How to Install Door Hinges

Door hinge being installed.

The key to installing, replacing or straightening a door is knowing how to install door hinges. Most stock doors are sold without a frame; they aren't prepped for installation. These doors are made for universal installation so they can be made to open either left or right. Since doors are not cheap, it's important to install the door hinges correctly, or your small DIY job could turn into an expensive nightmare.

Types of Door Hinges

There are three basic types of door hinges - left-hand, right-hand and reversible. Before you purchase your hinges at the hardware store, you need to know how the door will be opening. This can be confusing for many people as the terms "left" and "right" do not apply to which side of the door the hinges are being installed on.

Here's how they work:

  • Left-hand hinges get installed on the left-hand side of the door if you want the door to open inward with the knob on the right side of the door. Install them on the right-hand side if you want the door to open outward with the knob on the left-hand side of the door.
  • Right-hand hinges get installed on the left-hand side of the door if you want the door to open outward with the knob on the right side of the door. Install them on the right-hand side of the door with the knob on the left side if you want to open the door inward.
  • Left-hand and right-hand door hinges will only work in the manner that they were designed; they cannot be reversed.

Styles of Door Hinges

While there are three primary types of hinges, there are many different varieties of style available for a wide array of uses. Some common styles of door hinges include:

  • Butt hinges
  • Piano hinges
  • Loose-pin hinges
  • Fixed-pin hinges
  • Spring-loaded hinges
  • Rising-butt hinges
  • Double-action hinges
  • H hinges
  • Pivot hinges
  • Tabletop hinges
  • Knuckle hinges
  • Ball-bearing hinges
  • Offset blind hinges

Surface-Mount and Recessed Door Hinges

The other consideration you have to make when learning how to install door hinges is determining whether you want to use surface-mounted hinges or recessed hinges. Surface-mounted is as the name applies; the hinges get installed directly to the door. Recessed hinges require wood to be removed from the door for the hinge to sit flush.

Installing Door Hinges

Take Proper Measurements

If you are installing door hinges on a brand new door, the top hinge is traditionally placed five-inches from the top of the door and the bottom hinge ten-inches from the bottom of the door. When installing a door, measurements are critical so always double-check your measurements before making the first cut or drilling the first hole. Check the measurements on any nearby doors and use those for the new door so your new installation fits the aesthetic of your home.If you are replacing a pre-hung door, use the pre-existing hinge locations on the framing for the hinge placement on the new door.

Recessing the Hinge

Set the hinge against the side of the door where you are planning on installing it. Trace the outside edge of the hinge with a pencil. Use a chisel and mallet or hammer to score the area inside the traced edge. Using a chisel that is approximately the same size as the wood area that needs to be removed will provide you with the best results.The amount of wood that needs to be removed is based on how deep the hinge needs to be recessed, which is the thickness of the hinge itself; start carving away the scored wood with the chisel until the desired depth is reached. The cut needs to be level and even for the hinge to sit properly. If the recess is too deep the hinge may pull out of the door when the door closes, if it's not deep enough the door may not close at all so patience and a good eye are required for this task.

Securing the Hinge to the Door

Set the hinge in its place on the door so it sits straight. Use a center punch or awl to mark the position of the screws. Make the mark in the center of each hole so the screws will be properly positioned. Remove the plate and use a drill with a drill-bit that's smaller than the screws you're going to be using to make pilot holes at the screw locations.Set the hinge back in place and install the screws, tightening them each slowly until they are tight and secure. Do not tighten one and move to the next; tighten them each evenly as you go.

Tools for the Job

As with every job, having the proper tools make all the difference. Here's a list of what you'll need to install door hinges.

  • Hinges and screws
  • Wood chisel
  • Pencil
  • Hammer or mallet
  • Screwdriver
  • Hand drill
  • Center punch or awl
  • Level
  • Sandpaper

Installation Tips

  • Always wear eye protection when installing a door because wood particles can easily become airborne.
  • Remove the pins from the hinges prior to installing the door and once the door is in place, insert the top pin first to make it easier to align the bottom pin.
How to Install Door Hinges