Cabinet hinges are fundamental to the proper functioning of cabinets and various other storage systems. Though these hinges carry out a basic function and do so rather discreetly, there is quite a variety of them. It’s imperative to use the right type, as using the wrong hinge could break your cabinet project. 

Cabinet hinges can be categorized based on their shape, size, feature, style, etc. The most common hinge types are the wrap-around, surface-mount, flush, inset, pivot, and barrel hinges. These hinges differ from each other based on their design and function. Most also come with their unique finishes.

Keep reading to learn in greater detail about these different cabinet hinges – particularly about their design and functionality – so you know which ones to use for your particular cabinet project.

What Is a Hinge?

A hinge is essentially a mechanical component connecting two solid objects, allowing a certain angle or level of movement between the objects. Multiple parts constitute a hinge. Based on the hinge style and type, the different components could look different and even serve a slightly varied purpose. However, their base functions remain the same.

The following are the most common cabinet hinge elements:

  • Frame wing: Appends itself to the cabinet’s frame.
  • Door wing: Attaches itself to the cabinet’s door.
  • Knuckle: Links the door wing and frame wing and facilitates rotation.
  • Pin: Holds the hinge in place.

If you’d like to learn more about these different elements or the basics of cabinet hinges, watch this video:

Not all cabinets are made the same. The ones used in your kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, etc. serve different purposes and are likely to be different from each other in size, shape, and design. Finding the right cabinet for the room, as a result, is important. Similarly, cabinet hinges come in various shapes and sizes, and they all serve slightly unique purposes.

If you are not using the right hinge for the cabinet, the outcome in terms of cabinet design and function may not be satisfactory. Knowing what the various cabinet hinge types are is, therefore, imperative.

The following is an almost-exhaustive list of different cabinet hinges.

Types of Cabinet Hinges Based on Design

Wrap-Around Hinge

A wrap-around hinge encompasses the frame of a cabinet. The hinge could be a full or partial wrap. In the full wrap-around design, the frame wing covers three sections of the frame and bolts to the inner edge. Partial wrap-around hinges, on the other hand, wrap two sections of the frame. They are typically used with frameless cabinets.

Face Frame Hinge

Cabinets with a face frame hinge are quite commonly used in the States. Also known as a “semi-concealed” hinge, a face frame cabinet hinge is installed on the frame. In other words, it doesn’t work with cabinets without a frame. The door wing is affixed to the rear of the door, while the frame wing stays visible. The hinge is purpose-designed to facilitate the movement of doors that sit before or over the face frame.

Surface-Mount Hinge

A surface-mount hinge, as the name denotes, attaches to the surface and is completely discernible from the front. Unlike most other cabinet hinges, it doesn’t need a hole for mounting. In other words, a mortise need not be drilled into the cabinet or door. It easily mounts onto the surface.

Also called “frameless,” surface mount hinges are easy to demount, which helps with repairing or cleaning them. Kitchen cabinets stand to benefit more from such demountable hinges as they could be removed without having to remove any hardware. The hinge is available in both double and single demountable versions.

Inset Hinge

The inset hinge is mounted within the frame and flush. It usually goes well with a closed cabinet face. The hinge could either be exposed or hidden, and it needs a doorknob for opening the cabinet. The hinge has a narrow side that goes onto the frame of the door, and a wider side that attaches to the door’s inside. The narrow part is visible from the cabinet’s outside. These, therefore, tend to have a decorative element.

Offset Hinge

An offset hinge is used with cabinet doors slightly protruding from the frame. The hinge’s sides do not align, helping the door extending out from the cabinet frame. This feature comes in particularly handy when the cabinet doors are relatively thick and should extend out so that the door doesn’t bump the frame every time it is opened.

The hinge attaches to the cabinet door and frame’s exterior and, therefore, comes in different finishes and styles.

Overlay Hinge

An overlay hinge is either fully inside the frame or outside it. It’s used with doors wherein the closed door’s end completely covers the cabinet frame. The full overlay type would be ideal for cabinet doors covering the cabinet face fully. There are partial overlay cabinet hinges that typically allow a gap of one inch between doors, ensuring the face frame is visible.

There is also the ‘variable overlay,’ which is usually made for overlay doors used on framed cabinets.

