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Measuring and Helpful Answers about Cabinet Doors

Brushy Creek Custom Doors section index

How to Measure for my new Cabinet Doors

We will offer you some tips and advice about how to order the right size doors and drawer fronts for your kitchen. And other refacing supplies. Whether you are measuring for 3D Laminate Doors or Wood Doors, the way you measure is the same.

First, we need to quickly define the difference between face frame and frameless (Euro box) cabinetry.

A cabinet box has its two side walls, the base (bottom), and cross supports across the top when a base cabinet, those cabinets below your countertop. Generally, the countertop acts as the roof of a cabinet. For upper cabinets, they will have a top. If these 3 or 4 sides of the cabinet box have nothing over them in front, that is a frameless cabinet (also called Euro box). If they have a four sided frame, like a flat picture frame attached to the front of the box, that is a face frame cabinet. The two illustrations below will help.
Frameless cabinet box also called a Eurobox cabinet
Frame Frame cabinet illustration
You will measure a little differently for each, and technically, face frame cabinetry is easier to work with. Why? Well, if your cabinet boxes are a bit out of square, the face frame covers that and you never know. And face frame cabinetry offers ease in using both concealed hinges or semi-concealed hinges.

Measuring for Face Frame Cabinetry

I will go over this first, since I took pictures. The most common application with face frame cabinetry is the 1/2" overlay. It is not the only application, just by far, the most popular. 1/2" overlay means that your cabinet doors and drawer fronts overlap the face frame 1/2" on all 4 sides. Thus if you have a base cabinet and the opening in the face frame measures 15" wide and 21" tall, then a door that measures 16" wide and 22" tall would overlap all 4 sides by 1/2".

Whether you are refacing a kitchen, or building a brand new kitchen, measuring for doors is the same. You can use your old doors as a guide when refacing, but better to measure each and every opening to the sixteenth of an inch, and measure twice to make sure. Since all doors are custom made, you want your measurements correct from the first step in ordering. So with no door in place, or with the door open, measure the opening of your face frame, Width x Height. Keep a system going, always Width x Height, even on drawer fronts. Knowing which measurement is which is important for grain direction. So keep them all W x H.

If you are replacing doors and want to figure out your existing overlay as a guide, here is what you can do to check it. Get some blue painters tape, tape a couple of pieces on the face frame aligning them with the door corner, so you can measure two ways. Then open the door and measure from the edge of the face frame to the edge of the tape. You might be off by just a hair, but you should get an accurate measurement. Best to do the same to the opposite diagonal corner of the door to confirm overlay on the other two sides.
Using blue painters tape to measure your cabinet door overlay
Using blue painters tape to measure your cabinet door overlay
You now begin to measure your face frame openings. Doesn't hurt to have a small sketch of your kitchen made so you do not forget any doors. You can lable them A, B, C, etc. if you like, or whatever system you want to set up. Just stay organized and write down the measurements to all openings, to the sixteenth of an inch. When you start seeing numbers like 18-3/16" wide and 21-1/4" tall, and drawer openings 18-3/16" wide and 5-5/16" tall, this is normal. Very few custom kitchens have openings rounded off to even inch intervals. Expect some pretty wild measurements. Also expect that all of your base cabinets that appear will have the same height door should come out the same, but might not. If you measure one base cabinet or even upper cabinet opening at one height, then an identical height cabinet beside it measures 1/32" to 1/8" different, which does happen, agree on the same number for both. Remember, face frame cabinetry allows you a little wiggle room. If you mount a pair of cabinet doors, and then another pair beside them, you want them to look identical. Just because your face frame is off, don't make the doors off.

What I mean by this if one opening is 25-7/16" tall, and the one beside it is 25-1/2", order the height of all those doors as 26-7/16" or 26-1/2". Agree on one size going across. When the doors are closed, you will not see the openings. But if the doors are off in height, you may notice that. The overlay on the height is controlled only by your measurements. Measure your kitchen to come out even when some openings are off by a tinge.

