Friday, May 1, 2009

Not All Cabinet Hinges Were Created Equal- Part 1

I can't count how many times over the years I've heard a customer tell me, "I thought all cabinet hinges were the same.” And through their quest for the correct hinge, they've come to realize how wrong they were. There are a zillion different options. OK not a zillion but I'm sure it seems that way to some.

There are Overlays, Insets, Offsets, Demountables, Face Mounts, and European Hinges. I'll go through each one and hopefully make some sense out of them for you. I'll start with the anatomy of a hinge:

Partial Wrap Hinge

∙The Frame Wing is the part of the hinge that attaches to the cabinet frame.

∙The Door Wing is the part of the hinge that attaches to the door. Depending on the hinge, this can attach to the back of the door, the side of the door, or the front of the door.

∙The Knuckle is what connects the two wings together and allows the hinge to rotate.

∙The Pin is the long barrel that runs through the knuckle and holds the hinge together. Some people will use the terms Barrel, Pin, and Knuckle interchangeably.

Now that you know what the parts of a hinge are called, we can go on to the mounting of hinges. There are a few main types of mounting; the first would be a Partial Wrap hinge. This is pretty much exactly how it sounds; the hinge partially wraps the frame. On the frame wing of the hinge, there is an extra bend that allows the hinge to be mounted on the side of the cabinet opening rather than on the face of the cabinet. The door wing is mounted on the back of the cabinet door. When the hinge is installed and the door is closed all that you see is the knuckle. The picture above is an example of a partial wrap hinge.

The next type of mounting would be a Face Frame hinge. On a face frame hinge, the frame wing is attached to the outside of the cabinet frame with two screws, and the door wing is mounted behind the cabinet door. When the door is closed, the frame wing side of the hinge is exposed. See the picture below:

Face Frame Hinge

Another mounting type is a Surface Mount hinge, again it sounds like what it does. Both the frame wing and the door wing are mounted on the surface (or front) of the cabinet. When this hinge is installed, and the door is closed you would see the frame wing on the outside mounted with two or three screws and the door wing mounted on the outside with two or three screws. An example:

Surface Mount Hinge

Last would be a Flush/Full Inset mount, some people call this type of mounting a full inset because the door is fully inside the cabinet frame. Some people call it a flush mount because the door and the frame are flush with each other. On a full inset hinge, the frame wing is mounted to the side of the cabinet opening and the door wing is mounted on the inside edge of the cabinet door. When a full inset hinge is mounted, your door will be flush with your frame and all that you would see when the door is closed would be the knuckle. The last example:

Flush Mount Hinge

I don’t want to scare you into never buying hinges on your own so I’ll save the best for last….cabinet hinge applications. Stay tuned for next weeks installment of an in depth explanation on the different types of cabinet hinge applications.

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  1. I appreciated finding these pages about hinges.
    Our current overlay cabinets have partial wrap hinges; we need to replace some of them and there are more choices with face frame hinges. Is one stronger than the other? Other advantages to partial wrap?

  2. Shari, in terms of strength one isn't better than the other. It really comes down to the look. Face frame hinges do take up more space on the cabinet, and you have two exposed screw holes on the front of the cabinet. If you choose to change them to partial wraps later, it's more work (filling and sanding the holes.)

  3. Hi Erica,

    Great post! Redoing my kitchen cabinets and have to replace the ugly 70s face mount hinges. One question: the face frame hinges at my local hardware store don't quite match my old ones--the 3 door wing holes line up but then the frame wing holes are just a bit out of alignment (or vice versa)--too much to go in at a slight angle and also too close to the old holes to have a clean surface to drill into.

    Is there a modern standard for the hole spacing on all hinges these days, that my old hinges don't follow? Or might I find new hinges whose holes line up exactly with the holes on my old hinges? I'd rather avoid drilling new holes if possible--that seems like a lot more work with drilling, alignment, etc.


  4. Hi Mike,
    Unfortunately, there isn't a standard for hole spacing. You can email a picture of your hinge directly to me with hole spacing measurements, and I'd be happy to see if we have something that will match.
    My email address is:

  5. Thanks Erica. I'll be in touch!