How to Choose the Right Cabinet Hinge?

Cabinet hinges help the cabinet door to open and close easily. The look of the cabinets can change based on the kind of hinges you pick for the door. Only some hinges work for all cabinet doors.

Doors that are even with the cabinet frame called inset doors, often use butt hinges, inset hinges, or surface mount hinges. With so many choices for cabinet hinges, picking the right one can take time and effort. This guide explains all the options, helping you select the perfect hinge for your project.

The first step is to understand your cabinets and doors, as hinges are usually grouped based on these types.

Related: Cabinet Hardware: The Essential Guide

Table of Contents

installing cabinet hinges

How to Choose the Right Hinges for Cabinets

Picking cabinet hinges is more than just choosing a suitable material or color. Think about how they work and fit into your furniture. Here are tips to help you choose the best hinges for your project.

  1. If you’re starting from scratch, you have the freedom to pick any cabinet hinge. But decide on your hinges before you begin. Choosing cabinet hardware is essential in the early design phase. It’s simpler to adjust your design to fit the hardware than to change your project mid-way because the hardware you wanted is yet to be available.
  1. When replacing hinges, first try to find out who made them. The manufacturer’s name might be on the hinge. If not, use a buying guide like you’re shopping for a new hinge. This can lead you to the best replacement option. Remember, you can upgrade to hinges with the same function but added features like a soft closing mechanism.
  1. Consider the size of your cabinet doors. You want to avoid too many hinges, but you need enough to hold the door over time. Two hinges are used, but bigger doors might need three or more. Check our guide on door size and hinge count to see if you need more than two hinges per door.

Understanding Cabinet Construction

When choosing hinges for your furniture, it’s important to understand the two basic types of cabinet construction:

  1. Face Frame Cabinets: These cabinets have a frame, usually made from 1-1/2″ to 2″ wide solid wood, attached to the front edges or face of the case. Hinges, often referred to as semi-concealed hinges, are mounted to this face frame. This style is the most common in American cabinets. For these cabinets, look for semi-concealed cabinet hinges.
  1. Frameless Cabinets: These are essentially boxes with an open front. The exposed front edges of materials like plywood, MDF, or particleboard are covered with edge banding. Hinges in this style are mounted to the interior of the cabinet. Frameless cabinets are also known as Euro or Euro-style cabinets.

Different Types of Cabinet Hinges

Surface Mount Hinges

Ideal for: Stylish design, face frame cabinets, and doors covering partially or fully.

These hinges attach to the cabinet’s outer frame and the door’s exterior. Since they’re always in view, they’re made to look good, often with appealing colors or designs to improve the cabinet’s overall look.

They are often used on cabinets with a frame on the front and doors that cover either a part or the whole front. But, if you prefer hinges that stay out of sight or are barely noticeable when the door is shut, there might be better choices than these hinges.

Surface Mount Hinges

Semi-Concealed Hinges

Ideal for: Cabinets needing a few highlights, face frame styles, doors that cover part or all of the front.

Semi-concealed hinges are suited for cabinets with face frames and doors that either cover a portion or the entire front. These hinges hide mainly behind the door when it’s shut, showing only a small part on the frame’s edge or the door’s side.

The door’s hinge section is out of sight, while the frame’s hinge part is slightly visible from the outside. This design subtly enhances the cabinet’s appearance, adding elements like a dash of color, a shiny chrome look, or matte black details to the doors.

Semi-Concealed Hinges

Butt Hinges

Ideal for: Classic look, frameless cabinets, and inset doors.

Butt hinges have two square plates for mounting and a central part, called a barrel, for the hinge pin. This classic hinge can be put on cabinets with a face frame, but the person installing it has to create a cut-out space in the wood, known as a mortise, so the door sits flat against the cabinet’s frame.

These hinges are often found on European-style frameless cabinets with inset doors. The part that connects to the frame goes inside the cabinet’s frame, and the part that connects to the door goes on the door’s side. This way, only the barrel shows when the door is shut.

Butt Hinges for cabinets

Inset Hinges

Ideal for: Hidden hinge look, frameless cabinets, and inset doors.

Inset hinges are made for inset cabinet doors, as their name suggests. Their design with a bend lets the door shut entirely without any part of the hinge showing. These hinges need to be attached inside a frameless cabinet and to the door’s back edge. This makes the door sit perfectly inside the cabinet box.

You can also use inset hinges on cabinets with a face frame. However, you need to attach the frame wing to the face frame. This leaves half of the hinge visible when the cabinet door is closed.

Flush Hinges

Ideal for: Small spaces, thin gaps in cabinet doors, and hidden installation.

Flush hinges are much like butt hinges but are slimmer, which makes the space between the cabinet door and box smaller. These hinges are perfect if you can’t cut into the cabinet or door for a butt hinge mortise.

These hinges are made so that the part on the door fits inside the part on the frame when the hinge is closed. The biggest parts of this hinge, the barrel and pin, might sometimes be seen from outside the cabinet, especially when used on cabinets with a face frame.

Flush Hinges

Wrap-Around Hinges

Ideal for: Strong support, partially hidden setup.

Wrap-around hinges have a special design that wraps around the frame’s inside edge, offering better support for the cabinet door. This design distributes the door’s weight and the stress on the screws over a larger area, enhancing the hinge’s strength.

These hinges are often chosen for frameless cabinets with doors that either partially or fully cover the front. There are also full wrap-around hinges designed to fit over the frame of a cabinet box with a face frame style.

full wrap-around hinges cabinets

T-Style Hinges

Ideal for: Rustic design, easy installation, and strong support for heavy cabinet doors.

T-style hinges are less widely used nowadays. Still, they bring a classic, rustic charm, perfect for kitchens in ranch-style homes or houses with a natural rustic look.

Apart from their appealing design, T-style hinges are simple to install on the outside of the cabinet box and the front of the door. They are usually very strong and durable, making them suitable for supporting the weight of solid wood doors rather than just thin panels or particleboard.

T-Style Hinges cabinets

Butterfly Hinges

Ideal for: Vintage style and simple installation.

Butterfly hinges are mainly chosen for their look. True to their name, they are shaped like butterflies. The part that attaches to the frame is fixed on the outside of the cabinet box, and the part that attaches to the door is on the front of the door. This way, the butterfly shape is always visible.

Installing these hinges is easy because you don’t need to cut a mortise. You can put them in with just a drill or a screwdriver. Butterfly hinges are suitable for doors that partially or fully cover the cabinet. Still, their decorative effect is less noticeable with inset doors.

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