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Face Frame Kitchen Base Cabinets

Building your own kitchen cabinets can give you a greater level of customization and quality, all at an affordable price.  We've built many kitchens over the years, and have refined our process down to this for Face Frame Kitchen Cabinets.


Why Face Frame?

With Shelf Help providing a finished front edge on all carcasses, face frames are NOT required and will add more expense and add additional steps to your kitchen build.  

  • Face frames increase the strength of kitchen cabinets
  • A face frame can finish front edges of cabinetry if not edge banding
  • Face frames can be used to hang drawer slides and cabinet doors in wider openings
  • In homes where walls are not square, a face frame can be used to help align cabinets

In the video we choose to add face frames since the island is not attached to any walls, and we wanted to increase the strength to hold the solid stone countertop.


Face frame cabinets can be made in any width, but consider after about 36" shelves may start to sag and drawers may not slide as smooth.  In this template, the example cabinet is 36" wide.  Height (34-1/2" and depth (24-3/4" overall) are the same no matter your cabinet width.



To get the math worked out for your cabinets, use our free configurator by inputing desired width, and the standard height (34-1/2") and standard depth (23-1/4").

If shelves are desired, add to the configuration.

If you want to use your face frame to line up cabinets in a room with out of square walls, make your carcass 1/2" smaller than the desired cabinet size.  The face frame will be the full width.  This leaves 1/2" gaps in between cabinets behind the face frame, for squaring up cabinets.

Carcass Building

Order your carcass pieces through our configurator, or cut out on a tablesaw. It is very important that the cuts are precise and square for your cabinets to turn out professional looking.


Cut toekick out of all side panels.  Toekick can be any height and depth, 4" x 4" is my standard but you can adjust depending on what type of finished toekick you are using.

Drill four 3/4" pocket holes on the underside of the bottom shelf on both ends. Attach with 1-1/4" pocket hole screws and glue so bottom edge is flush with toekick.

Bay Supports

You'll need additional framing to finish out the cabinet.  I recommend 1x3 or 1x4 furring strips, attach with 3/4" pocket holes and 1-1/4" pocket hole screws. Bay supports are also recommended on the bottom of the cabinet.


Face Frame

Face frames are made of 1x2 boards.  Use poplar for a painted finish, and wood in desired species to match doors for a stained finish.

Measure and cut the face frame to fit your cabinet.  Attach the face frame pieces together first with 3/4" pocket holes and 1-1/4" pocket hole screws.  Then attach the completed face frame to the front of the cabinet with 1-1/4" brad nails and glue.


 For double drawers or doors, additional face framing can be added as shown.

Drawers on Face Frame Cabinets

Drawers on face frame cabinets are hung on the face frame.  You'll need to block out with wood to match the face frame overlay to support drawer slides.  For a full row of drawers, simply run the blocking all the way down the cabinet vertically.


Drawer slides as shown are 22" full extension ball bearing, requiring 1/2" clearance on each side.  If using other drawer slides, consult the instructions before building your drawer box.

The drawer box should be 1x4 for top drawers. Drawer sides are 22" and drawer front and back are the opening of the face frame, minus 2-1/2".  Build the drawer box with 3/4" pocket holes and 1-1/4" pocket hole screws, pocket holes placed on outsides. For the bottom, cut 1/4" plywood to drawer box dimensions, and attach with 3/4" nails or staples and glue.

Doors and Drawer Faces

Full overlay doors and drawer faces are recommended.

Figure drawer faces and doors with a total of 1/2" reveal of face frame, considering when two cabinets are placed side by side, the reveal should still equal 1/2".  The below diagram shows this.


Only the face frame and drawer faces and doors need to be painted or stained.  The interior carcass and drawer boxes should be protected with a clear coat or polyurethane or similar.


On install, the face frames should be lined up and attached together with 2-1/2" cabinet screws.  Also attach the bay supports to the wall behind the cabinets.