How to Adjust Cabinet Hinges

Adjusting Cabinet Hinges
Adjusting Cabinet Hinges. Getty / John Gomez

Annoyed by scraping, bumping, misaligned kitchen or bathroom cabinet doors?  Never fear, the fix is here--and it is easy, simple, and fast.

Hinge adjustment is one of the easiest, cheapest fixes you can make to your kitchen.  Even homeowners who shrink at the sight of a screwdriver and hammer can quickly take care of this frustrating daily problem.

Believe It or Not, These Cabinets Have a Built-In Problem

If your cabinet doors bump into each other, hang unevenly or do not close properly, it may not be time for new cabinets.

 Instead, the hinges just need adjusting, and it is the hinges' fault, not yours.

European style cabinet hinges are meant to be readjusted occasionally.  Unlike surface-mounted hinges, which are never supposed to loosen, Euro-style hinges have a certain amount of "play" built into them.

This play allows you to make the initial adjustment when the cabinets are first installed.  But play works against your favor, because constant opening and closing will, over time, cause the hinges to loosen.

Exposed hinges on framed cabinets are less challenging to adjust than European hinges.  The downside is that they do not allow you to make changes in as many directions. 

How To Know If You Have European Style Hinges (Frameless Cabinets)

If any of these conditions are true, you may have Euro-style hinges:

  • You bought your cabinets at IKEA or Snaidero..
  • You have frameless cabinets, as opposed to framed cabinets.

Procedure:  Frameless Cabinets

  1. Determine Hinge Type:  Look at your cabinets to figure out which type of hinge your cabinets have. European-style hinges have several adjusting screws. These hinges snap into a cup on the cabinet door and then attach to a plate mounted inside the cabinet. Frame cabinet hinges are mounted to the small strip of wood in the front of the cabinet base.
  1. Examine:  Open the cabinet door and look at the part of the hinge attached to the cabinet base. There should be four screws on this part of the hinge. Two screws, located at the top and bottom of the hinge, mount the hinge to the cabinet.
  2. Turn:  Turn these first to make sure the door is secure. This may solve the problem. If the door is still too high or low, loosen these screws, adjust the cabinet door to the right height and retighten the screws.
  3. Further Adjustments:  The remaining two screws can also be used to make adjustments. The screw closest to the back of the cabinet is the depth screw and moves the doors in and out. The screw closest to the cabinet door allows the doors to move from side to side.
  4. Playing Around:  Unfortunately, there is no exact science to adjusting European-style hinges. You’ll have to resort to trial and error at this point, experimenting with the depth screw and side screw to get the desired result. Turn the screw and move the cabinet door to the desired position. Close the cabinet doors to see whether the fit is good. If the doors still need adjusting, try again.

Procedure:  Framed Cabinets

  • Loosen:  To adjust the cabinet doors, loosen the screw or screws on the cabinet base.  Loosen only a little bit; do not fully remove the screws.
  • Move:  Move the door into place as needed.  Have a partner hold the door in place.
  • Tighten Up:  Retighten the screws.

Tips

  • Adjust one cabinet door at a time.
  • Do not use a cordless drill/driver as this is too powerful and will strip the screws.  Use a regular manual screwdriver, manual ratchet-style screwdriver, or very light-weight electric driver, as they allow for more precision and control of power.
  • If you strip the screwhead, retrieve the fastener with a screw extractor such as a Speedout or Alden's Grabit.