Cabinet door dampers are best way to have soft close doors without replacing the hinges. Did you know dampers are just as good as soft close hinges at closing a cabinet door? Or, that brand matters and there is (in my opinion) only ONE brand to use? Or that they install with one screw in just seconds? In this article learn what the best cabinet door dampers are and how to install them.
Unfortunately, when I built my cherry cabinets in 2005 soft close cabinet hinges were just becoming mainstream.
So, while I should have tried out the soft close hinges, I found myself needing to upgrade to soft closing doors a few years later.
However, rather than replace the hinges I installed dozens of the Blum 971A Dampers and for the last decade (plus) have had top-performing cabinet doors.
In this article we’ll cover:
- What a cabinet door damper is
- Features of a cabinet damper
- Why brand and design matter
- How to choose the right damper for your cabinets
- Cabinet damper reviews
- How to install a cabinet damper
Overview of Soft Close Mechanisms and Cabinet Door Dampers
If you haven’t used a soft close mechanism before one of the first things to understand is that these are small parts operating heavy doors.
Which makes choosing which damper (or hinge) you use an important decision for longevity.
So how does a damper work? Well, there are two main styles to consider:
- Hydraulic dampers work with compressed fluid that is adjusted to control the rate at which the door controls. Easy flow equals a faster close, and a slower flow results in a slower close.
- Hinge cup dampers leverage springs and unique gears that engage to slowly close the cabinet door.
Lastly, the best dampers are all either adjustable or have an on/off switch.
Can I Use a Cabinet Door Damper?
First, and unfortunately, not all cabinets can use a damper.
So how do you tell?
Well, if you can see your hinges from outside the cabinet then dampers are generally not recommended. Why? Well, the dampers will work against the hinges and work to loosen the hinge screws.
But the good news is most cabinets built in the last 20 years use concealed hinges (aka European hinges). And, both face frame and frameless cabinets support dampers.
Blum Cabinet Door Dampers
- Installs on the hinge side of the cabinet for use with both full and…
- Fluid dampening system is completely silent
- Mounting method: screw-on, hinge side
- Nickel plated zinc
Last update on 2021-07-22 at 07:27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
The Blum cabinet door damper installs easily on both face frame and frameless cabinets with just one screw. And, no need to touch your existing cabinet hinges.
Also featuring a hydraulic design, the Blum series is adjustable with a screwdriver. And, as a bonus, has nearly infinite adjustment to accommodate wide, short, narrow or just about any other size cabinet door.
- All metal construction
- Only one damper is needed on most cabinet doors
- Simple adjustment with a Phillips screwdriver
- Catches doors without bouncing
- Wide range of adjustment for small to large doors
- Includes offset adapter to position the damper further away from the hinge on small doors
- Large damper
- Easy to adjust
- Includes an optional offset clip for improved adjustment
- Blum brand (a leader in this type of hardware)
- Slightly higher priced than competitor dampers
Other Cabinet Door Dampers I Considered
In your search for these soft close adapters you might find a damper for half the price. But did you know it might be half the size and made of plastic? I thought I’d try one and immediately returned it.
In the picture below you’ll see the Blum on the top and a Rok soft close damper on the bottom. Sure, the smaller form factor and adjustment screw are tempting, but they didn’t perform and I immediately returned the plastic devices.
Also note the rounded head on the Blum offers a non-mar, large surface area to prevent door damage.
Lastly, I didn’t purchase these but Grass has another damper on the market. Perhaps in a future update I’ll try one of these out and report on it. But in the meantime I’m happy enough with the Blums to recommend these as a great solution.
Tools Needed to Install a Cabinet Door Damper
Fortunately you won’t need many tools, but there are a few tools to possibly add to your order:
- A compact cordless drill works best due to the 90-degree drilling and screw installation. Due to this, I recommend a small cordless drill.
- A set of small drill bits for pilot holes
- Phillips screwdriver
How to Install a Soft Close Cabinet Door Damper
Installing a soft close damper is one of the simplest projects for a kitchen. And, in just four easy steps you’ll be able to install these in your cabinets:
Step 1 - Determine if a face frame partial overlay spacer is needed
If your cabinet doesn’t have a face frame then skip to Step 2.
But, if your cabinet door hinges are attached to a (usually) 2″ wide wood frame and you are using the Blum damper you’ll need to use the supplied spacer.
Step 2 - Drill a pilot hole for the damper installation screw
While you can risk inserting the included screw without a pilot hole I don’t advise it. Instead, use a drill bit with a diameter that is the size of the screw shaft (not the threads).
Oh, and for frameless cabinets, follow the included instructions for best placement on your type of cabinet. I’ve installed fifty of these in the exact upper corner of my face frame cabinets.
To mark the location of the pilot hole simply place the damper, insert a screw and start the screw about 1/8″ of an inch. Then remove the damper and at the same angle as you started the screw (90-degrees in all directions, typically) drill the pilot hole as deep as the screw is long.
Step 3 - Install soft close cabinet door damper
With the pilot hole drilled the third step is to install the damper.
A few tips:
- Set the clutch on your cordless drill to a light pressure. Because the goal is to not strip or break the damper screw.
- If your drill is too big and you are having trouble with clearance simply turn it on it’s side. Most cordless drills have a narrow side profile as speed controls are on top.
- Install one damper first and experiment with subsequent ones to find what works best for your cabinets.
Step 4 - Adjust the damper to the door
After the damper is installed open and shut the cabinet door a few times. If the door closes too quickly then adjust the damper to have more closing force. But for smaller doors the damper may prevent the cabinet door from closing altogether. In this case simply adjust the damper for less pressure.
In my kitchen I have doors as small as 10″ wide by 14″ high and the Blum dampers have adjusted down to their weight.
Finally, with the Blum damper the only downside is you’ll need a Phillips screwdriver to perform the adjustment. But, for upper cabinets this is also a benefit as you can reach most without a ladder. Don’t be drawn into cheaper versions with a thumb screw adjustment. With my Blum dampers I have had to adjust just a handful over a decade of use.
Frequently Asked Questions for Soft Close Cabinet Door Dampers
How many dampers do I need per cabinet door?
You’ll typically need only one damper per door unless you have an exceptionally heavy and tall door. And, in my kitchen I have heavy cherry doors 18″ wide by 42″ tall and one Blum damper has worked just fine.
Will a slow close adapter work on any type of door?
These dampers are built to be universal for cabinets where the hinge is fully concealed. And this includes both face frame and frameless construction. However, if you have a surface mounted hinge these *might* work for your doors and the best way to find out is purchasing one to see if it will work.
How do you adjust soft close dampers?
Most soft close adapters have a screw that can be used to set the tension of the fluid damper that controls it’s action. This is often required for smaller and larger doors to precisely control the speed and closing action of the door.
Last update on 2021-07-21 at 19:32 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API