Complete Guide to Cabinet Hinge Types

In cabinet carpentry, there are countless cabinet and door style options that make narrowing down your choices difficult. The selection process begins with looking at special features, finishes, and aesthetic preferences. In this article, we will outline how to choose the right cabinet hinge for your next commercial or residential project.

Door Overlay Style

There are two primary door overlay styles, those of which include inset doors and overlay door types. It is important to note that overlay doors are available in partial overlay and full overlay styles. Inset doors are flush with and on the same plane as the cabinet frame. The frame itself surrounds the entire cabinet door. For inset doors, the most common hinges are butt, surface mount, or inset European hinges. Full overlay doors, on the other hand, cover the entire cabinet opening when closed, leaving the inside wooden edge of the cabinet box exposed when the door is open. For these doors, full or partial wraparound, flush mount, surface mount, and full overlay European hinges are most common. Lastly, partial overlay doors, as their name suggests, partially cover the cabinet box when the door is closed, and the inside wooden edge is left exposed when the door is open. The most popular hinge types for these doors include full and partial wraparound, flush mount, surface mount, and partial overlay European variations.

Concealed or Exposed Hinges

Concealed hinges are sleek and provide a contemporary look, while exposed hinges are visible and stick out. While concealed hinges offer a flush design that many prefer today, many American and vintage cabinet styles feature exposed hinges.

Surface Mount or Mortised

Surface mount hinges sit on top of the cabinet surface and do not necessitate a hole or mortise to be drilled for installation. By contrast, mortise hinges are recessed into the cabinet and require a boring hole to install them.

Motion Features

Hinges with motion features, such as soft closing hinges, reduce noise from slamming cabinet doors. Instead, a small tap is enough to close the doors. Additionally, there are two other motion features to consider, those of which are self-close and self-open types.

Common Cabinet Hinge Styles

Cabinet hinge styles vary in size and application, but the main categories are traditional and European. Traditional styles are generally designed for face framed cabinets and are visible, while European styles are concealed when the door is shut. Beyond such types, there are also hinges made for restoration projects, ornate decorative styles, and many others. That being said, this section will cover some of the most common types.

“Full Crank” or Inset Hinges

This European hinge acquires its name from the bend in the hinge arm. It is offset from the edge of the door, allowing the door to sit flush with the cabinet face or box when shut.

“Half Crank” or Partial Overlay Hinges

This hinge type has slightly less bend than an inset hinge. While many conflate partial overlay hinges with inset hinges, the major difference lies in the fact that partial overlay hinges are set back from the edge a bit further so that the edge of the door can partially overlay the case.

Full Overlay Hinges

Fully overlay hinges have a completely straight arm, allowing the door to completely overlay the cabinet box.

Surface Mount Hinges

These hinges are mounted to the exterior of the frame and the outside of the door, making them visible. Other common hinge types include butt hinges, flush hinges, semiconcealed hinges, wraparound hinges, and t-style hinges.


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November 20, 2023

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