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There are two basic types of hinges used on kitchen cabinets today. There is the traditional butt hinge that looks like a smaller version of the hinges that you would find on your front door and there are the more modern, concealed hinges that are commonly referred to as ‘Euro’ style hinges.
Butt hinges are definitely a ‘low-tech’ but time tested means of hanging a door. These have been in use in one form or another since at least the time of the Romans. Because the two leaves of the hinge meet at ‘barrel’ which is in front of the face of the door, these hinges are visible. This has led to many esthetic refinements such as adding decorative finials to the ends of the barrel. A common style is the ‘ball tip’. Because hinges are made from metal, they are usually plated and polished to make them more attractive. Since this style of hinge is made up of two leaves; one attached to the door and the other attached to the cabinet. The cabinet side of the hinge needs a point of attachment which is usually the face frame. This is a group of wood elements that surround each door so that the door is ‘inset’ into the frame. This is referred to as ‘inset construction’ as opposed to ‘overlay construction’ because the doors are inset into a face frame which surrounds each door and supports the butt hinge.
The appearance of traditional kitchen cabinets can be greatly enhanced with the use of an attractive butt hinge. Their simple construction assures that they function smoothly for many generations. As one would expect, there are a great variety of styles and finishes available. Less expensive hinges are light-weight and somewhat flimsy; having been stamped out in large numbers. More expensive hinges are forged from solid brass and are made with precision. Considering the time required to mortise a pocket which will receive the hinge and to carefully hang and adjust a door, purchasing a substantial, well made hinge is generally worth the cost. The advantage of using butt hinges is the appearance when building traditional styled kitchen cabinets as well as their durability. They do require a face frame, they are more difficult and time consuming to install, and they are not readily adjustable, but they are certainly attractive and greatly enhance the traditional esthetic of a kitchen.
Euro style or concealed hinges are a recent and very technologically advanced innovation. Unlike a butt hinge, they do not require a face frame and are completely hidden inside of the cabinet when the door is closed. They have the distinct advantage of being easy to install and fully adjustable in all three axis. For the most part we use the latest generation of Blum hinges, however there are certain special applications where we use hinges from other manufacturers. They are relatively compact and can be purchased with a self-closing function as well as a soft closing so that the door does not slam shut. Depending on the model, the opening angle can be limited and because the hinge is inside of the cabinet it can interfere with pull out shelves or other interior hardware. However, from a functional point of view, they are superior to butt hinges.
Euro style hinges are used exclusively on kitchen cabinets that are termed ‘overlay construction’ or ‘frameless construction’. Contemporary or modern kitchen cabinets that are so familiar today are the result of the development of the Euro style hinge. Because Euro style hinges are so adaptable to different conditions, it is possible to use them in kitchen cabinets that are traditional in appearance with face frames and inset doors.
Every hinge has its limitations and within these two broad categories there are countless variations for different door sizes, door thickness, weights, special installation conditions, unusual functional requirements and different methods of construction. At Warmington and North we have had years of experience working with different types of hinge hardware. We can help select the most appropriate style of hinges for your next kitchen.