Follow these tips and instructions on how to select and install hinges. They can help you save time and effort and help you end up with a more satisfactory job. Inside this document you will find information about:




FIG. 1 - You must select the right type of hinges.

FIG. 2 - On opposite sides, the doors require different hinges.


  • Most hinges are reversible, allowing either end to be mounted in an upright position.

  • However, some hinges are made specifically for either a right- or left-hand door. These cannot be reversed, so you must select the proper hinge. The question is, how do you know which hinge to use?

  • Let's suppose the hinge is a loose-pin hinge (Fig. 3). In this case, the hinge must be mounted so that the pin can be removed from the top. Most hinges can have the handing reversed. There are only a few hinges that cannot have the handing changed. To reverse the handing, remove the pin and the plug, turn the hinge over but still assembled and replace the pin in the top and the plug in the bottom. The handing is then reversed.

  • In Fig. 1, the doors are mounted on the same side, but one door opens in while the other door opens out. Even when mounted on the same side, the door that opens in takes a left-hand hinge while the door that opens out takes a right-hand reverse hinge.

  • In Fig. 2 both doors are mounted on opposite sides, but the door that opens in requires a right-hand hinge while the door that opens out requires a left-hand reverse hinge.

  • The outside of a door is the corridor side of an interior door and the outside of an exterior door.

  • Stand on the outside of the door. If the door opens into the room to your right, it requires a right-hand hinge. If it opens into the room and to your left, it requires a left-hand hinge.

  • Be sure to determine which type of hinges you need before beginning the installation.




FIG. 3 - Butt and loose-pin hinges are the most common types used.

FIG. 4 - Use a combination square, butt gauge or butt marker to lay out the area to be cut out for recessed hinges.

FIG. 5 - Place the depth gauge on the butt marker against the face of the door or jamb to mark the thickness of the hinge.

FIG. 6 - Mark the length on the edge of the door with a pencil, knife or awl.

FIG. 7 - The knuckle cut-outs on the hinge should be flush with the surface of the door.

FIG. 8 - Making the shallow cuts reduces the chances for splitting and makes the wood removal much easier.


  • Generally speaking, hinges are either surface-mounted or recessed (mortised). Surface-mounted hinges, as the name implies, are mounted on the surface of the pieces being hinged. Recessed hinges require the removal of wood to allow the hinge to be mortised into the wood. Some hinges are a combination of hinge types. One leaf is surface-mounted while othe other is mortised or recessed.

  • Regardless of the type of hinge you are using, accurate measurements are a must. Measure all dimensions carefully. If there is any doubt, remeasure.

  • Equally important are clearances. Allow for proper clearances between surfaces, such as the door or lids and frames. These clearances prevent dragging, binding or a sloppy fit.

  • Measurements and clearances make very little difference if you do not follow through with accurate cutting and drilling. Use the proper tools and techniques for cutting out recesses. Be sure any holes that are drilled are accurately centered.

  • Two of the most common recessed hinges are the butt hinge (full mortise, Fig. 3) and the piano hinge. The process of installing all recessed hinges is basically the same.

  • First, determine where the hinges are to be located. For example, a door hinge is usually 5" from the top and 10" from the bottom of a door. If you are replacing a door, place the hinges so you can use the recesses already on the frame, if possible. Or use the same measurements as found on any other nearby doors.

  • If you are doing a single pair of hinges, a combination square works well for making the necessary layout. If you have more to do, a butt marker or gauge helps simplify the process (Fig. 4). A different-sized butt marker is needed for the different-sized hinges. They are not adjustable.

  • A hinge is generally recessed by the thickness of the hinge leaf. A butt marker has a depth gauge built into the handle. Just run it along the edge of the door or jamb and it makes a cut mark at the proper depth. The combination square or butt gauge must be adjusted to the proper thickness. Then run them along the edge as with the marker. You can use a pencil, but a penknife or scratch awl gives a much sharper line to follow (Fig. 5).

  • The length of the recess is determined by the size of the hinge you are using. A 3" butt hinge requires a 3" recess. A 36" piano hinge requires a 36" recess. The easiest way to mark the length is to place the hinge on the edge of the door in its proper location. Then mark its length with a pencil, penknife or scratch awl (Fig. 6). Both the length and the width of a hinge are marked when a butt marker is placed against the door or jamb and struck with a hammer.

  • The width of the recess is also determined by the size of the hinge. A hinge is generally recessed back far enough so the cutouts in the hinge for the knuckles are flush with the door or jamb surface (Fig. 7).