Now the width of the door is different. You have less wiggle room. On the width, the overlay on the hinge side is controlled by the hinge (and on frameless cabinets by the placement of the concealed hinge cup hole). When using 1/2" overlay face frame mount hinges with the door bored for concealed hinges in the right place, you get 1/2" overlay on the hinge side. The opposite side of the door is controlled entirely by the width measurement you request. Thus, your next consideration, do you have one door covering one face frame opening, or two doors covering one opening?
Face frame cabinet doors one per opening
A pair of doors with a center stile creating two openings. Thus one door covers one opening. Very easy to measure for 1/2" overlay on all four sides.
Face frame stile between cabinet openings
Close up of center stile that creates two openings. This face frame is 1-1/2" wide. Thus when you have doors with 1/2" overlay, 1/2" + 1/2" leaves a leftover 1/2" of space between the closed doors.
Pair of face frame cabinet doors how to measure
Now a pair of doors that cover one opening. Notice the narrow gap between them.
face frame cabinet doors covering one cabinet box opening
A close up of that center gap. The normal plan is to aim for a 1/8" gap between pairs of doors that cover one opening.

One door covering one opening

This is easy. Measure the opening, add 1" to the width and the height. Adding 1" is just like adding 1/2" twice. Just makes the math easier. Pretty much every drawer front will cover one opening only. So same plan, measure the opening, add 1" to the width, and 1" to the height. The opening in front of your sink measures 32-1/6" wide by 5-3/8" high. Your false front, which is still a drawer front, will be 33-1/6" w x 6-3/8" h. The majority of your pairs of cabinet doors will most likely have a center stile. This is very common. But the pair in front of your sink, most likely will not.

Two doors covering one opening

One of the reasons why your pair of cabinet doors in front of the sink may have no center stile (dividing rail) is to allow the plumber to fit inside your cabinet when he needs to work on the faucet or piping. You could also have a pantry and other doors that hinge left and right and cover one opening with a very small gap between them.
Pantry doors in a kitchen
Face frame cabinet drawer box opening
A drawer box opening generally has one drawer front over one opening. Tossing in the picture here because it fits on the page.
When you have a pair of doors covering one opening, you are going to plan for a 1/8" gap between them. So on our 1/2" overlay plan, the top and bottom of each doors will still have a 1/2" overlay, and the hinge side of each door will have a 1/2" overlay. But where they meet, there really is no stile to overlay, it is open space. They are overlaying air. So the way you will measure for the width of the two doors is like this:

a) Measure your opening width, say you get 32-1/4". You still want 1/2" OL on the far left and far right, so still add in 1". So two doors have to span 33-1/4". Divide by 2, thus 16-5/8" each. BUT BUT the doors would then bang into each other. No center gap yet. Thus subtract 1/16" from each. 1/16" + 1/16" off each door, leaves 1/8" gap between them. Thus each door will be 16-9/16" wide. This is the common formula when using 1/2" OL as your plan.

b) For a spec easier math, using the same example above: On your 32-1/4" opening, add 7/8", thus 33-1/8". Now divide that by two equals 16-9/16". It is the same math, just skipping a step to simplify. By adding in only 7/8" instead of 1", saves from having to subtract out for the 1/8" gap later. You get the same result. Do whichever is easier for you. Most people use method A.

One more note about a pair of doors over one opening and with a single drawer front or false front above them. On the 32-1/4" opening example above, we just determined the width for our two doors to be 16-9/16" each. But on the single drawer front above them, it will be 33-1/4" total. This way the left side and right side line up on even vertical lines with the doors below it. The drawer front has no gap in the middle. So you do not make the drawer front the added width of the two doors. It is the added width of the doors and the gap between them. You have to keep even edge lines, or things will start to look like Bozzo the Clown installed your doors and drawer fronts. No offence, Bozzo, you are funny, but you are not a carpenter.

What if I am not doing a 1/2" overlay?

What? Why would you want to do something crazy like that? Overlay is preference. 1/2" is common, but not the only way. You could have 3/8", you could have 1", or even different overlays top and bottom. Some applications have doors extending low to hide the toe kick, or just the entire bottom of the face frame. Some face frame rails are not 1-1/2". They could be almost any size from 1-1/2" to 4", some are very wide. Some people want to see most of their face frame, some want to see less or none of it and pretend they have frameless cabinetry.

So the overlay you measure for is under your control. Note that they type or size of hinge you use is going to control the overlay on the hinge side only. The other three sides of your door are under your discretion to say how big, or big enough they become. The 1/2" overlay is popular because most face frames are 1-1/2" wide, and the 1/2" is very easy math for the whole kitchen, or cabinetry project.

