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Your Basic Hinge Guide

Certainly, when getting ready to purchase and install cabinet hinges, there are many questions that a homeowner might have. Here, we try to explain the basic make-up of a hinge, while answering the most common questions about hinge installation and selection.

Hinge Components:

Any hinge consists of three basic parts. It has the pivot point with a pin or barrel, a frame wing on either side of the pivot point, and the door wing. The frame wing mounts onto the frame or cabinet side, while the door wing mounts to the door.

Mounting the Frame Wing

There are many different ways that the frame wing can mount onto the door frame. The most common is the fully exposed frame wing where the exposed screws are put directly into the surface of the face frame. A hidden surface mount frame wing is one with screws that mount under the door directly into the surface of the face frame. This leaves only the barrel of the hinge exposed when the door is closed. Wrap frame wings have the frame wrings wrapping around the face frame and the screws holding the cabinet hinge to the face. A full wrap face wing is one where the hinge turns again to go behind the frame, while a partial wrap is one where it only goes around the edge of the frame. It's very important to understand that if you've purchased partial or full wrap hinges, you'll need to know the overlay, which is the amount that the door covers the face frame, for the installation.

Full Wrap Hinge

Mounting the Door Wing

The door wing also comes in many different configurations. A surface mount hinge is one that mounts to the door front and has exposed screws. Colonial hinges are one great example of this configuration. A slab overlay hinge is one that has a flat door wing and that mounts to the back side of the door. You might also see it called a variable overlay hinge.

Colonial Hinge

Considerations When Installing Hinges

Lip Doors: Many cabinets have lip doors where the lip covers part of the face frame when the door is closed. If you have a lip door, you'll need to know two specific things in order to get the right cabinet hinges. You need to measure the width of the lip and the depth of the inset of the door. This is the amount that it goes back into the cabinet behind the face frame. Usually, the lip and the inset are 3/8''. You can also find insets of 1/2'', 5/8'' and 3/4''.

Full Inset: If you have a full inset door, that means that it goes all the way back into the cabinet door opening and is flush with the surface of the face frame when the door is closed. Usually, these doors will be mounted with a flat surface hinge. You mount these hinges with both wings mounted on the front of the frame and door. Less common, though still possible, is to have a hinge where the frame wing mounts to the side of the face frame with the door wing mounting to the door side and also wrapping behind the door and secured with screws. You'll need to know your door thickness in order to know which hinges to purchase in this situation. The 3/4'' measurement is the most common, but you can also find hinges for doors with 9/16'', 11/16'' and 13/16'' thicknesses. The best choice for these face frames is partial wrap cabinet hinges.

Partial Wrap Hinge

Self Closing and Non-Self Closing Hinges

The point of self closing hinges is that they finish closing the door for you and they hold the door closed. They have steel that is thicker than in non-self closing hinges. Non-self closing hinges, on the other hand, don't help you to close the door. The door will remain in whatever position you've left it. They are made of thinner steel and they require a catch in order to keep the door closed.

A Few Other Hinge Types

A pin hinge uses a rivet or pin as the pivot point, and does not have a barrel. They can come in many configurations. You'll find self closing and non-self closing pin hinges, and can also find ones that mount in various places on the door. Some will mount on the top and bottom of the door, while others will mount in the middle. When using pin hinges, you should know the overlay and you may also need to know the door thickness and the face frame thickness.

Butt hinges have rectangular parts. They can either mount to the side of the face frame or to the side of the door. They can also be surface mounted on the door and face frame, which would then make it a flush mount hinge.

Butterfly hinges are always surface mount hinges that are usually used for flush doors. They have a shape that looks vaguely like a butterfly, giving them their name.

This hinge guide should be a good introduction for anyone shopping for cabinet hinge hardware. Armed with this information, the average homeowner can start shopping for new cabinet hinge hardware - and enjoy the difference that it can make in your kitchen, bath or other area of the home.

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