Traditional to Modern: New Kitchen Cabinet Doors + PANYL



Most kitchen cabinets are built with either "face frame" or "frameless" construction. Face frame cabinets are also called "traditional", and you may hear frameless construction referred to as "European style". Each has its benefits and drawbacks.

Framed cabinets are generally considered to be more durable, and have a sturdier, arts & crafty look. More likely to be found in custom or semi-custom cabinets, framed cabinets are usually more expensive. On the other hand, so-called "flat-pack" or "ready-to-assemble" cabinets are usually of the frameless variety. Frameless cabinet systems tend be more modular and inexpensive. 

In this post, we'll describe how we added new hinges and doors to a set of traditional face frame cabinets. The goal was to create the modern, streamlined look of European-style, frameless cabinets, without having to purchase or install new cabinet boxes.

Framed vs. Frameless: What's the difference?

Framed cabinets have a 1 1/2" to 2" wide frame around the opening. Frameless cabinets, as the name implies, do not:




In framed cabinets the door hinges are mounted to the face frame. In frameless construction, the hinges connect directly to the sides of the carcass (i.e. the cabinet box).




Frameless cabinets accept only one type of door. Known as "full overlay" doors, they span all the way across the front of the cabinet, covering up the front edges of the cabinet walls.



Face frame cabinets, however, can accept three types of doors: full overlay, partial overlay or inset doors. Full overlay doors sit in front of, and cover, the entire face frame. Partial overlay doors are also in front of the face frame, but cover just part part of it.  This results in what is called a "reveal" - that is, part of the face frame is visible behind the gap in between the doors.   Inset doors are flush with, and fit perfectly between the face frames.



The kitchen cabinets in this apartment were custom-built in the 80's.  The boxes were still solid, but many of the doors were worn, and the look was dated.  It would've cost around $3500 to replace them with new IKEA cabinets.  



The owners elected to order new, full-overlay, slab doors to wrap with PANYL.  Since the original cabinets were custom-built, the door width measurements were unique for each cabinet.  They ordered 15 custom-sized, MDF doors and four drawer-fronts from Reface Depot. The cost was roughly $600 including delivery for the cheapest available finish - white melamine - which is very similar to the IKEA Häggeby door style.  The doors came with pre-drilled holes for the hinges, and took just under three weeks to arrive.

When pairing doors with face-frame hinges, it's important to pay close attention to the width of the overlap between the face frame and the door.  This is called the "overlay".  In this case, the face frames were 1 5/8" wide.  There needed to be at least 1/4" between each adjacent door in order to provide clearance to allow them to open.  Thus the appropriate overlay hinge size is 1 5/8" - 1/4" =  1 3/8".   The Blum Compact 39C , at roughly $3 each, matched this requirement  Since the doors included pre-drilled holes for both the cup and the dowels (i.e. the screws), the only step necessary to attach the hinges to the doors was to tap them in with a hammer.

After we PANYLed the doors, we tapped the hinges into the doors (no screwing required).  Then it was straightforward to drive a single screw through each hinge into the door frame. 




Before inserting the hinges, however, we used the standard PANYL edge-wrapping technique to completely cover the doors and drawer-fronts in the Rosewood woodgrain pattern.  After centering the PANYL over the door front, you use a squeegee to transfer the PANYL onto the door surface.



Light back and forth pressure is all it takes to crease the wrap along the four front edges:



After creasing the edges, cut at a 45 degree angle to the corner, leaving two corner flaps, or "wings".



Next, wrap two edges opposite each other. 



When you reach the corners, wrap the wings all the way around the sides on two opposite sides of the door.  Then, one by one, wrap the remaining perpendicular edges.  Trim away the remaining wings.  Feather the corner seams with a sanding block if necessary. 



Trim any excess material along the back edges with a knife.  Alternatively, wrap the excess around to the rear surface, and use a sanding block to shave away the back edge.



After 3-4 passes with the sanding block, the excess material can be peeled off. 



To cover the face frames, we used 1 1/2" pre-cut strips.



Since the cabinets were older and custom built, there were slight variations in the width of the different splines (the vertical frame pieces).   So we used a sanding block to feather the edges.



After wrapping the splines, we wrapped the rails (the horizontal frame bars).  Note the overlap on the upper right.



A t-square and a vertical knife cut trims excess material from the rail.






Wrapping all of the doors took two people roughly 3 hours. 



In three hours, this kitchen went from traditional to PANYLed!