The best cabinet hinges feature soft closing, are industry certified for open and close cycles and are easy to adjust. But picking the right hinge requires knowing overlays, cabinet style and choosing a brand (most woodworkers, including myself, prefer Blum) that has industry certification of their products.
Getting started, it’s important to know that soft close hinges come in a variety of configurations:
- Face frame or frameless (check your cabinets construction first!)
- Detachable or fixed
- Inset or various overlays
- Opening angle
- Self close vs. soft close
I’ve used dozens of hinges, and for this article purchased a number of Blum and other brand hinges. The result? Stick with Blum unless they don’t offer a hinge in your configuration. The extra price will avoid non-performing dampers, squeaks and longevity issues.
Our Picks for Cabinet Hinges
Best face frame:
› Blum Clip Top (Face Frame) at Amazon ($16.99 per pair)
› Blum Clip Top Soft Close at Amazon ($15.26 per pair)
Budget soft close (face frame):
› Blum 38N at Amazon ($38.43 for 5 pair)
Budget soft close (frameless):
› Ravinte Frameless at Amazon ($24.99 for 5 pair)
Types of Cabinet Door Hinges
Hinges are confusing. Because of different cabinet construction, aesthetic and even functional requirements this simple hardware can take the most amount of time to get right.
When buying hinges you will first want to pick from one of the seven common types of cabinet hinges:
- Face frames
- Frameless hinges
- Inset hinge (face frame or frameless)
- Surface mount hinges
- Wrap-around hinges (face frame)
- Flush hinges
- Overlay hinges
Choosing Which Style Soft Close Cabinet Hinge You Need
So let’s get started on what hinge you’ll need.
First up is is understanding your cabinet construction:
- Frameless: a frameless cabinet has sides that extend to the front of the cabinet (commonly referred to as European cabinets). This style of cabinet is pictured above.
- Face frame: this style cabinet has a frame on the front of the cabinet similar to a picture frame. For a picture of this style cabinet see the next section and you’ll note the wood frame covering the cabinet sides.
Of note, these hinges are NOT interchangeable so make sure you understand this step first!
Hinge Features To Look For
While opening and shutting are two obvious features, with cabinet hinges you’ll find there are a surprising list of features to consider:
- Self closing that uses a spring to pull the door shut (but doesn’t stop the door from slamming)
- Soft closing that prevents the hinge from slamming
- Hinge angle that determines the angle of opening (usually from 105 to 170 degrees)
- Demountable hinges that allow the door to be installed or removed without tools
- ANSI/BHMA certification by the vendor to verify the hinge will work for tens-of-thousands of cycles
- Damper size and recovery time for fast door open and closings
- On/off switches for adjusting closing force
Cabinet Hinges For Face Frame Cabinets
First, face frame hinges mount to a “picture frame” that is attached to the sides of the cabinet box. These hinges are specifically designed for this type of cabinet and allow the hinge to be installed to the edge or face of the frame.
There are five general styles of hinges for face frames:
- Clip on hinges
- Partial overlay
- Full overlay
- Face mount full overlay
- Inset face frame
So which one do you need? As you can see the list is all about overlay, so my rule of thumb is:
- If you want to see the face frame use a clip on or partial overlay hinge
- If you want the face frame hidden and as much of the door covering the frame use a compact full overlay or face mount.
Cabinet Hinges for Frameless Cabinets
While similar to face frame hinges, hinges for frameless cabinets typically feature a larger form that allows them to support the door from a greater distance.
Overall, there are the three basic types of frameless hinges:
- Partial overlay
- Full overlay
Deciding on which is right for your project is, fortunately, straight-forward:
- Inset are the most straightforward – if you are planning to see the cabinet frame edge then your decisions are down to opening angle (110 and 170-degree most commonly).
- Use full overlay on cabinet ends where another door will not be adjacent.
- Use partial or “half-overlay” on cabinet sides where another door will be adjacent.
Not sure on what your final project will require? To avoid a delay in your project, if this is your first time, order additional full and partial overlays to allow swapping hinges out as you install the doors.
TOOLS NEEDED TO INSTALL Cabinet HINGES
Before rushing into a hinge purchase remember that the tools to install cabinet hinges are just as important as the hinge itself.
Which is why we recommend having the following on hand:
Best Cabinet Hinges
When it comes to picking the best cabinet hinge our experience and research has shown top suppliers like Blum are where to start. And stop, unless there is an equally reputable hinge that has similar quality control.
Because they invest so much into their own testing, open & close cycles and industry certification the odds of a Blum hinge working better and longer are improved.
Or, in an another way of saying: you get what you pay for. With hinges, skip the cheap imports.
