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Choosing Kitchen Cabinet Hinges

Kitchen cabinet hinges are things you don't normally think about until it's time to either replace them or buy new cabinets. And even then, it may be an afterthought for most.

Despite their seemingly mundane purpose cabinet hinges have come a long way since the basic butt hinge, made up of two "wings" joined by a "knuckle" and pin. And although this kind of traditional hinge is still used, there's some very decorative, innovative and convenience-wielding cabinet hinges on the market today.

One of the main things to acknowledge when it comes to cabinet hinges is that there are basically two different categories or "types" of hinges. Among these two classes are

a variety of styles, each with their own functional and decorative differences.

Your particular situation (buying new cabinets or buying new hinges for existing cabinets) will dictate which class of cabinet hinge to pursue.

One final point to consider is the technology that's associated with some hinges. You may or may not be familiar with self-close or soft-close features. They offer a level of convenience for your cabinets and make using them a bit more 'satisfying' (no more slamming cabinet doors).

Whether you're buying for new cabinets or simply replacing old hinges, get familiar with what kinds of hinges are at hand, the features that are available and then choose a style that's most fitting for your taste and décor.

Start With The Basics - Hinge Types And Characteristics

There are many styles of kitchen cabinet hinges available today but as different as they may be, they all fall into two basic categories: exposed and concealed.

Types Of Hinges

Exposed Hinges

Exposed hinges are the kind of cabinet hinge you see (or partially see) when the cabinet door is closed. They're a more traditional type of hinge in that they consist of 3 basic parts: two wings and a pivot point.

Semi concealed cabinet hingeSemi-Concealed Hinge

One wing is attached to the door and the other is attached to the cabinet's face frame (for framed cabinets) or the cabinet wall (for frameless cabinets). Semi-concealed hinges have parts that are hidden when the cabinet door is closed but there is still some portion of the hinge that's visible.

Surface mounted hinges are fully visible, with one hinge wing attached to the outside of the cabinet door and the other wing fastened to the cabinet frame.

If you're refurbishing your existing cabinets and ordering new hinges the key point to keep in mind is that your cabinet construction will determine which configuration of exposed hinge you can use.

In other words, before you choose a type of exposed hinge, you'll need to know whether you have framed or frameless cabinets, full or partial inset doors and the type of door overlay that exists. The reason for this is because the variations in cabinet construction dictate how the cabinet hinge itself is constructed.

If you're not familiar with terminology like 'framed' and 'frameless' cabinets, you can learn more about what these terms mean and how how they're constructed by viewing this page.

Characteristics Of Exposed/Traditional Hinges

  • Self Closing/Non-Self Closing - Some varieties of exposed hinges have a self-closing feature but many do not. If you want a self-closing hinge you'll need to specify that when you search and/or shop for hinges. Self-closing hinges also keep the cabinet doors closed. If your cabinets use non-self closing hinges should have some form of door clasp to keep the doors shut.
  • Kitchen cabinet full inset hingeJust The Hinge Knuckle Is Visible On This Full-Inset Cabinet

  • Some Are More Concealed Than Others - The most 'concealed' exposed hinges are those used with full-inset cabinet doors. The only part of the hinge that's visible is the pivot-point knuckle. The rest of the hinge remains hidden behind the cabinet door.

    Even if you don't have full-inset cabinet doors there are plenty of hinge varieties where most of the hinge is hidden, if you prefer a traditional hinge but don't like a lot of hardware showing.

    These types of hinges are typically classified as the semi-concealed variety.

  • Mortise / No-Mortise - Exposed hinges come in both a mortise and no-mortise variety. A mortise is a notch cut into the cabinet frame and door to allow the hinge wings to sit flush. No-mortise hinges don't require this notch. They're easier to work with because there's no chiseling or cutting necessary to install them. The hinge wings lie on top of the cabinet surfaces.
  • Single and Double Demountable - Demountable hinges offer the convenience of being able to easily remove the cabinet door from the cabinet frame. Single demountable hinges detach from the cabinet door. Double demountable hinges detach from both the door and the cabinet frame. Special cutting and routing of the cabinet door and/or frame is required to accommodate these types of hinges.
  • Door Swing - Exposed hinges provide the maximum amount of cabinet door opening possible, up to 270 degrees. A 270-deg. hinge is typically used on TV and entertainment cabinets though many kitchen cabinet hinges can swing close to 180 degrees of opening angle. This allows unrestricted access to the inside of the cabinets and doesn't leave a door sticking out where it can get bumped (as would a door that only opens 90 degrees). It also permits the door to swing out wide enough to allow for slide-out shelves and trays.

