I get asked a lot for help with cabinet doors. How do you determine how big to make them? How do you build them? How do you install them? How to you adjust them when they won’t stay closed? Etc…
That’s a lot of How’s and I won’t try to cover all of them in one post.
First, let’s discuss basic door options.
Overlay Doors sit atop your face-frame (or cabinet if you are building frame-less cabinets).
Overlay doors are the easiest to install because they don’t have to be exactly, perfectly fitted. They are more forgiving if your cabinet door opening is not perfectly square.
The overlay can cover as much of your faeframe as you like depending on the hinge you purchase and it’s always a good idea to purchase your hinges before you build your doors. HINGES open up a whole new discussion. It seems there are literally a Gazillion different options out there. (More later…)
Inset Doors sit flush with your faceframe. (Inside the door opening — on the same plane as the face-frame.)
Inset doors are difficult! period.
If your cabinet door opening is not perfectly square, you have to trim your door to match the imperfectness of your opening.
It’s best to build your inset doors a bit larger than your opening and then trim to fit.
If you’re good, you’ll end up with 1/16″ gap (clearance) on all sides of your door. Double doors will have 1/16″ gap between doors.
Be prepared for a lot of fiddle factor if you are determined to do inset doors. You may have to trim, fit, plane, fit, sand, fit… many times before you get a perfect fit.
Your clearance might end up being larger than 1/16″ on all sides, just make sure it’s even on all sides and cut yourself some slack. Like I said, inset doors are difficult!
When purchasing hinges, you have to get the ones that will work with the type of door you want to build.
Inset, overlay, face-frame, frame-less, concealed, non morticed, etc. There are a lot of options– which is why it’s a good idea to get your hinges and then build doors that work with those hinges.
This is the kind of hinge I normally use for overlay doors on face-frames. They are fully concealed which means they are mounted on the inside of the cabinet and back of the door so you don’t see the hinge when the door is closed.
I like to get hinges that have three way adjustment. After you install the hinge, you can slightly adjust the position of the door height, the overlay and the distance between the door and the face-frame.
This is another option for face-frame concealed hinges.
These two options are cup hinges. They require you to drill a cup hole into the back of the door with a forstner bit. Make sure you have the right size bit for the cup hinge you bought. I use the Jig It from Rockler which keeps my drill straight, makes it easy to set up for uniform holes in multiple doors and have a depth stop so I don’t drill clean through my door.
This invisible spring hinge doesn’t require any drilling but they are a little more tricky to install.
Then there are Overlay Hinges where you can see part of the hinge as well.
Inset Hinge Options:
Wrap around non mortise inset hinges for frameless or face-frame cabinets. Part of this hinge is visible on the front. It is not fully concealed.
Fully concealed non mortise inset hinges for frame-less cabinets. Non mortise means you don’t have to cut away any of the wood. The hinge sits directly on top of the wood on cabinet and door parts.
* This is the kind of hinge I most commonly use for frameless cabinets. (When I build a cabinet with a faceframes but there is no lip on my faceframe — this is also what I use.)
There are many more options than these but these are the type of hinges I use most often.
Things to note:
When building overlay doors, I determine how much overlay I want and order hinges accordingly.
I most often do 1/2″ overlay when building overlay doors WITH faceframes.
With all the choices and options out there, it can be a bit overwhelming. I like the idea of ordering one of a few different hinge types and testing them out to see what you feel most comfortable with. Working with wood is a world of trial and error after all.