Choosing between Inset vs. Overlay Kitchen Cabinet Doors

When it comes to kitchen remodeling, there are hundreds of decisions that you will have to take. What color should your walls be? Should you invest in a fixed island or a portable one? What is the better choice: inset or overlay kitchen cabinet doors? They look the same – or are they really? What are the benefits and drawbacks of every choice? So many questions, so many choices, and everything is actually becoming quite a headache. To make at least one aspect easier for you, here are inset cabinet doors versus overlays explained.

Understanding Inset Cabinet Doors

If you look carefully at your kitchen cabinet doors, you will see that they have a particular opening and closing style. In regard to inset cabinet doors, they were made to fit within the frame of the cabinet. Since these doors are resting flat with the rest of the frame, you often need a knob or a handle to open it.

With these door types, the hinges can either be exposed or hidden. Many people like them for their rather clean appearance, while giving off a historical vibe of cabinets of old. To make a comparison, these cabinet doors line up exactly with the frame rather than being placed right above it.

These cabinets doors are quite durable because will not easily be nicked at the corner. Since the corners are protected within the cabinetry frame when they are closed, they are expected to last for quite a lot of time. This is also the reason why these cabinets tend to be slightly more expensive (approximately about 15-30%).

One drawback, however, is that they do not work really well with humid climates. When the air around them is humid, both the doors and the drawers may expand, causing them to stick further into the frame. This will generally make it much more difficult to open them.

That being said, provided they are installed in the right environment, these cabinets generally feature great craftsmanship and very high quality.

Going for Overlay Kitchen Cabinet Doors

Unlike inset cabinet doors that go within the frame, these doors go exactly over the frame – made to fully cover the entire thing. Whereas the face of the frame is completely visible with an inset cabinet door, the overlay completely hides it. This is why it features quite a streamlined, clean look. This type was particularly popular a few decades ago when all you would see was this type of cabinets.

In comparison to inset cabinet doors, this type comes at a much lower cost. This is due to the fact that they do not require as much craftsmanship, and they are quite easy to install – making them a good choice for those that are trying to remodel their kitchen on a budget.

Plus, since these cabinets do not have the doors installed inside the frame, you also get a bit more storage. Granted, it won’t be more than an inch or two – but those inches can mean the world when you are trying to squeeze a large pot inside – one that would normally leave your kitchen doors open.

Still, the main drawback is that this type of cabinet doors have exposed corners – which means that it will be much easier for them to become rounded or nicked as time passes. Plus, since you won’t have any space to slide your fingers in between the doors, the chances are that you will need to invest in knobs or pulls.

That being said, overlay kitchen cabinet doors are a great choice if you are shopping on a budget – and if you don’t particularly trust your installation skills. Most shops such as IKEA will sell you the parts for better transportability, meaning that you will have to install them yourself. Due to their simple design, it should be quite easy for anyone to install, regardless of their skills.

Final Thoughts

So, should you go for insets, or should you do for overlays? Well, it mostly depends on your budget and your installation skills – but also your personal preferences. Some people get along better with inset cabinet types, whereas others prefer overlays. You just need to find out which one you love more. For more kitchen remodeling tips, visit

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