April 03, 2023


If you're renovating your kitchen, you may decide to give your kitchen cabinets a new look with an updated overlay. Cabinet door overlays can drastically change the appearance of your cabinets, creating a transformed kitchen space. However, before you replace your cabinet overlays, it's important to learn about your options and how to find the best type for your specific space.

What does “overlay” mean? Learn all about cabinet door overlays and other essential cabinet components here to help you make the best decision for your kitchen renovation project.


A cabinet door hinge overlay is the front part of the cabinet that's visible around the door. In other words, it's the correlation of the cabinet door to its frame. This space, or lack of space, changes the appearance of the cabinet. For example, traditional kitchen cabinets can have an overlay measuring about a finger width, while modern kitchen cabinets might not have any overlay, or space, at all.

There are four terms used to describe cabinet door mountings:

  1. Inset: This is where the cabinet door is mounted inside a face frame, which is a frame fixed to the front of a cabinet's structure. Here, the front edge of the cabinet is flush with the door.
  2. Partial inset: In this case, the door has a small lip with a groove. The groove is cut all the way around the door, on the back edge. The door sits back into the cabinet, but the remaining part rests on the face frame.
  3. Full overlay: The cabinet door rests on top of the face frame. Often, the cabinet door is flush with the door next to it, with no space between the cabinets. A full overlay works for face frame and frameless cabinets, the latter of which is a type of cabinet where the face frame is eliminated, and the door is completely flush with the cabinet structure.
  4. Partial overlay: This is the standard option where the cabinet door rests on top of the frame, but there is a space between the doors. A partial overlay can't be installed on frameless cabinets.

Here's more information about the two specific types of cabinet overlays:


A full overlay rests entirely on top of your cabinet's face frame, leaving no gaps or spaces in between. This is achieved by creating cabinets with larger fronts to cover the frame. Often, the hinges are also hidden, so the only part visible is the door and the knob or handle.

Typically, modern, sophisticated kitchens with minimalist designs feature cabinets with full overlays. Further, overlay cabinets have a larger storage capacity than other options, making it easier to fit in larger kitchen tools.


These overlays are considered the standard option in the industry. In this case, the door lays over the door frame by half an inch. The actual space between the doors is around 2 inches.

Common kitchen styles with partial or half-inch overlays include:

  • Traditional
  • Classic
  • Cottage
  • Contemporary

Because the industry's standard is partial or half-inch, they tend to be the most economical choice. If you're opting for a kitchen without any hardware, a partial overlay for your cabinets is the best option, as your fingers can grab the corners of the door to open the cabinet.


If you're choosing frameless cabinets, the hinges are installed inside each cabinet. The hinges can be fully concealed or feature a thin interlocking finger exposed on the outside. In comparison, face frame cabinets have hinges installed fully on the exterior.

You'll need to know your cabinets' exact measurements when changing or purchasing new hinges. Usually, this is a standard measurement, but older or custom kitchen designs might have some exceptions. The width you need is on the side of the face frame where the hinges will be installed.


If the doors still need to be installed, you can easily measure the width of the frame with a measuring tape. If the doors are already installed, then follow this easy guide to help you measure:

  1. Line your measuring tape from the edge of the frame face to the edge of the cabinet door. You can also create a faint pencil line along the edge of the cabinet door if you prefer.
  2. Open the door.
  3. Measure from the inside of the tape edge to the edge of the opening.

You can also calculate the edge, but it might not be as accurate as a direct measurement.

You'll need to measure a little differently if your cabinet has a notched face frame. A notched face frame is where a curve is created in the face frame to make space for a Eurpeon hinge. Measure from the innermost edge of the notch instead of the edge of the face frame.


After determining the space of your cabinet's overlay, you can determine the size of the hinge. For example, an overlay with a 1/2-inch face frame will get a 1/2-inch concealed overlay hinge.

The two most common hinge sizes are:

  • 1/2 inch
  • 1 1/4 inch

If you're designing your kitchen from scratch, you'll have the option to choose from a variety of styles and designs for your hinges. In this scenario, choose your hinge first, as this will determine whether you can get an overlay, a partial overlay or one of the other options for your cabinets.

If you already have a kitchen with cupboards and are looking to replace their hinges, then you'll be a little more limited in your design options. Still, you can choose from many suitable options, so long as they fit with your cabinets' existing overlay design. For example, soft-close cabinet hinges offer a great upgrade for your cabinets and come in various sizes.


Cabinet Doors ‘N’ More provides affordable, high-quality custom kitchen cabinet doors, drawer fronts and accessories for your next kitchen upgrade. We manufacture our products to order, meaning you get cabinet parts that perfectly fit your space.

Browse our range of products today, and chat with our team to start your kitchen renovation.


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