Now what about those frameless cabinets?

Euro box cabinetry generally refers to overlay as full overlay or half-overlay, and then there is a full inset application too. So you see the edges of your cabinet boxes as shown in our black and white diagram at the top of this page. Full overlay would refer to covering almost the entire edge. Yes, almost the entire edge. Because if you do cover the entire edge, and you have back to back hinged doors butted together, how can you open them. They would be pinching on each other. So you cover almost the entire edge leaving that tiny bit of swing room for the door to start opening and not pinch on any door potentially next to it on the hinge side of the door. Thus if your cabinet box material is 5/8" thick, which is quite common now, the 1/2" overlay or up to 9/16" overlay is just fine, and preferred. The placement of the concealed hinge cup hole is going to determine how much overlay can be achieved. If bored at 2.5 or 3mm which is common, with a normal full overlay hinge, you are only going to get 1/2" of overlay. If bored at 6mm, you most likely will get 5/8" overlay. Many good concealed hinges immediately start to pull the door over the cabinet opening as it starts to swing open. This is to reduce that possibility of pinching with the next door over butted hinge side to hinge side. I cannot say all work this nicely, but many from Blum, Grass, and Salice will. And most hinges have 6 way adjustment. So if you need to shift a door left or right, you can. And you do have that 1/8" gap between pairs of doors which you can bring down a little if needed with hinge adjustment to move the door away from the other direction. The 6-way hinge adjustment also is to help you align doors in 6 directions.

Back to overlay. Half-overlay term is not saying the same as 1/2" overlay. Half-overlay means your door covers only half the thickness of the cabinet box walls. So in essense, you may be overlaying 5/16" of those 5/8" cabinet box walls and base. Generally a hinge mounting plate with a thicker build up is what controls this, or the crank arm of a Euro box hinge. Hinges are so complicated that I am not even going to get into it here.

Then inset application. Not common in a kitchen, but quite popular on furniture. The door or doors sit entirely within the opening, they do not overlay anything. An inset application on a face frame is also possible. Not common, but it is done sometimes. Again the hinge or hinge mounting plate generally control this type of application. And not just concealed hinges. A simple butt hinge can create an inset application.

Frameless cabinets, especially older ones, may have 3/4" thick sidewalls. Most concealed hinges are only going to give you up to 5/8" overlay when bored at a 6mm edge distance. Blum has a hinge with 2mm extra overlay built into it for these 3/4" OL applications. Again, lots to know about hinges. Too much to say here.

Drawer fronts on frameless cabinets are generally mounted with minimal gap to the doors below them, or in drawer banks. The 1/8" gap between any fronts is a good goal to aim for. It gives you some tweaking room and allows you to achieve some straight lines. Sometimes a door and a drawer cover one vertical opening, they split the difference - unevenly. If you have cabinetry like this, do try to keep all your base cabinet doors the same height under your drawer fronts which you keep at a uniform height. If you have corner cabinets, or a cabinet that you use for a taller slide out trash can, that door can be full coverage of your opening with no drawer above it.

Measuring takes a little work, and it is one of the most important steps. When measuring for molding or refacing material, anticipate that you will need a liitle more than your exact measurements. So plan to get a little extra. Molding come in 8' lengths, you you have to buy even sticks of them. Refacing material is sold by the linear foot with grain direction following the length of the cut you request. Small kitchens may get by with a small piece or two. Larger kitchen may need a few pieces in a 48" w by 96" long (max) piece. Frameless cabinetry is generally refaced on the cabinet box ends, and not the front edges. Face frame cabinets are refaced on the front, you see them. Sometimes you just paint, but most of the time, you want a match to your doors. The 3D Laminate material from Brushy Creek is available to reface your face frames and cabinet box ends. Mock doors are sometimes used on your cabinet box ends too. That is nice, but it adds up on cost. Refacing material or paint on the cabinet box ends can save money on your project.

We were trying to be as thorough as possible with the above, and it was all freshly typed without referring to our old web page on measuring. If we missed anything, or if anything is suggested to be added, the page will see some updates over the years to come. Measuring for wine racks, fillers, and valances is fairly straight forward, but if you have questions, call or e-mail us.
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