Frameless Layout Systems and Granite Countertops

A discussion of how frameless cabinet dimensions can accomodate granite countertop specs (or vice versa). March 25, 2007

The True 32 (or any other balanced panel system as far as I can tell) does not allow for more than a 3mm to 4mm reveal between the top drawer front and the cab top. This isn't enough room for a 1 1/2" granite front edge on a 5/8 ply subtop, so a 6mm to 8mm (1/4 to 3/8) reveal is more what is needed.

From a production point of view, I can see the advantages of strictly maintaining the 32 system, but it simply cannot accommodate the large reveal needed for the granite. Either drawer fronts don't line up along the system holes or the top drawer front is a different size than the others. How do you solve this problem? Change the drawer fronts or go to an unbalanced panel?

P.S. All the granite installers I work with insist on 5/8" so that their edge lips over the cab slightly and doesn't show ugly plywood (a common problem with 3/4" ply).

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor D:
Frameless cabinetmakers all over the world build with 3mm top reveals everyday. Yes, granite guys often need some serious handholding to prevent them from lipping over too far. The best solution is to have them return their buildup at least 2 1/2", thereby forcing their countertop to sit onto the boxes, not the subtop.

3cm (1 1/4) solid slab tops with no buildup have become very common in my market. This helps to solve this problem.

This is a problem with tile setters as well. Attaching a temporary piece of wood sticking out from the bottom edge of the subtop that prevents them from setting their tile too low can solve this problem.

From contributor R:
I don't know anything about True 32. I use Blum Process 32. It does allow 10mm at the top, between the door or drawer front and the top of the cabinet box. The box is 775 tall and the door is 765. These are balanced doors (cup holes same distance in from both ends on the door). We have the same reveal on base and wall cabinets. A drawer/door base has a door at 605mm, 3mm space and a drawer front at 157mm. This still leaves 10mm reveal. This has worked very well for us.

From the original questioner:
Contributor D, I'll consider your answer. I've had trouble with the drawer front scraping the granite lip. So maybe the answer is working with the granite installers to make sure that they stay on their side of the cabinet.

Also, I spoke with Bob Buckley about this and he said that you could edgeband or finish the plywood subtop so that if it showed it would look like part of the cabinet. This, in his opinion, was better than deviating from the system. Not recommended was cheating the panel size, and least favored was using odd size drawer fronts.

From contributor V:
Grass also has a system.

From contributor C:
I don't know anything about True 32 either, but would 18mm ply (19.3mm=3/4) work? I too have seen more 3cm granite with no sub top. It would seem to be a cheap fix.

From contributor N:
I think I would find a new granite fabricator. This one sounds like he is making his problem yours. It is the standard around here to use 3cm material. Years ago I priced a job using 2cm and built up around the edges and the price difference was not significant enough to justify any additional work on my part. We recently did an island with double thickness 3cm and they used wide enough strips to sit on the cabinet and added several blocks near the center for support. I didn't have to do it.

From the original questioner:
Okay... I'm starting with the granite installer. Everyone is in total agreement about that. I'm now in possession of 4 or 5 different standard layouts. Grass: 4.5 mm reveal top and bottom. Blum: 6mm top reveal, 0mm bottom. Pearls: totally confusing, but first hole starts at 12.5mm and leaves a 10mm reveal at top? And finally True 32: panels and drawer fronts are multiples of 32 and leaves 3mm at top and 0mm at bottom. Looking to standardize on one of these systems.

From contributor V:
I've been using mostly the True 32 system for about 2 years and it's really saved my back. True 32's system with 0mm at bottom and 3mm at top allows for stacking of tall cabs and retaining 3mm reveals. Of course finished panels are used where needed, but this also helps in finishing as they are sprayed flat. If you don't have Bob Buckley's book, get it. At $50, it's small but worth it. The Blum and Grass are great for spacing and drawer layouts.

From contributor J:
I don't use either of the systems, but I do have a reveal of about 3mm. In my area I have never seen granite need a sub top. It's a 1-1/4" slab that needs no additional support, just sits flat on top of the cabinets.

I agree with the other posters that if your granite supplier is doing something different, then they are causing the problems, not your cabinetry. If your area is anything like mine, you have more granite guys than you know what to do with. Find one who will provide what you need.

From contributor G:
The True 32 is not a balanced panel system - that is why the drawer spacing works the way it does and why all reveals are at 3mm between drawers and/or doors and drawers. By the way, once you master this system you will be amazed at just who simple it can be to manufacture some pretty intricate cabinet layouts without having to reinvent the wheel every time.

Concerning the granite, I have never seen 3cm or even 2cm granite with a sub base. Sounds to me like this is someone who thought he had a better idea, most likely to cover his lack of knowledge or crappy fabrication. Get a new granite guy.

From contributor E:
Insist on 3/4" rough top or don't install anything. If you set the front edge back 3/4", it won't be visible (unless you haven't leveled the cabinets) . In CA most granite tops are closer to 1 5/8" thick (mitered), so there is no problem. Every time I've installed 5/8" ply, I end up shifting top drawer fronts downward to clear granite. No more!

From the original questioner:
I've also gotten complaints when people look up at the underside of the granite and see the plywood edge… and if you use 5/8" ply, this never happens. Buckley (True 32) suggested that I edgeband the side of plywood, so if the ply is at all visible it would blend in with the cabinets. We may try this on the higher end kitchens.

And before you say, ridiculous!, let me say that some of my customers are incredibly picky (and it's really easy to edgeband a couple pieces of ply). For example, on the island we are now building, the spec calls for the sub base under the seating area to be finished and glazed cherry ply, so that if you look up from the floor, you'll only see polished wood.

A lot of 3/4" ply seems to be more like 18 mm and this would leave a 1mm overlap on the cabinet... This would be tight, but I think it should be enough clearance. Maybe the west coast will go over to the 3cm slab, and make this whole conversation unnecessary... It sure would be a lot easier. Thanks for your input.

From contributor E:
Regarding seating areas: my granite guy has me cut the plywood flush with cabinets or a bit more, on all overhangs. He then laminates a second layer of stone underneath the top so you don't have any plywood showing. I believe he puts steel between the layers and it looks awesome!