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A guide to piano hinges

clock 7 minutes | 22 Mar 2022

Rows of continuous piano hinges

What is a piano hinge?

A piano hinge is also known as a continuous hinge due to its length. It’s longer than a traditional hinge – as shown here in the piano-hinge drawing – and used on applications with extended dimensions. With two same-sized leaves joined together by a pin, this type of hinge evenly distributes weight and minimises stress on the component it’s attached to.

This article aims to answer all your questions, and provide information such as:

Piano hinge drawing

The name comes from its original purpose: to secure a piano lid to the piano itself. They’re designed to cover the entire length of the application, ranging from automotive and specialty vehicles to marine.

Just some of the applications where you’ll find continuous hinges include:

  • Oversized doors, e.g., sheds and cabinets
  • Furniture, such as fold-down desks
  • Storage and lockboxes
  • Cooling units
  • Lockers
  • Machinery and metal fabrication
  • Gates and fences

The benefit of continuous piano hinges

They’re very low cost, which makes them especially appealing when budgets are tight. But that’s an added bonus. The real appeal of continuous hinges, or piano hinges, is their incredible durability.

If your application will undergo excessive use and wear and tear, then a piano hinge is an excellent choice. It dissipates the pressure created when the door is constantly opened and closed. It provides uniform strength along the door or panel’s length and creates a smooth and even pivot action. As each leaf operates exactly as the other, the effort to open and close the door – no matter how heavy – is minimised.

It also generates less noise than a typical hinge and provides a high degree of security and privacy, as it extends the length of the door.

Can you cut piano hinges to size?

Yes. There’s not a lot of variety in piano-hinge sizes, so there’s a good chance you’ll have to cut yours to the length you need. You can get a 72" piano hinge in metal, which you can cut to size if necessary to create multiple small piano hinges or cut it in half to get two 36" piano hinges.

It’s worth noting that width is also fairly standard: you can get 1" or 1 1/2" piano hinges, usually up to around 2". Hinge width and thickness increase with the length.

Plastic piano hinges are available in lengths of 50 feet or longer, so you can get multiple hinges out this. You can cut the hinge to fit your precise needs, in effect creating examples such as:

  • Cabinet piano hinges
  • Electrical commercial-door piano hinges
  • Trailer-door piano hinges
  • Bifold-door piano hinges
  • Storm-door continuous hinges

Metal or plastic?

Piano hinges come in different materials. The most common are:

Plastic

Plastic piano hinges are excellent for long life and smooth and quiet operation. These hinges offer a flexible joint, unlike metal piano hinges and are made from one piece of plastic. They tend to be thicker hinges as a way of reinforcing strength.

Piano hinges come in different plastics, with polyolefin as a particular standout for its resistance to oil, salt, water, UV rays and solvents.

Plastic piano hinges

Aluminium

An aluminium piano hinge is used when you want a lightweight, yet strong and resilient hinge. Heavy-duty aluminium piano hinges are also common. Aluminium resists corrosion and rust, and costs less than the other metals. They’re also half the weight of brass and carbon steel options.

Aluminium piano hinge

Stainless steel

A stainless-steel piano hinge has excellent corrosion resistance, making them especially ideal for applications where salt spray is common. They’re also a great choice for swimming pool buildings, and sewage treatment plants.

Stainless steel piano hinge

A 304-grade heavy-duty stainless steel piano hinge, as shown here, offers durability and strength. 304 stainless steel is the most common grade used in continuous hinges, but not the only one on the market. You can learn more in our guide Understanding stainless-steel grades.

Steel

A steel piano hinge, by the nature of the material, is for heavy doors or doors that endure constant use. If the application is outdoors, use galvanised steel. Plain steel is fine for indoors.

Brass

A brass piano hinge is the most popular when aesthetics are involved, especially a solid brass piano hinge. They’re most commonly used on furniture and for architectural applications.

Piano hinge industrial use

How to install a piano hinge

For lightweight doors, piano-hinge installation requires these tools:

  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Metal saw
  • Hammer
  • Nail
  • Metal file
  • Drill
  • Screws

Step 1: Determine the size hinge you need

  • Measure the height of the door frame from the finished floor to the bottom of the frame header.
  • Subtract 7/8" from this measurement. This tells you how long your piano hinge should be.

Step 2: Cut the hinge to length

  • If cutting is necessary, mark the hinge where you’ll cut. If you’ll be using a cover to hide the hinge, mark that to size as well.
  • Close the hinge so that you can’t see the countersunk screw holes. The back of both leaves should be visible.
  • Using your saw, cut the hinge and cover to length.
  • File down the hinge’s edges to make them smooth. Do the same with the cover.

Step 3: Prepare for installation

  • Insert a nail into the top of the smaller section on the hinge.
  • Use a hammer to force the tip of the hinge out of the barrel. This tip will serve as a cover that will be reinserted into the bottom of the hinge section. Use a hammer to tap it into place. You’ll need to reinstall this tip so that the hinge pin stays in place once the door is installed.

Step 4

  • Affix the hinge to the face of the frame. Position the hinge so that it lies completely flat across the door and frame when the door is closed.
  • Leave a 1/8" gap between the top of the hinge and the top of the frame, as well as a 1/16" gap between the side of the frame and the centreline of the hinge barrel.
  • If screws come with the hinge, use those to fasten it in place, or use 3/4" self-drilling screws.
  • Insert screws in every pre-drilled hole on the hinge so that it works properly.

Step 5

  • Place the door into the opening.
  • Align the top of the door with the top of the hinge. The edge of the door should be 1/16" from the centreline of the hinge barrel.
  • Fasten the hinge to the door with screws.

Download free CADs and try before you buy

Free CADs are available for most solutions, which you can download. You might also need fasteners to secure your hinge. You can request free samples to ensure the fastener you’ve chosen is exactly what you need. You might also find these guides helpful:

Access Hardware – the design engineer’s guide

How to choose the right hinges for your enclosures

Ultimate guide to access hardware

If you’re not quite sure which product will work best, our experts are always happy to advise you. Whatever your requirements, you can depend on fast despatch. Request your free samples or download free CADs now.

Questions?

Email us at sales@essentracomponents.co.uk or speak to one of our experts for further information on the ideal solution for your application 0345 528 0474.

Hinges