Learning how to measure cabinet hinges correctly is essential, no matter if you’re simply replacing current hinges or installing brand new ones. They come in different shapes and sizes, and some are much more suitable for your cabinets than other ones. The most common method of learning how to measure your cabinet hinges involves opening up the hinge to find the width. You can also figure out how much the door overlaps on the frame to ensure you choose the correct size for your hinges. We’ll outline how to figure out all of these points below.
Cabinet hinges come in a large range of sizes and shapes, and this can make learning how to measure cabinet hinges difficult, but not impossible.
Measure European Cabinet Hinges and the Overlay
European cabinet hinges are used with frameless and framed cabinets. This style of cabinet hinge features two mounting plates with several adjustment screws, and they can be slightly tricky to learn how to measure cabinet hinges with them since they’re usually not flat. Instead, they have curves and grooves you have to consider in your measurements. However, you can use the cabinet overlay method to measure these hinges, and we’ll go over how next.
Step 1 – Close the Door
An overlay is the amount of overlap your door does to the cabinet frame. Cabinet doors can have a partial or full overlay. You can measure the overlay of your door to figure out the size of the cabinet hinge you need. To do this, the first thing you’ll have to do is close your cabinet door.
Step 2 – Mark the Hinge Side of Your Door
When you have the cabinet door closed, you’ll mark the hinge side of your door vertically. You can use masking tape to do this, or you can make a very light mark with a pencil. Either way, you won’t end up leaving noticeable marks on your cabinets once you finish learning how to measure cabinet hinges. If you’re using tape, make sure it sticks very firmly to your spot. Mark the hinge side of the door just above your lower hinge.
Step 3 – Measure the Door Overlay
Once you get done marking the hinge side of your cabinet’s door, you’ll want to open the door. You will see part of your tape or your pencil mark is now visible. Take a tape measure and determine how wide the overlay is from the end of the tape to the inside edge of the frame. Generally, most cabinet doors have an overlay ranging from ¼ to 1 ½-inches, but some can vary.
Step 4 – Measure the Lip if You Have Partial Inset Doors
A partial inset door is a door that overlaps your cabinet’s frame. If you have one of these doors installed, you’ll need to now measure the lip to ensure you get the right size hinge. To do so, you’ll get a ruler and measure from the edge of your door to the inner edge of your cabinet.
Step 5 – Figure Out the Hinge Size
An overlay is basically the amount of overlap your door has on your cabinet frame. Cabinet doors can have a partial or full overlay design. You can measure this overlay of the door to figure out which is the best size for your hinges. To do this, you’ll close your cabinet door and:
- Figure out the width of the hinge using a tape measure.
- Figure out the width of your mounting plate by measuring the total length from one side of your plate to the opposite end.
- Add the hinge width to the mounting plate width to get the full overlay size.
- Match the overlay size of your hinge to the overlay size of the cabinet door.
European cabinet hinges with an overlay are tricky to work with as there are more measurements you have to take to get the correct fit.
How to Measure Cabinet Hinges – Two Ways
With the correct measurements, you can pick the right hinges and install them very quickly and easily. Also, your cabinet doors will close and open much smoother and without any issues.
First Method – Figure out the Hinge Width and Length
The first method you can try when you’re learning how to measure cabinet hinges is to figure out the hinge’s width and length. To do this, you’ll do the following:
1. Remove the Cabinet Hinges to get Accurate Measurements
Get a Phillips screwdriver and take out the screws on each hinge. In general, the hinges have at least four screws that you will loosen by turning clockwise. Remove every hinge that you want to measure and lay them out on an even surface. Door hinges will commonly have the same size, so you’ll only need to measure one to get the size for all of them.
- It is possible to learn how to measure cabinet hinges without removing them, but this won’t ensure you get accurate measurements.
- If the hinge is stuck in place due to a buildup of paint or stain, you’ll get a utility knife and cut through the paint or stain. Then, you’ll poke the cabinet hinge using a flathead screwdriver.
2. Take the Hinge’s Full Measurements to Figure Out the Open Width
Hinges come with two leaves or sides that have an upright pin running through the center to separate them. Open your hinge up all of the way so that both sides are flat on the surface. Extend your tape measure between the outer sides of the leaves to get the measurement of the widest portion.
- When you measure using a tape measure, you’ll hold it above the central pin.
- If you’re going to buy hinges to replace the current ones, the open width is the most common measurement used to size them. But, be prepared to take note of other measurements to get the highest accuracy level possible.
3. Find Each Hinge’s Leaf Width
The leaf width on your hinge refers to the distance from the middle pin to the outer edge of the leaf. Depending on which hinge type you currently have, the leaves can have different sizes. So, you want to make sure to take measurements of both. Take note that it’s even more critical to measure the widths when the leaves aren’t the same size.
