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SCROGGS BLOG // Inset vs. Overlay Cabinets: What Are the Pros and Cons?

If you think that kitchen cabinets are unnecessary, you’re wrong. In fact, more people than ever are buying kitchen cabinets which is why the booming industry is currently growing by about 5% a year.

However, if you’re going to purchase kitchen cabinets either as part of a home remodel or just because you’re working on some home improvement tasks, you’ll need to choose a style. 

Two popular styles are onset cabinets and overlay cabinets. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of inset vs overlay cabinets. 

What Are Inset Cabinets?

Inset cabinets are a type of cabinet that function essentially as a box with an open front where the door goes. 

Inset cabinets have frames that stand out a little from the rest of the box. The doors then are slightly inset into the cabinet. 

What that means is that when the doors to the cabinets are closed, the doors will sit flush against the face of the frame. The door won’t sit above the frame at all, making a streamlined look for your cabinets. 

The hinges on inset cabinets are usually hidden inside the cabinet. This removes and hides unsightly hinges and railings.

The Pros of Inset Cabinets

Inset cabinets provide a couple of benefits. Let’s take a look at a few of these advantages:

Sleek Look

For one thing, these types of cabinets have a sleek, streamlined look because the doors are inset. On top of that, it won’t be easy to damage the doors since they’re set into the cabinet. 

Historically Accurate

Another benefit of inset cabinets is that they fit with certain period houses. If you’ve got a home that dates back to the 18th or 19th century, you might want to maintain the style of the home with inset cabinets. 

High Quality

Interestingly enough, it takes a little more skill to install inset cabinets. As such, many people choose these types of cabinets because they’re of better quality.

When you use highly-skilled craftsmanship on your home remodeling projects you can boost the value of your home. And, you know you’re getting a well-made product. 

The Cons of Inset Cabinets

Now, while there are certainly advantages to inset cabinets, there are also a couple of disadvantages to be aware of. Let’s take a look.


One issue with inset cabinets is also an advantage. Remember how we said these are higher-quality cabinets? Well, the high quality means that they’re also more expensive. 

If you’re looking to save money on your home improvement project, you might want to steer clear of inset cabinets. 

Humidity Problems

Another issue your inset cabinets may face is humidity. If you live in a humid area, the wood on your inset cabinets can expand and stick. 

The result is that you’ll have a tough time opening and closing your cabinets. Plus, this can lead to extra wear and tear on the cabinets. 

What Are Overlay Cabinets?

Some people prefer to use overlay cabinets when remodeling a kitchen. Overlay cabinets are cabinets in which the doors sit on the outside of the cabinet’s frame. 

The doors of these cabinets cover the entirety of the frame. That means that, unlike inset cabinets, you won’t be able to see the face of the cabinet at all.

Overlay cabinets tend to have a slightly more modern look to them. It’s a newer style of cabinetry, making your home look new and contemporary rather than sleek and retro.

The Pros of Overlay Cabinets

Overlay cabinets offer tons of benefits to homeowners. Here are some of the key advantages of these cabinets. 

Styled Look

Overlay cabinets can either be a full overlay or partial overlay. If you choose a full overlay, you’ll enjoy a streamlined look. On the other hand, a partial overlay adds a rustic feel to the cabinet. 

The result is that you have more versatility with your cabinets. You can use them to create a unique, styled look in your home. 


Probably the biggest advantage of overlay cabinets is that they tend to be much more affordable. You don’t need to be as skilled to install these types of cabinets, which makes them better for those on a budget. 

Plus, since they’re easier to install, you don’t have to shell out on an ultra-skilled craftsman. Instead, you can save a bit of cash by sticking to a more affordable installation team. 

More Storage Space

Another benefit of overlay cabinets is that they give you slightly more storage space. Since the doors get mounted on the frame of the cabinet, you don’t take up room inside the cabinet to mount the doors. 

While you might not notice this storage space, it can make it easier for you to get large items into the drawer or cabinet opening. 

The Cons of Overlay Cabinets

Despite these great perks of overlay cabinets, there are a couple of downsides, too. Let’s check them out. 

You Have to Add Hardware

Overlay cabinets don’t make it easy for you to open the doors by sliding your hand into the cabinet. As a result, you’ll have to add knobs and drawer pulls, requiring more hardware. 

The Corners Are Exposed

The corners of your cabinet doors are exposed on overlay cabinets. That can lead to damage and wear and tear over time. 

Choose Between Inset vs Overlay Cabinets

Now that you know the pros and cons of inset vs overlay cabinets, you’re ready to choose a cabinet style that works for you! Either one of these cabinet styles will make for a beautiful kitchen. 

Are you ready to get to work? Get in touch with our team! We’ll hook you up with a quote and get to work building your dream kitchen.