Buying the best soft close cabinet hinges requires understanding overlays and damper designs. In fact, quality slow close cabinet hinges have specific features and manufacturing certifications that make them quiet, smooth acting and durable. Want the best cabinet hinge that’s been certified to last for 200,000 open/close cycles, has an on/off switch to adjust door operation and doesn’t squeak when you close it? In this article learn what brands and types of hinges are best for your project.
It’s tempting to buy a no-name 20 pack of hinges for $35.
But unfortunately, the best cabinet hinges are from name brands and not knock-offs.
I know, I’ve spent over $50 buying the latest hinges on the market and testing them out for this review. And is why we’ll recommend sticking to top brands like Blum 38N soft close hinges that are preferred by cabinetmakers themselves.
So, in this article we’ll review the following to help you pick the right hinge:
- Top brands of the best cabinet hinges
- Certifications like BHMA to look for
- Hard to find cabinet hinges
- Face frame vs. frameless cabinet hinge requirements
- Inset, overlay, partial overlay and other types of concealed soft close hinges
- How to install easy close cabinet hinges
- Concealed hinge types
- Tools you’ll need to install them correctly
Brand Matters in Soft Close Cabinet Hinges
Maybe you’ve ran into that misinformed list of “12 best hinges!” and aren’t sure what’s best.
Rather than look at the #1 seller on online stores I have a different perspective based on use and self closing hinges I use in my projects: BRAND.
You see, cabinet hinges are easy to make.
So easy in fact that online stores are CRAMMED with imitation imported hinges that offer bargain prices you can’t get in even a big box store.
Does that make every hinge bad? No. But do you want to invest the time and energy to see if hinges costing a few bucks less really work? I didn’t think so.
Why Blum is My Preferred Brand
While an entire article could be written on the Blum brand – you can read about their industry leading certification processes.
From ISO 9001, ANSI/BHMA Grade 2 certifications, testing cycles up to 200,000 for hinge hardware (eg. simulated door openings) and rigorous quality testing they are a SAFE choice when investing in hardware.
All of this to say: I only use Blum self closing hinges (eg. soft closing) in my new cabinets. Why invest so much in the wood and skimp on the hinge?
Best Soft Close Cabinet Hinges
In this hands on review I purchased six different soft close hinges and ran them through tests on cabinets to see how they performed.
My approach? Stick with Blum for whatever your project needs are. I just have not had a bad experience with any of their hardware.
First, of course, these hinges feature the high quality and durable Blum soft close mechanism that integrates an on/off switch and smooth operation.
What’s different about this hinge?
Well, the “Clip Top” hinge refers to the heavy duty detachable design that allows the cabinet door to simply be clipped on and off. No screws. No dinged doors during installation.
Unlike other imitation hinges in this review, these high quality cabinet hinges open and close smooth and have a fast reaction time in the damper so a door can be opened and shut quickly without slamming.
Soft Close Hinge Features
These Blum soft close hinges feature:
- Compatible with face frames and frameless cabinets
- 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 adjustment
- Tool-less removal
Popular Choices for Frameless and Face Frame Cabinets
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.
Soft Close Hinge Features
- 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
Popular Choices (Face Frame Cabinets)
In my hands on hinge review the Probico hinge was a surprise.
While it appears to be a standard hinge the arm has a soft close piston concealed within it that provides for an integrated, adjustable hinge.
Why is that different? Well, the Blum’s are damper and spring activated. But the Probico adds an adjustable damper (no springs) that is usually only found in Blums soft close door adapters.
Soft Close Hinge Features
- Adjustable damper – not something found in most hinges
- 5-way adjustment
- Face frame or frameless
4. Berta Compact Soft close Hinge Hardware
- PACKAGE CONTENT: 20 Pieces 1/2″ Overlay Soft Close Hinges with Installation…
- MAIN FEATURES: 6-Way 3-Cam adjustment features help the hinges to be easily…
- SOFT CLOSING: The soft closing function is one of the best indicators of…
- MAIN SPECIFICATIONS: Overlay: 1/2 inch, Opening Angle: 105 Degree, Closing…
Last update on 2021-04-17 at 00:35 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
The Berta hinge is similar in design and construction to the Blum, but lacks the integrated on/off feature needed for smaller cabinet doors.
While smooth performing, I’d opt for the Blum Compact line first for the ability to turn the hinges off on smaller doors.
Soft Close Hinge Features
- 110-degree opening
- Springs and hydraulic damper
- Face frame compatible
- Variety of overlays
The bottom line on this hinge is a compact soft close cabinet hinge must have an activation switch to be considered the best.
Or, to even be considered for purchase.
With pennies separating this brand of hinge from the Blum Compact my recommendation is the certified hinge vs. trying to shave a few dollars off your total project cost.
5. Amazon Basics AB-4011 Soft Close Kitchen Hinge
- Nickel Plated Finish
- Includes a total of 10 hinges
- Includes mounting screws; 1(one) #10 x 3/4-inch pan head screw, 2(two) #6 x…
- 1/2″ overlay hinge attaches to inside of cabinet door and adjacent interior…
Last update on 2021-04-16 at 23:24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Similar to the Berta, but lacking the Blum 38N on/off switch, the AmazonBasics is an economy hinge with almost all of the features of the Blum.
