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Glossary of Terms: Puzzling Together the Pieces of a Functional Kitchen

As you begin to look at different cabinet lines, you'll notice that they are usually classified into categories such as wall, tall, base, vanity, other room, and accessory cabinets. These categories are intended to provide quick reference points to help you navigate the breadth of the lines and number of options that are available to you.


Some cabinets utilize various wood materials to provide strength, durability, and consistent quality.

• Particleboard – Board made from a mixture of real wood shavings and binding material, such as resin, which are refined and bonded together, then compressed with high heat and pressure

• Plywood – A manufactured wood panel made from thin sheets of wood veneer. It is one of the most widely used wood products. Plywood is used instead of plain wood because of plywood's resistance to cracking, shrinkage, splitting, and twisting/warping, and because of its generally high strength.

• Medium-density fiberboard (MDF) – Board formed by breaking down hardwood or softwood residuals into wood fibers. Heat and pressure are used to form a homogenous board excellent for machining and painting.

• Thermofoil – PVC (polyvinyl chloride) foil pressed onto an MDF (medium-density fiberboard) core using a heated, flexible membrane

• PureStyle – Made of moisture-resistant MDF (medium-density fiberboard) to ensure a consistent and stable product

• Laminate – A melamine-resin decorative paper thermally fused to a furniture board core material. Thermal fusion takes place under heat and pressure that permanently bonds the paper to the core material.

Door Details

• Raised panel - The center panel of the door is elevated.

• Recessed or Flat Panel – The center panel of the door is set lower.

• Full Overlay – The door of the cabinet overlays (or covers) the entire face frame.

• Partial Overlay – The door of the cabinet only partially overlays, leaving part of the matching frame exposed.

Box Construction

• Face Frame – The structural portion of the cabinet to which doors are attached, consisting of both rails and stiles

• End Panel – The side of the cabinet that is grooved into the face frame and extends back to the wall

• Bottom – The floor of the cabinet. On a wall and tall cabinet, the same component is used as the top.

• Back – The rear vertical surface used to mount the cabinet to the wall. Some brands have hanger rails behind the back.

• Adjustable Shelves – Horizontally placed storage surfaces that are adjusted by moving clips used to hold the shelf in place

• Toe Kick – The recessed toe space at the bottom of a base cabinet

Door Overview

• Center Panel – The raised or flat panel in the middle of a door enclosed by stiles and rails

• Center Stile – Sometimes called a mullion, this is the raised rail in the middle of a door that is enclosed by stiles and rails.

• Edge Profile – Shape put on the outside edge of a door or drawer front

• Rail – A horizontal framing member of a cabinet face frame or door

• Reveal – On a framed cabinet, the distance between the outside edge of the face frame and the outside edge of the door (varies depending on the door style, but is typically 3/16 to 1/4 inch)

• Stile – The vertical-framing members of a cabinet face frame or cabinet door


• Dovetail Joint – An interlocking corner joint where pins on one piece fit into sockets on a second piece

• Drawer Glide – The system used to support the drawer in a cabinet and provide opening/closing operation (availability of side and under-mount options vary by brand, as does availability of full and 3/4 drawer extension)


• Concealed Hinge – Not visible on the surface of the cabinet, may be self-closing

• QuietClose – An optional hinge or add-on device that will softly close doors and drawers, controlling slamming

• Knob – Surface hardware attached with one screw. Typically smaller than a pull used proportionally on a smaller door or drawer.

• Pull – Surface hardware attached with two screws. Typically pulls are larger than knobs.