Cabinet Doors, Latches and Hinges

Learn the basic types of doors, hinges, latches and catches available for kitchen cabinets
By: Elizabeth Beeler

When choosing cabinetry for your kitchen or bathroom renovation, pay special attention to your door options. Cabinet doors are the most visible part of cabinetry and a key element to the overall personality of the space. There are four basic door types:

Slab doors. These doors are made of flat pieces of plywood or medium-density fiberboard (MDF) with a veneer flanking each side.

Plank doors. Plank doors are flush and comprised of solid wood and may involve decorative patterns routed into their face.

Frame-and-panel doors. Frame-and-panel doors are manufactured with a frame around a central panel, which may be squared, arched or rounded at its upper edge. The central panel may be either recessed or raised. A recessed door has the central panel inset into the door. A raised panel offers an elevated central panel.

Frame-only doors. These have a rabbeted edge, which secures a glass pane. The pane may be a single light or subdivided with muntins, creating a pattern of separate lights.

Most cabinet doors are either sliding or hinged. Sliding doors permit access to only a portion of the cabinet's opening while hinged doors provide full access. Door hinges support doors and allow them to swing open while latches and catches are designed to keep doors closed. Catches are two-piece assemblies concealed inside the cabinet using magnetic devises or mechanics. A latch is a variation of a catch. They can be push-operated or magnetic. They're surface mounted, which adds another layer of style.

The type of cabinet front (framed or frameless) and door style determine the type of hinge you'll need. "Pick hinges consistent with your door's overlay or inset," says Erica Neel, builder and owner of Structures Inc. in Birmingham, Ala. Inset doors require surface, butt or wraparound hinges. Rabetted doors are usually hung with lipped or semi-inset hinges. Overlay doors coordinate best with concealed hinges.

In general, visible hinges should maintain the look of knobs and pulls. The number of hinges installed per door is determined by the weight of the selected door. Most standard cabinet doors require two hinges. Appropriate hinges are generally included in stock cabinetry pricing.

Door Materials and Construction

While solid doors are intended to hide contents, glass doors display dishware. Glass door faces on upper cabinetry offer a welcome change of pace and open up the room, allowing it to feel more spacious. "Glass doors can be paned, beveled, textured, etched, mirrored, glazed or tinted," says home improvement center specialist Wanda Edwards Lee. "Pay attention to the type of glass. If you're not super tidy, opt for shaded or textured glass to disguise contents." Another alternative to solid doors or upper cabinetry, open shelving personalizes a room and allows it to feel more airy. The look can be sleek for modern spaces or pump up the charm factor in cottage-like kitchens. Whatever your taste, tidiness and attractive dishware are key to glass inlays and open shelving.

Other common door types are plastic laminate and rigid thermafoil. Plastic laminate doors look similar to slab doors but most are have 5/8-inch MDF core covered with a laminate on all sides. Rigid thermafoil doors are made from a three-quarter-inch MDF slab with a sheet of heat-formed PVC face. A thermafoil surface won't stand up to some abrasives and is easily scratched. They don't offer the permanence of plastic laminates and their detailing is not as crisp.

Door Styles

When selecting a door style, you'll want to consider the overall look you're hoping to achieve. With budget in mind, first select a material. Then, decide on a style. "Pick door style carefully because it will be with you for a long time," says Georgia-based interior designer Jane Coslick.

If you are designing a breezy, island-inspired kitchen, check out louvered doors. For a classic cottage look, browse beaded board considerations. Bungalows are compatible with Craftsman-style doors. For a sleek, modern home or loft, unadorned slab or plank doors are the standard. If your space is tight, consider simpler designs with few embellishments. An intricately crafted door can overwhelm close quarters. Always select door style synonymous with the overall period look of your home.


Hinge types include:

Butt. This common type of hinge suits an authentic, period look. They're inexpensive, consisting of two metal leaves secured by loose or tight pins. Butt hinges may be either mortised or non-mortised.

Mortise butt hinges are set in routed or chiseled door gains for concealment and designed for flush front cabinetry. With an outer leaf attached to the frame and the inner leaf to the door back, non-mortised butt hinges are designed for flush overlay cabinet fronts or reveal overlay fronts with face frames. Butt hinges don't function properly with inset doors and require separate locks or catches.

Concealed. (also known as a Euro hinge) This hidden hinge contains screws onto the arm, which may be altered for lateral and front to back placement. These hinges are strong and fit a 35mm hole. They're fully adjustable in three planes and self-closing. Concealed hinges offer a sleek look and go hand-in-hand with full overlay cabinetry.

Lipped. Designed for rabetted doors, these hinges suit any style with a visible hinge pin. They are easily mounted and inexpensive.

Surface. Surface hinges are inexpensive, mount easily and non-adjustable. They require a latch to keep doors shut. With surface mounted hinges, style is of the essence.

Wraparound. These hinges have an extra flange inside doors, providing support for weighty inset doors. They require door and cabinet mortises, can be difficult to adjust and require latches.

Self-closing. These hinges are built with a spring, which prevents doors from standing ajar and are ideal for busy, five-star cooks and tight cooking quarters.

Adjustable. With oblate mounting holes, these hinges permit door adjustment. As the hinge is mounted, it may be relocated before the screw is fastened.

Other conventional hinge types include: formed, pivot, pin, invisible, continuous and glass door hinge.

Hinge Features

Hinge surfaces may be brushed, polished or textured. Many are plated with chrome, brass, oil-rubbed bronze, antiqued bronze, early American bronze or copper. Some have applied finishes such as enamel, lacquer or varnish. "Hinge finishes used to be simple," Coslick says. "They were basically chrome or brass. Now, there are so many options to choose from. There's everything from old-world to polished. The sky's the limit."

Budget Considerations

Where to Splurge. If you've got a collection to show off, consider glass door faces on upper cabinetry. When opting for hinges that are exposed or partially exposed, ensure they're cohesive with the style of surrounding knobs or pulls and the overall room style. If you want a designer look, go all out on a surface mounted hinge. With styles ranging from country to classic, an attractive surface mounted hinge in a contrasting finish can make a bold statement on even the most basic style of cabinetry.

Where to Save. "Keep things simple with concealed hinges and go with an option that won't break the bank," Coslick says. "Then, spend some money on great-looking knobs and pulls."

Next Up

Picking a Kitchen Cabinet Finish

Options include painted, stained, glazed, antiqued and distressed surfaces

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