Flush Hinge

A flush hinge attaches to your cabinet frame and door’s insides. Unlike other similar hinges, flush hinges take very little room within the door. When the cabinet door closes, the hinge’s small part closes into the bigger component, which gives it a unibody look. The joint of the hinge is on the cabinet’s outside. If you want the hinge to not stand out, pick a finish that blends well with the cabinet design and color.

Faux Hinge

A faux hinge is a “decorative” hinge with some basic functionality. It attaches to a cabinet door on the inside like any other hinge. However, it also has an ornateness that is visible on the cabinet door’s front. At times, the hinge could be used purely for embellishment. In such cases, a real hinge could be installed on the door’s inside. The faux hinge could be added to the cabinet’s exterior just to achieve a certain look.

Some people use the faux hinge when they want their cabinet doors to look a specific way but also want it to function in a certain manner. For instance, they may want the door to be soft-closing or self-closing and couldn’t find a hinge that meets both their aesthetic and functional preferences.

Pivot Hinge

A pivot hinge is a hinge ideal for inset doors or when you do not want the hinges to be visible. They go on the bottom and top of a cabinet frame and door. The frame will have inset elements. The door, on the other hand, would have a piece jutting out that’s securely fitted within the inset pieces, allowing the pivoting to take place. These hinges can be found on lower cabinets and also cabinets used to house home theater systems.

Barrel Hinge

A barrel hinge is a self-concealing hinge that provides the hinge-free look to cabinet doors. A barrel hinge comes in various diameters and depths. It’s, therefore, important to find a hinge that suits your cabinet door’s thickness. To install the hinge, you need a couple of holes – one into the frame and the other in the cabinet door.

Strap Hinge

A strap hinge wraps around the spot where the cabinet frame and door meet. The hinge mounts on a cabinet’s exterior. This strap-like design not just looks unique, but since it’s designed to be visible, it comes in a range of colors, textures, shapes, and finishes. The hinge could be extremely short or long to accommodate the weight and size of different cabinet doors.

Types of Cabinet Hinges Based on Functionality

Piano Hinge

Also referred to as “continuous hinge,” a piano hinge has same-sized leaves and a central pin running the door’s length. Contrary to general perception, the hinge got its peculiar name not because it bores any resemblance to a piano, but because it is used on pianos. Besides the piano and cabinet doors, the hinge is also used for storage boxes, fold-down desks, and workbenches.

Corner Hinge

Also called a bi-fold door hinge, a corner hinge is typically used to install a “two-door” set-up in a cabinet. The hinge comes with a wide opening and is typically used in corner kitchen cabinets.

Friction Hinge

A friction or torque hinge is designed to decelerate a cabinet’s pivoting motion. The friction happens when two surfaces contact each other mechanically. The resistance employed could be for safety reasons or aesthetics. In certain models, the hinge lets you keep the cabinet door open at any angle. A conceptual example of the hinge would be the hinge used in laptops.

Butterfly Hinge

A strap hinge variation, a butterfly hinge features leaf plates shaped in a decorative manner so that they resemble a butterfly’s wings. The hinge’s sides are completely visible when the door is closed. Butterfly hinges are usually made from brass or other decorative metals. Due to their ornamental appearance, they are also used on ornate boxes, besides cabinets.

Self-Closing Hinge

This spring-loaded hinge ensures your cabinet’s door closes by itself. The hinge could employ a spring or hydraulics for its self-closing mechanism. Both the designs let the cabinet door to close by themselves. These hinges can be commonly found in gym lockers and home theater system cabinets, and even in kitchen and bathroom cabinets.

Soft-Close Hinge

A soft-closing hinge ensures there is minimal noise when a cabinet door shuts itself. It is like a self-closing hinge, but there is no noise when the door is closed. To stifle the noise, however, a soft-close hinge may not work identically to a self-closing hinge.

In other words, a soft-close hinge needs an initial push. Once the door gets to a specific point, the hinge takes it up from there, ensuring the door slowly glides in and doesn’t slam itself.

How to Choose the Right Kind of Hinge for Your Cabinet

A hinge is the fulcrum of any cabinet. The hinge, in fact, could have as much or greater impact on the functionality and aesthetics of your cabinet than the cabinet material or finish itself. It is, therefore, imperative to put in the time and effort needed for researching and choosing the right hinge type for your cabinet door.

