So far, I’ve only used the “trial and error” method for hinge measurements. You don’t have to waste as much time as I did figuring out how much room you need for them to work right though.
What Do I Need To Know About Door Hinges?
If I had measured for proper placement before applying hinges, I wouldn’t have had to remove them and reapply them at least three times. Fortunately for me, the project I was working on was “just for fun” and didn’t require that I follow specific “building codes.”
Adding hinges to a residential doorway requires more precision than my recreational project did. For starters, you need to know how much room to allow before fastening the hinges to the door and its frame. You also need to make sure the door swings open wide enough for you to enter and exit.
If it’s a cabinet door, you will want to know if you have enough range of motion when opening the door to access your belongings. This especially matters when in tight spaces, such as a corner near a refrigerator.
You also need to determine which direction to place a door. This applies to both interior and exterior entranceway doors and cabinets. Knowing the swing direction will prevent you from accidentally hitting and injuring people as they walk past.
How to Measure Door Hinges (Step-by-Step Guide)
Measuring a door hinge is essential whether you want to put hinges on a new or used door. Not all doors are the same size, and some are thicker than others. Various hinges are available to accommodate all doors, and knowing how to measure a hinge can make fitting a door much easier.
Fully opened, a door hinge measures the same width and length to resemble a perfect square. A door hinge is two hinge leaves connected with a hinge knuckle and a hinge pin. Doors vary in size and thickness, and the hinge size must suit the door to properly open and close.
Fitting a door is something you can do yourself. With the right tools and patience, even the door hinge will be no match for you. Measuring a door hinge is difficult, but here are steps that will help you measure it accurately and give you the confidence to fit any door.
How to Measure Door Hinges
- Measuring Tape
A door hinge has four basic components. Two hinge leaves a hinge knuckle and a hinge pin and knowing where each component fits the door and frame is important. The hinge leaf is the part that is attached to the door, and the hinge knuckle is the part that connects the hinge leaves and swivels. In the steps, I will explain where each component fits and how to measure and install it.
Step 1: Measure Hinges for Installation
A hinge measurement is done with the hinge fully opened on a flat surface. The length is measured from the bottom to the top hinge leaf corner. The width of the hinge is measured starting from the left side of the hinge leaf corner across the hinge knuckle to the right hinge leaf corner. A correct hinge measurement must give you the same width and length measurements.
The first measurement of the hinge that you will need is the width of the hinge leaf. The hinge leaf is the part of the hinge that attaches to the door and the door frame and must not exceed the thickness of the door. The full width of the hinge leaf must fit inside the thickness of the door and leave about 0.3 inches of the extra door if the hinge is a correct fit.
The thickness of the hinge leaf is another important measurement. The door must be recessed with the thickness of the hinge leaf for the hinge to close fully when the door is closed. Although not by much, hinge leaves vary in thickness, and you can recess the door until the hinge leaf is flush with the door surface to have the door close smoothly without any obstructions from the hinge.
Step 2: Measure the Placement of the Door Hinge
Start with placing the door on its side with the part of the door where you will attach the hinges at the top. Secure the door to something sturdy with a clamp to keep the door in place while you measure and install the hinge. There will be some wood fillings in the prosses, and placing the door on a towel or tarp where you can easily clean is a good idea to keep the mess to a minimum.
Make reference points where everything should go to avoid accidental misplacement. For example, take a washable marker and mark the top and bottom of the door and then mark which side the door will open. This step is important because you might lose track and place the hinge on the wrong side, leaving you to repeat it.
Once you mark the reference points, take the measuring tape and measure from the top of the door 5 inches. Take the square and draw a line across the thickness portion of the door where you marked the 5 inches, and the hinge placement starts. Repeat the same step at the bottom of the door but mark it at 10 inches, and this will be where the hinge starts at the bottom.
Step 3: Trace the Placement of the Hinge Leaf
Use the line across the top of the door you made with the square, and place the top of the hinge leaf on the line. With the hinge knuckle on the side that the door opens, let the other hinge leaf hang down the side of the door to create a 90". The hinge is now ready to be marked on the door; take care not to move it at this stage.
