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The Main Types of Cabinet Door Hinges

Gemma Johnstone
Written by Gemma Johnstone
Updated August 6, 2021
Person getting a cup down from an upper cabinet

Leren Lu/Stone via Getty Images

Understanding more about the construction of your cabinets will help you decide which type of cabinet hinges to opt for

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 It might surprise you to learn how complicated the world of cabinet hinges is. It turns out there’s a complex system at work every time you open the cupboard for a bowl of cereal. Learn more about the most common types of cabinet hinges and which ones will work for you.

Understand Your Cabinet Construction Before Selecting Hinges

Before selecting a hinge type, you need to know if your cabinets have frames or not and measure the overlay.

Do You Have Framed or Frameless Cabinets?

Framed cabinets are the traditional style in the U.S. As the name suggests, they have a frame around the cabinet face, and you install the hinges onto it. The cabinet door then sits on the outside of this frame.  

The frameless cabinet design originated in Europe but is growing in popularity in the U.S. With this design, the hinges go directly onto the inside of the cabinet.

Measure Your Cabinet Overlay and Inset

Whether you have a framed or frameless cabinet design, you’ll need to accurately measure the overlay. This will help you determine which type of hinges you can buy.

Partial overlay and full overlay are most common on American cabinets. But an inset design (fitting flush, entirely within the cabinet opening) is also possible.

A partial overlay means there’s some space between the doors when closed (typically around 0.5”-1”). Full overlay covers the cabinet opening, leaving no space between the doors, and is the only option on frameless designs. 

When open, you need to measure the amount of cabinet door that overlays the edge of the frame or cabinet opening to establish what type of hinge will work. When you’re purchasing the hinges, they will list the overlay dimension on them.

Common Types of Cabinet Hinges

Below are eight of the most common styles of cabinet hinge designs you may hear about when looking to make a purchase.

1. Face Frame Hinges

Also known as semi-concealed hinges, the frame-mounted wing is partially visible, and the part attached to the door stays hidden until you open it. As you would expect, you would use these hinges on framed cabinets. They’re one of the most popular types of hinges, and many of the styles of hinges below work as face frame varieties.

2. Butt Hinge

When you think of a hinge, chances are a butt hinge is what comes to mind. This traditional hinge type has two metal leaves that pivot via central interlocking barrel pins or ball joints. 

A standard butt hinge will need a mortise cut out on the door and possibly even the cabinet. Otherwise, a large gap will be visible when closed. A mortise is a wooden recess designed to match with a corresponding joint (referred to as a tenon), so that when they come together they fit snugly.

However, there are non-mortise hinges that come in a butt style, and they fold in on themselves as the door closes. These will leave a less visible gap.

3. Surface Mount Hinges

Surface mount or frameless hinges aren’t visible, and you can usually adjust them to ensure the perfect door swing. You don’t need to create a mortise to fit them, and they’re one of the easiest types of hinges to install on any cabinet type. Because of where they originate, you may also see them marketed as European hinges.

4. Overlay Hinges

Depending on the type of overlay your cabinets have and their position when mounted, you may need to consider whether to opt for a full, half, or variable overlay hinge type. These are typically face frame, semi-concealed hinges.

You’ll find full overlay hinges on stand-alone cabinets or those at the end of a line where the cabinet door covers the full face of the frame.  

For cabinets in the middle of a line with a shared partition, you might use smaller half overlay hinges. The hinges then need mounting on opposite sides of this partition to allow the two doors to open without hitting each other. Half overlay hinges allow for a small gap between the doors.

Variable overlay hinges offer a little flexibility in overlay dimensions. They’re a good choice for non-standard door sizes.

5. Inset Hinges

Person installing a cabinet hinge

DragonImages / iStock/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Inset or flush hinges are face frame hinge examples. They attach to the door on one side and inside of the cabinet or frame on the other. You’ll find full inset hinges on doors completely inset into the frame. The doors require knobs since they sit flush with the cabinet frame.

6. Wrap-Around Hinges

So-called because the leaf of the hinge wraps around the cabinet frame, wrap-around hinges can be full or partial. Partial wrap-around varieties touch two sides of the frame, and full wrap touch three sides. They offer additional stability and are a good option if you have opted for heavy cabinet doors. Both full and partial wrap-around hinge types are visible, so make sure you pick a finish that goes with your overall design.  

These days, full wrap-around hinges aren’t widely available, but partial wrap-arounds still offer excellent support, and they’re compatible with overlay and inset cabinet door types.

7. Barrel Hinges

Although you’ll more typically see cylindrical barrel hinges on lids on woodworking projects, you can use these for cabinet doors when you want a fully concealed hinge type.

Because they come in such a wide variety of sizes, you’ll need to make sure you select one with a suitable depth and diameter for use on cabinet doors.  

These hinges aren’t always the best choice for heavy cabinet doors as they don’t provide as much support as the likes of a wrap-around type.

Hinge Features

When selecting your hinges, you’ll want to consider any specific features you would like for convenience or aesthetics. For semi-concealed hinges, the type of decorative finish you choose can affect the overall look of your design. 

Some hinges are demountable, making them easier to clean and repair. Others are self-closing or soft-closing with a spring-loaded mechanism. These can be helpful if you have young children prone to slamming doors shut or getting their fingers trapped in them! Be aware that these hinges are more expensive pieces of cabinet hardware and can be more tricky to fit and adjust. You may want to call out a local cabinet repair expert to help with their installation.

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