Best Overall Cabinet Hinge: Blum Clip-Top
- Easy to install
- Snap on screw covers for a sleek finished look
- Range of opening from 110-degrees to 170-degrees (different hinges)
- Hinge-cup mounted soft close damper with on/off switch
- 6-way hinge adjustment
- Tool-less removal of door once hinge installed
For higher end cabinetry and furniture one of the most trusted hinges for its durability and performance is the Blum Clip Top. Their BLUMOTION damper technology adapts to the size of the door and quietly closes light to heavy doors.
And, to make installation a breeze, these doors can be installed and adjusted at the shop and then simply “snapped” off the cabinet for transport or installation.
- Soft close dampers
- On/off soft close for lighter and heavier doors
- Rapid damper recovery for quick door open & close cycles
- Metal plates hide all screw holes
- Quiet operation
Best Budget Cabinet Hinge: Blum 38N (Face Frame)
- Built for face frame applications
- 100 to 110-degree range of opening
- Blum Compact have a variety of cabinet hinge types (38N, 39C, 38B) to fit your project overlay needs.
- Soft close damper is integrated into the hinge cup
- On/off switch for adjusting action on smaller doors
If you take away the large arm, detachable clip and get down to a high quality soft close cabinet hinges for face frame cabinets you’ll get the Blum 38N.
Similar to the Clip Top, this economical Blum compact face frame hinge features the same cup-mounted soft close mechanism, on/off switch and quiet operation.
But in a more compact form at a lower price point. Over the years I’ve installed countless 38N hinges and now that these newer hinges integrate soft close it’s my go-to choice on large projects where budget is key.
- Blum brand and quality
- Soft close dampers
- On/off soft close for lighter and heavier doors
- Rapid damper recovery for quick door open & close cycles
- Limited opening width (vs. Clip Top – which offers 107 to 170-degrees)
- 3-way adjustment vs. 6-way on Clip Top
Best Budget Frameless Cabinet Hinge: Ravinte
- Full overlay
- 35mm cup size
- Soft close (piston driven vs. hinge cup)
- Clip on/off for installation
- Six-way adjustment
If you take the Blum Clip-Top and focus the features into soft close, demountable and six way adjustment you’ll have a hinge like the Ravinte.
Same installation, same function but at a lower cost.
- Soft close dampers
- Six-way adjustment
- Not industry certified like Blum
Cabinet Hinges: PItFalls, Tips and Tricks
I should be able to just buy my hinges and install them, right?
After all a hinge is a hinge and drilling a 1/2″ deep hole in a cabinet door isn’t that big of a deal…
Not so fast. Before you order, build your cabinet or start drilling take a look at these common pitfalls to save time and money.
1. Ordering the Wrong Overlays
If it’s your first time installing cabinet hinges you might learn that overlay is a tough terminology to learn. And “full overlay” doesn’t come with a measurement.
A few pointers:
- Face frame cabinets: Build your face frames, then use a pencil and ruler to layout the door widths. Then match your hinges to the “overlay” of the hinge side. I often use a variety of hinge overlays on my projects.
- Frameless cabinets: You have three choices – inset (not an overlay hinge), full overlay when there is no adjacent door and half overlay when the cabinet will “butt up” to an adjacent cabinet.
2. Not Planning Roll-out Shelving and Hinges Together
This is an issue even an experienced cabinetmaker can stumble on. And while not specific to just soft close hardware almost all new cabinets use soft close.
What’s special about roll-out shelving? Well first it’s a must to install the shelving or drawer as low on the door or possible to maximize space. And that’s typically exactly where the hinge will go.
The solution? Rather than worry about hinge location install a wood strip that protrudes 1/2″ into the cabinet on each side to attach the sliding shelf too. In other words, you’ll basically make a 1″ narrow opening to allow the sliding shelves to install to.
3. Drilling The Hinge Cup Hole Too Deep
As you likely know, installing most cabinet hinges requires drilling a 35mm hole deep into the cabinet door.
Simple Use a cabinet hinge jig to both set the right location for the hinge hole and the depth.
4. Purchasing Frameless Hinges For Face Frame Cabinets
And sometimes it’s mis-labeling of the products or lack of clarity on the websites you might be buying them from. So make sure to double check the hinge style against your cabinet construction.
5. Not Positioning The Hinge Cup Properly
Easily one of the most frustrating issues with installing a cabinet hinge is installing the hinge in the wrong place.
And by this I mean installing it in one of three places:
- On a face frame cabinet, where it will overlay the top or bottom rail (and not allow it to be installed)
- Setting the hinge cup too close to the door edge creates an unsightly gap
- Or, setting the hinge cup too far from the door edge will cause the door to bind.
The best solution? Again, use a concealed hinge jig.
6. Damaging The Door During Hinge Installation
First, after installing thousands of cabinet doors I’ve learned to install the top hinge before the bottom.