With a pencil, trace the outer line of the hinge leaf. Starting on the 5-inch line and going towards the middle of the door. The correct size hinge will also leave about 0.3 inches of door that the hinge leaf does not cover. If the hinge leaf surpasses the door thickness, the hinge is too big, and you should get the correct size.
After the hinge is marked, take a chisel and punch all around the pencil line. Only punch the thickness of the hinge leaf. Take the chisel and remove the access wood where the hinge leaf must fit. Remove enough wood that the hinge leaf is flush with the door. The recess in the door is to prevent any obstruction when the door is closed.
If it is easier, position the hinge on your door frame first if it is not already attached to the door. Measure for placement on the door 5-inches from the top of the door frame and 10-inches from the bottom. Marking, tracing, and mortising the hinge are the same steps as above.
Some doors come with hinges attached. In that case, measure the distances from both ends of the door for placement on the frame. Either way, use a washable marking device, such as chalk, to make it easier to "remove the evidence" when you're done installing your door.
Remember that these instructions apply to hinges with the built-in knuckle pin. Either way, you'll need to measure all installment spots carefully before installing them and the door to the frame.
Step 4: Test Your Measurements
Hopefully, you measured right the first time, but you should test your hinge measurements before installing them. Line up the door in the open and closed positions, and observe where the hinges are placed before adding the screws.
You could also drive at least one screw in the center hole of the bottom and top hinge leaf to prop the door, making it easier to swing the door open and closed while testing. If you only added one hinge screw and accidentally calculated it wrong, you would experience minimal damage. One tiny hole in the wrong spot is better than holes in all the wrong spots.
Testing is also crucial if you have the types of hinges that require you to insert the pin into their knuckles. Both leaves of the door hinge need to fit together like a puzzle piece. Check on this before you fasten the hinges with the screws. It will minimize your frustration if you do have to adjust.
Step 5: Attach the Hinge Leaves
If you are sure that your hinges are in the correct spots, attach the hinge leaves to both the door and its frame. Using a door installation kit will make your life easier because the spots often come marked where you can place the hinges when installing the door.
With both hinges attached and the door opening and closing smoothly, I am sure you agree; measuring the door hinge was a great idea.
What Types of Hinges Do You Have to Measure?
I found that it doesn’t matter if it’s for a cabinet or if it’s for a front door hinge. Bedroom and basement door hinges also require precise measurements before you try to install them.
Before you fasten hinges to a door and its frame, follow preliminary hinge measurement steps. By the way, this also pertains to any indoor or outdoor gate or storage door installation that opens using hinges.
Follow Two Preliminary Hinge Measurement Steps
Learn Parts of Hinges Before Starting
You don’t have to attend months or years of schooling just to learn how to put a hinge on a door and its frame. However, knowing what the hinge parts are called will help you understand what instructors are talking about when they use certain words to describe hinge components.
The flat part of the hinge (usually flat but not always) on both sides of its pivet (the part that turns) is called the “leaf.” The “pivot” part that turns is sometimes called the “knuckle.”
Now, you will probably notice that door hinge construction is different from cabinet hinge construction (sometimes). Unlike some cabinet hinges, the door hinges typically have a “pin” that slides through the knuckle.
Of course, there are exceptions to this. Sometimes, the pin is built into the hinge.
By the way, the pin joins both door hinge leaves together. One side attaches to the door, and the other side attaches to the frame.
Of course, you affix both sides of the door hinge with screws. That’s why the hinge also has “screw holes.”
Use The Right Hinge Type
One other aspect of hinges I learned during my experimental building projects: You can’t always use just any hinge you have lying around your workshop.
Each hinge type has a unique purpose. You’ll realize that soon enough if you attempt the “trial and error” method as I did.
For instance, standard 3.5-inch door hinges will fit on most interior and on exterior doorways. You’d have a tough time placing these same hinges on an outside gate, which often requires a T-Strap or spring hinge.