4. Measure the Hinge’s Length from Top to Bottom
For most hinges, the tallest point is usually found on the pin in the middle. Hold your tape measure parallel to the pin to help find the correct length. If the hinges come with different sizes, you’ll want to measure the height of each leaf and figure out which measurement matches your kitchen cabinet door size and the cabinet size. If you have uneven hinges, the leaf on the cabinet size is most likely the larger of the two. Take note that it will have the larger length and width to keep the hinge steady as it supports the door opening and closing.
You want to double-check your measurements to ensure you get a good fit with your new hinges, and take the measurements with you when you hinge shop.
Second Method – Use the Overlay to Measure the Hinge Size
Another way to learn how to measure cabinet hinges is to use the overlay. If you choose to try this method, you’ll use the following steps:
1. Shut the Cabinet Door to Before You Measure the Overlay
The overlay is how much the door overlaps into your cabinet frame. If you’re going to install new hinges, measure the overlay to figure out the size you need. The cabinet door should be fully closed when you do this to ensure you place your tape properly.
- The primary door on your cabinet is either an overlay or a partial inset. Overlays are above your cabinet’s surface and partial insets overlap your cabinet’s surface a small amount.
- Full-inset cabinet styles sit flush with the cabinet’s surface. They are generally on the end of your cabinets, so you measure the other doors’ overlay so you can get more hinges of the same or similar sizes.
3. Attach a Piece of Tape to the Cabinet Door’s Hinged Side
Get a piece of tape so you don’t leave marks on the cabinet door. Put it vertically and right next to the side of the hinge of your cabinet door when it’s shut. Try to put it over the lower hinge if you can. Once you press the tape to the cabinet frame, you’ll smooth and stick it out.
- Open your cabinet door to measure the frame’s edge to the piece of tape you applied earlier.
- When the door is open, find the edge of the tape that sticks out. You can find it by the hinge side of your cabinet door. If the doors are currently unattached, you’ll move them so you can see your tape better. When you measure the overlay, you’ll hold your tape measure or ruler from the tape to the inside edge of your cabinet’s frame.
4. For Partial Inset Door Styles, Measure the Lip
As we touched on, a partial inset door is a door that fits partially inside or overlaps your cabinet’s frame. If you have this door type, you’ll want to take a look at the edge of the door, paying close attention to the top area. Then, you’ll take your ruler, measure your door edge to the inner edge of your cabinet.
5. Use the Overlay to Figure Out the Correct Hinge Size
Pick a new hinge that has a similar overlay size to ensure that it fits neatly into your cabinet. A lot of hinges come with an overlay number stamped into them. If the hinge doesn’t have it, you’ll need to get a tape measure and figure out how wide your mounting plate is, and this part comes with your hinge or cabinet. This measurement should be across the central part of your plate, and you’ll then add the amount to the hinge’s width before you compare it to your measured overlay.
Choosing a Hinge
If you choose to go shopping in person, one of the best things you can do is take the old hinge along. You should also bring any relevant measurements you have from learning how to measure cabinet hinges. To keep your door opening and closing smoothly, try to get the exact hinge as a replacement. Finding a new hinge can be challenging, so ask a store associate if you can’t find what you need.
- Check hardware stores or furniture stores that sell cabinets. If you bring the old hinge along, the employees will usually have a much easier time recommending a replacement hinge if you can’t find what you need.
Pick a Hinge Style That Fits Your Cabinet Type
Finding a replacement hinge is a lot easier when you figure out which style your cabinets use. Inset and overlay-style cabinets tend to need many different types of hinges. Match the new hinge style to the old one to ensure you can install it successfully. If you want to swap out styles, you could try choosing one that compliments the type of door you have on your cabinets.
- Mortise or Butt – This hinge is one of the most common ones you’ll run into when you’re learning how to measure cabinet hinges. A butt hinge comes with a vertical pin between two leaves that are the same size. They get used on a huge range of doors, including partial inset, overlay, and inset doors.
- Semi-Concealed and Face-Mounted Hinges – These hinges work best on inset doors. They come with a small leaf on one side and a much wider one on the other that attaches to the door.
- Surface-Mounted or European-Style – Finally, these hinges are very unusual as they tend to fit inside of your door. They are like foldable, long hinges with mounting plates situated on both ends, and they work best when you pair them with full inset doors.
Since there are so many hinge styles available, you want to take your time and make sure you get a good hinge that works with your door and fits seamlessly.
Pick a Hinge Shape that Matches Your Cabinet’s Mortise
A mortise is a groove that gets cut into your cabinet’s frame or door. The hinge size does matter, but you also have to take the shape into consideration. Many hinges come with square edges, but there are also rounded ones that will only fit into round mortises. To avoid having to change the mortise and damage the finish, pick the correct hinge for the cabinet.
- When a hinge is the right thickness, it’ll sit flush to the cabinet frame. However, if you pick out the wrong shape on accident, it won’t fit into the mortise.
- If you don’t see a mortise on your cabinet, you’ll get non-mortise hinges. These hinges are slightly thicker than traditional ones to ensure that the cabinet door shuts properly.
