GOT WONKY CABINET DOORS? Replace Those Bad European Hinges

From everything I see, modern kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors in many homes are in bad shape. It’s mostly because of faulty European-style hinges. Doors sag, they hit each other, or they do a funny flip-flop when you move them, sort of like someone with a hip joint that gets thrown out of whack unless they walk just right. The really surprising thing to me is how many people put up with aggravating cabinet doors day after day, year after year. This article is all about adjusting or replacing the kind of cheap European hinges that cause trouble in so many modern cabinets.

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European Hinges: How They Work

European hinges were designed as part of a campaign to boost the efficiency of new cabinet construction after World War II, when the need to replace thousands of bombed-out homes loomed large in Europe. Euro hinges are a great idea indeed, and they’re used widely enough that the same configuration of hinge is used in all brands of cabinets. Good quality hinges of this kind will last forever, but many homes were built with cheap, plastic versions. Fixing this deficiency is what success is all about.

This is what a high quality European cabinet door hinge looks like. Notice the all-metal construction. Bad Euro hinges usually have plastic parts.

European hinges include built-in screw adjustments that allow the door position to be tweaked precisely up, down, left or right. It’s almost like adjusting the carburetor on a small engine. So, what happens when locking screws loosen, allowing the hinge adjustments to go out of whack? This is the main source of trouble with cabinet doors everywhere, but thankfully fairly easy to fix.

Inwards & Outwards, Up & Down

All European hinges have two adjustment screws on the half of the hinge that’s fastened to the cabinet body. The rear screw locks the inwards-and-outwards position of the door, and the front screw tweaks the side-to-side position. Most door problems happen when the rear screw gets loose, allowing the door to flop outwards. Get a large Phillips screwdriver and try tightening things. Take a little time to see what’s happened, and you’ll find smoothly operating doors well within your reach – unless, you’ve got a more serious issue, as below.

The best Euro hinges are made entirely of metal, and are exceptionally reliable and strong when adjusted and locked properly. All-metal is the only kind of Euro hinge that was made for years, but things changed. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, cheaper versions of Euro hinges with plastic parts were made. The plastic is usually found on the door side of each hinge, and sooner rather than later this plastic will break. Adjustments are futile when a broken hinge is the problem. All you can do is get a proper, all-metal replacement. And if you’ve got a few broken Euro hinges, you might as well change all hinges on all doors to avoid ongoing trouble.

If you can’t find high quality Euro hinges at your local hardware store, check out online suppliers. Lee Valley Tools is one of many places that sells great hinges. I shop at Lee Valley all the time.

In my experience, I’ve found regular hardware stores don’t often carry all-metal Euro hinges. Don’t get impatient and replace your broken low-quality hinges with not-yet-broken low-quality hinges. I buy good ones online from Lee Valley Tools, but you will need to be prepared to determine the type required. There are quite a few different configurations, depending on whether your doors sit in the cabinet face, fit within the cabinet face, and how many degrees the door opens.

It doesn’t matter where you buy hinges, only that you pay the little extra required to avoid cheap Euro hinges with plastic parts. It’s a little more difficult to choose hinges online compared with bringing the broken hinge in with you to a physical store, but success is still easy. Unscrew the broken hinge, remove it from the door, then bring it to your computer screen and compare. Although all Euro hinges fit into the same size large hole drilled in the cabinet and door, there are differences in hinge design and you need to match what you already have.

Click below for a video tutorial on choosing, adjusting and replacing European hinges.

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– Steve Maxwell