Table of contents

Cabinet Hinge Glossary

Cabinet Hinge Glossary and Hinge Buying Guide

Overlay is the distance that your cabinet door extends past the actual cabinet opening on the hinge side. The overlay can be determined by measuring the width of the cabinet opening compared to the width of the cabinet door(s).  The difference between the door and the opening would be divided by 2 to arrive at the overlay.  This method will work for either a single door cabinet or double (butt) doors without a center divider.

You can also measure by doing the following -- With the door closed, make a mark on the cabinet frame along the edge of the door (on the hinge side). Open the door and measure from the mark you made to the edge of the face frame (the cabinet opening) and that is your overlay.  

Concealed hinges are currently the most popular hinges for new construction, remodeling and refacing.  These hinges will not be visible when the cabinet door is closed. These will normally be European style cup hinges (Vitus, Blum) or knife hinges (Amerock, Youngdale).  Knife hinges do leave a visible slot on the edge of the door.

Semi-concealed hinges are partially visible when the cabinet door is closed. The hinge pin is what is visible and on some styles, the screws that mount the hinge to the cabinet frame are visible as well. If they are not visible, then the style is wrap, meaning it wraps around the frame and screws to the edge of the frame.

Concealed hinges are available in a compact single unit hinge, or a 2 piece hinge which consists of a mounting plate and a hinge.  The compact hinge is for use with face frame cabinets as it must be mounted on the edge dimension of the framed opening.  The 2 piece hinge is primarily used in frameless construction and is mounted directly to the interior wall of the cabinet.  These 2 piece hinge can be used with a "face frame" mounting plate for use with a face frame cabinet.  With the 2-piece hinge, the mounting plate is installed in the cabinet and the hinge is installed on the door and they simply "clip" together for installation.  They can also be quickly unclipped if removal of the door is necessry.

The crank is a measurement of left or right offset built into the hinge arm. There are several hinge cranks: 0mm, 8mm, 9mm and 15mm. The overlay, or overlap, of a cabinet door is reduced by 8mm with an 8mm crank hinge, 9mm with an 9mm crank hinge, 15mm with a 15mm crank hinge utilizing a 0mm mounting plate. Using this scenario, 0mm would be considered neutral or flat with a full overlay hinge.  Changing the mounting plate from a 0mm to a 3mm or 6mm mounting plate would reduce your overlay or overlap by an additional 3mm or 6mm.  The hinges other than the 0mm crank are easily recognized by the "hump" that creates the 8mm, 9mm or 15mm offset (see pictures below).  Most traditional cabinets use a 0mm hinge crank unless you are mounting an inset door or have another special application.

Hinge crank examples
(Does your hinge look like one of these?)

Standard 0mm Long arm or clip on hinge 9mm crank long arm or clip on hinge 15mm crank long arm or clip on hinge
0mm crank 9mm crank 15mm crank

Do I need Press-on or Screw-on hinges?

Back side of press-on hinge - note the dowels Back side of screw-on hinge - no dowels
Picture of press-on type hinge, back side Picture of screw-on type hinge, back side
Cabinet door preparation for press-on hinges Cabinet door preparation for screw-on hinges
Picture of reverse side of cabinet door, prepared for press-on type hinge, note the additional dowel holes bored next to the mortise cup Picture of reverse side of cabinet door, prepared for screw-on type hinge, there is only the mortise cup bored
Note:  The press-on type hinge was developed for the manufacturers as a way to automatically align hinges and place them on the cabinet door in the proper location by just "pressing" them into the holes.  The dowels in that case are already mounted.  If you are replacing this type of hinge, you can get either type of hinge and either use the new dowels (which are already attached to the hinge) or you can use the screw-on and just use the screws already in your doweled door.

How to adjust Compact and Long Arm hinges
Typical long arm hinge How to adjust long arm hinges
Typical "long arm" or "clip on" hinge Click to enlarge adjustment diagram
typical compact hinge How to adjust compact hinge
Typical "compact" hinge Click to enlarge adjustment diagram

This is the piece that mounts to the cabinet, either the face frame or the inside of the cabinet for frameless cabinets. These are generally used with concealed hinges.  These plates will normally come in several thicknesses (0mm, 3mm, 6mm, etc.) which will determine the amount of overlay for your cabinet door.

Knife hinges are a variety of concealed hinges that require a slot or saw cut into the door to house the "knife" (some types that mount on the top or bottom of the door don't require these cuts). The hinge mounts to the back of the door and to the edge of the face frame.

Demountable hinges come in single and double varieties. The single demountables, demount from the cabinet door only (this requires a special slot be cut into the door for new installations) and screw directly to the edge of the face frame. The double demountables demount from both the door and the frame (and both require machining for new installations).

Free-swinging hinges are not self-closing.  This means that the door doesn't shut by itself when closed to a "near close" position. This does not have anything to do with whether the hinges are concealed or non-concealed, overlay or inset.

Unlike the free-swinging hinges, self-closing hinges do just what the name implies, they close by themselves if the door is within a certain distance from the closed position. This feature has nothing to do with whether the hinges are concealed or non-concealed, overlay or inset.

Inset means that the cabinet door is actually recessed into the cabinet opening. If it is partially inset, the recess distance must be measured accurately to determine size needed (3/8" inset is a common partial inset hinge). To determine this dimension, measure the inside step of the recess cut (the part of the door that would extend into the cabinet opening when the door is closed). If the front of your cabinet door is flush with the outside of the cabinet face frame when the door is closed (meaning you can see a crack all the way around the cabinet door between the door and the frame), you have a full inset hinge.

A wrap hinge simply wraps around the cabinet frame from the front to the edge and sometimes partially around the back of the frame. Like the closing styles, this feature has nothing to do with whether the hinges are concealed or non-concealed, overlay or inset.