Match Your Screw Pattern to the Pattern the Old Hinge Used
A matching screw pattern will lower the amount of work you have to do to install the new hinge while preventing damage to your cabinets. If the holes don’t line up, you’ll have to fill them in with something like wood putty and then drill new ones. If the screw pattern matches, you won’t have to take this extra step as you should be able to fit the hinge and slot the screws into the current holes.
- Filling in the screw holes is extra work that shouldn’t be necessary if you learn how to measure cabinet hinges and pick out the right shape and size. If you intend to use a different hinge style, you’ll most likely fill in holes and drill new ones.
- Some hinges will also fit inside of grooves that are etched into the door. If your cabinet comes with hinge grooves, you’ll have to measure and note the groove size to ensure your new hinges fit correctly.
How to Tell Which Hinge is in Your Cabinets
When you replace a kitchen cabinet hinge, there are several factors that you need to consider before you go out and buy anything. We’ll outline the biggest considerations to keep in mind as you’re shopping to ensure you make an informed choice.
Door’s Opening Angle
This is the angle that the door opens out from your cabinet. The most common door opening angles are between 95° and 110°, but corner units can have a larger door opening angle at 170°. For half doors that close into a corner, the angle can be smaller at 40° or 50°.
Cup Hole Diameter
You should double-check the diameter of the hole in the cabinet door where your current hinge sits. This can range from 26 to 35mm up to 40mm for bigger hinges. It’s essential that you measure this hoole and not the hinge hardware itself as the hinge is usually slightly smaller.
Hinge Overlay Options
There are currently three very common hinge overlays, and they include:
- Full Overlay – The door will cover the cabinet’s frame in the closed position.
- Half Overlay – Your cabinets have two doors that are fitted on one side of your cabinet’s frame.
- Inset Overlay – The door’s front will sit flush with the front end of your cabinet’s frame.
Connection for the Hinge Mounting Plate
You also want to check and see how the hinge attaches to your cabinet’s frame. Generally speaking, most hinges are either slide-on or clip on. They are:
- Clip On – You’ll commonly find these hinges in your kitchen, and they simply clp onto the mounting plate when you attach them to your cupboard side without needing any screws.
- Slide On – As the name suggests, these hinges slide onto the mounting plate to attach them, and then you need to screw them into position.
Frame and Door Thickness
Make a note of the thickness of the cabinet door and frame as this will tell you how big the mounting plate should be. You can get them in a decent range of sizes, including mounting plates suited for glass or plastic doors.
Make sure you take a good look at the door and frame thickness of your cabinet because you want your hinges to support the weight.
Tips for Choosing the Correct Cabinet Hinge
When it comes to your cabinets, a lot rides on the hinges you have. The functionality and style have a huge impact on the overall look and performance levels of your doors and cabinets, almost as much as your finish or wood choices. With such a large variety of hinges, how do you pick them out? These short tips will help you pick out the correct hinge for your project, even if you’re just learning how to measure cabinet hinges and you have no idea what you need.
If you’re building your cabinets from scratch, you have the flexibility to decide which hinges you want. But, make sure that you pick out your hinges before you start the project. Picking the hardware should be a critical element in the start of the design process. It’s a lot easier to make smaller changes to the design to match your hardware than it is to rework your project halfway through because the hardware you bought doesn’t work.
Replacing your existing hinges starts with trying to figure out who made them. The name is usually stamped right on the hinge. If you can’t find it, you can take it to your local hardware store and see if they know what it is, or you can search for it online. You can also decide to upgrade your hinges to one that has the exact same functionality to it, but it’s outfitted with newer features like a soft-closing mechanism.
How large are your cabinet doors? You don’t want to install too many hinges on a single door, but you’ll need enough to support the weight. Two hinges are very common, but for bigger doors, you may need three or more hinges.
Door Swing Options
What angle and how far will your hinge allow the door to open? This is called the degree of opening. Some hinges will allow the door to open to 90°, but others give you a much larger degree of opening. For example, you could get a 270° hinge that lets your door swing back against the side of the cabinet.
Hinge Closing Options
- Free-Swing Hinge – This means that your hinge will move freely along its path from open to close. There will be no closing assist or catch to keep the door closed. These are commonly made as an option to the self-closing hinges so that you can use one of each when the normal self-closing force is too hard.
- Snap-Closing Hinge – This hinge type comes with a spring design feature that helps pull the door closed and keep it shut when you bring the door a few inches from being full shut. This is also called a self-closing hinge, and they tend to close very abruptly.
- Soft-Close Hinge – Finally, this hinge allows the cabinet doors to close silently and smooth no matter how hard you push the door closed. When you have this feature built into the hinge cup, you won’t need any additional hardware installed on the mounting plate or hinge.
Now you know a few ways how to measure cabinet hinges correctly. Remember to write all of your measurements down or save them on your phone before you start shopping online or go to your local hardware store. It’s also a good idea to bring the old hinge along with you with your measurements to ensure you get the correct size that seamlessly works with your cabinets.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.