9 Types of Door Hinges and How to Choose One

Door hinges on a wooden door

Ingo Jezierski / EyeEm / Getty Images

Door hinges are the essential pieces of hardware that attach a door to a frame and allow the door to pivot open and closed. They are found on virtually all doors inside and outside of your home, from the main entry door to the door to on the bathroom medicine cabinet to the gate into your yard. Hinges are also found on a variety of containers such as storage chests and ornamental boxes. Different hinges are designed to function in different ways and for heavy or occasional use. There are hundreds of styles and variations of hinges, but below, we’ll break down the ins and outs of nine major types of hinges and what to consider when choosing which is best for your needs.

  • 01 of 09

    Butt Hinges

    Best for: Entry, passage, and cabinet doors

    Butt hinges are made of two plates, or leaves, attached to a central knuckle and pin. They 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 because 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.

    Pros
    • Widely available

    • Variety of sizes and styles

    • Security-type hinges available

    Cons
    • Slightly complex installation

    • Not good for hollow doors

    • Questionable safety protection for doors

  • 02 of 09

    Flush Hinges

    Best for: Cabinet doors and boxes

    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.

    Pros
    • Smaller and lighter than common butt hinge

    • Allows door to sit flush with frame when open

    • Some cabinets come with precut templates for flush hinges

    Cons
    • Not super sturdy

    • Fewer styles, sizes, or options

    • Installation easier than butt but still requires skill

  • 03 of 09

    Spring Hinges

    Best for: Passage doors

    A spring hinge is another variation of the butt hinge, in which the leaf plates and joint barrel (larger knuckle and pin) are fitted with a metal spring that causes the hinge to automatically return to a closed or open position. With large, heavy doors, they are often installed in groups of three to provide sufficient closing force for the door.

    Pros
    • Automatic close functionality

    • Adjustable tension for speed and force

    • Fits most standard doors

    Cons
    • Heavier doors require more than one spring hinge

    • Barrels are typically larger and can rub on trim

    • Tension may need re-adjusting over time

  • 04 of 09

    Strap Hinges

    Best for: Utility doors on sheds/barns/garages

    A strap hinge has two long steel, brass, or bronze straps or plates connected by a center knuckle and pin. Unlike a butt hinge, 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 some 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.

    Pros
    • Adds stability to door/gate

    • Variety of sizes, weights, and finishes available

    • Fits rustic decor

    Cons
    • Visible when installed

    • Not always ideal for contemporary decor

    • Tricky to install

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  • 05 of 09

    Butterfly Hinges

    Best for: Closet doors, boxes, cabinets

    A butterfly hinge is designed with two leaves connected to a central knuckle and pin that allows a door to open as wide as possible without getting in the way. It 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.

    Pros
    • Excellent option for doors that need to open wide

    • Easy installation

    • Wide variety of styles, sizes available

    Cons
    • Not as durable as some others

    • May loosen over time

    • Can't be adjusted

  • 06 of 09

    Barrell Hinges

    Best for: Small projects, decorative boxes, or cabinetry

    A barrel hinge looks like two small barrel-shaped pieces of brass connected by a small knuckle and pin that expands to lock the hinge into drilled holes. The jointed connection between the pins pivots to allow the door to open and close. It 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, which means you will need to drill holes for installation.

    Pros
    • Concealed hinges

    • Streamlined look

    • Variety of diameters available

    Cons
    • Very tricky to install

    • No room for adjusting

    • Is a non-weight-bearing hinge

  • 07 of 09

    Piano Hinges

    Best for: Projects with lids; where extra support needed

    Also called a continuous hinge, a piano hinge is a long metal 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.

    Pros
    • Good for high-traffic doors

    • Tamper-resistant and good for security

    • Extremely sturdy for load-bearing applications

    Cons
    • Looks industrial

    • Not concealed

    • Difficult to install

  • 08 of 09

    Pivot Hinges

    Best for: Heavier cabinet doors

    A pivot hinge is designed to help a door swing in both directions. It is often used for overlay cabinet doors or entertainment centers. A hinge is attached to a plate, one hinge and plate at the top and one at the bottom of the door. It's installed where 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.

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  • 09 of 09

    Euro-Style Hinges

    Best for: Contemporary cabinetry

    A Euro-style hinge, also called an invisible hinge, can be found in most contemporary cabinetry because it is concealed and creates a streamlined aesthetic. It 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.

    Pros
    • Concealed

    • Creates streamlined, modern look

    • Easy to adjust

    Cons
    • Tricky measuring for correct placement

    • Need proper tools for installation

    • Tough to remove and replace

Choosing a Door Hinge

There's a lot of thought and even more measurements that go into choosing the right door hinge for a project. There are a few basic rules, such as taller hinges will add more stability and taller, heavier doors need more hinges. For example, you can use this basic rule of thumb for doors and cabinets:

  • A 60-inch-tall door needs two hinges.
  • A door measuring 60 inches to 90 inches needs three hinges.
  • A door measures between 90 inches and 120 inches needs four hinges.

For other woodworking projects, the kit or template will indicate what type of hinge you will need to use.

Article Sources
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  1. Hinge Buying Guide. Lowe's.