How to Pick Cabinet Hinges

Tips for Picking Cabinet Hinges

Repairing or redesigning cabinets can be a satisfying way to improve home décor. There are many options when selecting a set of hinges that will match new cabinets or provide greater utility than the previous set did. Whether paying for a professional installation or attempting the job yourself, comparing different styles of hinges to find one suitable to the particular cabinets you have in mind is a useful step in the renovation process.

Aesthetic quality and functionality are two significant considerations for cabinet work. Installing new molding, painting, and refurbishing cabinet doors are typical redecorating procedures, but mounting new hardware may be just as crucial to the project. If the cabinet design changes, say from a dark surface to a lighter polished veneer, the hinges may need to be changed as well in order to be consistent with the new look. Likewise, cabinets that are exposed to moisture or heavy use may benefit from corrosion- and wear-resistant hinge materials.

Types of Cabinets

Cabinet hinges come in a wide variety of materials and dimensions, but choosing a specific style often depends on complementing the cabinet design. A framed cabinet usually has a visible front casing aligned with the doors, making the hinges visible as well. In addition, the doors themselves can have a lip running along the edge, be attached over the frame, or lie flush against the frame. Unframed or full access cabinets have doors that cover the storage area entirely and cannot display their hinges.

Cabinet Hinge Design

Most cabinet hinges have a handful of standard design features. A hinge door wing is the segment that is fastened to the cabinet door, and the frame wing can be fastened to the frame or the cabinet wall. The circular joint, or knuckle, forms a bridge between the two wings, while an internal joint pin enables the hinge to swing back and forth. These hinges can also be grouped according to the parts that remain visible when the cabinet door is closed. Some of the common types of cabinet hinges used today include:

  • Flush or Butt Hinges: Flush or butt hinges are the most common varieties found in American cabinets. If the cabinet door and frame are of the same thickness and lined flush against each other, a butt hinge can be installed between the two with only the knuckle remaining externally visible.
  • Surface Mount Hinges: Most surface mount hinges have both wings attached to the outside of the cabinet door or frame. This makes nearly the entire hinge visible, so surface mount models often have additional decorative features, such as hand-crafted wing designs or special finishes.
  • Inset Hinges: These hinges are usually applied to cabinet doors that fit into the frame with a lip. Inset hinges typically have a door wing that reaches to the frame’s lip, allowing a joint to form.
  • Overlay Hinges: The overlay hinge is most frequently used for doors that are on top of the frame and overlap it, forming a straight plane. The door wing remains attached to the interior of the door, while the frame wing is visible on the outside.
    Reverse Bevel Hinges: Reverse bevel hinges are commonly found in offset cabinets, in which the cabinet door overlaps the frame along a slanted edge. The reverse bevel hinge is designed to compensate for the uneven plane.
  • European Hinges: These hinges are used on unframed cabinets, and they are entirely hidden, including the knuckle. Some European hinges are also able to apply tension in order to self-close a door.
    Aesthetic Appeal of Hinges

Cabinet hinges can be made from a range of materials and treated with a number of different finishes to achieve a specific decorative effect. Steel is a common hinge material and its sturdiness is beneficial considering standard hinges are designed to have eight to ten times the durability of their average physical load. Stainless steel’s corrosion-resistance makes it a helpful choice for cabinets that are exposed to moisture. Other common materials, such as bronze, copper, brass, or iron, are popular choices for matching hinge and cabinet appearance. Applying a bright polished finish to brass or installing burnished bronze can help create aesthetic consistency between cabinet and hinge. The variety of other treatments, such as oil rubbed, brushed, matted, or satin finishes helps ensure that a hinge can be made to complement nearly any type of design.

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  1. Bob Plunkett says:

    Can all cabinets with external hinges have internal hinges put on to replace external ones? Or are there limits to the types of cabinets that will support internal hinges? I have standard 70’s cabinets and wood seems thick enough to support an internal hinge on cabinet, since there is already a place where external hinge meets inside of door…so I don’t see that as a constraint….I realize face wood that frames the cabinets would have to have old holes filled in or new face wood…but I wonder if internal hinges only can be installed on certain types of cabinets? Thanks for any guidance…

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