Soft Close Hinge Features
Key features of the AB-4011:
- Nickle plated finish
- Damper-activated soft close
- Available in a variety of overlays
- 3-way mounting adjustment
While similar in design to the Blum 38N, this hinge doesn’t offer the on/off switch you’ll need for lighter doors. For around the same price (typically more) I’d recommend sticking with Blum.
6. Grass Tec Soft Close Cabinet Hinge
- GRASS TEC 864 Soft Close Cabinet Hinge MADE IN THE USA
- 3-Way Adjustable In and Out Cam Adjustment 108 Degrees Opening Angle
- Screw on wrap around mount cabinet hinge Includes 2x #6 x 5/8″ Wood Screws…
- 1/2 in overlay soft closing hinge with custom 3 level soft close strength…
Last update on 2021-04-17 at 00:35 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
I was surprised by this hinge. First, it has the same design as the Blum but had two surprising issues: it creaked when closing (lack of cover on the spring arm?) and didn’t fully close the door.
While Grass is an established brand the quality here was disappointing. When installed on a cabinet door it creaked when closing and no matter how I adjusted it wouldn’t close the door fully (left open ~1/8″).
On close inspection I noticed the ends of the two springs that drive the soft close weren’t covered in plastic like the Blum. And I suspect that was the source of the noise.
For that reason I’m recommending you look elsewhere.
Soft Close Cabinet Hinges TYpes
As you know by now, a soft close hinge is basically a standard hinge with a damper that slows the closing of the door.
But, there is a lot more to hinges then saw a soft close drawer slide. Because cabinet construction dictates the final style of hinge you’ll need let’s walk thru the various types of hinges:
- Frameless hinges
- Face frame hinges
- Inset hinges
- Overlay hinges
- Partial 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!
Concealed Hinges for Face Frame Cabinets
As you can see from the picture above a face frame cabinet has a frame attached to the front of the cabinet sides.
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.
Frameless Soft Closing Cabinet Hinges
If your cabinets are frameless you’ll have about the same complexity as face frame hinges in deciding which hinge is right.
Here 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.
Key features of soft closing cabinet door hinges
Before we jump into the hinges in this review, let’s first look at what makes one hinge operate better:
- 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
- Ease of adjustment
- Brand reputation & time in industry
- On/off switches for adjusting closing force
Self Closing Cabinet Hinges
While soft closing hinges aren’t the same as a self closing hinge, they do all have the same “self closing” feature. Essentially, a self closing hinge is a hinge that is designed to stay closed. And, since most soft closing hinges are designed (or can be made into) like self closing you’ll find them similar.
Types of Hinges for Cabinets
While soft closing hinges are arguably the best hinges for cabinets, there are other types of cabinet hinges:
Hard to Find Cabinet Hinges
When it comes to soft close hinges, there are certain types of these hinges that are hard to find. Perhaps you are replacing a hinge, or looking for a unique hinge that doesn’t quite fit the mainstream soft close hinges.
Why Cabinet Hinges are Hard to Find
While some manufacturers will print the name of the hinge on the faceplate or other identifiable location, others won’t leave a name.
Or, perhaps more frustrating, will leave a logo on the hinge that puts you into a search for what they are.
So why are these hinges hard to find? Well, it’s all about large volume purchasing by cabinet manufacturers.
Bulk Hinge Manufacturers
CONCEALED CABINET HINGES
As their name implies, a concealed cabinet hinge is not visible from the front of the cabinet. Rather, they are mounted to the cabinet side or frame.
So how do they attach to the door? Well, there are two options:
- First, most concealed cabinet hinges are mounted using a 35mm hole drilled into the door with a hinge jig.
- Or, and less common, some hinges skip the hole and use direct flat mounts to the door. While an option, these are best only for extremely thin doors where a hinge cup cannot be drilled
7 Soft Close Hinge Issues and How to Avoid Them
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…
While these hinges an be installed with planning, time and patience but just about anyone there are some lessons learned to read up on first.
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.
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 Installation
Now this one is getting specific huh?
Well, after installing thousands of cabinet doors I’ve learned to install the top hinge first. 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 About Soft Close Cabinet Hinges
Want a little more insight into the difference in hinges?
Maybe you’re wondering why you can’t grab the cheapest hinge for your project? And just why does hinge damper recovery time matter?
Or, perhaps you’re building a new project and are concerned with drilling a rather large hole in your cabinet door? Whatever your question I’ll do the best I can to answer your questions and help you pick what’s right for you.
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:
Cabinet Hardware ANSI/BHMA Standard
You can read the full specifications at ANSI/BHMA A156.1 certification but a sample of the testing requirements are:
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 drill press, setup the drill with a stopping block. I like to use blue painters tape on the surface of the drill press table to avoid scraping the door.
- 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. Why the same edge? Well, some doors have a deeply shaped edge that the hinge hole can drill into.
- Install your test piece on the cabinet and verify opening/closing action. Why is this important? If you drill your hinge too far from the edge of the door it could scrape the face frame.
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.
Best Soft Close Cabinet Hinges - Summary
The best soft close hinges are really just a choice in the brand that has invested the most in the technology: Blum. Sure, you’ll pay a little more but compared to the overall cabinet or furniture project it’s a rounding error in most projects.
Blum Hinges on Amazon
Last update on 2021-04-16 at 20:17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API