Hinges are the essential hardware that allows doors to pivot on one edge as they open and close. They are found on virtually all doors in a home, from the main entry door to the door on the medicine cabinet in the bathroom to the gate on a landscape fence. Hinges can also be found on a variety of storage chests, ornamental boxes, and other decorative containers. There are many different types of hinges designed for different uses. Some are sturdy hardware items that must hold up the heavy weight of a large entry door that opens and closes thousands of times over the lifetime of the door. Other hinges are found on decorative items and are used only occasionally, but they must fit the style of a chest or cabinet.
There are hundreds of styles and variations of hinges, but here are the 10 major categories you should know about.
Butt hinges are the most common type of hinges used on entry doors and passage doors, as well as some cabinet doors. The hinge consists of two leaf plates, one anchored to the edge of the door and the other to the door jam. The leaf plates come together and are hidden between the door and frame when the door is closed so that the only thing visible is the barrel of the hinge, containing a pin that holds the hinge's leaf plates together. This type of hinge is also known as a mortise hinge, due to the fact that the two leaf plates are recessed into mortises cut into the edge of the door and door jamb. For indoor use, butt hinges are usually made of steel; exterior doors and outdoor applications call for stainless steel.
A flush hinge is a special type of butt hinge in which one leaf plate fits inside a cutout on the other mounting plate. Therefore, it requires that only one mortise be cut in the door or door frame, offering a space-saving technique. It is usually used for lightweight doors, such as those on cabinets or decorative boxes.
A spring hinge is another variation of the butt hinge, in which the leaf plates are fitted with spring metal that causes the hinge to close automatically. With large doors, they are often installed in groups of three in order to provide sufficient closing force for the door
Unlike butt hinges, a strap hinge has leaf plates that are fully exposed when the door is closed. One leaf is attached to the face of the door on the pivot side, the other leaf is attached to the face of the casing. This type of hinge is often used for utility applications, such as doors on sheds and garages, although decorative hinges are also available for use on ornamental boxes and chests. A less common form of strap hinge is known as a T-hinge, where one of the straps is hidden in a mortise on the inside of the jamb.
A butterfly hinge is a variation of the strap hinge, featuring leaf plates that are decoratively shaped in a manner that resembles the wings of a butterfly. They are always surface-mounted. Often, they are made of brass or another decorative metal and are most often used on ornamental boxes or cabinets.
This is another variation of the strap hinge, but here the leaf plates are of different sizes. With a gate hinge, one leaf plate is narrow, intended to be anchored to the face of a gate post. The other leaf plate is a long extension that is anchored to the horizontal rail on a wooden gate.
A barrel hinge is a special type of hidden hinge usually used for light-duty applications, such as hinges on doors for small cabinets and chests. It is so named for the two-barrel pins that are recessed into the edge of the door and the frame. A jointed connection between the pins pivots to allow the door to open and close.
Also called a continuous hinge, a piano hinge is a long hinge designed to provide continuous support along the entire length of a door. It is usually used for lids on large chests or toy boxes—or the lid on an upright piano, the application that gave this hinge its name. Piano hinges can either be mortised into the lid and frame to be hidden when the lid is closed, or they can be surface mounted as a type of strap hinge.
A pivot hinge is often used for overlay cabinet doors or entertainment centers, in which one arm of the hinge is mounted on the inside frame of the door, the other on the inside surface of the cabinet. A single pivot point allows the hinge to open and close. These hinges are normally sold in pairs, with one installed at the bottom of a door and a mirror-image hinge installed at the top. Cafe doors use another type of pivot hinge.
A Euro-style hinge is a special form of pivot hinge used for overlay doors, where the hinges are entirely hidden. In some styles, one plate of the hinge contains a recess that is mortised into the door. The other half of the hinge is mounted to the sidewall of the cabinet. When closed, the hinge pivot mechanism fits inside the mortise, allowing the door to fit perfectly flush with the cabinet frame.