Types of Hinges: Cabinet Hinges Explained at Last
Cabinet hinges have been called "the tireless soldiers of kitchen cabinet hardware". I too have deemed this bit of hardware the unsung hero of cabinets everywhere. Instead of waiting for a warm day in December, let's pay tribute to this fantastic and integral piece of cabinet hardware today.
Before you get started deciphering the differences between Amerock hinges and the no-namers, and just what are strap hinges, flush hinges or self-closing hinges, you have to know what type of cabinetry you are dealing with. There are framed and frameless cabinets, and different types of doors will work for each one. It's important to know what kind of doors you have because the choice of cabinet hinges will change depending on this factor.
Frameless (a.k.a. European or euro-style) cabinets are single, solid boxes, no frills attached. For these cabinets, your cabinet hinges will receive the most wear and tear because the doors are a constant pressure weighing down on them. All frameless cabinets have full overlay doors (we'll get there, don't worry). Frameless cabinets might give more space because there are no beams or stiles taking up room, and also offer slightly easier access to contents.
Framed cabinets have a frame going around the inner edge of the cabinet (looks just like a picture frame before it's installed). This type of cabinet offers more support for the doors, thus alleviating much of the pressure on your cabinet hinges. In addition, framed cabinets allow for more of a style variety since you can choose full overlay, partial overlay or inset doors (confused? Read on.) Frameless cabinets appear to be more contemporary, with a smooth, uninterrupted appearance. Framed cabinets have a more decorative, detailed or traditional design appeal. Choose whichever works for you.
What's Behind Door #2?
So which doors do your cabinets have?
Flush Mount or Inset Doors
These doors are set into the cabinet body. Since there is no edge to grab onto, you must use kitchen cabinet hardware to open these cabinets (oh darn! hehe). Bear in mind that if you live in an area of high, frequent humidity, you may have a problem with the wood swelling (this can be treated, though). These doors are ideally used with framed cabinets, but designers can create the frame even for a frameless cabinet. Here is an easy one. Flush mount hinges are an easy way to secure these types of doors.
A lipped door has a cutout groove going all around the interior edge to create a neat and tight fit into the frame (even closer than flush mount), and have pretty much the same comments as above.
Traditional or full overlay doors meet almost completely (less than 1/18" of a gap), and rest against the cabinet body (I didn't say frame because full overlay doors are used in frameless cabinets too, and I didn't want to confuse you. Did it work?) All frameless cabinet doors are technically full overlay (unless they do silly things with adding rails and stiles to create the framed look, in which case you should've started with framed cabinets in the first place!)
Partial overlay doors, on the other hand, must be attached to a framed cabinetry. These doors sit slightly apart from one another (maybe an inch or ½"), revealing a piece of the face frame. Because partial overlay doors are smaller, they are also more cost effective.
Tambour cabinets use track sliding doors. The problem most people find with these cabinets is keeping the doors on track. They pop out easily, and once out, make it very difficult to open and close. Obviously no cabinet hinges are required for this system.
There are also different shapes and styles that cabinet doors come in, but that is far beyond the scope of this mom (well, at least in this lens!)
Once you've determined the type of cabinet frame and doors you have, you will be able to determine which cabinet hinges are right for you. (See, everything will fall into place eminently.) When making your selections, note that the cabinet hinges you are buying are right for your type of cabinets (they should be clearly marked).
One more thing you should decide is the purpose of these cabinet hinges. Do you want decorative hinges or purely functional ones? (Bonus question: Can you have both? Yes!). There are face or surface mount hinges. This is where the hinge is mounted on the outside of the cabinet, frame wing on the outer frame and door wing on the outside of the door. The entire hinge is completely revealed and is usually ornate in nature. Alternatively, you can use a concealed hinge, which is totally within the cabinetry. No part is revealed when the door is closed (hence the name concealed hinge, novel isn't it?) Of course, the third option is a combination of the two. Now to get down and descriptive with our cabinet hinges.
Cabinet Hinges Explained
Ball Bearing Hinges
Ball bearing hinges have the smoothest mechanism. Running on ball bearings, hinges like these are great for heavier doors or lids because the mechanism makes these weighty objects easier to manage (also because ball bearing hinges are permanently lubricated.) You can also use ball bearing hinges on doors that get a high amount of traffic or pressure (like the ones my kids love to hang onto and swing back and forth when I'm *not looking*.)
