A Kitchen Freshen Up - Navigating the Door Hinge Delimma

I've had several kitchen projects over the past year where we've simply freshen things up.  This is the perfect solution if you want your kitchen to look and feel new but you have a very tight budget.  Clients often ask me, what is the most expensive thing to replace in a kitchen remodel - cabinetry and appliances run a tight race for the number one expense. 

So, you can save a ton of money by reusing your existing cabinetry.  And no, changing the door fronts is not what I'm talking about.  This is not an inexpensive way to freshen them up (not sure why HGTV has convinced people of this).  Based on lots of research (I have met with lots and lots of cabinet companies about this issue), most cabinet manufacturers are not interested in just making the doors for your cabinetry.  Most are an all or nothing one stop shop.

 Since there is no standard size for cabinetry (like with plumbing fixtures), it is simply too costly for most cabinet manufacturers to produce new door fronts that have to be retrofitted to your old cabinet bases.  You can have the door fronts custom made, but this is expensive.  Just know when you hear the word "custom" it will be more expensive.  Mainly (and fairly) because this takes time, and time is money.

Paint  and Hardware
So, what I'm talking about is reusing your current cabinetry.  I'm always amazed by the difference a fresh coat of paint and new hardware can make for kitchen cabinetry.  My kitchen is the perfect example of this.

You will be surprised by how paint and the right hardware, can turn a door style you're not crazy about into a kitchen you will love.  Now I say all this to tell you about one rather significant issue that may crop up when considering whether you should paint your kitchen cabinetry.  This problem has arisen more than once in the kitchen projects I've completed.

Door Hinges
As styles have changed over the years, so have the door hinge styles.  This makes for a very confusing detail may homeowners are unprepared to navigate.  Usually ending with homeowners either leaving the old hinges as is or painting them.  As you know, the devil's in the details, and this one detail will completely kill the entire look of your newly painted kitchen.  For my kitchen, I was lucky to have hidden hinges.  So all I needed to do was change out my pulls and the transformation was complete.  If this is you, count your blessings!

But, if your kitchen has hinges that are visible, this becomes more of a challenge.  Questions like, should I paint the hinge (please don't)?  Should I find a hinge that matches my hardware?  Should I find the hinge first and then try to find hardware to match the hinge? Can I replace the hinge with a hidden hinge?  These can be very frustrating to a client who just wants their kitchen to feel fresh and new.

Here's the deal.  There are basically three different variables that you need to know about your cabinet doors to help you figure this out.  Now stay with me here . . .

Step One: Face Frame or Frameless Style?
You first need to determine if you have frameless or face framed cabinets.

For the Face-frame style, your cabinetry will look more traditional.  There will be portions of the base box of the cabinet that show when you look at your cabinetry with the door closed (i.e., you see more than just the door fronts).

For frameless, these tends to be a more modern style (but not always) and you will not be able to see any of the base cabinetry box (only the doors will show) when the doors are closed.

OK, are you still with me?

Step Two: Do you have an Overlay?
Once you determine whether you have face framed or frameless cabinetry, you will need to determine if there is an overlay.  The overlay is simply whether the door over laps the cabinet base in the front and by how much.

For the face framed cabinetry, some will have an overlay, while others do not.  Here are a few images to help explain.
Face Framed Cabinetry With an Overlay  -
Notice the door overlaps the cabinet box a bit on these cabinets.

Face Frame Cabinetry with No Overlay (also known as an inset hinge) -
Notice the door does not overlap the box at all.  This style is super current at the moment.

For the Frameless door style, it's easy, they are all overlapping.

Step Three: Do you have an Inset?
OK, one last little detail on the Frame Face style doors, you can also have what's called an inset.  This is where a portion of the door "insets" into the box.

Once you determine these three variables about you own cabinetry, you will need to measure these variables before you can begin to select your hinge style.  Here is an excellent website to show you how to take all these measurements - Hardware Source.  Once you have these measurements, you can go to any cabinet hardware website and narrow your search to only those hinges that will work with your cabinetry.  Then the fun begins!  Picking a fabulous new style to go with the pulls or knobs you've selected for your doors.  Remember: Anything that's worth doing takes some effort.  I promise the results will be well worth your energy in the end!    If you decide to paint your cabinetry and need some help navigating this issue, I'm happy to help you! M.  


  1. You nailed it, my friend..."Anything that's worth doing takes some effort." Can I tattoo that on my forehead for my kids to read daily? ;)

  2. Great information here......its all in the details!

  3. Last summer, I decided to have my oak kitchen and bathroom cabinets painted. However, it was those hideous hinges that had always driven me more nuts than the oak finish. So, my carpenter changed out all of the hinges to the European soft close type and I have never looked back. Changed the entire look of the kitchen and I could not be happier! For the carpenter, this was not that big of a deal to do and it did not cost a fortune either. Well worth the time and expense.

  4. Thanks for your great information, the contents are quiet interesting.I will be waiting for your next post. interior design

  5. You gave some really good information and advice to homeowners here!! Great image examples too!


  6. This is an intresting blog that you have posted, you shares a lot of things about Steel Piano Hinge,Weldable Hinges and Custom Hinges. Which are very informative for us.


Thank you for thoughts on my post! M.