When it comes to hinge types, the options can seem endless, but the type of cabinet and door style you are working with will narrow your choices down immensely. From there, you can begin to hone in on special features, styles, and finishes based on your needs, personal preferences, and the style of your home.
It’s essential that the hinge type you use matches the cabinet door style that you are building so that the door is mounted with the proper amount of clearance. There are two main styles of door overlay—inset doors and overlay doors. Overlay doors come in partial overlay and full overlay. Take a look at your cabinet design to determine which you are working with.
Learn how to choose the best type of hinge for any cabinet project from cabinet maker Ken DeCost in MT Copeland’s Introduction to Cabinetry online course.
Exposed hinges, like butt hinges, are visible and often intentionally so. They are extremely common in traditional American styles of cabinets and vintage styles. On the other hand, concealed hinges offer a clean exterior look and more contemporary style.
Exposed hinge cabinet front:
Concealed hinge cabinet front:
Surface mount hinges act exactly as they sound—they sit on top of the surface of the cabinet material and do not require a hole or mortise to be drilled. Mortise hinges however are recessed into the cabinet and require boring a hole to install.
Motion features like soft closing hinges are becoming increasingly popular because they reduce noise from slamming and make closing a door as easy as a tap, even with full hands in the kitchen. Here are the most popular motion features:
The many types of cabinet hinges vary in size and application but there are two main categories: traditional and European.
In addition to the most common hinge types, there are many hinges made specifically for restoration projects, more ornate decorative styles, and even hinges just for piano lids.
Professional carpenter Ken DeCost prefers the European type of hinge, which is installed on the interior of the cabinet and concealed when the door is closed. European style hinges (designed for frameless cabinets popular in Europe) come in a range of sizes made to fit inset, partial, and full overlay style doors. They offer greater room for adjustments and can support heavier doors.
This is a type of European hinge that takes their name from the bend in the hinge arm. They are offset from the edge of the door so that the door can sit flush with the cabinet face or box when closed. Inset hinges are good for inset overlay doors and create a sleek, flush lookImage Courtesy of Amazon
Another type of European hinge that is also referred to as a half crank hinge because it has slightly less bend than an inset hinge. The partial overlay hinge is very similar to the inset hinge but is set back from the edge a little further than inset allowing the edge of the door to overlay the case partially. Use these for partial overlay doors.Image courtesy of Amazon
A full overlay hinge is a type of European hinge with a completely straight arm which makes the offset much greater than partial overlay or inset hinge styles. This allows the door to completely overlay the cabinet box. Use these for full overlay doors. Image courtesy of Amazon
Surface mount hinges are mounted to the outside of the frame and the outside of the door making the entire hinge visible. Opt for this hinge type when you want to feature the style of the hinge. These are typically only used on the face frame cabinet type. Image courtesy of Amazon
Butte hinges are made of two mounting plates and a barrel. Mount one of the plates to the side of the frame and the other mounting plate to the side of the door, with the barrel being exposed. Good for simple installation and to achieve a tradition look.Image courtesy of Amazon
Similar to a butt hinge but has a slimmer profile. Good for completely flush doors where you cannot drill a mortise. They take up less space than a butt hinge but the barrel is visible from the outside. Image courtesy of Amazon
Semi-concealed hinges hide the main mechanism of the hinge behind the cabinet door but some of the hinge is exposed on the frame or door edge. The frame wing is visible but the door wing is hidden. Use for overlay doors on face frame cabinets. Image courtesy of Amazon
Wrap around hinges look similar to semi-concealed hinges but feature either a partial extra wrap around the inside edge of the frame, or a full wrap that continues into the inside of the frame. Use these for the look of a semi-concealed but with added support. Image courtesy of Amazon
On a T-style hinge, one vertical wing attaches to the cabinet frame and one horizontal wing attaches to the outside of the cabinet door. This is a visible style for face frame cabinets that is also common for sheds and barn doors. Heavy duty and easy to install. Image courtesy of Amazon
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