Why do face-framed cabinets persist in the market? While a customer demand for the style represented by face frames is understandable, what about all those cabinets emulating the European look? Surely, in that case the frame is nothing but redundancy.

When I speak to custom cabinet makers building only face-frame cabinets, the response is that they do not like producing a frameless cabinet. After some persistent questioning on my part, it turns out that melamine board is what is not liked by the cabinetmakers or their customers.

I think what is not liked is the fact that the substrate to melamine is usually particleboard. Melamine, as such, is in many ways a better alternative to most other forms of finishing whatever material is used for the cabinet structure.

Panel alternatives 

Melamine is comparable to high pressure laminates in many ways with regards to durability, and it is certainly much more economical than applied finishes such as paint. Melamine, however, cannot be thermo-fused to plywood, although it can be glued to it.

High pressure laminates, vinyl or Toppan can also be laminated to plywood, thus presenting practical surfaces with appeal to customers. Pre-finished plywood, too, will serve as a material to win a customer preferring “real wood” to a substrate such as particleboard or MDF. So, for that matter, is any plywood requiring finishing in the shop. Even so, with all these alternatives the face-frame persists in the market.

Reasons to go frameless 

From the alternatives stated this persistence in the industry against dropping the frame, cannot be as a result of customer preference, but that of the industry. So, why then is it time to take a hard look at frameless cabinetry again? Why do I ask myself this almost 30 years after the introduction of this technology to the United States?

Because a frameless cabinet is less costly to produce. It is far “greener”. The recovery of wood in a frame member from the mill to finished style or rail is less than 50 percent. The cost of material and labor for the manufacture and finishing of the frames versus edgebanding, can only be expressed in hyperbolic terms.

I recently went to a completed condominium project with European-style cabinets imported from China. The technology employed with regards to embossed Melamine, drawer and door systems represented the latest from Europe. When I heard the price of the cabinetry, including counter tops, sink and faucet, I was shocked.

To be sure this was a modular product, and the design was such that wall to wall and floor to ceiling were not incorporated, but also were not required. Not custom to be sure, but not bad either.
If you have any doubts about the trend I am looking at, take a trip to Ikea.

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