Publisher's Comments

One drawback with traditional exposed hinges that have a generous swing angle is that they can sometimes bang into adjacent cabinets.

My kitchen cabinets have non-self closing hinges so the doors have catches to keep them closed. This requires a little more effort to open the doors.

More times than I'd like to admit I open a door (with a little extra 'oomph' to overcome the clasp) and end up banging an adjacent cabinet door because my fingers accidentally (..or clumsily..) slip off the knob. Usually I'm not quick enough to catch it and without any swing restrictions on the hinges, the cabinet door knob goes careening into the adjacent cabinet door.

It's particularly nasty on corner cabinets where one door only has to swing a little bit past 90 degrees to hit the adjacent door. That's when I think I'd prefer to have hinges with limitations on door swing. It's something to keep in mind (particularly if you're clumsy like me).

  • Hundreds Of Decorative Choices - An obvious benefit of using an exposed hinge style is that it gives you hundreds of varieties and decorative forms to choose from to complement your style of cabinet and kitchen. In contrast, virtually all concealed hinges look the same and have no decorative style (see the next section below on Concealed Hinges).

Concealed Hinges

Concealed hinges cannot be seen when the cabinet door is closed. They're also known as "hidden" hinges.

European style concealed cabinet hinge"European" or "Cup" Concealed Hinge

There are several varieties of concealed hinges. One predominant style is known as the "European" or "Euro" hinge. It's also known as a "cup hinge" because of the cup-like fitting on one end of the hinge.

Other types of concealed hinges include "barrel" or "cylinder" hinges and Soss hinges. Barrel hinges have two cylinders connected by small metal links hinged at the center.

Soss hinges have two metal wings that also are joined by metal links.

The benefit of these hinges (barrel and Soss) over the European cup hinge is that they're usually smaller and less noticeable than Euro hinges when the cabinet door is open.

Concealed hinges, regardless of type, require some drilling and/or a mortise be cut into the cabinetry. For Soss and barrel hinges, both the door and the cabinet box/frame must be cut to accept the hinge. Euro style hinges require a cutout only on the door to accept the hinge cup.

Characteristics Of Concealed Hinges

  • Adjustability In Some Types - European concealed hinges offer advantages over traditional exposed hinges in that they're adjustable. These hinges are 2-way or 3-way adjustable (side-to-side, height, depth). This feature is useful for getting cabinet doors properly aligned with each other, which is not easy when using non-adjustable exposed hinges that must be drilled precisely to hang the doors straight and in line with each other. On some concealed hinge models this adjustment is accomplished simply by turning a screw.
  • Self-Closing Feature - Some Euro style hinges have a built-in self-closing feature. These hinges will pull the door closed when it is close to being shut and will hold it closed. This precludes the need for any door catches or latches.
  • Convenience - Euro hinges allow for easy removal of the cabinet doors without having to remove the hinges from the cabinet. On some hinges this is achieved by use of a simple clip-on feature.
  • Variable Door Opening Angles - European style hinges offer a range of door opening angles. Examples include 95, 100, 110 and 120-degree opening angles. Larger opening capabilities such as 170-degrees are available but wide-opening Euro-style hinges are often bigger and bulkier than hinges with smaller opening angles.
  • No Decorative Style - Concealed hinges, as their name implies, are hidden from view and have no real decorative appeal. They're primarily functional pieces of hardware and for the most part, all look similar for a given type (Euro, Soss, barrel).

Similar to exposed hinges, concealed hinges are manufactured to accommodate different variations in cabinet construction (framed/frameless, door overlay, etc.). If you're buying hinges yourself, you'll need to be aware of this in order to get the right hinges.

Cost Comparison

The cost of kitchen cabinet hinges is obviously variable, dependent on the type of hinge and its features such as opening angle and finish. Concealed (Euro/cup) hinges will generally be more expensive than exposed hinges but the difference may not be as much as you might expect.

The typical cost of exposed hinges ranges from approximately $2.00 per pair for a simple wrap-around hinge to $8.00 for a wide-opening, non-mortise hinge.

Comparatively, concealed hinges may range from $6.00 per pair for 2-way (adjustable in 2 directions) face-frame hinges to $18.00 for more complex bi-fold hinges. Keep in mind however that the more expensive concealed hinges are for specialized functions such as wide-angle, blind-corner and bi-fold applications. Not all of your cabinet doors require these kinds of hinges.

