Adding soft close hinges to your cabinet doors is a kitchen upgrade that you will appreciate every day! This tutorial will show you how to install soft close hinges and includes all the information you need to complete this DIY project.
How Do Soft Close Hinges Work?
Soft close hinges have a mechanical device built into the hinge that prevents a cabinet door from slamming. It slows down the door and shuts it ‘soft’. These devices are also sometimes called self closing hinges.
Why Should You Upgrade?
I remember the first time I shut a cabinet door with soft close hinges, and it was amazing! The cabinet door shut slowly, and quietly all on its own. Maybe I’m just a nerd, but I’ve been obsessed with soft close hinges ever since.
Installing soft close hinges on your cabinet doors is an upgrade that you will appreciate every single day.
Compared to the high cost of most kitchen renovations, this DIY project is very affordable. Adding soft close hinges to the cabinetry in a kitchen will make it feel a little more gourmet without breaking the bank.
Can you do this project yourself DIY?
Yes! This is the perfect project to tackle yourself as a DIY. Certain home renovation projects involve expensive equipment, advanced technical knowledge, or safety hazards… but this is not one of them. Some projects are better left to the professionals, but I recommend giving this one a try yourself if you have some DIY motivation, and a few basic hand tools.
The most difficult part of this project is choosing the correct hinges that will work with your style of cabinetry. This tutorial is designed to help you pick the proper hinge hardware that will be compatible with your cabinets, and then walk you through the steps to installing. Let’s get started!
How To Choose The Correct Hinge
Choosing the correct hinge for your cabinets is important. There are several styles of cabinets and doors which require unique hinge styles. If you do not use the proper style, it will not work with your cabinets.
Face frame, frameless, partial overlay, full overlay, inset, compact, long arm… WHAT????
All the cabinetry terms might seem intimidating at first but don’t worry, it’s simpler than it seems! In the steps below, this tutorial will give you all the information you need to select soft close hinges that will work with your cabinets.
Step 1: Identify Your Cabinet Style
Do You Have ‘Face Frame’ or ‘Frameless’ Cabinets?
The first step in picking the right hinge for your cabinets is to determine if you have face frame, or frameless cabinets.
Most standard cabinets in the United States are the face frame style. They are called ‘face frame’ because a wooden frame is built onto the front of the cabinet. In this style of cabinets, the door hinges are fastened to this frame.
Frameless cabinets (also called European, Modern, or Flat Panel) have hinges that are fastened directly to the walls of the cabinet box.
The pictures below will show you the difference between a face frame and a frameless cabinet.
The hinge is fastened to a board on the front of the face frame cabinet.
The hinge is fastened directly to the wall of the frameless cabinet.
Both of the above pictures use ‘hidden hinges’. They are called hidden hinges because they cannot be seen when the cabinet doors are closed. If you have exposed hinges which can be see when the cabinet doors are closed, it is possible to convert to hidden hinges if you prefer the hidden style. This conversion will require a few extra steps. The conversion process is pretty simple and will be addressed in detail in the ‘How To Install Hinges’ section.
Step 2: Determine The Style Of Cabinet Doors
Are your cabinet doors: Standard, Full Overlay or Inset?
The second step in finding the right soft close hinge is determining which style of cabinet doors you have. Use the illustrations below to identify which style of cabinet doors you have. Each of the 3 styles require a unique soft close hinge design. ‘Partial overlay’ cabinet doors are also know as ‘standard’. Partial overlay doors are the most common style in American cabinetry.
The pictures below will show you the difference between: full overlay, partial overlay, and inset cabinet doors.
These illustrations show face frame cabinets, but the door function is the same with frameless cabinets. Just imagine the doors without the frame on the front of the cabinets.
Choose High Quality Cabinet Hinges
In the writing how to install soft close hinges, I wanted to find the best affordable products to recommend for our readers. I started by testing several cheap soft close hinges from Amazon.
All the inexpensive soft close hinges from Amazon felt clunky. They just didn’t seem to work well. Some only seemed to worked if you shut the cabinet doors gently. Others didn’t work well on the large cabinet doors. These cheap hinges were simply not the amazing upgrade I was hoping for.
Next, I tested some of the more professional brands that are used in high quality cabinetry. WOW! What a difference. What I learned is that choosing high quality soft close hinges is very important important!
Step 3: Choose A Hinge Style
Do You Want Compact Hinges or Long Arm Hinges?
This step is a matter of preference, not compatibility. Both styles of hinges will work with your cabinets. The choice is mostly related to price, quality, and performance. The pros and cons of both styles are listed below.
Long Arm Hinges – A Premium Option
Long arm hinges are also sometimes called Euro or European style hinges. They are strong, durable and accommodate a large robust hydraulic soft close mechanism. In high quality cabinetry, long arm hinges are typically used. Aside from being more expensive, the only downside of long arm hinges is that they are physically larger and take up slightly more room inside of cabinets. Unless cabinet space is extremely limited, this will not matter much.
I tested several long arm soft close hinges and found that some performed better than others. My biggest gripe with several of the hinges was the cabinets doors having noticeable resistance when opening. This made using the cabinet doors slightly awkward. There were also hinges that seemed to be overpowered by larger doors and slammed shut, defeating the purpose of adding soft close hinges.
After all the testing, one brand stood out as a clear winner. All the Blum hinges excelled and seemed to work better than the competition.
The winner: I recommend using Blum Hinges – particularly their BLUMOTION soft close hinges. These Blum hinges are made in Austria and you can feel the quality! The BLUMOTION hydraulic soft close mechanism is perfectly smooth and functions exactly how it was designed to. In my opinion, Blum hinges offer the best value because aren’t super expensive, and had the best overall feel.
