Types of hinges and where to use them

Display of different hinge styles and materials

Hinge styles are varied, so you need to know how to choose the right one for your application. Our guide is designed to help you understand different hinge design and the types of hinges available. We'll cover:

What are the different types of door hinges?

First, you need to understand doors. Often issues with doors can be blamed on the wrong type of hinge being used. All standard and industrial hinges have to contend with several factors regarding doors:

  • Vertical load, which is determined by gross door weight
  • Horizontal load, which combines door height-to-width ratio, door weight and where the hinges are placed

Another often-overlooked area is the frequency of use. This requires you to estimate how often the door will open and close through the course of a day. You can break this down into three categories:

  • Low frequency: doors used ten times or less each day
  • Medium frequency: doors used 10 to 24 times each day
  • High-frequency: doors used more than 25 times daily

You then need to know what weight capacity suits your applications. Combine the frequency with your door's weight. This will help you determine whether you need standard or heavy-duty hinges.

When do you need heavy-duty door hinges?

Use this as a general guide for choosing a standard or heavy-duty hinge.

Door weight Frequency Hinge
200 lbs Medium Standard
Up to 200 lbs High Heavy duty
400 lbs Medium Heavy duty
600 lbs Low Heavy duty
1000+ lbs Low Heavy duty

For more in-depth information on the relationship between doors and hinges, please see our guide, How to size hinges.

Doors, however, aren’t the only application for hinges, which is why you’ll also find different cabinet-hinge types. An outdoor telecom equipment cabinet needs hinges. So does an outdoor utility cabinet, a rack mount cabinet, a data center server cabinet, an outdoor electrical junction box – hinges are also an HVAC system component. You’ll find it helpful to check out our guide, Choosing the right enclosure hinge.

What are the different types of hinges?

Not all hinge types are right for every application, which is why it helps to understand what your choices are. At Essentra, we have a range of hinges available.

View our range of hinges

Here are some common types of hinges along with their typical applications.

Leaf hinge

Butt hinges

Hinges are either right or left and come in different materials. You can use a hinge that will be visible or concealed. Butt hinges are the most common hinge of all. A butt hinge has two matching leaves. For example a leaf hinge – shown here – is a type of hinge, but it falls under the category of a butt hinge.

Learn more about this hinge type in our Guide to butt hinges.

View our range of butt and leaf hinges

Corner hinges

Typically used: metal cabinets and machine covers

Corner hinges sit flush to the surface. To prevent tampering, they're mounted internally, although external metal corner hinges - usually used on machines – are an exception. Corner hinges contain a pin that you can take out when the door is open. This, in turn, allows you to remove the door for maintenance or access.

Metal corner hinge

Internal metal corner hinges

  • Heavy-duty industrial hinges
  • Rotational angle: 180°
  • Used on steel panels for large applications
  • Die-cast zinc alloy with stainless steel pin
Plastic corner hinge

Plastic corner hinges

  • Used on light-steel panels
  • Rotational angle: 180°
  • 30% glass-reinforced nylon with POM pin
  • Compact
  • Simple installation into the return bend of formed sheet metal doors and panels

Lift-off hinges

Typically used: HVAC systems, industrial generators

For doors that are used frequently, lift-off hinges simplify the removal of doors when you need easy access to maintenance and repair. When the panel that the hinge is attached to is opened, the top part of the hinge lifts off from the bottom part. These are also known as door-removal hinges.

Lift off screw mount hinge

Lift-off screw-mount hinge

  • Easy lift-off function
  • Ideal for removing flush-mounted doors
  • Rotational angle: 180°
  • Steel or stainless steel with stainless steel or steel pin
Surface mount hinge

Surface mount hinge – lift off

  • Concealed mounting screws prevent external access to hinge
  • Ideal for electric panels and machinery covers
  • Rotational angle: 180°
  • Zinc alloy with stainless steel pin

Offset hinges

Typically used: hospital doors, warehouse doors

Offset hinges are designed to add extra clearance to doorways. Also known as swing-clear hinges, you can open the door so that it’s out of the way, giving you complete access to the entire width of the doorway. Offset hinges move the hinge pin farther away from the doorjamb. When the door is opened to 90 degrees, it is set back at least two inches from the doorway, making the opening larger. Without these hinges, you’d need to create a larger opening and install a larger door. You can learn more in our guide, The basics of offset hinges.

Continuous hinges

Typically used: Fire doors, electrical doors, cabinets, enclosures, furniture making

Continuous hinges are also known as piano hinges, which stems back to their original purpose: to secure a piano lid to the piano body. Today, they’re also used to distribute weight and minimize stress on the door or cabinet in light, medium and heavy-duty industries. A continuous hinge is great for applications that are constantly being opened and closed, and subject to intense wear and tear.