Hinge Positioning

Cabinets can be broadly categorized as “face-frame” or “frameless.” A face-frame cabinet comes with a frame made of wide solid wood attached to the face or front edges of the case. The hinge gets mounted onto this frame. A frameless cabinet, on the other hand, is a four-sided box with no face frame. The hinges are installed to the inside of the cabinet.

Framed cabinets are a lot more common in American households. Frameless cabinets, also called Euro-style cabinets, tend to be favored more across Europe.

Door Overlay

The overlay of the cabinet door denotes the door’s positioning in connection with the cabinet’s opening. The overlay configurations for face-frame and frameless cabinets are marginally different. On face-frame cabinets, overlay doors completely conceal the cabinet opening, overlapping the face frame or cabinet case on all sides.

Inset doors, contrastingly, fit completely inside the cabinet opening, sitting flush with the face frames or cabinet sides in the closed state. Lipped or partial inset doors overlap the opening marginally on all sides. However, a shoulder machined alongside the edges of the door rear let a portion of the door to sit within the opening.

For frameless cabinets, full-overlay doors cover all or almost all the cabinet’s front edge. This type of overlay is usually incorporated for doors at a cabinet’s ends. Half overlay cabinet is used between multiple juxtaposed cabinets where one partition wall is shared by the doors. This hinge lets the door encompass half of the wall.

Also, consider how far or the angle at which you’d like the cabinet door to open. This is referred to as “degree of opening.” Certain hinges allow the door to open more than 90°. Others could facilitate a much higher degree of opening. For instance, a 270° hinge would allow the cabinet door to touch the side of the cabinet. Such hinges, however, would only work with a frameless cabinet. 

Hinge Visibility

In some cases, hinges add to the overall style and appearance of the cabinet. In certain other applications, a visible hinge could take away from the aesthetic look and feel of the cabinet.

Therefore, determine the style you would like to go with beforehand. There are basically three options:

  • Concealed hinge: Often referred to as the cup hinge or European hinge, a concealed hinge cannot be seen from the outside when the cabinet’s door is shut. It’s perfect for minimalistic, modern applications wherein hinge visibility could hamper aesthetics.
  • Semi-concealed hinge: Semi-concealed hinges can be partly seen from the outside when the cabinet door is closed. These hinges could incorporate a finial tip or decorative ball tip, or certain other details.
  • Exposed hinge: These hinges are completely visible from the outside when the cabinet doors are closed.

Hinge Style

Based on its style or design language, a cabinet hinge can be classified as:

  • Butt hinge: The butt hinge is your traditional hinge design consisting of a couple of pivoting plates. Its interlocking fingers create a barrel held in place by a pin. The plates get attached to the cabinet and the door. At times, these hinges need a cabinet or door mortise to mitigate an excessive gap.
  • Deluxe butt hinge: This butt hinge variation comes with an adjustable mount and stretched mounting slots that let you tweak door positioning vertically and horizontally for the ideal fit. 
  • Knife hinge: Designed like scissors, one half of this hinge goes on the bottom or top edge of the door. The other half gets directly mounted to the horizontal cabinet hinge above the door.
  • European hinge: The European hinge is a concealed hinge design commonly used on frameless cabinets. However, they are also compatible with face-frame cabinets. This hinge comes with a mounting plate, which is securely attached to the cabinet. The seating cup goes to the rear of the door. The hinge can be adjusted in two or three directions, making door alignment adjustments easy.

Before zeroing in on a hinge based on its design and type, make sure you have the cabinet dimensions or measurements handy. Also, the hinge should be positioned the right way. In other words, do not position a left-hand hinge on the right of the cabinet. For convenience and zero confusion, most hinges come with LH and RH designations.

Conclusion

Besides the style and functionality of the hinge, make sure you have enough hinges handy. Some doors would do fine with a couple of hinges. Others could be a bit too big or heavy to be managed by just two hinges. If you marry a relatively heavy door with fewer hinges, the door’s functionality and durability could take a hit.

Kindly note no hinge can be completely hidden from sight. Even the most concealing hinges would show glimpses of themselves at some point while you open or close the cabinet door. Therefore, if you are extremely particular about the overall look and finishing of your cabinet, make sure the hinge goes well with the overall design language of the cabinet. Do not assume the hinge would be completely concealed.

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