Choose the Perfect Hinges for Your Kitchen Cabinets

Installing new kitchen cabinets can transform the look and functionality of your kitchen space. But the devil is in the details, and choosing the right hinges is one key detail that should not be overlooked.

The hinges on your kitchen cabinets play an important role in how the doors open, close and align. The wrong hinges can lead to crooked cabinet doors, damage from slamming, and an unsatisfying kitchen renovation outcome after spending so much time and money.

Different Types of Kitchen Cabinet Hinges

When selecting cabinet hinges, one of the first steps is simply becoming aware of the different types available. The most common options include:

Face Frame Hinges

Face frame cabinet hinges are designed specifically for mounting on a cabinet’s face frame. The hinge leaves are inset into the face frame, while part of the mechanism remains partially exposed for a decorative look.

The exposed barrel-style design provides a visible accent that defines each door and drawer. They allow the doors to open wide 180+ degrees. Face frame hinges are ideal for traditional, Old World, or Craftsman style kitchens.

kitchen cabinets hinges types

However, the exposed barrel does collect dust. Face frame hinges also have visible screw holes on the cabinet face after installation. If not installed precisely, they can lead to uneven door alignment.

Butt Hinges

This basic hinge style joins two rectangular leaves with a pin and offers little decorative frills. Traditional butt hinges have exposed leaves when installed. Newer concealed models hide the leaves within the cabinet frame.

Butt hinges are versatile since they work for overlay, inset, and face frame cabinet door styles. Mortise butt hinges fit into a mortise or recess in the door and cabinet edge. Non-mortise hinges simply mount to the outside of the door and frame.

Exposed butt hinges have a visible industrial look. However, the exposed pin can catch dirt. Mortising the hinge into the cabinet also takes extra installation work.

Surface Mount Hinges

As the name implies, these hinges mount to the surface of the cabinet door and face instead of being inset into the frame. This creates a minimalist, seamless look since no hardware is visible after the doors are closed.

The hinge mechanism can pivot beyond 180 degrees for full access to cabinet contents. However, surface mount hinges require precise installation to properly align with the cabinets. Poor alignment leads to uneven gaps.

Overlay Hinges

Overlay hinges mount either to the cabinet face frame or the box front. The cabinet doors overlay part or all of the cabinet frame when closed.

Full overlay hinges allow doors to completely cover the cabinet frame, providing a seamless, contemporary look. Partial overlay hinges have doors that only partially cover the cabinet frame.

Other variations include half overlay and variable overlay hinges. Variable overlay hinges are adjustable to account for potential cabinet alignment issues after installation.

While overlay hinges work for many cabinet configurations, they usually require inset panels for added strength on larger doors. Poor alignment can also lead to uneven gaps between doors and drawers.

Inset Hinges

Inset cabinet hinges are installed directly to the inside walls of the cabinet box. This allows inset cabinet doors to sit flush within the frame for a seamless, built-in look.

No hardware is visible on the outside of the cabinet for a clean appearance. However, any uneven gaps between doors are also highly visible. Precise measurement and installation are crucial to prevent alignment issues.

Wrap-Around Hinges

As the name suggests, wrap-around cabinet hinges have long leaves that wrap around the side walls of the cabinet. This provides enhanced stability, especially for heavier doors.

Full wrap hinges allow for minimal gaps with full overlay doors. Partial wrap options still grip the side walls for increased support but allow partial door overlay. However, wrap-around hinges are prone to bending over time.

Barrel Hinges

These antique-style partially concealed hinges consist of a barrel-shaped mechanism that wraps around a conical pin. The barrel cup inserts into a hole on the cabinet edge while the pin screws into the door.

When closed, only the decorative exposed barrel shows. However, the pin placement restricts how far the door can overlay the cabinet. Most barrel hinges only allow for 1/2″ overlay.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Hinges

With all the different kitchen cabinet hinge options, selecting the right type involves considering a few key factors:

Cabinet Door Type

The most basic factor is whether your cabinets have inset or overlay doors. Inset cabinets require inset hinges, while overlay cabinets need overlay or face frame hinges. Knowing your door style narrows suitable hinge options.

Cabinet Construction

Cabinet construction also affects hinge choice. Face frame cabinets have a front frame that hinges can mount to. Frameless cabinet styles feature hinges that mount directly to the cabinet box front.

Desired Aesthetics

Do you want decorative exposed hinges like face frame mounts or barrel hinges? Or do minimal, concealed hinges like inset or full overlay styles better suit your desired modern, streamlined look?