Best Soft Close Hinge Recommendation:
Face Frame, Partial Overlay: Blum BLUMOTION Long Arm – Soft Close
Frameless: Blum BLUMOTION Long Arm – Soft Close
Note: These are the two most common hinge styles. Please follow the steps under ‘How To Choose The Correct Hinge’ to make sure you are getting the correct style of hinge to fit your cabinets.
Compact Hinges – A Budget Option
Compact hinges are small, simple, and affordable. They work well, but are not quite as smooth and robust as premium long arm hinges. Depending on your budget for this project, compact hinges might be worth considering because they cost around half as much as long arm hinges.
With compact soft close hinges, the hydraulic mechanism is inside of the hinge itself. This style of construction has an inherent space constraint for the hydraulics. Because of this smaller size, the performance suffers.
We tested Blum hinges – specifically the Blum BLUMOTION compact hinges. They were installed in our kitchen for about two weeks. The soft close hinges functioned well, and proved to be a convenient upgrade compared to standard non-soft-close hinges. If you’re looking for a cheaper option, the compact Blum hinges are your best bet!
The biggest downside associated with compact soft close hinges is slow recovery time.
Recovery time: the time that a cabinet door has to be open before the soft close mechanism is ready to function. If a hinge is close before it is ‘recovered’, the soft close function will not work properly (or not work at all).
Having a slow recovery time means that if you quickly grab an item out of the cupboard and shut the door within 1 or 2 seconds, the hinge will not work properly and the door will slam just shut like a regular old non-soft-close hinge!
All the compact hinges we tested had relatively slow recovery times, but some were far worse than others. The times ranged from about 2 seconds, to over 5 seconds. The Blum BLUMOTION hinge was the fastest recovering compact hinge.
For comparison: the Blum BLUMOTION Long Arm hinge scored a 0.0 second, instant recovery time, which is why it is my top overall recommendation.
To learn more about Blum, you can checkout their website for a full list of products and details.
How To Install Soft Close Hinges
Installing soft close door hinges is a relatively easy project that can can be accomplished in a weekend. Some projects are best left to the professionals, but this is the perfect kitchen upgrade for any DIYer with basic hand tools, and a drill.
Installation Tools & Supplies
Step 1: Remove Old Cabinet Door & Hinges
Start by removing the cabinet door from the cabinet. Small wood screws are used to fasten the hinges to the cabinet using small wood screws. I recommend using a power drill and a #2 Phillips bit for this job, but an old fashioned screw driver will get the job done as well.
Next, remove the old hinges from the cabinet door.
Step 2: Drill A 35mm Hole (1 3/8″)
If your old cabinets already had hidden hinges (also called concealed hinges) then there should already be a 35mm hole for the new hinges. When converting to hidden hinges for the first time, you will need to drill new holes using a 35mm adjustable depth Forstner bit.
Cabinet doors already have holes drills should be verified for depth. Conventional non-soft-close hidden hinges are often shallow, so you may need to drill the hole down farther.
Step 3: Install Hinge Into Cabinet Door
Now that the old hinge has been removed, and the 35mm hole has been drilled to the proper depth, you’re ready to install the new soft close cabinet door hinges! This is a pretty easy step. As long as the hole has been drilled properly, the soft close hinge should drop into place with a little coaxing. It should be a sung fit, but should not require a ton of force do get it down into place.
You should be able to press the hinge down into the hole by hand. If the hinge is being stubborn, you can tap it with a rubber mallet. If the rubber mallet doesn’t do the trick, then the hole is probably not drilled properly.
Make sure the soft close hinge is squarely in place, and flush with the top of the cabinet door. Once it is aligned properly, you can fasten it into place. Use the small wood screws that are included with your Blum Soft Close Hinges.
Step 4: Install Clip-On Mounting Plate
The next step is to install a mounting place onto the cabinet. The picture above shows a mounting plate being installed to a face frame cabinet. The mounting plate is installed directly to the face frame.
It is called a ‘clip-on’ mounting plate because after installation, the cabinet door clips onto the mounting plate. This makes installation much easier compared to standard hinges where you have to hold the cabinet door in place while fastening the hinge to the cabinet!
Use the screw holes from the old hinges you removed to center the new mounting plate into the proper position on the cabinet. Before using a wood screw to fasten the mounting plate to the cabinet, pre-drill using a 5/64″ or 3/32″ drill bit to prevent the wood from cracking.
Step 5: Clip Hinges Into Mounting Plates
This is the easiest, and most satisfying step! Hold the cabinet door with one hand, and one of the soft close hinges with the other hand. With a large cabinet door, it may be useful to have a second person to help hold the door and guide it into place. Slide the soft close hinge into the mounting plate, and then push it into the plate to clip it into place.
If the hinges don’t line up perfectly with the mounting plates, you may need to loosen the screws on one, or both of the mounting plates and adjust as needed. Clipping the soft close hinges into the mounting plates is easy as long as they are properly aligned. As an added bonus, the cabinet doors are just as easy to remove for cleaning, or any other reason.
Step 6: Test Out Your New Soft Close Hinges!
Voila! You’re done. Test out your new soft close cabinet doors, to make sure they are working properly and then enjoy!
Tips For Success When Installing Soft Close Hinges
- Make sure to choose the proper style of hinge that is compatible with your specific cabinets.
- Choose a high quality hinge that will offer a great user experience. Cheap hinges do not typically work well.
- Always use the proper PPE (personal protective equipment) and use safe practices when working with power tools.
- Use the correct tools, and use precise measurements so that the cabinet doors will work properly, and line up perfect with your cabinets.
- Be careful not to over-tighten the wood screws! It’s a nightmare dealing with stripped screws.