Choosing Cabinet Hinges

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Author Jim Tolpin, writing in Building Traditional Kitchen Cabinets, advises that when choosing what type of hinge to use to swing the cabinet doors, you should consider the following factors: appropriateness to the style of the cabinetry, ease of installation and adjustment, closing mechanism (self or catch) and cost. My ordering of the factors is not arbitrary. I list style first because it may strictly define the type of hinge. For example, Early American pine cabinets beg for surface mounted "L" or "H" or "butterfly" hinges. While these hinges are easy to install, you must accept their characteristic drawbacks: difficulties of adjustment, limited weight capacity, non-self-closure (a safety issue) and expense if hand-wrought. 

If however, the appearance of the hinge is not critical to style, then you can opt for ease of installation and adjustment. If a fully concealed hinge works for your cabinet design, I strongly suggest using European-type cup hinges (most brands have versions designed for use with face-frame construction). Although it may be expensive, the cup hinge has almost everything else going for it. It is the easiest of all hinge types to install, and it allows for the greatest range of adjustment after installation. Cup hinges are self-closing (when held within an inch or so of their closed position) and can support more weight than any other type of cabinet-door hinge, which means that you might get away with using a pair of hinges while another hinge might require three. A variety of mounting plates allows you to control how much the door overlays the face frame. 

In certain applications, such as an enclosed microwave cabinet, I want the frequently opened doors to swing totally out of the way without blocking other cabinets. I use a combination hinge and slide hardware to accomplish this (a flip-door) hinge. Note that you must fully recess flip doors into the surrounding face frames, and the other doors must follow this style so they don't stand out visually.This article is excerpted from Building Traditional Kitchen Cabinets© 1990 published by The Taunton Press.


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