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Installing Hinged Doors

Most cabinet projects call for unobtrusive hinges that, if visible at all, meld with any decor. Of the types commonly available, Euro-style hinges are the most expensive and are entirely concealed. Overlay and offset hinges (right) are mostly hidden, with only the smaller hinge leaf visible. If you have flush doors, a concealed wraparound hinge (right) will be nearly invisible. When building new cabinets, install hinges and knobs last, after the doors and drawers are painted or finished. If you want to dress up old cabinets by painting or refinishing, remove the hinges and knobs first. (It is nearly impossible to paint around hinges, and removing them takes surprisingly little time.)

A neat installation of smoothly functioning hinges requires care and patience. All the hinges in a row of cabinets should be at the same height. If a change of height is required, the change should be consistent. Also, cabinet hinges determine the height and angle of doors. If a hinge is installed even 1/16 inch out of alignment, the door will be noticeably out of line with the other doors. If the hinges are not adjustable— and most, except Euro-style hinges, are not—it will be difficult to move one slightly. Work systematically with attention to detail. You will find yourself often alternating between drilling pilot holes and driving screws. Have two drills on hand, one with a pilot bit and one equipped with a magnetic sleeve and screwdriver bit. Cordless drills make this work much easier. Most hinge screws call for a No. 1 phillips bit; using the more common but too-large No. 2 bit will be frustrating.

Installing an overlay hinge. With the door face down, place the hinges about 2 inches from the top and bottom; use a spacer or jig to ensure that all the hinges in a group of cabinets are placed in identical positions. Drill pilot holes in the exact center of each hole, and drive the screws that come with the hinges. Next, position the door on the cabinet exactly as it will be when hung; using spacers or clamp-on guides. Have a helper hold it while you work. Mark for the pilot holes using an awl, then remove the door to drill the pilot holes. If you feel confident that the door is firmly and correctly in place, drill the pilot holes through the hinge holes and drive the screws in the same operation.

Always Drill Pilot Holes - Constantly alternating between drilling pilot holes and driving screws may seem tedious, and you will be tempted to skip an occasional pilot hole and just drive in the screw. Resist that temptation. Though a hinge screw is small, it can easily crack a cabinet stile. A cracked stile must be glued and clamped, a time-consuming process. Also, pilot holes make it much easier to drive the screws straight; screws driven at an angle tend to look unprofessional.

1. Measure for an inset door. An inset or “lipped” door is 1/4 inch larger on all sides than the opening. The rabbet running all around the door is 3/8 inch wide, giving a clearance of 1/8 inch between the inside of the rabbet and the cabinet. You must measure carefully to get a good fit.

2. Install an offset hinge. Place the door face down, and install the hinges about 2 inches from the top and bottom. Use the same spacing for all the doors. The key is to center the inset door in the opening. Place 1/8-inch hardboard spacers on the bottom and one side of the opening. Set the door on the spacers (carefully, since you won’t be able to see the spacers). Align the door precisely; you may have to pull it away from a spacer slightly. Mark for pilot holes with an awl, or drill pilot holes through the hinge holes, and then drive screws.

Install a butt or concealed wraparound hinge. For flush doors, measure an equal distance from top and bottom, as for a concealed wraparound hinge. Install a wraparound hinge on the door. For a butt hinge, use a chisel and knife to cut a mortise, and install one leaf of the hinge in the mortise. Use two finish nails as spacers, and center the door in the opening so that there is a consistent 1/8-inch gap all around. Use a sharp pencil to mark the top and bottom of the hinge. Remove the door, and cut a mortise as thick as the hinge leaf. Position the hinges, mark and drill pilot holes, then drive the screws.

Use a Jig to Mark for Hinges and Pulls - Using a tape measure to mark the position for each hinge is not only time-consuming, but could cause inaccuracies. To ensure uniformity, develop a method for spacing all hinges and pulls the same distance from door and drawer face edges and follow it consistently. Here are two ways to do that:

Use a small piece of wood as a jig. Hold it against the door edge, press the hinge up against it, and mark for pilot holes.

Or use another hinge. It is standard practice to install hinges one hinge length from the door edge. Just hold one hinge against the door edge, slide the other up against it, and mark for pilot holes.

1 .To install a concealed hinge, drill a recess hole. Cut the recess hole with a Forstner bit, shown below, or make a template and cut it with a router. The hole in the template should be the diameter of the recess hole, plus the thickness of the router’s bushing.

2. Mark the stile. Insert the hinge in the door, drill pilot holes, and drive the screws. Position the door against the face frame. While a helper holds it in the correct position, mark the location of the hinges on the stile.

3. Install and adjust. With the door open, have the helper hold the hinges against the marks on the stile. Carefully try the movement of the door until it fits smoothly. Center the adjusting screws in the slots provided. Loosen or tighten the screws to adjust the position of the door.

Euro-style hinge. This type of hinge can be used for an overlay or flush door. It is the easiest hinge to adjust, allowing you to move it up and down, in and out. One side fits into a recess hole in the door, which you can drill with a Forstner bit or cut with a router. The arm slides onto a mounting bracket. To install it, first mount the hinge in the recess hole. Install the mounting bracket onto the inside of the cabinet, then slide the hinge arm onto the mounting bracket.

Glass-door hinge. Glass doors are always flush, fitting inside the cabinet. To mount the type shown, drill a pair of holes (usually 1/4 inch) near the edge of the top rail and another pair near the edge of the bottom rail. Tap a sleeve into the hole nearest the end, and a catch into the other hole. Slip hinges into the sleeves, fit the glass door into the hinges, adjust the door so it fits inside the opening, and tighten the holding screws on the hinges.

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