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Glossary of terms used for kitchen and other types of cabinetry

Useful information for people thinking about getting a new kitchen or other piece of cabinetry

We realize how difficult it can be for the average man or woman when embarking on a project like a new kitchen to understand the different terms and to make comparison between various options. We have compiled this list in the hope that it will make things a little easier.


Acid catalyzed lacquer – a two component (aka 2 pot) lacquer system that is cured by the use of an acid catalyst solution prior to application. It provides a superior finish when compared to a single pot system. The other two component system which is widely used is polyurethane lacquer which comprises lacquer and isocyanate hardner

Adjustable shelves – shelves that can be placed at varying heights within the cabinet utilizing an assortment of pre-drilled holes

Base cabinet – a cabinet box (for kitchen) that sits on the floor. These units usually support the countertops

Bench-tops – are the solid tops placed on kitchen cabinets to provide a work surface.
There are a range of types which include: high pressure laminate, engineered stone, solid surface, granite, marble, concrete, stainless steel and solid wood (laminated). For a comparison between the properties of granite, engineered stone and solid surface please
go to

Biscuit joint – a method of joinery where biscuits (thin strips of wood) are glued into corresponding grooves in two pieces of board – widely used in cabinetry

Blind corner unit – a piece of kitchen hardware which pulls out or folds out from a corner unit (cabinet) – this allows what would otherwise be virtually unusable space to become useful storage. There are various types including: Lazy Susan, twin-corner, magic corner, carousels etc

Bull nose – one of the most common bench top profiles. Other popular profiles are: shark nose, pencil round and square

Butt joint – a method of joinery where two boards a re simply butted together and held with any combination of glue, nails or screws

Carcass – the boxes or elemental parts that make up the basic, underlying structure of base or wall cabinets

Concealed hinge – a hinge that is not visible on the front of a cabinet door. Concealed hinges are attached to the inside of the door

Concrete bench top – is sealed and polished (much in the manner that granite is polished) and exhibits good heat and stain resistance together with a high level of impermeability. A range of looks can be achieved by: colouring the concrete, varying the size of the aggregate etc

Corbels – while originally structural are now purely decorative features which are used on kitchen islands, mantelpieces and kitchen hoods. They are a type of ornate bracket made from solid wood, plaster cast or metal

Corian – is a solid surface material created by DuPont. It is composed of acrylic polymer and alumina trihydrate. It is used for kitchen bench tops and vanity tops. LG make a similar product under the name of HI-MACS. There are other cheaper solid surface materials made using polyester resin.

Cornice – is a horizontal decorative moulding that crowns a piece of furniture or cabinetry. There are a range of standard styles (colonial etc) which are generally available in MDF and/or Pine

Crown cut veneer– is manufactured by advancing a half log against a stationary knife in an up and down movement. The resulting appearance is characterized by straight grain intermixed with cathedrals (whorl like pattern)

Custom-made – cabinets made to a designer’s or customer’s specifications, with no limits on sizing, materials and options. They are made to order

Dovetail – a traditional method of wood joinery used to connect two pieces that join each other, typically at right angles. The edge of each piece is cut with a number of V shaped notches that interlock with the adjoining piece to form a very strong joint

Drawer face or front – the panel that is attached to the front of a drawer box. It is the visible part of the drawer that the handle is attached to

Drawer types – a wide range of drawer types are available with a variety of features.
Some common ones are:

  • Soft close (aka Self close) – a drawer which includes a mechanism that prevents the
    drawer from slamming shut
  • Full extension – a drawer that will open to the full length of the runner/slider
  • Partial (or single) extension – a drawer that will open to 75% of the runner/slider
  • Steel sided – virtually all kitchens are now fitted with pre-fabricated steel sided drawers which, together with the runners, are supplied by companies such as Blum.
    The cabinet maker adds the bottom, back and front – typically using melamine for the bottom and back and melamine / veneer for the front
  • Gallery rails – for use with deep drawers – steel rails (available with steel sided drawers) which are fitted to the side of the drawer and prevent items in the drawer from falling out
  • Pot drawer – a deep drawer with high sides / gallery rails suitable for storing pots/pans
  • Inserts / dividers – a wide range of pre-fabricated inserts / dividers are available
    which can fit virtually all drawer sizes e.g. cutlery, spice, utensil
  • Electrically assisted opening (and closing) support systems – systems such as Blum Servo-drive and Grass Airmatic allow drawers to open (and close) with just a light touch of the drawer front

