Adjustable Hinge Wear and Tear and Maintenance

Cabinetmakers discuss the long-term performance of adjustable hinges, with tips on hardware choice, installation, and maintenance. February 13, 2009

Is there a European hinge that has a lock once you have adjusted the door to your liking? We use the Grass 3000 series. It sure would be great to have a option like this. Euro hinges are great but once the casework is installed it is up to the owner to adjust the doors and that just doesn't happen. Institutional hinges are not an option!

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor W:
I'm curious, why is it up to the owner to adjust the doors after the install? This should be done by the installer.

From contributor R:
Like contributor W, I wonder why they need adjusting after install. After all the doors and drawers are hung on the installed cabinets, the installer should go through and adjust everything so that everything lines up and all the gaps are correct.

Now, if you are experiencing movement after the install, that seems a hardware issue. They are designed to stay where they are adjusted. I've never heard of the adjustments changing on their own. The other possibility is that the doors or cabinets are sagging or settling, which would ruin the adjustments.

From contributor V:
I understood him to mean the doors went out of adjustment after a period of time being used by the homeowner. They do go out of adjustment unfortunately. Check out the door in a kitchen that gets the most use like the trash door or the water glass door. The only help I can offer is that the ones with the largest degree of opening are the worst offenders. My experience is with Blum and I try not to use the 170 degree hinges if I am able.

From contributor F:
I agree with contributor F. Hinges can definitely go out of adjustment with a good amount of use. And I use the 110 hinges as standard now. The 165's just don't hold up well in my experience.

One thing I learned that helps is to use the driver designed for the hinge screws. A normal Phillips head tends to cam out when you torque it. I find I get better tightening ability with the correct tip.

From the original questioner:
All doors and drawers are adjusted in the shop and then again by the installer. These are all commercial projects and the architect always spec euro hinge or concealed. These jobs are all over the country so there is no way for us to come out and adjust after installation. I would think there would be some way to adjust the door and then lock the settings.
We thought about using LockTite.

From contributor R:
First, I have learned something today. I have not experienced the hardware going out of adjustment, so thanks for the info. That being said, I would be very hesitant about putting LockTite on or around the mechanisms.

From contributor V:
It would be interesting to have an engineer from Blum explain why this happens. I don't believe it has anything to do with screws that are "locked down" such as height adjustment on wing plates or face frame adapter plates.

If it is a problem with the adjustment mechanism moving, I believe it is a problem of the "floating" type such as for screws for left to right and front to back adjustment. My only theory is that with each cycle of opening and closing the door, the mechanism "ratchets" very slightly.

My other theory would be that over time, the steel hinge arms are bending slightly each time the door is opened and the door weight is shifted. This would explain why the extremely large mechanisms like the 170 degree hinges are the most prone to going out of adjustment. The steel arm parts are longer and flex and bend easier.

From contributor D:
The two factors that most likely are responsible for coming "unadjusted" are wood movement and abuse/misuse - I would give 85% responsibility to those two. The remaining 15% would go to normal wear and tear and the hinge actually "un-adjusting" itself. One large company that I know of includes a little instruction type booklet for care and maintenance of the cabinetry. This is intended for the homeowner/end-user.

From contributor A:
I would assume that cabinet doors are like any other doors. They are affected by door weight and gravity over time. Even if you never opened the door it would possibly sag a bit overtime. However, this should certainly not happen within the one year warranty period. I would try another brand of hinges that might be stiffer. I can't imagine that the adjustment screws are somehow moving. If you do use LockTite, you may end up with hinges you can't adjust after they sag.

From contributor S:
Yes, they do go out of adjustment over time - by wear. Look at a butt hinge and the surface to wear area. Find the pivots on an adjustable hinge and compare the wear surface area. This is what you (or end user) give up when you gain adjustability. Architects and designers don't seem to know this.

It is interesting also that this is hardly ever mentioned by cabinetmakers, by manufacturers or installers. Not even homeowners. But if you go into the home/office and look, I'll bet you will find at least 20% could benefit from adjustment.

For commercial installs, I think a three hole maintenance sheet explaining the adjustments, giving manufacturers and model numbers would be standard to give to the maintenance dept, so they can easily tend to these things over time. Homeowners would benefit from this also.

From contributor L:
We are in the same boat. We ship all over the country. I will oppose installing 165 hinges because they sag very quickly. I've tried to convince designers that institutional hinges are the way to go but they can't stand to see the hinge barrel. They don't care what it looks like two years down the road. We've increased the margins used so there is a little longer time before they start banging on each other. And we do include adjustment instructions with each shipment but I'm pretty sure they never get looked at. We just got some information on an improved institutional hinge, better adjustment and locking. I'm going to make up a demo box using them and see if I can get a designer to go for it.

From contributor K:
The easiest solution is to build face frame cabinets. Everyone has their own opinion on FF vs. frameless, and mine is that they (frameless) are too high maintenance. Any homeowner who thinks they are "fabulous" and "exquisite" (said with a lisp) surely will not know how to use a screwdriver to readjust the gaps with the wear in hinges, sag or changes in cabinets. Therefore, you are only creating a lifetime maintenance contract for yourself, or a kitchen full of cabinets that will have unequal (noticeable) gaps in 10 years. I'll stick with FF. It's worth the extra work.

From contributor K:
By FF, I mean FF with overlay doors, as opposed to inset. Just noticed I was not real clear on that.

From contributor D:
To contributor K: I hate to tell you but overlay doors come out of adjustment too.

From contributor K:
You are correct, but it is not as noticeable to the untrained eye. Unequal gaps are noticeable to anyone. Again, this is just my opinion.

From contributor O:
My brother in law asked me to take a look at his kitchen doors because they were out of alignment. I started to adjust the hinges and noticed that none of them had the third screw in the mounting plate. They had the two that came with the dowels on them , but when installed after all adjustments were made, that’s how they left it. I put the other screws in and he said they have been fine since, except for the one door under the sink.

From contributor H:
We use the Blum inserta hinges and cam adjustments on plates with expando dowels. The most common misalignment is in height and the cam eliminates this problem. If you are using the plates with 5/8 screws or 5mm Euroscrews in a 5mm hole, they loosen after being adjusted a few times even on installation. With the Cam height adjustment there is nothing to come loose. The same thing with in-out cam mechanism on hinges - saves time and money on installation too!

From contributor P:
Any cabinet will settle over time. Base and tall cabinets built using integral wooden bases or a separate wood base system will settle as the building settles. Heavy granite countertops have a settling effect when they are installed. As owners load their cabinets, different weight loads cause different types of cabinets to do different things. All of this movement contributes to door and drawer fronts getting out of adjustment.

On top of settling issues, certain brands of hinges hold adjustment better than others. All brands of European concealed wide angle hinges like 155 and 165 degree hinges, get out of adjustment and hold adjustment poorly. These hinges have five pivot points where as 110 degree hinges only have three pivot points.

Face frame cabinets help hide misaligned fronts. European boxes built using leg levelers for support when installed properly, have the least amount of a settling effect. Unlike a wooden base, leg levelers evenly support all four corners of each box which allows for less of a settling effect on door and drawer front alignment.

Bases and tall cabinets with wooden bases can be installed properly using shims but it’s tough. With a wood base, unless it is a separate base that is installed and leveled first and cabinets then set on the base, the base is never shimmed in such a way to properly support each individual cabinet.

Another issue with wood shims is they compress under a weight load and in some cases back out of position over time. This makes the settling issue even worse over time.

When using leg levelers, you have to make sure the installer runs each leg firmly down to the floor. Failure to do this will put you back where you are with wood bases.