Why? Because I’ve frequently dropped a screw, mis-placed a hinge, or done something else that causes me to break my focus from the door this approach:
- Allows most cabinet doors to “hang” suspended by the top hinge for a short period of time
- Makes it easier to balance the door while installing screws
7. Not Adjusting the Door
Every cabinet door will need to be adjusted after installation. And while standard hinges just need to be adjusted for the door to be level and aligned with adjacent doors, with a soft close door you’ll also need to:
- Turn the dampers on/off to achieve the right closing speed (or, with the Probico adjust the damper piston)
- Be extra sure to install locking screws to firmly secure the hinges to the cabinet. Failure to do so can cause hinges to work loose over time as they can work against each other.
Common Questions: Cabinet Hinges
1. How Quickly Does the Soft Close Damper Recover?
One of the most common issues with (generic) soft close cabinet hinges is the damper doesn’t work for a quick open and close.
To avoid this slow recovery, and other issues, here’s what to look for in a soft close cabinet hinge:
- An adjustable or on/off damper so the door doesn’t stop when it hits the damper.
- Brand name hinges that have been engineered and sold to high-end cabinetry shops where this behavior is not allowed.
2. Can I retrofit soft close kitchen cabinet hinges?
Have an existing kitchen and researching if you’ll be able to upgrade your hinges?
Well, fortunately you may have two options:
- To start, almost any concealed hinge door can be retrofit with a soft close damper. While these don’t require the hinges to be replaced, they do add another piece of hardware to the interior of your cabinet.
- Hinge replacement of existing “Euro-style” concealed hinges. Due to the popularity of concealed hinges in both frameless and face frame kitchens there is a very good chance you’ll be able to replace the existing hinges.
However, if your hinges are visible from the front you might be out of luck. Due to the force of the dampers a front mounted hinge screw will be continually “pressed” with a soft close hinge.
3. Finding out what kind and size of hinge you need
Worried about spending a lot on new hinges only to find they own’t fit? Well this is a very common question and something even professionals have to carefully plan. So let’s take a look at how to determine both.
Soft close hinge construction
Hinge overlay is the distance the door “covers” the frame or cabinet side on the *hinge* side. Fortunately this overlay is simple to measure but you’ll need to know your fractions.
There are two ways to find overlay on existing cabinets:
- The easiest method is as simple as looking at the hinge. Do you see a fraction like “1/2” or “1-5/16”? That’s your overlay.
- But another method is simply measuring the distance the door “overlays” the cabinet when it’s closed. Just make sure to measure this on the hinge side (not the top/bottom!) of the door.
4. Independent certification authorities for cabinet hinges
Almost everything we buy has a certification process the manufacturer can optionally subject their products too. And for cabinet hinges that testing authority is the Builders Hardware Manufacturing Association.
But finding results for who’s certified and what the results are is difficult. However, here’s a few links to the leading hardware manufacturers and their stated ANSI/BHMA compliance:
5. Just how much thought does Blum put into their hardware versus the competitors?
Would you believe me if I said Blum uses a space age suit that simulates age, limited motion and even pregnancy in testing of it’s hardware? Well, they do and you can read about the Age Explorer(tm) suit they use for testing.
But what did they learn and how does it impact their products? A couple of inventive features:
- An electric powered “bump to open” SERVODRIVE that powers open kitchen drawers
- For corner cabinets a SPACE CORNER drawer system that allows access to the back of corner drawers.
6. How many soft close cabinet hinges per door?
This is an often overlooked part of building cabinet doors. And a question to answer before purchasing.
Here’s a guide for how many soft close cabinet hinges per door:
- Two hinges for doors up to 38″ and 15 pounds
- Three hinges for doors between 38-60″ and 15 to 30 pounds
- Four hinges for doors 60-90″ and 30-45 pounds
- Five hinges (or more) for doors over 90″ and 45 pounds
However, be sure to check the manufacturer rate limits for heavy doors and follow their guidelines.
7. What's an inset door vs. an overlay door?
Let’s keep this one simple and then look at the differences in overlay and cabinet construction.
- An inset door is flush with the face of the cabinet (either frameless or face frame)
- While an overlay door, as the name implies, lays over the face of the cabinet. And this could be both frameless and face frame cabinets.
8. Understanding cabinet door reveal
When I build cabinets this is the “art” in a well built finished product.
The hinge reveal is the required distance the hinge will need to operate without binding. And if you’re building cabinet doors this is a really, really important measurement to consider when boring the mounting holes.
After you have the reveal and overlay understood then the art to this involves:
- When the cabinet doors are finished and installed the reveal, overlay and cabinet construction all contribute to the visual lines of the kitchen.
