Do our cabinets need end panels?

gleapmanAugust 11, 2012

We're doing a full remodel and are new at this. We are working with a custom cabinet shop. Our cabinets are very plain, frameless, stained cherry wood with just flat-front drawer fronts and detail at all. Our cabinet maker insists we need end panels on all exposed ends. I don't understand why end panels are needed. Do they have some design purpose or are we just putting plain wood on plain wood and losing valuable cabinet space in the process?

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The exterior of cabinet boxes are the same material as the interior of the boxes. You have to make a choice as to how to upgrade the exposed sides to appear to be the same material as the doors. Many times a thin veneer called a skin is field applied by the installer. That's usually the cheapest approach. Another way is to have the exposed sides of the cabinets finished in plywood in the same species as the door and then stained and finished to match. This is the approach that I personally use the most often as the factory finish matches, and the sides are flush. You can also apply a door panel to the sides to give it the same appearance as the rest of the doors to your cabinets. This can be done as a field applied accessory, or it can be done in the production stage. In a kitchen with more detailed doors, I prefer to choose this approach to finish off the exposed sides.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2012 at 11:05PM
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Thanks GreenDesign. Our diagram didn't make it into the first post. I'll try it again. As you'll hopefully see in the diagram, they've added a 3/4 inch thick "veneer finished end panel." Why not just put the veneer on the cabinet itself instead of adding a separate panel with a veneer?

    Bookmark   August 11, 2012 at 11:20PM
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It has to do with how your cabinet maker creates his cabinet. Perhaps he orders the doors separately and only makes the boxes.(Many "custom" shops do this, but as far as I'm concerned, that only makes them not quite semi custom.) If that is the case, then the wood would probably not match as well as if he made everything.

It is certainly possible for a real custom cabinet maker to use cherry plywood (for instance) for the right side of the box on the ends of your cabinet run where it's indicated that an applied veneer panel will be. That would be an integrated flush side, and while it is normally an upcharge over a skinned end, it's not that big of an upcharge. I personally think it looks better, and that's why I usually spec that for most exposed ends on the designs that I do. Every single cabinet line that I use will do that without any issues, but they are national semi custom lines, such as Kraftmaid, not a local "custom" guy.

I'd suggest that you have a conversation with your cabinet maker and determine why he cannot do that for you. He may not be as "custom" as you think.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2012 at 11:54PM
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It certainly has been an education, so I get your point. We've toured their shop and I think they get the drawer boxes from another local shop, but the drawer fronts and everything else are truly custom. With each updated diagram, things change by 16ths of an inch. And from final engineering drawings to delivery will be less than two weeks, so I'm guessing they do most of it in their shop.

That said, thanks for the explanation. It will help me in the phone call we'll be having in the next day or two.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 12:25AM
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I think end panels really give a beautiful furniture look to cabinets. It just makes them seem complete. I was adamant about having them and it was well worth it. It just fills out the boxes to be uniform and they seem beefier. I love how they look with the end panels. To me it makes a huge difference. We had some cabinet makers tell us that their wood was so nice it didn't need end panels but it wasn't just the look of the wood but how it filled out the space at the end of the cabinets to look filled in and finished. End panels were important to me but everyone is different! YMMV

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 8:03AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Perhaps this will help you. In our kitchen, we have one cabinet that ends the run on one side and is at the sink opening in the other. So the outside has end panels

The sink side does not

Color difference is due to the fact the flash went off for the first shot, not for the second, but it is the same cabinet.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 8:49AM
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Thanks for the feedback.

If I heard him correctly, our cabinet guy said the end panels will extend out to cover the sides of the drawer fronts and doors. If that's true, it may give it a cleaner look, particularly boxing in either side of the Miele convection oven and steam oven.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 11:44PM
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