You can learn more in our Guide to piano hinges, including how to install them.

Plastic piano hinges

Plastic continuous hinges

  • Modified Polyolefin Copolymer
  • Stainless steel
  • Resists salt water, oil, solvents, dilute acids, alkalies and most chemicals
  • Extremely versatile for different conditions and environments

Leaf hinges

Typically used: Server cabinets

Concealed mounting screws prevent external access to the hinge, making it ideal when security matters. Leaf hinges suit plain/flush-mounted doors and left- and right-handed applications.

Leaf hinge

Leaf hinge – threaded stud mount

  • For flush-mounted doors with threaded stud installations
  • Maximum rotation: 270°
  • Die-cast zinc alloy
Countersunk mount hinge

Countersunk mount hinge

  • For flush-mounted doors with countersunk mounting holes
  • Maximum rotation: 270°
  • Die-cast zinc alloy

Concealed hinges

Typically used: Enclosures, machinery covers

Concealed hinges are installed inside enclosures such as an outdoor telecom equipment cabinet to stop anyone from tampering with them from the outside. Aesthetically, they provide a minimalist look and feel by not showing any hardware.

Spring loaded hinge, removable/concealed

Spring loaded hinge, removable/concealed

  • Spring provides tension so that doors or lids automatically close or stay open
  • Multiple spring hinge styles available
  • Zinc-plated steel or stainless steel options
  • Removable pin

Side hinges

Typically used: IP electrical enclosures, wall-mount rack enclosures, server cabinet

Side-mount hinges are another high-security option, ideal for applications that present awkward space. These also work well when a standard hinge can’t give you the opening that you need.

Side hinges

Side hinges

  • Available in 3 types: Types 1 & 2: high-security, medium- and heavy-duty industrial hinges,Type 3: lower security, lower-cost hinge
  • Rotational angle: 180

Weld-on hinges

Typically used: Vault doors, armored vehicles, fire doors, shipping containers and construction projects.

If your application is permanent and not to be tampered with, opt for weld-on hinges. Their life span is longer than screw-on door hinges. The designs are simple, and you can use them on different types of materials. There’s also the added bonus that they’re non-obtrusive and can be painted to match the metal surface to which they’re applied.

372594_Types hinges_1460x500px.jpg

Weld-on bullet hinges

  • Durable, secure and versatile hinge
  • Can be used on flat surfaces for easy welding
  • Steel with steel or brass pin; aluminum with stainless-steel pin

You can learn more in our Guide to weld-on bullet hinges, including information on installation.

Cabinet with hinges

Exterior hinges vs. interior hinges

Interior doors are typically made of wood while exterior doors are often metal. Exterior door hinges tend to be thicker than indoor hinges to support the heavier doors. Because exterior doors have to withstand the elements, their hinges have to work harder. Materials play an important role in any hinge, but especially those that have to perform outdoors.

Exterior hinges are typically made from weather-resistant materials, such as stainless steel or corrosion-resistant alloys to withstand the harsh outdoor environment. Interior hinges may use materials such as steel or zinc-plated steel that prioritize strength over weather resistance.

Learn more in our guide to choosing the right enclosure hinge.

Hinge materials

The constant opening of doors and cabinets wears hinges down. Environmental factors can have an impact. Choosing the right material for your hinge helps prolong its life.

For instance, metal hinges made of stainless steel resist rust – an important factor if your application is near the ocean or will be exposed to the outdoors – and have the strength to bear heavy doors. However, stainless steel hinges don’t take to coated materials, so it’s more common to use this material for hidden hinges.

Hinges are made in a wide variety of materials with different properties. The one you choose depends on your application. For instance, brass vs steel piano hinge? Brass is a good option when appearance matters, while steel is stronger.

Aluminum, for instance, is ideal for automotive applications due to its lightweight characteristics, while stainless steel is perfect for pharmaceutical, kitchens and hospitals, as it’s easy to maintain and keep clean. Read more in our guide Stainless steel vs aluminum hinges.

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) is a plastic with a low melting point and high resistance to most chemicals, so it’s typically used on indoor protective housings.

Typical hinge materials

  Galvanized Steel Stainless Steel ABS Aluminum Nylon Die Cast Zinc
Strength X X X     X
Corrosion Resistant X X   X X  
Heat Resistant X          
Impact Resistant     X      
Durability X X     X X
Lightweight       X    
Easy maintenance   X        
Low-temperature Resistant   X        

Download free CADs and try before you buy

Free CADs are available for most solutions, which you can download. You can also request free samples to make sure you’ve chosen exactly what you need. If you’re not quite sure which solution will work best for your application, our experts are always happy to advise you.


Email us at sales@essentracomponents.com or speak to one of our experts for further information on the ideal solution for your application 800-847-0486.