- Avoiding filler strips avoids visual break-ups in the reveal and overlays
- Plan, plan and then plan some more. Due to importance of visual lines I’ll make dozens of pencil marks on a face frame to pick the right overlays. And that means I might choose a few 7/8″ overlay soft close cabinet hinges, some 1-5/16″ and so on.
How to Install Soft Close Cabinet Hinges
Fortunately, installing a soft close hinge is no different than any hinge of similar construction. There are, however, a few tips and tricks that will help your project go smoother.
And of course, making sure those large holes you’ll need to drill into the cabinet doors are done precisely.
Here are the steps to install a soft close cabinet hinge:
Step #1 - Setup your drill press or cordless drill
After you’ve spent all that time building cabinet doors the last thing you’ll want to do is ruin them with an improperly placed hole.
Or, worse, drill through the door with the 35mm forstener bit you’ll need for these style of hinges.
To ensure you’re setup for drilling make sure you consider:
- For a cordless drill, a perfectly good setup by the way, I use a jig like the Kreg cabinet hinge jig that can be set to the proper depth with a lockable bushing.
- Test, test, and retest hinge depth and location. Use a test piece of wood that’s the exact same thickness of your door and has the same profiled edged to drill test holes until the hinge location is correct.
- Install your test piece on the cabinet and verify opening/closing action.
Step #2 - Mark your doors for the hinge side
For larger projects I like to layout the doors by/in the cabinets and then mark the hinge side with blue painters tape. This allows me to drill with confidence.
When is this step crucial? If your doors are not “reversible” in that the top of the door cannot be the bottom.
Step #3 - Verify drill setup and hinge location
While I’ve drilled hundreds of doors I always like to verify my setup one more time. So take another test piece and drill two holes with your Forstener bit and ensure the hinge location on the door and the cabinet side or frame is correct.
You can’t un-drill a hole once it’s in.
Step #4 - Drill the soft close cabinet door hinge holes
Now that you’re setup, tested twice, go ahead and drill the first door.
And then install it to make it works as expected. Due to variation in hinge designs, location of CLIP top plates for brands like Blum, and your specific project this step will avoid a pile of doors going to waste.
Once tested, keep going and drill the remainder of the doors.
Step #5 - Install the hinges and hang on cabinets
Just a few tips and considerations for this step:
- Drill pilot holes for harder woods
- Make sure to adjust your drills clutch to a low setting to avoid stripping the door hinge screws
- Ensure the hinge is “square” to the edge of the door. Since you’re installing a round hinge into a round hole this will be a mostly visual exercise.
- I prefer to hang all the doors and worry about final adjustment after they are installed. Shoot for getting them “close enough” that a final adjustment later will be easily done.
Step #6 - Install cabinet door hinge restriction clips if needed
Quite a few kitchens will have cabinets where two doors can be opened at the same time and “bump” each other. To avoid this, try using a hinge restriction clip that will prevent the doors from opening the full 110-degrees. Instead, the restriction clip limits the door to 86-degrees.
How to Adjust Soft Close Cabinet Hinges
Now that you have your hinges installed the last step is fine tuning the hinges.
But first, as you now know, there are two types of hinges: hinge integrated dampers and hinge cup dampers. Adjustment will vary by the style.
Adjusting Hinge Cup Soft Close Hinges
Adjustment for this style is as easy as a flip of the damper activator on/off switch:
- For small doors it’s common to have one hinge on and another hinge off.
- And in larger doors most soft close hinge dampers will be “on”.
- But for heavy duty and tall doors you may find you need to add another hinge (or a secondary damper) to slow the doors closing.
Adjusting Soft Close Hinges With Arm Mounted Dampers
This style of hinge adjusts with just a turn of a Philips screwdriver. By opening and closing the door and adjusting the dampers resistance you can fine tune a perfect slow close.
Frequently Asked Questions for Soft Close Cabinet Hinges
Can you put soft close hinges on old cabinets?
Maybe. If you have European hinges that are installed into 35mm holes drilled into the cabinet door then it is an easy upgrade. But if you have hinges you can see on the outside of the door you will need to use a soft close damper instead.
What is a soft close cabinet hinge?
A soft close cabinet hinge is a specialty hinge that incorporates a damper built into the hinge that enables the door to be softly closed. It is different than a self close hinge (which is NOT soft close) that incorporates a mechanism to help keep the door shut.
What is the difference between self closing and soft closing hinges?
A soft close hinge will help the door close softly, while a self close hinge will pull and hold the door shut. These are two different styles of hinges and a self close hinge will not prevent the door from slamming.
Are soft close hinges worth it?
Soft close hinges are worth the investment. With the benefit of reducing stress on the doors caused by slamming and a usability improvement the extra few dollars per door is a great investment.