Edge band – a piece of material applied to the edge of a door, drawer front or panel to seal and cover the surface. Typically this will be melamine or veneer

End panel – accessory panel that is used to finish the end of a run of cabinets (and ‘hide’ the carcass) or the side of an appliance

Engineered wood – a wood product that is manufactured to enhance the overall qualities of the wood material itself and/or, to salvage byproducts of wood processing into useful material. Plywood and MDF are two examples of engineered wood products

Engineered stone (aka reconstituted stone) – is a composite material comprising rock (typically quartz) and resin. It is non-porous and comes in a wide range of colours / patterns. Currently very popular for kitchen bench tops and vanity tops

Exposed hinge – a hinge type that is visible on the outside edge of the cabinet door when the door is closed

Finish – the surface coating that is applied to a cabinet surface. In the case of solid wood or veneer cabinets, the finish is typically made up of several layers of different materials such as stain, sealer and clear-coat. The finish is a key element in maintaining and
protecting the beauty and durability of the wood surface. In the case of MDF cabinets, the finish is typically made up of several coats (under-coats and top coats) of paint which both protect and enhance the cabinet appearance

Fixed shelves – shelves that can not be moved up or down – they are fixed into the cabinet

Front set – a term used to describe the visible panels in a kitchen – doors, drawer fronts, end panels, under panels. Typically these are a different colour (and material) to the carcass and the whole front set is usually one colour

Gloss – a term used to describe the visual or measured ‘sheen’ of a lacquer or finish. Typically rated as ‘full gloss’ (80-90%), ‘satin (45-65%) and ‘matt’ (10-20%)

Grain – natural indentations / patterns found in the surface of solid timber and on timber veneers. Timbers can be ‘tight’ or ‘close’ grained such as Rimu or European Beech or ‘open’ grained such as American Oak, Ash and Sapele

Granite – a hard, natural stone widely used for kitchen bench tops. Its good heat, stain and scratch resistance, together with its appealing appearance make it very popular.
Granite consists of approximately 40-60% quartz with a balance of other minerals and impurities. It is available in a range of grades (D to A+) with widely varying prices.

HPL – High pressure laminate is produced by saturating multiple layers of kraft paper with phenolic resin. A layer of printed décor paper is placed on top of the kraft paper before pressing. The pressing is done at more than 1000psi – the process converts the
paper sheets into a single laminated sheet which is then laminated to a substrate such as MDF. It is a very hard wearing surface and is usually used for bench tops. Formica, Wilsonart and Laminex are brand names of different manufacturers of HPL board

HMR MDF (aka MR, MUF) – Highly moisture resistant MDF has water resistant resin added to the MDF to improve the moisture resistant properties. The board is NOT however water-proof. The resin used is Melamine-Urea-Formaldehyde (MUF) Inset doors and drawers – a cabinet design whereby the cabinet door (or drawer) fits inside the cabinet frame when closed (rather than overlapping and covering the cabinet frame)

Island unit– an area of cabinets and tops in a kitchen which can be accessed and walked around from all sides. Considered to be free-standing

LPL (aka Melamine) – Low pressure laminate is produced in a similar manner to HPL but with a lower pressure – typically around 300-500psi. In consequence it is less hard wearing than HPL and is usually used to build cabinetry. White is typically used for the
carcass material while other colours and patterns are used for doors, drawer fronts and end panels.

Marble – strictly speaking marble is limestone that has achieved metamorphosis from high pressure and extreme temperatures. However, the term is also sometimes applied to: travertine, onyx and serpentine. It can be used as a bench-top or vanity top.

Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF) – a wood based product that is produced by the combination of very small wood fibres and a glue, resin or similar bonding agent. MDF has a high level of stability and good machinability and is widely used in cabinet making – typically painted or covered with melamine

Melamine – is a generic term used to describe a board that is comprised of melamine resin saturated decorative paper which has been laminated directly onto a substrate such as MDF, Plywood or Particleboard. Melamine is available in a wide range of colours, patterns and finishes (textures). Melteca is a melamine board made by Laminex

Mortise and Tenon – a traditional method of wood joinery that involves part of one piece being inserted into a notch or hole in another (mating) piece. A typical mortise and tenon joint has a square protrusion on the end of one piece that fits tightly into a square notch or hole in the piece to which it is joined

Overlay doors and drawers– a cabinet design whereby the cabinet door (or drawer) front covers all the cabinet frame so that only the door or drawer front is seen

Partial overlay doors and drawers – a cabinet design whereby the cabinet door or drawer front partially overlap /cover the cabinet frame. When the door / drawer is closed part of the frame remains visible

