Functional Cabinet Door and Drawer Hardware

Functional hardware includes concealed hinges

Functional Cabinet Door and Drawer Hardware

What You Need to Know

When it comes to having a beautiful, useful kitchen, details are important. One of the details you might not have thought of is the functional cabinet hardware — the hinges and drawer guides that open and close your cabinet doors and drawers, let you maximize the cabinet space, minimize noise and, overall, make your life in the kitchen easier.

Today’s cabinetry pairs modern innovation with traditional woodworking. The modern innovation includes hardware functionality. Soft-Close for cabinet doors and drawers provides the latest in closing technology. And also ensures that your doors and drawers close quietly and smoothly each and every time.

Before we get too far into the technical aspects of cabinet hardware, this article will address hardware for cabinet doors and drawers – hinges and drawer guides. If you’re looking for decorative hardware, our article is here.

What to Expect from Functional Hardware

High quality, well-built hinges and drawer guides are crucial to the proper working of the cabinets. As a homeowner investing in a new kitchen, you need things to work easily and work well. You should expect full extension drawers so you can access everything in the drawer – even in the back corners. You will want cabinet doors that close softly and don’t bang shut. And drawers that glide closed with the slightest push.

Functional Hardware for Closing Your Cabinets | Types of Hinges

At its most basic, hinges are movable joints that attach cabinet doors to the frame of the cabinet so doors can open and close.

Many types of hinges for kitchen cabinets are on the market today. As the one who will have these hinges in your new kitchen for a long time, we’ll break it down for you so you can make informed choices.  

You and your kitchen designer will decide how you want your new cabinets to look. And during the design process, you will decide whether you want exposed or concealed hinges. You can see exposed (or traditional) hinges when the cabinet door is closed. Concealed hinges are not visible when the cabinet door is closed.

The photo below shows two cabinet doors – one with exposed hinges on the left and one with concealed hinges on the right.

Exposed hinges (left) | Concealed hinges (right)

If you like seeing the hinges, you have many decorative choices, mostly the color of the finish. Hinges, like the ones shown in the photo above, are available in at least 5 different colors, sometimes more. Polished brass, burnished brass, antique brass, chrome, satin nickel, matte black, oil rubbed bronze – the list goes on.

You can also choose the way the hinge looks – it can have a ball or minaret cap.

Exposed hinge with minaret cap

Concealed Hinges

Concealed hinges are often called “European”, “Euro” or “cup” hinges. Cup hinges because of the cup-like fitting on one end of the hinge – visible in photo below.

Inside cabinet view of concealed hinge

Beyond the clean look they create on the outside of your cabinets when the doors are closed, Euro hinges allow the doors to be easily removed.

Soft Close Hinges

Most all cabinet manufacturers offer soft close hinges. This means you never have to worry about slamming your cabinet doors shut again. Children don’t have to be told not to slam the doors.

Soft-close hinges create a silent, smooth movement when you push the door closed. Doors close with almost no sound, even if you close them quickly or with excess force or if you just let them fall back into place.

Like everything else in life, soft close hinges come in different grades of functionality and are manufactured with different grades of materials. There are low grade hinges that are sometimes noisier and may include some plastic components, which wear out more quickly. Stock cabinets typically have soft close hinges that are inferior to those found in semi-custom and custom cabinets.

Let Your Designer Guide Your Functional Hardware Decisions

Your kitchen designer will most certainly advise you about cabinet hinges and help you make the right choice for your new kitchen.

There are other kinds of hinges beyond the ones discussed here. Your new cabinets will arrive with the hinge the manufacturer offers, unless you’re going with full custom. Then you have options. The type of hinge differs also based on the way your cabinets are built – framed or frameless. Also with the way the doors are installed – overlay, full overlay or inset.

To learn more about cabinet hinges, this website has lots of information.

Drawer Guides

Now that we’ve looked at hardware for opening and closing your cabinets, let’s direct our attention to the hardware you need for operating cabinet drawers.

You don’t have to make any decisions about the type of drawer hardware you’re going to get with your new cabinets. The cabinet manufacturers control that decision. And your kitchen designer will certainly explain everything in more detail.

