Cabinetry Terms 101: Study These Before Shopping!

Atlanta Homes Magazine 500x738 Cabinetry Terms 101: Study These Before Shopping!

Atlanta Homes Magazine

Buying new cabinetry for your home can be complicated and intimidating, especially if you've never done it before. You're probably worried about your inexperience showing through and being preyed upon by a commission-hungry salesperson. You're also worried that you won't know enough to make smart decisions and buy what you actually need for your remodel.

Luckily, there's a ton of information out there to help you put some of those fears to rest. You can start by learning the following lingo.

1-Piece Slab: A single piece of wood with little to no ornamentation (maybe some decorative designs carved near the edges but rarely anything more ornate). Sometimes these are called "solid wood" slabs. They are at a risk for warping over time, which other types of doors aren't (most doors are made up of several pieces of wood that have been pressed and glued together to guarantee stability over time).

Edge Banded: These are doors made out of three-quarter-inch-thick plywood with a matching veneer of "edgeband" glued over the top to cover up the rougher edges of the doors.

5-Piece Doors: These are most doors. The "pieces" are the four sides of the door and the center panel onto which they are attached. The top and bottom pieces are called "rails". The left and right side pieces are called "stiles" (the spelling is an old Mennonite and Amish tradition, not a misprint).

NOTE: Traditionally styled cabinets will have rails and stiles called "face frames" on their cabinet door faces. When reading descriptions, double-check to see if the copy is talking about just the face of the cabinet or the entire door.

Face Frame: The corner of the door - where the rails and stiles are joined together.
Cope-and-Stick: This is a type of joint. Sometimes it is called Mortise-and-Tenon; it is the type of joint that you want your cabinet to have.

Slot (sometimes called Mortise or Cope): Part of the Cope-and-Stick that gets routed into the area of the stile that meets the rail.

Tab (sometimes called a Stick or Tenon): A piece that gets routed out of the end of a rail. It goes into the slot on the stile and is secured in place with glue.

Cope-and-Stick doors are very sturdy and are more likely to hold up over time, but they are very rarely decorative. The work done on decorative doors often causes the slots and tabs to be misaligned so those doors need to be joined together via mitered joints or other finagling.

These are the most basic terms you need to understand before you head out to buy a new set of cabinets from your kitchen. It might also be a good idea to sit down with a catalog and a carpenter's dictionary to familiarize yourself with the more nuanced terms that some cabinetry makers will use. For now, though, this quick vocabulary lesson should be a good start.

Erin Steiner writes full time from her home in Portland, Oregon. She creates content of all varieties from profiles of professionals like Charles Phillips to editorials and opinion-based articles.

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