Best Soft Close Cabinet Hinge

Ultimate Guide to Soft Close Cabinet Hinges [Hands On Review]

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A hinge is a hinge, right? Well, not when it comes to the best soft close cabinet hinges. Like everything else we buy, certain brands outperform others – and don’t squeak, “jerk” close, or have the durability issues a cheaper imitation hinge will. And as a cabinetmaker of 20+ years I know the difference – and will share in this article what I have learned to trust (and use).

Short on time to read? I’ve trusted the economical and high performing Blum 38N Soft Close Hinge  for my projects. A top name in the industry and solid performance. 

It’s tempting to buy a 25 pack of hinges for $40.

But I don’t recommend you do.

As part of keeping track of what’s the best economy hinge for my projects I went and purchased over $60 worth of soft close hinges. 

What did I find? While some hinges worked great, others creaked close (springs lacked guides!) others were “bouncy” and one even surprised me with a large adjustable damper.

In this article I’ll share what I found and help you decide on what’s the best hinge for your project.

Editors Choice
Blum Clip Top
Best Value
Blum Compact 38N
ClipTop Damper
Upgrade Current
Full Overlay Blum 110 deg Soft-Close BLUMotion Clip Top Frameless Hinges, Pair
Blum 38N355BE08x10S Compact Soft-Close 1/2'' Overlay Blumotion Hinge, Nickel Finish (Pack of 10)
Blum 973A0500.01x5 973A Blumotion Straight Arm Full Overlay Hinge for Doors, Nickel Finish (Pack of 5)
Hinge Style
Clip On
Compact
Add On Damper
Adjustment Dimensions
6-way
3-way
n/a
Overlay Range
Full, Half, Inset
3/8″ – 1-3/8″
Full Overlay
Opening (Degrees)
110
110-degrees
n/a
Remove Without Tools?
Damper On/Off?
Adjustable
Shipping
Editors Choice
Blum Clip Top
Full Overlay Blum 110 deg Soft-Close BLUMotion Clip Top Frameless Hinges, Pair
Hinge Style
Clip On
Adjustment Dimensions
6-way
Overlay Range
Full, Half, Inset
Opening (Degrees)
110
Remove Without Tools?
Damper On/Off?
Shipping
Best Value
Blum Compact 38N
Blum 38N355BE08x10S Compact Soft-Close 1/2'' Overlay Blumotion Hinge, Nickel Finish (Pack of 10)
Hinge Style
Compact
Adjustment Dimensions
3-way
Overlay Range
3/8″ – 1-3/8″
Opening (Degrees)
110-degrees
Remove Without Tools?
Damper On/Off?
Shipping
ClipTop Damper
Upgrade Current
Blum 973A0500.01x5 973A Blumotion Straight Arm Full Overlay Hinge for Doors, Nickel Finish (Pack of 5)
Hinge Style
Add On Damper
Adjustment Dimensions
n/a
Overlay Range
Full Overlay
Opening (Degrees)
n/a
Remove Without Tools?
Damper On/Off?
Adjustable
Shipping

Last update on 2020-06-10 at 22:41 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

BEST Face Frame: Blum Clip Top 71B355O-FF

Last update on 2020-08-03 at 17:45 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Best Value: Blum Compact 38N

Last update on 2020-06-10 at 14:11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Upgrade Damper

Last update on 2020-08-04 at 09:54 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Article Contents

What is a Soft Close Cabinet Hinge?

A soft close cabinet hinge uses a damper integrated into the hinge or hinge cup to softly close the cabinet door. Soft close dampers work by providing a dynamic spring or hydraulic resistance that catches the door and gently allows it to close. These hinges are different than self closing (stay closed) hinge.

Choosing Which Style Soft Close Cabinet Hinge You Need

Frameless Cabinet Hinge
Frameless Cabinet: Note the cabinet sides extend to the front (overlay hinge)

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!

Choosing Hinges for Face Frame Cabinets

Face Frame Cabinet Hinge
Face Frame Cabinet With Compact Partial Overlay Hinge

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.
The inset frame hinges are an exception – and mostly used in furniture. Due to their complexity and precision of door & frame build I’d consider these hinges last.

