Hinge buying guide
Lucas, Antique wood-worker, Gloucester27 guides
- Hinge material
- Opening direction
- Surface material
- Mounting type
Hinge or lift-off hinge?
- An immobile plate, called the passive leaf, which is mounted on the part of the assembly which doesn't move – a door frame for example;
- A pin which acts as the pivot point and is sometimes also called a rod or shaft;
- A moving plate, called the active leaf, on which the moving part of the assembly is mounted.
What type of hinge do you need?
- The material of the surface to which you want to attach your hinge: if it's wood or concrete, then you need a screw-type hinge. For metal surfaces, a weld-on hinge is a better option.
- Where you want to use the hinge, i.e. indoors or outdoors: some hinges can be used anywhere, but if you're installing a hinge outdoors, it's best to choose a stainless steel one.
- The mechanical characteristics of the hinge – one of the most important points! Make sure you take into account the weight of the pivoted part and the specified hinge limits. Brass furniture hinges will not cope with the weight of a door, for example!
- The type of installation, i.e. surface-mounted or recessed. The most well known are the kind of recessed cupboard door hinges supplied with flat-pack furniture and/or used for kitchen cabinets.
Types of hinge
Double cranked hinge
Piano hinge or continuous hinge
Friction hinge or torque hinge
Concealed hinges are installed with a mounting plate – the fixed part which attaches to the cupboard, and into which the hinge is inserted by either screwing or clipping (easier to install). Both hinges and mounting plates come in all kinds of finishes. You will need to make sure the two parts are compatible and the same size.
Some mounting plates are more complex than others, allowing you to adjust the height of the door or pivoting part. Mounting plates come in two types – screw-on or knock-in, the latter being better for your furniture in the long term.
Flap stay hinge
Traditional cabinet hinges
Traditional cabinet hinges are rotating fittings which give a vintage or antique look to your furniture. These hinges have a polished copper, aged brass or iron finish and usually feature decorative, antique-style finials. They are installed in one of two ways:
- Inserted into the door edge: in this case the hinges are screwed directly into the edge of the door or pivoting part.
- Surface-mounted: here, the hinges are installed using screws or nails, which gives a better appearance.
What type of lift-off hinge should you choose?
Lift-off hinges have a great deal in common with the cabinet hinges described above – in particular the fact that they can be disassembled. It can be somewhat confusing to tell them apart because the names are not always used consistently by manufacturers.
- Surface material (iron or wood) – you can choose either a weld-on lift-off hinge or a screw-in lift-off hinge (surface-mounted).
- Location (indoors or outdoors) – choose a stainless steel model if the hinge will be exposed to the elements.
- Mechanical strength – the lift-off hinge must be able to support the weight of the pivoting part.
- Finish – the appearance of the leaves and the pin.
Lift-off hinges are attached either by screwing or welding, depending on the surface material. For weld-on hinges, when attaching heavy doors it is recommended to use fixing plates to make the installation more secure.
Lift-off hinge finish
- Square or round end: refers to the shape of the ends of the hinge pin.
- Finial-tipped: a finial is a decorative piece on the end of the hinge pin, used on traditional or antique-style hinges.
Hinge washers/spacer rings
Left-handed or right-handed lift-off hinge: which is which?
If you're not sure which way round to install your lift-off hinges, there's no need to panic. Here's a simple way to work things out!
Hinge covers/cover plates
Five FAQs about hinges
How do I install a concealed hinge?
- Identify the position of the hinges on the cabinet (position them symmetrically) using a tape measure, a pencil and a set square. Mark the drill holes and the cup position.
- Use a drill with a hole cutter bit to make the recess and then insert the hinge cup.
- Insert the hinge – remember to check that it's straight before you tighten the screws.
- Screw the rest of the hinge fitting (mounting plate) onto the cabinet.
- Connect the two parts by screwing them together.
What type of hinge should I use for furniture?
- Overlay doors: the door closes against the cabinet casing. This is the most common configuration;
- Inset or flush-mounted doors: when closed, the surface of the door lies flush with the cabinet face frame. This gives a very modern look;
- Partial overlay: in this configuration, two doors close onto the single central stile of the cabinet.
What kind of hinge is best for a storage chest?
What kind of hinge do I need for a trap door?
How do I install a lift-off hinge?
- Surface-mounted: the hinge leaves are attached directly to the two surfaces (fixed part and pivoting part). This is the easiest option, because all you need to do is screw or nail the hinge leaves onto the two surfaces. Remember to check the centre-to-centre distances and the heights.
- Recessed: for this type of installation you'll need to cut a groove or a circular hole (depending on the size and shape of the hinge) so that it lies flush with the surface of the material.
Lucas, Antique wood-worker, Gloucester 27 guides écrits
After a few years plying my trade in the construction industry, I decided it was time to get my national vocational qualification (NVQ) in carpentry. Although I enjoyed doing everything from renovations and painting to flooring and tiles, I found my true passion lay in working on a timber frame or designing a wooden house.
Everything about woodworking fascinates me. In fact, my dream is to one day build my own house in wood!
I’m also really into learning about new building techniques and tools: I stay up on all the latest innovations and tips and tricks, and spend a lot of my free time researching the performance of each new tool on the market, whether it’s for woodworking or some other building material. I'd be happy to put my knowledge to use by advising you and helping you with your choices.
Happy DIYing, everyone!
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