You also would have a difficult time applying lightweight cabinet hinges to a heavy door. For instance, you can’t easily use cabinet hinges meant for doors that close off entrances, bedrooms, and portions of hallways.
Screen and patio doors also wouldn’t use the same hinges as most interior doors. Any hinge, for that matter, won’t work even if it is technically the right size if it doesn’t function the way you need it to. Make sure you have the right type of hinge for your project.
5 Hinge Measurement Steps
Hinge measurement steps will differ slightly for pre-hung doors. The steps I am sharing with you give you an idea of the overall hinge installation process, regardless of hardware purpose.
1. Make Room for Hinge Plates (a.k.a. “Leaves”)
As I said, I learned the hard way. You don’t have to guess as I did. In fact, guessing doesn’t work when you have to install a door that complies with your local building codes.
It’s also tacky looking if you use a hinge that’s the wrong size. Sometimes, when you do this, part of it sticks out where it shouldn’t. That’s why it’s best to ensure a perfect fit.
Moreover, you’ll probably notice functional problems when you don’t have enough room to fasten a hinge to a door or its frame. What’s worse, it may not stay tightened. The hinge can’t be too large or too small for where you plan to place it.
2. Trace Around Hinges for Placement
If you think it would be easier, position the hinge on your door frame first if that hinge is not already attached to the door. Trace around the area where you would attach that hinge. Then, you would measure for placement on the door.
Some doors come with hinges attached. In that case, measure the distances from both ends of the door for placement on the frame. Either way, you perhaps may want to use a washable marking device, such as chalk. This makes it easier to “remove the evidence” of your markings when you’re done installing your door.
Keep in mind that these instructions apply to hinges with the built-in pin. Either way, you’ll need to make sure you measure all installment spots carefully before you install them and the door to the frame.
3. Measure Hinges for Installation
Measure from the top down to place the top hinge on either the door or frame first. It’s your choice. Either way, you’ll get the same result. For the bottom hinge, measure from the bottom of the door or frame up to the edge of where you think the hinge should go.
4. Test Your Measurements
Hopefully, you measured right the first time. Either way, I think it’s best that you test your hinge measurements before you decide to install them. Line up the door in the open position and in the closed position, and observe where the hinges are placed before you add the screws.
You also could drive at least one screw in the center hole of both the bottom and top hinge if you want. This will prop the door, making it easier to swing the door open and closed while testing.
If you only add one hinge screw instead of all of them, at least if you did accidentally calculate wrong, all you would experience is minimal damage. One tiny hole in the wrong spot is probably better than holes in all the wrong spots.
Testing is also crucial if you have the types of hinges that require you to insert the pin into their knuckles. Both leaves of the door hinge need to fit together like a puzzle piece.
Check on this before you fasten the hinges with the screws. It will minimize your frustration if you do have to make adjustments. These swing open and close easier for testing, which is one reason the pin is not built into them.
5. Attach The Hinge Leaves
If you’re sure that your hinges are in the correct spots, attach the hinge leaves to both the door and its frame. If using a door installation kit will make your life easier. The spots often come marked where you can place the hinges when installing the door.
How do I install the door after adding hinges?
It’s best to explore detailed instructions on how to install a door before you add the hinges. To summarize, the installation should go well if you measure correctly for hinge placement.
At this point, all you need to do is screw in the screws after you match the door hinge portion with the door frame hinge portion. Then, you’re done unless you have to adjust the doorway size.
Why won’t my new door close after installing hinges?
If the door’s too large, you may have to trim the doorway a little to make it wider, so your door will close. You will need a level and a plane that shaves wood or perhaps a saw for this project.
You also might need a chisel. However, you may want to follow detailed instructions on how to widen a doorway to ensure a “neat” trimming job. The severity of the difference between the door and its frame measurements will determine the tools you need.
How do I make a doorway smaller?
I never had to make one smaller, so I will refer you to a professional on this one. It may call for adding mending plates (or sole plates) and/or perhaps adding a wood beam or wood blocks. The exact steps depend on how much smaller you need to make the doorway.