Particle Board – a wood product made up o very small wood pieces and fragments that are fused together with glue or resin under mechanical pressure. It is often used as a cheaper alternative to MDF

Plywood – a wood product made up of several layers of wood with the grain direction running at different angles with respect to each other. This mixed orientation gives Plywood greater strength and stability in comparison to solid wood

Pulls, Knobs and Handles – pieces of hardware attached to a door or drawer front that are used to open the cabinet

Quarter cut veneer – has the log cut into quarters and then sliced in the same way as Crown cut veneers. It results in a straight grain (ribbon stripped) appearance

Rebated panel – a panel that is set into a groove created in the surrounding stiles/rails to create a ‘paneled’ appearance whereby the centre piece (panel) is set back from the front face of the surrounding rails/stiles

Recessed handle – a handle that is recessed (partially or fully) into the cabinet face or edge. Can be chosen for practical reasons (e.g. sliding doors that pass each other require a handle that does not protrude from the surface of the doors) or aesthetic reasons

Reconstituted Timber Veneer (aka Designed Timber Veneer) – a thin layer (approx 1.0mm) of wood that has been reprocessed to eliminate the imperfections and irregularities of the natural material that is applied to a substrate material such as MDF.
Available in a range of striking wood types and designs – all with consistent grain and colour

Scriber – a packer that is ‘scribed’ (shaped) to fill a gap between the cabinetry edge and the wall or ceiling – where the wall /ceiling is out of plumb or has a variation in its surface (e.g. skirting board). The packer is generally made from the same material as the cabinetry (MDF, veneer, melamine)

Shelf Pins – pieces of hardware that the shelf sits on, usually metal or plastic

Splash-back – Typically a glass panel that is fixed to the wall behind the hob / oven to provide an easy clean surface that also has aesthetic appeal. Available in a huge range of colours and patterns. Supplied in standard toughened safety glass and in ‘low iron’ toughened safety glass. The ‘low iron’ indicates a glass with a low iron content which minimizes the ‘green tinge’ that is associated with standard toughened glass. The green tinge can distort the splash back colour and make colour matching (particularly for lighter colours) problematic

Stile – the vertical pieces of a door frame (rails are the horizontal members of the frame)

T&G – tongue and groove is a method of fitting two boards together – each board has a slot (groove) cut along one edge and a thin ridge (tongue) on the opposite edge – boards are then slotted together

Thermofoil – a thin vinyl sheet that is formed over a wood or wood-based product substrate and bonded to the substrate by the application of heat and pressure. Thermofoil provides a surface that is easy to clean and highly moisture resistant.

Timber clashing – solid timber edge that is applied (glued) to desks and other types of cabinetry. Has both aesthetic and practical (protects the cabinet edge) value

Timber Veneer (aka Natural Timber Veneer) – a thin layer of real wood (approx 1.0mm) that is applied to a substrate material such as MDF. Wood veneers are peeled off the log using special cutting techniques. They provide the outward aesthetics of solid wood without the cost or environmental impact of using solid wood. Available in a wide variety of wood species, each with its own distinct characteristics and each reflecting the natural variation in grain and colour that is the characteristic of timber

Touch to open (aka Tip-on) – door / drawer hardware that allows the door / drawer to be opened with a light touch – no handles are required

Toe kick – the bottom piece of a base cabinet that is typically recessed from the front edge of the cabinet to allow room for a person’s feet when standing in front of the cabinet

Top-mounted sink – is installed on top of the bench-top – the ‘lip’ of the sink completely covers the hole that has been cut in the bench-top to accommodate the sink. The underside of the ‘lip’ is prone to dirt build-up and requires careful cleaning

Two pot Lacquer – see acid catalyzed lacquer above

Under panel – accessory panel that is used to line the underside of wall mounted cabinets and to ‘hide’ the carcass

Under-mounted sink – is installed under the bench-top giving a sleek and seamless look and making it easy to clean and maintain. Not recommended for use with solid timber (laminated) tops given the probability that water will penetrate the edge over time

Up-stand –when applied to a bench-top, is the part of the bench that stands up vertically at the back of the bench. It provides protection for the wall and can be coved or square. Much less popular now than previously – largely replaced by glass splash-backs or tiles

Wall hung cabinet – cabinet boxes that are mounted to the wall

Waterfall end – a term applied to bench tops which indicates that the top will be carried down to the floor in the manner of a waterfall (usually at one or both ends of an island unit)