When you think of hinges, you probably think of the doors leading into various rooms in your house. Hinges, though, are not limited to such applications. Kitchen cabinets, chests, jewelry boxes and medicine cabinets are just some of the objects that feature hinges. No matter how unusual the design or set up of a door, there is a hinge that can make it work. With such a wide variety of options to choose from, you'll have no problem finding the right fit. Installing hinges is a fairly simple process that involves some precise measuring and the use of a drill. As you prepare to replace an old, broken hinge or install a new set of doors, consider the following questions:
• Which type of hinge is best suited to your application?
• How large of a hinge will you need?
• Where on the door should they be placed?
• What is the most appropriate mounting configuration?
• Are there any special features you'd like to have?
Hinge Types, Mounting, Sizing and Installation Considerations
Hinges provide a flexible joint that supports a door while allowing it to swing in one or two directions. They are composed of two leaves, one which is attached to a doorframe, post or other object and the other which is attached to the door itself. Connecting the leaves is a set of knuckles through which a pin is inserted to lock the hinge in place. Some hinges are specified as being right- or left-handed. If hinges are on your right side when you're facing a door and the door opens away from you, the hinges are right-handed. If the hinges are on your right and the door opens toward you, the hinges are left-handed. Hinges can be mounted in a few different configurations. The configuration is often dictated by the setup of the doorframe. Choosing the material a hinge is made from and its finish depends on how visible it is and whether it is being installed indoors or outside, where it will have to stand up to the elements.
Hinge Types: Choosing the right hinge is simply a matter of understanding what design will work best for the door it's being installed on. Hinges feature either a fixed or removable pin. Removable pins offer you the ability to remove doors without having to unscrew the hinges. Consult the chart below to learn more about some commonly used hinges, the best places to install them and some of their features:
Where to Use
Features and Points to Consider
|Ball Bearing||• Heavy doors||• Permanently lubricated|
• Jewelry Boxes
|• Distributes weight evenly over the entire length
of the hinge
|Double-Action Spring||• Dining room doors
• Kitchen doors
|• Best suited for lightweight doors
• Self-closing tight pin hinge offers two-way
access for swinging doors
|Flush||• Cabinet doors||• Hinge is largely concealed|
|Knuckle||• Decorative doors||• Features a loose joint
• Can hold both light and heavy doors
• Shows only the knuckle when door is closed
|Lift-Joint Butt||• Areas where door must be
|• Enables door to be easily lifted off hinges|
|Ornamental||• Cabinet doors
|• Offers a decorative appearance|
|Residential/Butt||• Exterior doors
• Interior doors
• Lightweight doors
|• May feature a removable pin
• Includes heavy-gauge screws
|Rising Butt||• Doors installed over high, thick
|• Causes door to rise as it opens, enabling it to
clear thick carpet
|Spring||• Doors leading into a garage
• Outward-swinging doorsabinet
|• Shuts door automatically
• Ideal for back doors
|Strap and T||• Heavy doors
• Wooden gates and fences
|• Features a heavy-duty tight pin
• May be installed on left- or right-hand side
|Surface||• Bifold doors
• Small closet doors
|• Doesn't require a mortise|
|Swing-N-Sway||• Café-style doors||• Provides lateral adjustment to ensure perfect
Mounting Configurations: Once you've selected the proper hinge, you'll need to figure out the best way to install it. Hinges are installed in one of four configurations - full mortise, half mortise, full surface and half surface. Full-mortise installation features one leaf mortised in the doorjamb and the other mortised into the edge of the door. Half-mortise installation occurs when one leaf is mortised into the edge of the door and the other is anchored onto the surface of the doorjamb. Conversely, a full-surface mounting occurs when the two leaves are secured to the surface of the door, and a half-surface mounting features one leaf mortised in the doorjamb and the other anchored to the door's surface. Which one you choose depends on whether or not the door and doorframe can be mortised.
• Many hinges may be installed on either the right- or left-hand side
• If hinges are not reversible, make sure you choose the correct configuration
• A mortise is a cutout made in a door or doorframe for installing a hinge
• Full-mortise mounting is the most common installation configuration
Materials, Finishes, Sizing and Installation Considerations: As with other types of hardware, hinges can be made from a number of different materials. If you're installing hinges on an exterior door, you'll probably want to choose stainless steel. A rust-resistant finish will also come in handy for exterior doors or doors leading out to garages, patios, porches and other enclosures. Most hinge types are available in a range of sizes for different installations. Spring joints, for example, may be 2", 3-1/2" or 4". Regardless of which size you need, leave at least 1/8" between the hinge and the edge of the door when you secure it into place. Leaving less than this may cause the edge of the door to splinter when you're screwing the joint into place. A good rule of thumb for installing hinges on the door is to place them approximately 5" from the top of the door and around 10" from the bottom. Center the third hinge between the top and bottom hinges.
• Hinges may be made from brass, steel, stainless steel, bronze and more
• Choose a finish that complements the design of the door and surrounding décor
• Finishes include primed, polished and plated, rust-resistant and more
• Installing hinges in line with door rails can be an aesthetically pleasing arrangement
• Installation will require the use of a chisel, utility knife, hammer, screwdriver and drill
Fire Rated: If you're installing a hinge on a fire door, such as the one that leads into your garage or attic, make sure you choose a hinge that's rated for use on fire doors.
Electric Hinge: Electric hinges conduct electricity, allowing you to connect various electric or monitoring devices to the door. They may be particularly helpful if you have the door wired to a security system or electric locks.
Custom Colors: If you're installing hinges in a highly visible location and you're concerned about their effect on the surrounding color scheme, look for custom-colored hinges that offer a wealth of designer colors. You'll have little trouble finding the right shade to complement your room's décor.
Swing-Clear Hinges: These hinges allow doors to swing through doorways completely unobstructed, enabling you to utilize the full width of the doorway when moving in furniture and other items.