How to Adjust Your Cabinet Doors If They're Hanging or Misaligned

Easy Fixes If They're Hanging Loosely or Misaligned

Adjusting cabinet hinges with a screwdriver
John Gomez/Getty Images

Annoyed by scraping, bumping, misaligned kitchen or bathroom 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.

Cabinet Hinges With 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 may 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 in them. One reason is that hinges ​on frameless cabinet doors are tasked with more than pivoting the door outward. These hinges perform the fairly complicated task of pivoting the doors while at the same time lifting the door away from the cabinet box. This extra extension puts more stress on frameless (unexposed) door hinges than on exposed hinges.

This play allows you to make the initial adjustment when the cabinets are first installed. However, it has a downside 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 disadvantage is that they do not allow you to make changes in as many directions. 

Signs You Have European Style Hinges

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

  • You bought your cabinets from a retailer or manufacturer such as IKEA or Snaidero that specializes in European-style cabinets.
  • You have frameless cabinets, as opposed to framed cabinets.
  • You look at your cabinets with the doors closed and cannot see the hinges.
  • Your cabinets were advertised as "contemporary" or "modern" or "Euro."
  • You have melamine or thermofoil cabinets.
  • You have two doors whose hinged edges are right next to each other. Euro-style hinges are unique in this way: they allow for zero-angle pivoting. Traditional exposed hinges cannot do this.

Frameless Cabinets Procedure

  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.
  2. Alternative: Surface-Mount Hinges: In some rare instances, you may have surface-mounted Euro-style hinges that do not require a cup. For purposes of adjustment, they work the same way as classic Euro-style hinges.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 re-tighten the screws.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Framed Cabinets Procedure

  1. 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.
  2. Move: Move the door into place as needed. Have a partner hold the door in place.
  3. Tighten Up: Re-tighten the screws.

Other Tips

  • Adjust one cabinet door at a time. Do not loosen all of them at the same 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 screw head, retrieve the fastener with a screw extractor such as a Speedout or Alden's Grabit.