But it’s always good to know what you can expect.

Blum hardware essentially invented the full extension, undermount, adjustable drawer guides with soft close that is the standard today. They named their invention Blumotion, and Blumotion has become a proprietary eponym – one of those words that everyone uses to describe drawer operation. If your kitchen designer mentions that your new cabinets come with Blumotion, you’ll know you’re getting the best.

Of course, just like cabinet hinges, there are many grades of drawer hardware. Some work just fine, some work when first installed but stop working after use.

Terminology

“Undermount” means the drawer hardware is fully concealed under the drawer box. You’ll be able to show off the beautifully dovetailed drawers in your new kitchen – if the cabinets you decide on come with dovetailed drawers. No matter if they are or not, the hardware doesn’t show.

“Full-extension” means you can access the back corners of your drawers because the drawers pull all the way out. And they won’t come off their runners and dump your spatulas and ladles onto the floor. Full extension guides have stoppers that keep the drawer from leaving the tracks.

“Soft closing” means that when the drawer is pushed, it glides to a certain point and then hydraulics take over. The drawer is eased to the closed position, gently and quietly.

Having soft closer drawers makes them much safer if you have children whose fingers may get caught when a drawer is slammed shut.

Soft closing drawers also make sure that your drawer contents stay in place. When drawers are slammed, things inside go flying and get scrambled. This will be a thing of the past.

Easy to Remove

If you want to get your drawers out of the cabinet to clean, you squeeze the locking devices under the drawer that are part of the drawer guide system. To put them back in place, just slide them back it. Not need to line up anything – just push them in until you hear the guides snap in place.

Undermount drawer guides are easy to remove
Photo from Blum website

Deep Drawers

One of today’s trends is to include deep drawers in base cabinets for dish storage, pots and pans and/or baking supplies. And having full extension drawer guides for these cabinets makes finding items easy without having to bend over or take everything out to find what you’re looking for.

People have more things to store, which has pushed the demand for increased drawer hardware’s load-bearing capacity. How many La Creuset Dutch ovens can a drawer support?

These deep drawers with heavy contents require hardware that can support the width and weight of the drawer and contents without skewing and wobbling.

You will want to discuss stability for deep, wide drawers with your kitchen designer.

Deep drawers with heavy contents require special drawer guides

Door Lifts

Door lift systems are another functional hardware component. They literally lift your wall cabinet doors up and out of the way. Is “up” better than to the side, the way traditional wall cabinet doors work? It may not be better; it’s just different. But when the lift system feature is combined with traditional doors, cooking and cleanup becomes much easier.  

When many people are in your kitchen, cooking, cleaning up, chatting, and standing around, opening and shutting cabinet doors without whacking anyone in the head can be complicated. With a lift system, however, lift doors stay open and out of the way. This makes it easy to access everything in your wall cabinets without having to open doors into someone’s face.

Some lift-up doors can be opened with only a touch; some can be opened by remote. Some work with bi-fold doors, while others swing up and over the cabinet. Still another variation is the doors that lift and slide up, so the door is parallel to the cabinet front. Options are many.

If you’re considering this feature for your kitchen, your kitchen designer will be your advisor.

Lift up doors stay out of cook’s way
Photo from Blum website

Conclusion

Functional door and drawer hardware is a part of your overall kitchen operation. It can also be part of the look you want to achieve.

We didn’t mention any specific names in this article other than Blum. We used Blum hardware as an example, but many hardware companies, such as Hafele, Salice and Grass, also make excellent functional hardware for cabinets. Their websites contain product descriptions, photos and videos beyond the scope of this article.

We also intentionally kept the information simple; otherwise, we’d have written a book. If you want to learn more, here are a few websites that get into specifics.


KDP exists to offer insight and advice about all things related to kitchen remodeling. Our goal is to connect homeowners with talented, experienced kitchen designers who live and work in their communities. We are a serious resource for anyone preparing to remodel their kitchen so they can make the best possible choices about designers, contractors and products.