Choosing Frameless Soft Close Cabinet Hinges

Inset Frameless Cabinet Door
Inset Frameless Cabinet Door - Note the Door Sits Flush With Frame or "inset"

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:

  • Inset
  • 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.

Hinge Review Criteria

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
  • Ease of adjustment
  • Brand reputation & time in industry
  • On/off switches for adjusting closing force

Best Soft Close Cabinet Hinges

In this hands on review I purchased six different soft close hinges and ran them through tests on cabinets. And even as a cabinetmaker of a few decades a few hinges surprised me.

My recommendation? Stick with Blum for whatever your project needs are. I just have not had a bad experience with any of their hardware.

ProductRatingCabinetStyle
Blum Clip Top
4.8Face Frame & FramelessSix way adjustment, screw covers, on/off switches to disable soft close. Available in 110 to 170 degree.
Blum Compact
4.5Face FrameCompact 38N, 39C and 38B hinges are economical soft close hinges for face frame cabinets (varying overlays). On/off switches to disable soft close
Probico Clip Top4.4Face FrameAdjustable damper in hinge arm with basic design (no screw plate covers). Full overlay.
Berta Compact3.7Face FrameHinge cup integrated soft close cabinet hinge for face frames (various overlays). No on/off for damper.
Grass Tec Compact3.5Face FrameHinge cup integrated soft close with on/off damper activation.

1. Blum Clip Top Soft Close Cabinet Hinges (Best Frameless or Face Frame)

Editor's Rating 4.8:
4.8/5
Blum Clip Top Soft Close Cabinet Hinge

Overview

The Blum Clip Top are the top of the line soft close cabinet hardware for Blum. 

So just what does clip top mean? According to Blum, it means:

  • These hinges cannot be seen when the door is closed
  • And, more to the name, they simply clip on and clip off

Why would this be useful? Well, for cabinet installation removing the door in a few seconds allows for easy installations.

Soft Close Hinge Features

These Blum soft close hinges feature:

  • Versions 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

There are hinge brands that are sold at a fraction of the cost of this hinge. 

And I’ve tried them out. 

While cheaper, they have issues you wouldn’t expect until you try them out. For example one hinge creaked, another didn’t have an on/off damper switch, and another didn’t come with screw covers. 

Best Cabinet Hinge Review

I’ve ranked these hinges at the top of the hinge review for three reasons: performance, durability and brand reputation.

Are they expensive? Yes.

Is there a lower priced alternative I’d recommend? Yes (the Blum 38N).

But you get what you pay for, so based on my hands on review here’s my feedback on these hinges:

PROS

  • Smooth, jerk-free operation
  • Noiseless
  • ANSI/BHMA certified
  • High quality fit and finish
  • On/off soft close damper activation for smaller doors
  • Easy to attach and detach
CONS
  • Price

Soft Close Kitchen Hinge Buying Guide

Wrapping up on the Blum Clip Top Hinge, there are a few variations on this hinge to consider:

And, if you’re building new doors, make sure to grab these two hinge installation accessories:
 

2. Blum 38N Compact Soft Close Cabinet Hinge for Face Frames

Editor's Rating 4.5:
4.5/5
Blum 38N Soft Close Cabinet Hinge

Overview

The economical Blum compact face frame hinges with soft close are a great choice and easy upgrade hinge for cabinets without integrated soft close. This hinge  features integrated on/off for adjusting lighter doors and a smooth closing action.

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.

Soft Close Hinge Features

Key features:

  • Built for face frame applications
  • 100 to 110-degree range of opening
  • Blum Compact have a variety of 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

Best Cabinet Hinge Review

The most noticeable change from the Blum Clip-Top is this hinge style drops the ability to quickly detach the hinge.

However, the closing mechanism is the same. It’s, as the name implies, just more compact.

