How to hang cabinet doors yourself

A few years ago, I turned the refrigerator alcove in our new house into a cabinet, but never got around to adding doors. I made a pair a few months later, reusing free doors I got from a furniture maker that was going out of business, but they were gathering dust in the basement while other projects took priority. Finally, I got a free weekend and some motivation and decided to install them.

Hanging cabinet doors is a project that is more difficult in practice than in theory, especially if you don’t do it much. The job could take 30 minutes or less, or you could end up fighting it for three hours, like I did.

Before you begin, take some time to size up the task. I, for one, had a few things working against me that probably increased the difficulty of this DIY. First, I built the doors myself, cobbled together from scrap metal and other doors not made for the space. If I had it to do over again, I’d make new doors to match, rather than re-install the existing ones. Buying custom doors is another option, but we got a quote for almost $1,000, which was absolutely not happening.

My second challenge was that the radiator recess itself is not square – it’s about a quarter of an inch from side to side. This means that square doors either don’t fit or don’t look right in the non-square opening. I had to work hard to shape the doors to fit and give the illusion of being square.

And finally, ask someone to help you. Professionals may be able to easily hang cabinet doors themselves, but since neither you nor I are professional cabinetmakers, another pair of hands will be invaluable.

Warning: DIY projects can be dangerous, even for the most experienced builders. Before proceeding with this or any other project on our site, please ensure that you have all the necessary safety equipment and know how to use it properly. At a minimum, this may include safety glasses, a face mask, and/or ear protection. If you use power tools, you need to know how to use them safely and correctly. If you do not or are not comfortable with anything described here, do not attempt this project.


  • Year: 30 to 90 minutes per door
  • MATERIAL COST: $5 to $30 (excluding doors)
  • Difficulty: moderate


To hang the door

To cut the door

How to hang a closet or cabinet door

1. Buy the right hinges for your door. I was shocked and confused at how many different styles of hinges there are. To find the right fit, pay attention to the overlap — how the door is positioned in relation to the cabinet frame. The inset doors are flush with the front of the cabinet and rest fully within the opening. The partial overlay doors are located in front of the cabinet front and cover part of the face panel. Full-overlap doors go in front of the cabinet face and cover the entire face frame. Each of these three door types requires its own hinge style.

After determining the type of door, check how the hinge connects to the cabinet. Some screw flat to the sidewall, that’s how ours work. Others wrap around the cabinet face frame. And finally, consider how visible you want the hinges to be and what features you need, such as adjustability, opening angle, soft close or self-close.

2. Measure and mark how much to cut the doors. If you’re lucky, your door fits perfectly in the opening you have and you can skip steps 2 and 3 entirely. If not, you have some work to do.

First, bring the door to the opening and figure out exactly where to cut. Hold the door in place, using washers or another person to help, and use a pencil to mark the material you want to remove. You may need to slim down an entire edge or knock off a few inches leading into a corner, particularly if either the door or the opening is not perfectly square.

How much and where to cut depends on the type of coating your door has. If you have a partial overlap and adjustable hinges, you’ll have plenty of wiggle room because you won’t be limited by the size of the opening. An eighth or even a quarter of an inch oversize probably doesn’t matter, though you should keep in mind how the door lines up with other cabinets nearby.

[Related: The surprising woodworking tools you already have around the house]

Full-overlap doors need to be a bit more precise, because they’re supposed to completely cover the face frame, without overhanging. However, chances are no one will notice if the doors protrude 16 or even an eighth of an inch.

Inset doors require the most precision because they fit inside the cabinet opening. Generally speaking, they need about an eighth of an inch of space on all sides to open and close, as well as accommodate the hinges. But be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions for your hinges, as some require different clearances.

3. Cut the doors to size. There are many ways to cut cabinet doors, depending on the tools you have, how much you need to shave, and where. To remove an eighth of an inch or more from an entire board edge, your best bet is a table saw. Adjust the fence to the final width and slide the board through. Depending on the style of the door, you may want to cut both parallel edges so the proportions of the door remain the same.