  • Once these measurements have been transferred to the door, you are ready to cut the recess. Use a chisel and a wood, plastic or rubber mallet to score the marked area (Fig. 8). Be sure the chisel is sharp and is the correct size.

  • Next, make shallow cuts as deep as the hinge leaf is thick and about 1/4" apart in the marked area. Tap the chisel lightly for better control of the cuts.

  • Remove the wood you have cut away. A sharp chisel will make this job go much faster, easier and a lot safer. After you have made the recess to the proper depth and smoothed it with the chisel, you are ready to mount the hinge.

  • Check the alignment of the hinge in the recess. It must be straight in order for the hinge to work properly. It must also be recessed deep enough to allow it to work. If it is too deep, the hinge may pull loose when it is closed.

  • Put the hinge in place and trace the holes in the hinge onto the wood. Remove the hinge. Use a center punch to mark the center of each hole. Using a drill slightly smaller than the body of the screw you will be using, drill the holes. Replace the hinge and install the screws. Tighten each screw a little at a time until all the screws are completely tightened (Fig. 9).

  • If the hinge you are using can be taken apart, take it apart prior to assembly. Replace the hinge pin once you are finished. On a door, replace the top pin first. It will help hold the door in place as you replace the lower hinge pins.




FIG. 9 - The holes for mounting the hinges must be marked and drilled accurately.

FIG. 10 - Types of hinges.


  • Common butt hinges are most widely used for mounting ordinary doors. Butt hinges are available in both rigid (fixed-pin) and loose-pin types. The pin cannot be removed from the rigid or fixed-pin butt hinge while the pin can easily be tapped out of the loose-pin type with a screwdriver.

  • The primary advantage of the loose-pin hinge is that it enables you to remove the door for any purpose without unscrewing the hinges.

  • The loose-joint butt hinge allows you to remove the door by simply lifting it high enough to make one section of the hinge clear the pin on the other section. If the door will be removed frequently, you should probably use the loose-joint hinge.

  • The rising-butt hinge is designed for use where shag carpeting or any other type of thick floor covering might interfere with the opening of the door.

  • The rising-butt hinge allows the door to rise slightly to clear the carpeting when it is opened.

  • The knuckle hinge is primarily a decorative hinge. It carries a considerable amount of weight and is designed so that only the knuckle of the hinge shows when the door is closed. It is a loose-joint hinge. You may prefer this decorative style for some door mountings.

  • The butt hinge is primarily used for light doors. This hinge conceals every part of the hinge except the barrel.

  • The ball-bearing hinge is a bit more expensive, but you may find it desirable for certain heavy-duty door mountings.

  • The ball-bearing hinge is permanently lubricated and is primarily designed for use on heavy exterior doors. It can be used, however, on any door that might get unusually heavy use.

  • The double-acting hinge is used mostly on cafe doors. The double-acting hinge permits the door to open in either direction.

  • Use the pivot hinge for overlay doors, recessed doors or flush doors.

  • You can purchase the gravity pilot hinge with or without a hold-open stop.

  • The offset blind hinge is used almost exclusively on screen or storm doors. The design permits a swing-away of the storm or screen door without interference from the hinges.

  • The spring-loaded hinge has a built-in spring mechanism that closes the door after it's opened. Some spring-loaded hinges have adjustable tension features that permit you to tighten or loosen the hinge as you would an ordinary door closer.

  • The back flap hinge is a version of the butt hinge, but is somewhat smaller. It is primarily a furniture-type hinge and is not widely used on general construction.

  • Use the tabletop hinge for any construction where one leaf in a section of wood needs to be dropped, somewhat like a tabletop.

  • Use ornamental hinges on cabinetwork and some types of furniture.

  • The rustic semi-concealed hinge is available in many colors and designs. The semi-concealed feature of the hinge gives the exposed portion a neat appearance.

  • The H and HL hinges are also rustic-type hinges used on light cabinetwork where appearance is extremely important. Be sure to match all other cabinet hardware to the same appearance and design as the H or HL hinges.

  • Strap hinges, T hinges and continuous hinges are special types of hinges used only on certain projects.

  • Strap and T hinges are available in many sizes. They are used primarily for heavy, rough-type installations.

  • The continuous hinge is also called a piano hinge. It is used primarily on lids of chests, cabinets and similar places. Continuous hinges are available in many sizes and finishes.

Hinges Screwdriver
Folding Rule Hammer
Hand Saw Mallet
Screws (Proper Size) Hand Drill
Wood Chisel Saber Saw
Sandpaper Butt Gauge/Marker
Combination Square Center Punch

Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished by the National Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.