PROS:

  • ANSI/BHMA certified
  • Economical price
  • 110-degree opening
  • Soft close can be de-activated with flip of switch
  • High quality screws included
CONS
  • Cannot adjust soft close tension
  • 3-way adjustment vs. 6-way of ClipTop

Soft Close Kitchen Hinge Buying Guide

So which hinge will I need for my project? Make sure you understand your overlays and then choose from one of these three hinges:

And, don’t forget the self centering bits and a concealed hinge drilling guide.

3. ProbicO Soft Close Cabinet Hinges *BEST VALUE*

Editor's Rating 4.4:
4.4/5
Probico Soft Close Cabinet Hinge

Overview

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).

SOFT CLOSE HINGE FEATURES

Probico Soft Close Cabinet Door Hinge
Hands on Review: Damper piston in Probico soft close cabinet hinge

The Probico is a unique clip-top hinge that features a hinge arm integrated soft close mechanism. The damper in this version can be adjusted for door weight with a simple turn of the screw. These hinges are available for frameless or face frame cabinets.

Best Cabinet Hinge Review

PROS

  • Economical price
  • Face frame and frameless compatible
  • 110-degree opening
  • 3-way hinge adjustment
  • 2-way door adjustment
  • Adjustable damper built into hinge arm 
  • Screws included

CONS

  • Lacks screw covers for fit/finish of Blum clip top
Note: I couldn’t find reference to a Probico BHMA certification.

SOFT CLOSE KITCHEN HINGE BUYING GUIDE

The Probico’s are made for both frameless and face frame cabinets. But, just be aware they come without soft close when you’re checking prices:

And, don’t forget the self centering bits and a concealed hinge drilling guide.

4. Berta Compact Soft close Hinge Hardware

Editor's Rating 4.0:
4/5
Berta Compact Hinge

Overview

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

Key features:

  • 110-degree opening
  • Springs and hydraulic damper
  • Face frame compatible
  • Variety of overlays

Best Cabinet Hinge Review

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.

PROS

  • Economical price
  • 3-way hinge adjustment
  • 2-way door adjustment
  • Smooth operation

CONS

  • Lacks on/off switch for smaller doors 

Soft Close Kitchen Hinge Buying Guide

You’ll find these hinges available in a variety of overlays and bulk packs:

And, don’t forget the self centering bits and a concealed hinge drilling guide.

5. AMAZON BASICS AB-4011 SOFT CLOSE KITCHEN HINGE

Editor's Rating 4.0:
4/5
Amazon Basics AB-4011 Soft Close Hinge

Overview

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

Best Cabinet Hinge Review

PROS

  • Economical price
  • Adjustment
  • High user reviews
  • Includes mounting screws

CONS

  • Lacks on/off switch for smaller doors 
  • Lacks clip-top feature of higher priced hinges

Soft Close Kitchen Hinge Buying GUide

And, don’t forget the self centering bits and a concealed hinge drilling guide.

6. GRASS TEC SOFT CLOSE DOOR HINGE

Editor's Rating 3.5:
3.5/5
Grass Tec Soft Close Door Hinge

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.

10 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…

But there are lessons learned so in this section we’ll take a look at what to avoid.

#10 - 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.

#9 - Not PLanning ROll-out Shelving and Hinges Together

Heavy Duty Drawer Slides

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.

Solution: There are three tricks I know of to solve this. First, use a face mount hinge on face frame cabinets. Second, move the hinge higher on the door. Or third, make the drawer narrower to avoid hitting the hinges.

#8 - Drilling the Hinge Cup Hole too Deep

While #8 on the list, and common to all European concealed hinge styles, a hinge cup hole that’s too deep will destroy the door.

Or, will at least force you to re-build the stile it was attached to.

Solution: Use a jig for your cordless drill with adjustable depth settings or a drill press that is set to the proper depth.

#7 - Purchasing Frameless Hinges for Face Frame Cabinets

Best Soft Close Cabinet Hinges

It happens.

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.

#6 - Not Drilling the Hinge Cup Deep Enough

Perhaps you’re trying to install hinges on a thinner door.

Or maybe you’re worried about drilling through the door and damaging it. 

