The 11 Most Common Types of Cabinet Hinges

Gemma Johnstone
Written by Gemma Johnstone
Updated May 11, 2022
Person getting a cup down from an upper cabinet
Photo: Leren Lu / Stone / 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.

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 (Semi-Concealed) 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 (Seamless) Hinges

Surface mount or frameless hinges aren’t visible, and you can usually adjust these cabinet hinges 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, variable or partial overlay hinge type. These are typically face frame, semi-concealed hinges.

Full Overlay 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.  

Half Overlay Hinges

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

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

Partial Overlay Hinges

Partial overlay hinges leave room for 1 inch between the cabinet doors, so the face frame is visible. These hinges don’t require any hardware for opening and closing the doors

5. Inset Hinges

Person installing a cabinet hinge
Photo: DragonImages / iStock/Getty Images Plus / 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.

8. Corner Hinges

Corner hinges come in handy when installing a corner kitchen cabinet because of the wide-angle opening.  

9. Friction Hinges

If you’ve ever wondered if there’s a way to keep a cabinet door held open in the position of your choosing, then you should consider friction hinges. Also known as torque hinges, these specialized hinges slow down the pivoting movement of the door. 

10. Butterfly Hinges

Butterfly hinges are exactly what they sound like: the cabinet door hinges look like a butterfly. The entire hinge is visible when you close the door for a vintage and decorative look. 

11. Pie-Cut Hinges

Pie-cut hinges are for completing a very specific task: attaching two corner cabinet doors to one another.

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.

Drawer Slide Features

The drawer slide is found at one of three locations on the drawer: the bottom, the side, or on the bottom joint. 

Push-to-Open Drawer Slides 

With push-to-open drawer slides, you can push on the door of a cabinet or drawer to open it. These drawer slides don’t require any hardware. 

Soft-Closing Drawer Slides 

If you’d like a quieter environment and don’t like to hear drawers slamming shut, then look for soft-closing drawer slides. These are more costly but include a mechanism that makes the drawer close more slowly and make less noise. 

Self-Closing Drawer Slides 

These allow you to gently close the drawer and the slide will close it the last couple of inches and keep it closed.

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.

Type of Hinge Already There

To determine the type of hinge you already have on your cabinets, look for the following defining characteristics: 

  • Hinge overlay: Take note of the type of hinge overlay (full, half, inset, or variable).

  • Hinge mounting plate connection: You’ll find that most hinges are a clip-on or a slide-on. A clip-on hinge clips to the mounting plate without screws, and you’ll find this type in kitchens. A slide-on hinge requires screws and slides on the mounting plate.

  • Cup hole diameter: Look for the hole in the door where the hinge is installed and measure the diameter. Large hinges range from 26, 35, or 40 millimeters.

  • Opening angle of the door: Open the cabinet door all the way and determine the opening angle of the door. Usually, this ranges between 95 and 110 degrees, while corner cabinets may open up to 170 degrees. 

  • Thickness of the door and carcass: The size of the mounting plate depends on the thickness of the door and carcass (typically 15 or 16 millimeters and 18 or 19 millimeters). The size will vary if you have specialty cabinet doors. 

You can replace the hinges on your cabinets with new ones, but if you plan to use a different hinge, then be prepared to do some prep work. First, remove the old hinges and cover the new holes with wood filler and sand it before drilling new ones. If you’re refinishing your cabinets, then go ahead and do this at the same time and stain or paint over the old holes.

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