If you need to remove a decent amount of material from part of the edge, like I did, you can use a straight and countersink router. I took a strip of plywood with a flat edge and clamped it along the shallow angle I needed. I then used the flush trim bit to remove the hardware.

If you have a small amount of material to remove, turn on a flat block or hand plane. Make sure the blade is properly sharpened and set so you don’t rip the wood. Keeping the edge you’re working with facing up, clamp the door in a vise or have someone hold it in place. Then run the plane along it, holding the tool perpendicular to the face of the door. You should get long, curled wood shavings.

For those who don’t have a hand plane or aren’t comfortable using one, use an orbital sander with 60 grit paper.

4. Place the hinges on the door. Different hinges attach to the door and cabinet by different methods, so it’s important to read the instructions included with your hardware. Some hinges screw directly into the surface of the door, while others require a cutout in the door to sit in. Rails are available for different types of hardware to facilitate this setup. If you’re only hanging one or two doors, however, a coil may not be worth the investment—some of them can be expensive.

Regardless of how your hinges work, pre-drill any screw holes. The last thing you want is for your door to come apart during final installation.

  • Note: Some hinges may say to attach them to the cabinet first and not the door. Absolutely follow the manufacturer’s instructions, not my recommendations here.

5. Measure and mark where the hinges attach to the cabinet. If possible, hold the door in place to measure where the hinges connect to the cabinet. Casters can help with this, especially on inset doors. Then mark the center of the hinge on the cabinet and lower the door. If you have extra hardware, center a spare on this line and mark where the screw holes go. You can also make a drill template from a piece of plywood by marking a “center” line as a reference and use a hinge to place and drill screw holes relative to that line. Then bring this template to the cabinet, align the center line with the mark on the cabinet, and drill the holes in the cabinet.

If it is not possible to hold the door in place to mark the hinge locations, you can use a tape measure to find the hole locations. Just remember to account for the size of the gaps or overhangs as you measure — if you don’t, then your hinges will be too high or too low.

After the locations are marked, pre-drill the screw holes.

6. Screw the hinges to the cabinet. This is one step where an assistant is worth its weight in gold. Hold the door in place, probably in the open position, and screw the hinges into the cabinet. Start with the top hinge, because it can carry the weight of the door without bending and tearing from the wood — which can happen if you start with the bottom hinges.

7. Make adjustments as needed. Many hinges have hardware that allows you to make small adjustments to perfectly align the doors for even distances and straight lines. Deal with them as needed to fit your door. If these adjustments are not enough, you may need to cut the door further. You can use a block or sander to remove small amounts while it is hanging, but you will need to lower the door to remove more material.

[Related: How to build a DIY beer flight board]

While you’re at it, make sure any drawers work properly with the doors in place. My cabinet drawers on one side stuck to the door — I had installed the slides not knowing how thick the doors would end up being. The fix is ​​easy: Use a chisel to carve a slide-sized channel in the back of the door so the drawers open and close freely.

8. Install the door handle or pull. The final placement of the door pull allows you to install it exactly where you want it after all the final adjustments are made. Whether you place it in the middle of the door, aligned with other pulls in the room, or just at a comfortable height to grab, you can be more precise once the door is finished and in place.

Knobs and rods are the two most common types of door pulls. Knobs require you to drill a single hole through the door to slide a bolt through which the knob screws. Pulls need two bolt holes. As well as hinges, there are jigs that will make it easier to measure hole locations if you plan to do multiple doors, but all you have to do is measure from the top and nearest edge of the door and mark your hole locations .

And that’s all. Your door is hung and ready to use. If you plan to paint, stain or otherwise finish the door, take it down and get to work. But if you’re anything like me, it’ll be a few months before you get around to it. For now, just enjoy not having to look at anything in that cupboard anymore.

Someday, these will be painted. Jean Leavasseur

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *