How much gap is acceptable in inset cabinet doors?

WMA89February 13, 2013

My new inset cabinets were delivered and installed this week. My eye was immediately drawn what looked like a larger than necessary gap between some of the upper doors and frame. The gap varies, but at its greatest it's about 3/8". The guy who did the cabinets is very well established and does primarily inset. Is this typical of inset cabinets? I wasn't prepared for it and the black space really bothers me. I'm attaching a photo, but it doesn't really show up as much in the picture as it does in person. The ones I'm most concerned about are on the upper left. Opinions?

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There has to be a certain about of space between the door and the frame because of expansion (which inset doors will do when it's humid), but 3/8" seems bigger than usual. But let's say 3/8" is what it needs to be, in my opinion the gaps should be even around the whole cabinet and not different sizes.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 6:35PM
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It's hard to tell from a photo, but the gaps look fairly even from here. 3/8" is excessive. Are you sure it's that big? It doesn't look that big in the photo. If you don't like the black space, why did you get inset? There will always be a gap there, it's part of the look of inset.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 7:59PM
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Is the 3/8 on the side of the hinges?

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 10:04PM
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3/8" is huge, those photos don't look that bad. But to answer your question- ALL the reveals should be consistent whatever it is...

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 10:10PM
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Maybe you meant 3/16"?
Can you do a closer photo?

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 10:37PM
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Just measured my inset cabs and the reveal is 1/16" to less than 1/8"

Also regarding consistency- some of that can be fixed with hinge adjustment. Mine were a little off at first but then they went around and adjusted them.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 10:41PM
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I think you mean 3/16" since I don't see anything close to 3/8" in your photo. That's well within the acceptable range for most stock inset cabinetry, though of course a benefit to using a custom cabinetmaker can sometimes be a smaller reveal. That said, too small in an area with humid summers and you can get doors rubbing. Ours are not 100% consistent (we used a cabinetmaker who was relatively new to custom, and charged us accordingly) but the biggest is 3/16" and the difference is not noticeable if you aren't looking for it. If they aren't the same and the bigger gaps bother you, I'd ask for it fixed unless you agreed to a range of tolerances.

This post was edited by artemis78 on Wed, Feb 13, 13 at 23:27

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 11:16PM
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I sure hope you mean at least 3/16th. When you order just doors, you have to order them 3/32nds smaller than the opening. So figuring that out, dividing it by 1/2 for each side? 3/8ths would be something I'd return.

Now here's another question. Are the spaces around the doors the same all the way around? It's possible they're not centered in their frame.

When I put in my doors, I take a zip tie and cut it into about 3" pieces.
I then painter's tape it along the inside of the frame.
When I set the door or drawer front in, the space around my door and drawer front is even.

Yours might need some adjusting up or down, side to side.

BTW. Your cabinest are lovely. Despite the gap that really doesn't show in the photo (sorry. I DO believe you! :) they're sooo pretty. Looks like you got a good guy! Talk with him.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 11:40PM
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Thanks, everyone. We did talk to the cabinet guy and he said they need to settle and then they would adjust the hinges. As several mentioned, part of the problem is that the gap is inconsistent--so perhaps when they make adjustments it won't be as noticeable. It's definitely worse when you see it in person--this is just a cell phone picture. The guy doing the finish work noticed it as well. I will try to remeasure the space later when there's light (still no electric in the kitchen). Thanks for the feedback. I do love the cabinets, and am glad I got inset--I guess I'm just picky!

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 5:47AM
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Hi, just checked again--it is 3/16" not 3/8"--sorry! Hopefully the adjustment will fix it visually! And yes, these are custom built.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 7:04AM
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It depends on the wood that was used. If it is a wood that expands more than others then starting with a wider gap is a good thing. I have had clients want a very, very small gap and I have them sign something stating that they know that it is going to scrub at some point. When we build inset we use 3/16 gap as our standard and we have a metal flat bar that we use for a spacer when fitting.
Travis Alfrey
Pinehurst, NC

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 8:16AM
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Even in the pictures, I can see that final adjustment needs to be done yet. Drawers need to be jacked a little, and probably again, when you get them loaded.

I think it will be fine.

Inset usually requires a couple different adjustment periods before they truly settle in.

and then show the customer how the 3 way hinge adjustment works, and how the drawer jackers work, so theyre not calling me everytime a reveal bothers them.

Its all about averages..

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 9:33AM
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As a cabinetmaker, I can tell you that quality work demands a 3/32" reveal. Anything larger is just poor workmanship.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 5:20PM
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Yeah!! I read correctly. My source (if you tell, I'll have to kill you) was Barker doors measuring guides!

BTW. No, you're not being too picky. Now is the time to make it exactly what you want. Don't look at something and say, "Oh, I'll get used to it" or "... I'm too picky".

If you find yourself making any statements starting with, "I really like it ... but..." FIX IT NOW. Really. You're probably not going to like it later and you (not everyone else) will probably see it for ever.

Your cabinets are so pretty.
I have cabinet envy.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 12:30AM
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It's inherently bound to vary seasonally, unless the doors are composite. Solid wood will shrink and expand greatly across the grain, with varying humidity.
My gaps are more than 1/8 right now, with the boiler running and 16* overnight temps. In the summer they are half that. I wisely chose non-adjustable mortise hinges so I can't obsess over it. ;)

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 9:09AM
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