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Choosing Hinges - Sorting Out What You Want/Need

Choosing the right kitchen cabinet hinges comes down to answering some questions about your wants and needs regarding the look and function of your cabinets.

    cabinet hinges

  • What is the style of cabinet you currently have or are looking to buy?
    Certain cabinet styles like traditional or period cabinets are very compatible with exposed, traditional wing/pin hinges. In contrast, the sleek look of European style frameless cabinets work best with concealed hinges.

  • Are you buying completely new cabinets or refurbishing your existing cabinets?
    If you're refurbishing your existing cabinets by replacing the doors and/or the knobs and pulls, you'll need to determine whether it's feasible to change the style of hinge. Things to consider and research further include the style of cabinet (framed/frameless), door overlay, new and old hinge position, etc.

    Buying new cabinets is a bit easier depending on who you're buying your cabinets from. If you purchase fully custom-made cabinets you should be able to specify the type of hinge you want. However, many name-brand manufactured cabinets don't offer 'hinge options' and you'll have to take what's offered by the manufacturer.

  • What level of convenience and accessibility do you want/need?
    One of the great features of concealed European hinges is their adjustability and the capacity for easy door removal. Standard hinges on the other hand do not allow for easy, convenient adjustments or door removal, unless you buy demountable hinges which require special cutouts in the cabinet door and frame for mounting purposes.

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Hinge Highlights - Some Innovations Worth Checking Out

This web page wouldn't be complete without talking about some of the latest innovations and features of cabinet hinges currently on the market.

Standard hinges have been around for a long time and you could say that they're at a "mature" level of technology.

Concealed or European-style hinges however continue to evolve and while it may seem hard to get excited about a hinge, there is reason to pay them some attention. The is mainly because of innovations in their ease of use and convenience.

Innovation And Convenience

If you haven't considered concealed cup-style hinges or just aren't aware of what's available, take a closer look at these convenient features:

  • Soft-Close/Self-Close
    European style hinges incorporate soft-close features that prevent the cabinet door from being slammed shut. This also keeps the doors shut, negating the need for any door latches or catches.

    Some doors have a self-closing or "hands-free" element that will close the door in a controlled manner after you initiate the closing action.

    Blum®, Inc. developed Euro style cabinet hinges with their BLUMOTION soft-close feature. It's the same adaptable closing system that's used on their soft-close drawers. The innovation lies in the ability for the hinge to adapt to the closing force that's applied. The door will close softly regardless of how hard it's pushed.

    Wood Technology, Inc. produces the Evolve™ hinge which has a silent-close, hands-free feature. This means the cabinet door will close on its own once it's pushed past 80 degrees of opening angle.

    The "Silence Hinge", made by Ruca USA, incorporates its own soft-close features that prevent slamming. It also has an unassisted self-close feature at about 45 degrees of opening angle.

  • Easy Door Removal
    A convenient feature about these types of kitchen cabinet hinges is their capacity for easy door removal and installation, often called "tool-free" design. Some cabinet hinges have a simple clip that allows you to quickly remove the door. You may not need to remove the doors often but if and when you do, this feature comes in handy.

    As an example, manufacturers of cabinets with thermofoil doors (doors that are covered in a thin vacuum-formed film of vinyl) recommend removal of the doors in the vicinity of self-cleaning ovens and appliances. This is so they won't be damaged from heat generation during the self-cleaning cycle. Being able to quickly and easily remove the doors takes a lot of aggravation out of the process.

    The Blum® CLIP top hinges afford quick removal and installation of cabinet doors by way of a simple clip feature. These hinges are tool-less in that no tools are needed to remove the door. They also feature 3-way door adjustment by means of adjustment screws.

    The NEXIS hinge system by Grass America also offers tool-free cabinet door removal and installation as well as 3-way adjustment.

  • Easier-Reach Overhead Cabinets
    Some overhead cabinets employ a lift-type door that opens like an overhead garage door. New hinges (or 'lift systems' as they're actually called) are available that have easy-touch opening action as well as stay-in-place positioning. In other words, the door stays at whatever lift height you open it to. It stays there while you're getting access to contents of the cabinet and the door can still be reached when it's time to close it, rather than out of reach at a fully opened position.

    These features are included in the AVENTOS lift system by Blum®. There are several varieties within the AVENTOS system each designed to accommodate different types of overhead lift-style cabinetry.

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Here's More Related Info That Might Be Helpful...

Cabinet Quality - Can you tell the difference between good / better / best in cabinet quality? This article shows you what you need to look for to make sure you get good quality cabinets.

Cabinet Knobs & Pulls - There's more to cabinet hardware than just looks.

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