Ease of Installation

Some homeowners may want to install their kitchen cabinet hinges themselves as a DIY project. Hinges like overlay mounts often prove simpler for novice homeowners to install vs. hinges requiring mortises or precise interior cabinet mounting.

Functionality Needs

Consider functional factors like required clearance for drawer openings, self-closing hinges for cabinets above ovens, and soft-close mechanisms on frequently opened doors. Match hinges to how each cabinet space gets used.


Finally, costs for different hinge types can vary. Beautiful antique barrel hinges may blow your kitchen renovation budget. Inset hinges also tend to cost more with their tricky installation. Keep costs for all required hinges in mind.

Matching Hinges to Common Cabinet Styles

The right hinges keep your cabinet doors hanging straight and even. To help match hinges to popular cabinet configurations, we compiled these recommendations:

Hinges for Face Frame Cabinets

Face frame cabinets suit these hinge types:

  • Face frame mounts
  • Partial overlay hinges
  • Full overlay hinges (with inset center panels)

Hinges for Frameless Cabinets

Frameless (European-style) cabinets pair well with:

  • Surface mount hinges
  • Concealed overlay hinges
  • Concealed inset hinges

Hinges for Inset Cabinets

For inset cabinet doors, always choose:

  • Inset hinges

Hinges Based on Overlay Percentage

For overlay cabinets, hinge selection depends on door overlay percentage:

  • Full overlay: Pick full overlay or wrap around hinges
  • Half overlay: Go with half overlay or partial wrap hinges
  • Partial overlay: Choose partial overlay or face frame hinges

Installation Tips and Tricks

With the right hinges chosen, it’s time to install them. We’ll summarize key steps, tips, and tricks to get your cabinet hinges mounted right the first time.

Measuring and Marking Locations

Always measure twice and mark hinge locations lightly in pencil. Most hinges sit 2-3″ from top and bottom of the cabinet door or frame. Allow roughly 3-5″ between each hinge.

Be extremely precise with inset hinge measurements to prevent alignment issues later. If possible, use a drilling template for accuracy.

Step-by-Step Installation Guide

Refer to the manufacturer’s guide for specific instructions. But in general, the steps include:

  1. Attach hinge leaf to cabinet door
  2. Mark hinge locations on cabinet face
  3. Drill pilot holes for screws in cabinet
  4. Fasten hinge leaves to align door
  5. Adjust until door hangs straight and seals properly

Tips for Proper Alignment

To avoid problems like sagging doors, ensure:

  • Hinges form a straight vertical line when doors are closed
  • Doors seal squarely without gaps in corners
  • Doors do not collide with drawers when opened

Use shims or spacers to make adjustments during installation as needed.

Troubleshooting Tricks

Common hinge installation issues and fixes include:

  • Uneven gaps: Adjust hinge placement and add shims until aligned
  • Door sag: Add additional hinge at bottom to support weight
  • Door won’t close: Loosen screws allowing further rotation

Maintaining and Replacing Cabinet Hinges

With your hinges installed flawlessly, it’s important to maintain them and know when replacement is needed.

Cleaning and Lubricating

Use a soft cloth to gently remove grease, dust and grime from hinges periodically. Lubricate with silicone spray to prevent squeaking and keep the motion smooth.

Signs Hinges Need Replacing

Look for:

  • Loose screws refusing to tighten
  • Sagging doors no longer supported
  • Corroded or stripped hinge barrels and pins
  • Cracked or broken hinge leaves

Removing Old Hinges

Take doors down by punching out the hinge pins. Unscrew any remaining loose leaf from inside the cabinet. Use a chisel to remove mortised hinge sections by hammering into the mortise gap.

Hinge Replacement Guide

To install new hinges:

  1. Remove doors and old hinges
  2. Fill old mortises and repaint cabinet interiors if needed
  3. Install new hinges in same locations or improve layout
  4. Test door closure and realign if necessary

The hinges on kitchen cabinets play a surprisingly important role in creating a functional and beautiful kitchen. With all the available options, from exposed face frame hinges to concealed inset hinges, selecting the right types of cabinet hinges involves considering door style, cabinet construction, aesthetics, installation complexity, functionality, and budget.

Understanding the pros and cons of common kitchen cabinet hinge types helps narrow your selection. Matching hinges to popular cabinet configurations also prevents installation issues. With appropriate hinges chosen for your specific cabinets, following proper installation techniques ensures your doors hang beautifully aligned and operate smoothly for years.

Take time to choose the ideal hinges for your new kitchen cabinets. With strong hinge selections made upfront, you can avoid problems and enjoy an incredible, cohesive look that transforms your entire kitchen.

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