how to select the proper Hinge for the Overlay you decide on using for your new kitchen makeover!