“It’s all in the details.” We hear it all the time, and how true it is. We all know that one of those details that can give a boost to tired cabinetry is new hardware. But another way to update cabinets is to swap out visible hinges for hidden ones.
Hidden hinges, or European (Euro) hinges as they’re called, aren’t difficult to install, and were part of my mini kitchen update. My kitchen is small, and in order to gain storage space, I switched the 30″ upper cabinets to 42″ ones, but kept some of the existing base cabinets. The very shiny, visible hinges on the base cabinets were a dead giveaway as to which cabinets were the moldy oldies. Here are the originals.
I mentioned to my super-smart carpenter brother, Mike, that I was wanting to update my hinges but was afraid of ruining my doors in the process. I watched a YouTube video of DIYer who tried to install hidden hinges, and I’ll be polite and just say that the outcome was not a good one. Thus my fear. The place I ordered my new cabinets from couldn’t order replacement doors, so this was a one-shot deal.
My brother volunteered to investigate the world of hidden hinges for me since he was going to need to figure them out for a project he was working on too. I pretty much bought him every make and model of hidden hinge I could get my hands on, along with the hinge drill kit.
I gave him one of my old cabinet doors that I wasn’t going to be using, to experiment with. And of course, he figured it out. Here are the hinges from Home Depot I ended up using. There’s a big price savings per hinge if you purchase a 10-pack, by the way.
Hidden hinges also come in a soft-close style if you’re one of those people who want the latest and greatest. (Is it really that bad to hear a door close?) My new cabinets came with soft close hinges that I personally could take or leave. I still find myself trying to shut them all the way instead of letting them do their thing. You might not want soft-close hinges if you’re the type who likes to slam things when irritated. (Just a thought.)
Here’s what comes with the kit to install the hinges–a special drill bit, a template and instructions that I didn’t have to read because my super-smart carpenter brother read them for me. You’ll want to be sure your cabinet door is thicker than this bit or you’ll end up like the YouTube guy.
There are a couple of types of hidden hinges–ones for cabinets with face frames and ones for cabinets without face frames. My cabinets, which are from the late 80’s, have face frames.
There are also a couple of overlay sizes, most commonly 1 1/4″ and 1/2″. Overlay refers to the distance your door overlaps your opening. Mine didn’t measure 1 1/4″ or 1/2″, and this project still worked with my doors. If you’re looking for information on how to measure your overlay, this is not the post for you because I haven’t the faintest idea. Back to Google you go! (Sorry!)
That being said, buying every make and model turned out to be a good idea. I was pretty pumped when I installed my first door…until I shut the door and there was a gap the size of Kansas where the door didn’t cover my opening. I should have taken a picture because it was pretty hilarious-looking. Wrong hinge. So I removed the 1 1/4″ overlay hinge, installed the 1/2″ overlay and was good to go. The holes that need to be drilled in the door will be the same in size, depth and location regardless of your overlay measurement.
So here’s how this works. On the new cabinets I ordered, the center of the hinges were 4 1/2″ from the bottoms and the tops of the doors, so that’s the measurement I used for drilling on my old doors. The original hinges on the old cabinets were placed at about 3″ from the ends, so I didn’t have to worry about the old holes interfering with my new ones.
My brother made me a better, more durable template from some clear plastic he had, so I chose to use his instead. It worked better with the bevel on my door’s edge.
I drilled through the three holes in the template to create the necessary pilot holes, using tape on my drill bit as a guide so I wouldn’t drill all the way through the door.
I then lined up the pointed end of the bit with the center hole.
Then I drilled and drilled. If your drill is a wimpy one, be prepared for this to take a minute…or five. I realized what a difference a decent drill makes during this process as I had three different ones going–one with a bit to drill the pilot holes, one with the hinge bit and one to use as a screw gun for screwing the screws into the cabinet doors. If you have lots of doors to do, it might be a good idea to borrow a second and/or third one from a friend or you’ll spend lots of time playing musical bits. If you have multiple drills, use the most powerful one for the large hinge-drilling bit.
I drilled until the top of the bit was flush with the surface of the cabinet. If you drill too deep, you may end up with a nice peep-hole in your door. That would be a bummer. If it’s not deep enough, the hinge will rock back and forth after you set it in the hole, and you’ll need to drill a little deeper.
And yes, it’s messy!
I thought it would be a great idea to just pick up the door and brush off the shavings into the garbage can. It was a great idea! Except I left one of the screws on the door which ended up in this sawdust abyss–never to be seen again.
Here’s the door all cleaned up. Looks like Swiss cheese. These cabinets obviously had more than one set of hinges over the years. I patched all the extra holes since I painted the cabinets white, and once the doors were painted they disappeared completely. If you have stained cabinets, you can fill the old holes with matching wood putty.
The next step was to place the hinge in the hole and hope the pilot holes lined up. And they did.
The hinges came with these white tabs, but I chose not to use them. Since my cabinets are oak, I shouldn’t have any problems with the screws working themselves loose, but I’ll save them just in case.
Next I screwed the hinge to the door with the two screws provided, and then I screwed the hinge to the face frame on the cabinet box that I had already painted white. The screw on the right in the set of three on the face frame is used to make adjustments to the door to make it sit level if it’s a little crooked after it’s installed.
So let’s review, shall we? Here’s the original cabinet. Before…
Here’s what the cabinets looked like after they were painted, but before the new hinges were added. I temporarily sprayed the old hinges white until my brother got the hinge thing figured out. During…
And here’s after the hidden hinges were added. Much better. Now you can’t tell the old cabinets from the new ones.
The doors look a little naked without their hardware that’s been back-ordered for two months now, but then again this post isn’t about cabinet handles and knobs, it’s about hinges.
Once I got over the fear of drilling into my cabinet doors, I realized it wasn’t difficult. You can always try this out on a piece of scrap wood the same thickness of your cabinets first. Or if you’re lucky enough to have a super-smart carpenter brother, maybe he could show you how. 🙂
This post was written by Tracy Evans who is a Journeyman Painter and Certified Home Stager /Redesigner. Feel free to visit her website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com to view more before and after pictures of her projects. And if you enjoy gardening, you may want to visit her gardening blog at MyUrbanGardenOasis.