Door hinges have been found in archaeological sites dating as far back as 5500 A.D. In fact, crude mechanical devices of stone and wood resembling hinges have been found in excavation sites dating before the Bronze Age.
In the Medieval times, hinges were most commonly made of wrought iron, progressing to brass and steel in the Victorian era and the birth of the Industrial Revolution.
Today, hinges come in many different materials and finishes and can have decorative elements enhancing a doors aesthetic, as well as performing a functional role.
In essence, hinges are mechanical jointed or flexible devices connecting a door/gate/window to its frame. However, not all types of hinges are suitable for every type of task.
Regardless of the metal, alloy or finish used in manufacturing, there are many types of door hinges each offering a different functionality and purpose. Below are some of the most common types of hinge used.
Butt hinges are the most traditional and most commonly used hinge, because they have a wide range of uses. From doors, both internal and external, to cupboards and casement windows, butt hinges are found practically everywhere.
Butt hinges are also known as mortice hinges, primarily in the USA, because of the need to mortice, or recess, the door and frame for the hinge leaves prior to fixing them to the door and the door frame. Traditional butt hinges contain a pin through the central knuckle connecting the two leaves of the door hinge. To increase the strength of the hinge, hardened washers or bearings can also be placed in the bearing points of the knuckle.
Butt hinges come in different sizes and weight capacities to accommodate various tasks.
Security Butt Hinges
Security butt hinges are almost exclusively used when the hinge is placed on an out swinging exterior door. The point of these hinges is to prevent thieves from simply removing the pin from the hinge knuckle and lifting the door out of its frame. In this type of a door hinge, when the door is closed, the two halves of the hinge interlock, preventing the door from opening even if the hinge pin is tampered with or removed.
Rising & Falling Butt Hinges
This is another modification of the traditional butt hinge. In this configuration, the bearing point between the hinge leaves is angled on a slope. On rising butt hinges the door is lifted up from the floor when it is opened. This is perfect to accommodate thick carpet, uneven floors or an obstruction to the door opening with a traditional butt hinge. When released, the door will also fall closed under its own gravity which can be useful to limit draughts and reduce noise.
Falling butt hinges are much less common and as the name implies will fall open when the door is let go. A primary use for these hinges is public lavatories as the door will fall open when a cubicle is not occupied showing that it is free for use.
Continuous or Piano Hinges
Continuous hinges are also known as piano hinges because they were traditionally used to secure the top of grand pianos. They are available in various lengths depending on model and brand and can be cut to size on site depending on the need.
The extended length of the continuous hinge allows them to provide more lateral support at the hinge joint. Many continuous hinges cannot withstand heavy forces and so are usually used in lightweight doors. Some specialist brands will offer heavyweight options, such as for use with heavyweight metal doors.
Fully Concealed (Soss-style) Hinges
These hinges have interlocking links with a central pin and mortice fully into the door and frame. When the door is closed the hinge is fully concealed so is ideal for contemporary “shadow gap” doors and also traditional hidden jib-type doors. The traditional Soss hinge is not adjustable so must be correctly fitted first time; however most modern day models allow 3D adjustment, making fitting much more forgiving. This type of hinge comes in a variety of size and weight bearing capacities. from cabinets to heavyweight doors, and even fire doors in some cases.
Lift Off Hinges
These hinges are useful for easy fitting on site and allow doors to be removed at any time, for reasons such as annual maintenance, without the need to unscrew anything. Available in either right-handed or left-handed configuration, this type of hinge comes in a variety of weight bearing models. Lift off hinges come in a number of variations, such as journal support and rising/falling, as well as the straightforward lift off variation.
This is a type of hinge most commonly used in kitchen cabinets and drawers in modular kitchens as they are not visible externally. The only requirement is a large (usually 35mm) diameter hole in the wood for fixing the body of the hinge. Depending on the model, concealed hinges may also include a soft close facility to prevent cabinet doors from slamming.
Tee, Hook & Band and Dummy Hinges
Tee hinges, which are also known as strap hinges, are unsurprisingly shaped like a T, with a wide triangular leaf on the door and a thin, narrow and rectangular leaf on the frame. They are most commonly seen in timber outhouses and traditional cottage or barn type doors. These hinges should not be used externally on security doors as they can be easily unscrewed.
Hook and band hinges (which unhelpfully can also be known as strap hinges) are heavy duty, strong hinges often used outside on heavy doors, gates or outhouses. As such, hook and band hinges are often supplied in a finish that provides some degree of protection against corrosion and are built to last, as well as being available in a variety of sizes for even the largest of gates. The bands are available as cranked or straight versions; cranked if for doors that sit flush to their frames, while straight are often for gates that sit proud of their post frames.
Dummy hinges are decorative hinges for use on doors that would benefit from the appearance of being hung on strap hinges, but are actually hung on butt hinges. Most often used to give a traditional and authentic feel to a restored door, these have no actual hanging ability and are for decorative use only.
Single & Double Action Spring Hinges
These types of hinges are so called because when opened they will return the door to the closed position under spring tension. Spring hinges are becoming less common due to aesthetics and the fact that the spring strength is reliant on how long the door is opened for. As a result it is possible for a door fitted with this type of hinge to not fully engage the latch in the keep.
Parliament & Projection Hinges
Parliament hinges are renowned for their decorative effect and will look aesthetically pleasing on doors that need to project out when opening to avoid fouling on obstructions such as architraves. Stainless steel versions are available that can carry heavier weight doors. Projection hinges have the same use as parliament hinges, although will not give as much projection on the same width of hinge. Their full height knuckle is also not considered as aesthetically pleasing to the eye. As a general comparison, a projection hinge will carry a heavier weight of door than a parliament hinge when comparing the two in the same material.
These hinges allow both leaves to occupy the same space as a single leaf on a normal butt hinge. As such, these do not require a recess or to be morticed into the wood of the door and the frame. They are easy to fix as a result, and are normally used on lightweight doors and cabinets.
These hinges originate from the uPVC market but have in recent years become common for use on timber windows too. They have the advantage of a casement stay not needing to be fitted to hold a window open. Friction hinges are a viable option for windows as long as the window joinery sections have been designed to accept friction hinges, or if adaptations can be made without adversely affecting the window or frame.
H-hinges are so named as their shape looks like the letter H. Each leaf is taller than the central knuckle and the hinge is surface fitted. These hinges have variations to suit cabinets to full size doors and are generally found in traditional properties. Being surface fitted, these hinges are sometimes decorative too. A variation of the H-hinge is the butterfly hinge. This variation is primarily found on cabinets due to available sizes and, as with H-hinges, gets its name due to the leaf profiles giving the appearance of a butterfly’s wings.