Continuous or Piano Hinges
These are fabulous cabinet hinges that come in one long row of metal. The nice thing about this is that you can custom fit your hinges to whatever project you need it for. Continuous hinges are often used for jewelry boxes and toy chests, as well as heavier boxes, lids, benches and doors.
Cup or Euro Hinges
Cup hinges are becoming more popular now because they're super durable. They're also terribly convenient because you can adjust the door's position without having to remove the door or hinge.
The Demountable Hinge and More
The demountable hinge is also a convenient cabinet hinge because it allows you to take off the cabinet door without removing the hardware. You can use a double demountable hinge or a single demountable hinge. Single demountable hinges detach from the door with issues, while double demountable hinges let you demount from both the door and the frame of the cabinet. This is good if you want to replace (redecorate) doors without changing the entire cabinet frame. The installation requires special incisions into the edge of the door and frame. The beauty of the demountable hinge is that, just like cup hinges, you can adjust your cabinet doors for a seamless and perfect installation. These are self-closing hinges, a must-have for homes with kids or forgetful/busy adults.
Face Frame Hinges
These hinges have their cabinet wings exposed (usually decorative) and door wing concealed. This is also called a semi-concealed.
Flush hinges have both wings mounted internally so they are concealed and the knuckle and pin exposed. While many hinges can be used for a variety of purposes, flush mount hinges are primarily cabinet hinges, as they cannot take too much weight.
A Few More Cabinet Hinges
Full Wrap Hinge or Partial Wrap Hinge
A full wrap hinge wraps around three sides of the cabinet body and is a very reliable choice. A partial wrap hinge only wraps around two sides, but still offers plenty of support to your cabinet doors.
This is a partial wrap hinge (wraps around two sides of the frame) so that the cabinet wing is always exposed and lets the door overlap onto the frame.
H Hinges Etc.
H hinges are decorative hinges that are shaped like, can you guess, an "H". While the basic style is the same, H hinges can actually vary in design a lot (for example, they can be shaped like a butterfly, have rounded or pointed edges, etc.) Because they're decorative by nature, H hinges are fully exposed, installed on the exterior of the cabinet.
These are also semi-concealed hinges that continue into the cabinet frame and come in a variety of forms.
Lift Joint or Loose Pin Hinges
These cabinet hinges are wonderful if you have the need to remove your cabinet doors on occasion. The door is removed by removing the pin (with just a tap of a blunt edge- not good for curious kids!) and/or lifting the door up and over the hinge. While you may not see the benefit straight off, this is actually great for cleaning or refinishing the doors and cabinets. In addition, if you want to redo your kitchen without spending a lot of money, you can replace the cabinet doors without having to totally redo the cabinets.
Strap Hinges and More
Many cabinet hinges are reversible. This means they can be used on left or right side doors. Before purchasing any hinges, this is something you should check.
Self-closing hinges have a spring loaded (or other style) mechanism that brings the door to a close even if you forget and leave it open. They can be offset or face mounted, and most cabinet hinges are available as self-closing hinges.
Strap hinges are also decorative with a long arm that is made in a variety of ornate shapes. These can be functional as well, though many people buy strap hinges as purely decorative pieces especially on gates or larger doors (Tip: Attach strap hinges to your pantry for a rustic, country style kitchen).
A Few More Things to Say
Because I like giving tips (and I can), here are a few before you go:
- For overlay cabinet design, the end doors and the middle doors will often take different types of hinges. Ends will use full overlay hinges and middles partial overlay when using overlay cabinet design.
- Careful what kind of wood you are mounting your hinges to. Plywood is the best wood to use for cabinet carcasses because it is solid and won't break down. Particleboard and fiberboard will not usually hold the cabinet hinges in well, so attach a solid piece of wood to these types of materials before installing your hinges.
There are so many cabinet hinges out there. Which ones have you had personal experience using (or attempting to use at any rate)?
Which cabinet hinges have you used?
You can install your own hinges, you just need to know a little bit about them. Did this lens help make sense of the myriad options out there? I hope so. If it did, drop me a line, or feel free to ask questions. If I can answer, I'm always happy to help.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
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© 2011 IlanaMoore LM