How to Adjust Cabinet Doors
Annoyed by scraping, bumping, misaligned bathroom or kitchen cabinet doors? Cabinet hinge adjustment is one of the easiest, cheapest fixes you can make to your kitchen and bathroom. Even homeowners who shrink at the sight of a screwdriver and hammer can quickly take care of this frustrating daily problem.
Click Play to Learn How to Adjust Cabinet Doors
Before You Begin
Check your hinge type before you begin. Most modern cabinets have fully adjustable hinges with three directional adjustments: up and down, side to side, and in and out (or depth). Most hinges have mechanisms for side to side and depth adjustments, while some are adjusted up and down using the screws that mount the hinges to the cabinet. Others have a mechanism for this, too, and you don't have to loosen the mounting screws.
In the past, this type of adjustment was only found on Contemporary or Modern style frameless cabinets. But now almost all cabinets have adjustable hinges. If each of your hinges has two or more screws in addition to the mounting screws, you have fully adjustable hinges.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Phillips-head screwdriver
Tighten Loose Mounting Screws
Open the cabinet door and look at the part of the hinge attached to the cabinet box. Two screws, located at the top and bottom of the hinge, mount the hinge to the cabinet. Turn these screws clockwise to make sure the door is secure.
Often, the issue was more about loose rather than misaligned cabinet doors, and this solves the problem. If not, move on to the next step.
Adjust Door Up or Down
If the door is still too high or low, look for screws on the hinge that allow you to adjust the door up and down. These are characterized by two oval holes on the cabinet hinge that allow some play between the hinge and the screws.
- Loosen the two mounting screws on both hinges, but only slightly. Often, turning the screw a quarter-turn or less counter-clockwise is enough to loosen the screws enough to let you move the door. It's preferable to have the screws too tight than too loose.
- Gently close the cabinet door.
- With the door still closed, adjust the cabinet door to the desired height.
- Open the cabinet door again, being careful not to jostle the door out of position.
- Retighten the screws by hand.
- Close the door and check its position.
Adjust the Door Right or Left
Use the side-to-side adjustment feature on the hinges to move the door right or left to align the door with its neighbor or with the edges of the cabinet box.
You can adjust one or both hinges on each door, depending on how much correction it needs. If the door seems to be tilting down to the right, turn the side-to-side screw on the top hinge so the hinge pulls closer to the side of the cabinet box, moving the top of the door to the left.
If that doesn't quite do it, adjust the side-to-side screw on the bottom hinge to move the hinge away from the cabinet box, moving the bottom of the door to the right.
Adjust the Door In or Out
Use the depth adjustment screw to move the door in and out in relation to the cabinet box.
Because wood doors can warp a bit with seasonal humidity changes, a door may pull away from the box at the top or bottom rather than meeting the box flush when the door is closed, causing the door to bounce when it closes.
If the door doesn't meet the box at the top, adjust the top hinge toward the cabinet and/or adjust the bottom hinge away from the cabinet. If the door is gapped at the bottom, do the reverse.
Test the Door
Close the door after each minor adjustment to make sure you're moving it in the right direction and to see if it needs more adjustment. This is a trial-and-error process, and fine-tuning is usually needed.
Troubleshooting Adjusting Cabinet Doors
Cabinet has old, surface-mount cabinet hinges
At the other end of the spectrum are very old and very basic hinges that have very little adjustment capability. This is the case with most surface-mount hinges that mount to the front of the cabinet instead of the inside edge of the cabinet face frame, or to the inside of the cabinet box.
Some basic hinges have up-and-down adjustment provided by elongated screw holes for the mounting screws.
Otherwise, non-adjustable hinges can be moved to reposition the doors. Usually, a mark will be left behind in the hinge's old spot. But since the hinge is located on the inside of the door, this won't be so obvious.
There is a gap along the edge of the door that shows the frame
The visible gap along any edge of a door or drawer front is called a reveal and this is normal. When you're checking a door for proper alignment, you're usually also checking the reveals, since they form the dark, noticeable lines between cabinet elements.
The width of the reveal is your choice, but it's usually limited by the hinge's capacities.
A group of cabinet doors doesn't look right together
When adjusting multiple cabinet doors, your goal is to make them look right as a whole. Often, this doesn't mean the doors must be perfectly vertical or level or otherwise returned to a factory-new position. It means they look right in conjunction with each other and with the surrounding cabinet elements, like cabinet edges and drawer fronts.
You may end up tweaking doors a bit off-kilter so they work well together and show consistent spacing. This may require a compromise between aligning the outside door edge with the outside of the cabinet and aligning the inside edge with the neighboring door.
It helps to stand back a few feet and view the cabinets as a collection. If desired, you can ask someone to be a second set of eyes on the cabinets, like when you're straightening a picture.
A laser level can help you draw temporary vertical or horizontal lines that run across several cabinet doors at once.
Cold Weather and Woodworking. Association of Woodworking and Furnishings Suppliers.