Whatever the case, if you don’t drill the hinge cup to the proper depth you’ll end up with:

  • At best, an unsightly gap on the hinge side between the door and the frame. 
  • Or at worst a door that rubs the face of the cabinet as the hinge spacing has been altered by essentially a thicker door.

#5 - Drilling the Hinge Cup Too Close to the Edge

I’ll admit I usually drill the hinges too far away from the edge if I’m free-handing things with a guide jig and cordless drill.

But occasionally I’ll have grain influence the location and end up with a 35MM hole too close to the edge of the door.

So what happens?

If the door edge is square not too much. Due to the adjustment capability of the hinges the extra offset can be compensated for.

But if the door edge has a reveal it’s possible to drill through this reveal.

#4 - Install the Top Hinge First

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

#3 - Buy Cost vs. Quality

I’ve read the reviews and seen this in some of the most popular hinges on the market.

While you can save tens or hundreds of dollars on cheaper hinges you’ll perhaps regret it later. And that’s when it’s either too late or too costly to fix the mistake.

Invest in the long term when buying hinges. And even if it won’t be for you that’s using them.

#2 - Drill the Hinge Cup Too Far In

Drill Large Hole in Wood

There’s a lot that can wrong with hinges. But the most costly mistakes are when you’re drilling the hinge cup holes.

What happens when the hinge cup is too far in? 

The door will bind and rub the cabinet when closed. And this is a disaster that will require re-edging the door (at best) or re-building the door or stile (at worst).

#1 - Adjust, Adjust and Then Adjust More

Soft close cabinet hinges require adjustment. 

In fact, all hinges do. But for soft close you’ll want the hinge square, adjustment on/off dampers set or dampers dialed-in (for adjustable) to have the door slowly close.

Personally, I always wait for final adjustment until the cabinet is installed. And then when I have everything right where I want it I install a second cabinet-side locking screw (for face frame cabinets).

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?

Soft Close Cabinet Door Damper Blum vs. Rok

Have an existing kitchen and researching if you’ll be able to upgrade your hinges? 

Well, fortunately you may have two options:

  1. 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.
  2. 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

First, examine your hinge and see if you can identify a brand and model. Perhaps they are from Salice, Kraftmaid, DTC, Ikea or even Blum. Do they have the “clip top” design like the first two hinges in this article? Or is their design more traditional like the Blum 38N soft close?

Hinge Overlay

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:

ANSI/BHMA A156.1-2016
Revision of ANSI/BHMA A156.1-2013
 
1. SCOPE
 
1.1 This Standard establishes requirements for butts and hinges. Cycle tests, lateral and vertical wear tests, friction tests, strength tests, finish tests, and material and dimensional requirements are included.
 
1.2 Tests described in this Standard are performed under laboratory conditions. In actual usage, results vary because of installation, maintenance and environmental conditions.

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?

Inset Frameless Cabinet 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.
Soft close cabinet hinges are available for all styles of doors, including face frame inset.

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

Kreg Jig for Installing Soft Close Cabinet Hinges

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

Blue Tape to Market Cabinet Hinge Locations

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

Dewalt Drill Set

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

Hinge restriction clips

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.

Can you put soft close hinges on old cabinets?

Any cabinet with a concealed hinge can be upgraded to soft close through either hinge replacement or use of a soft close damper.

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.

Summary

While I’ve been a cabinetmaker for decades I still keep an eye out for new tools and techniques to make my cabinet projects go smoother. I hope you found this article useful and could suggest the recommended reading below for soft close drawer slides as a related guide to finding the best slides.

Manufacturers

Recommended Reading

9 Comments

  1. Joy Kincaid June 8, 2020
  2. E.D. Tryon June 9, 2020
  3. Toruko June 25, 2020
  4. E.D. Tryon June 25, 2020
  5. Wendy Packer July 10, 2020
  6. E.D. Tryon July 10, 2020
  7. mike k August 5, 2020
  8. E.D. Tryon August 5, 2020
  9. E.D. Tryon August 6, 2020

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