How to Adjust Your Kitchen Cabinet Hinges: Step-by-Step Guide

Kevin Dean | Kitchen Designer | Dean Cabinetry

By: Kevin Dean

Adjusting cabinet hinges is an important step in keeping your kitchen looking beautiful like the day it was installed. It’s a task that is quick and easier than you think. We are going to teach you how to make hinge adjustments on cabinets. Simple adjustments to your kitchen cabinet hinges are necessary from time to time, due to normal wear and tear. It is important to adjust cabinet hinges to keep your cabinets not only looking great, but also functioning properly.  Just like your car needs maintenance, your cabinet doors and cabinet drawers also need maintenance.  

Check out this video for a complete overview on how to adjust your cabinet hinges.

Let’s discuss hinge adjustments on cabinets.  Doors are attached to cabinet boxes with hinges.  Each door will be connected with two or three hinges.  In order to adjust the door, we will need to adjust all of the hinges.

Hinges come in many varieties depending on the construction of your cabinets.  Some hinges attach directly to the cabinet box, while some connect to a baseplate which is attached to the cabinet box.  Both the hinges and the baseplates are important for adjusting cabinet doors.

If your cabinetry is relatively new, you most likely have soft close hinges, which, combined with your baseplates will provide three ways to adjust the hinges. This cabinet hinge adjustment can move the door forward or backward, left or right, and up or down.  This will affect the gaps between the surrounding doors and drawer fronts, the straightness of your door, and how flush your door is with the surrounding cabinetry.

cabinet hinges
Modern Hinge
cabinet baseplate
Modern Baseplate

Tools Needed for Adjusting Cabinet Hinges

To make cabinet door adjustments, you will need a Phillips screwdriver.  You will use the screwdriver to rotate the set screws of your cabinet hinges and baseplates.

tool to adjust cabinet hinges
You will use the Phillips screwdriver to adjust cabinet hinges

Typically the baseplate set screws allow for front to back, and up and down adjustments of the cabinet hinge. The hinge set screw usually allows for the left to right adjustment of the door.

How to Adjust Cabinet Hinges

Use your screwdriver to rotate the set screws clockwise or counterclockwise.  Make small adjustments to each screw to figure out the correct direction to go in. Different cabinet hinge brands will vary in how that hinge will adjust, so it may take some experimenting. 

Typically you will have 2-3 screws for making cabinet hinge adjustments and each screw does a different job:

1) Allows the cabinet to move in and out

2) Allows the cabinet to be flush in line with the cabinet

3) Allows the cabinet to move up and down

Some cabinet hinge types will not have a 3rd screw that will allow the cabinet to be adjusted up and down. To make that adjustment, you may need to loosen the hinge attached to the door and gently slide the door up or down to the correct position and then tighten it again in place, as seen below.

how to adjust cabinet hinges
Understanding Cabinet Hinges

Don’t get frustrated. As long as your door is not warped, it is possible to adjust cabinet doors correctly. The good news is once you figure out how to adjust a single cabinet door, the rest of your cabinetry hardware should be the same.

Remember, each manufacturer has designed a different cabinet hinge adjustment.  Modern soft close hinges commonly have three ways for adjusting cabinet doors. Older hinges may not be easily adjusted or may require more effort to do so.  Trial and error will be required to adjust your cabinetry hinges.

Is My Cabinet Door Warped?

Warping is when wood becomes curved or twisted out of its desired straight shape. 

Warped doors are a problem that may occur to your cabinet doors.  It is natural for wood cabinet doors to warp and it may also depend on temperature or humidity.  Whether a door will or will not naturally warp is unpredictable.  However, it is uncommon to have more than one or two doors warp throughout the life of your kitchen.  

A warped door will have a bow to it.  It will not sit flat on your cabinet. If you think your door is warped, look at it from the side.  A warped door may curve inward or outward in the middle.  A warped door may curve inward or outward at the corner.

If you are still unsure, hold a straight level up to the cabinet door.  Using the level as a point of reference, you will be able to tell if your door is warping.

If your cabinetry is new, a warped door should be covered under your cabinet warranty.  Doors over a certain size, however, usually do not have a warranty. This is because wood is a natural material that will shrink and expand over time. If your door is old or very large, and is badly warped, the only solution will be a dramatic cabinet hinge adjustment or the purchase of a new door.  If your cabinets are old, and you notice the warp, the best solution is to make a cabinet hinge adjustment.

How To Adjust Soft Close Drawers

Check out this video for a complete overview of adjusting soft close drawers.

There are two types of adjustments that can be made for kitchen cabinet drawers.  The clip adjustment and slide adjustment.

cabinet drawer clip
Drawer clip with adjustment clip
cabinet drawer slides
Drawer slide adjustment

How To Adjust Cabinet Drawer Clips

Since your drawers are one of the most functional pieces of your cabinetry, it is important to know how to adjust soft close drawers.  

The clip adjustments will influence the drawer front in relation to the surrounding drawer fronts or doors.  Kitchen cabinets drawer faces should sit flush with the surrounding faces.  There should also be equal gaps between the drawer front and the surrounding fronts.

Kitchen cabinet drawer clips have the ability to move the drawer front left to right and up or down.

How to Adjust Cabinet Drawer Height

  1. The drawer clip has a plastic piece that raises and lowers the drawer.
  2. Reach underneath the drawer and press the plastic piece upward and into the drawer box.
  3. Slide the plastic piece toward the back of the drawer to raise it and toward the front of the drawer to lower it.

How to Adjust Cabinet Drawer Spacing

This cabinet drawer adjustment tends to be available on the more premium cabinet hardware clips.  If your drawer clips have a plastic wheel, adjusting cabinet drawer spacing is possible.

  1. Your drawer will have two drawer clips.  Each clip will have a plastic wheel.  The plastic wheels need to be rotated in harmony in order to adjust the drawer.  
  2. Rotate both drawer clip wheels to the left to adjust the cabinet drawer front left.
  3. Rotate both drawer clips wheels to the right to adjust the cabinet drawer front right.
how to adjust kitchen cabinet drawers
A drawer clip
how to adjust self closing cabinet drawers
A drawer clip mounted to a drawer box
how to adjust soft close cabinet drawers
Drawer clips mounted to a drawer box

How To Remove Cabinet Drawers

Each kitchen drawer cabinet is made up of a drawer box and a drawer front.  Drawer clips and drawer slides attach the box to your cabinet.

cabinet drawer box
A drawer box
how to remove cabinet drawers
A drawer box and drawer front
A box of drawer slides
A box of drawer slides

To remove the drawer box from your cabinet:

  1. Squeeze the drawer clips to release them from the drawer slide.  
  2. Slowly pull the drawer forward and out of the cabinet

To reinstall your drawer:

  1. Place the drawer back into the cabinet and onto the drawer slides.  
  2. Press the drawer box into the cabinet until you hear a “click” from each drawer clip. This “click” means that the drawer has attached to the drawer slide and will work properly.

How To Adjust Kitchen Cabinet Drawer Slides

Adjusting your soft close drawer slides is a bit trickier.  This adjustment will influence the tilt of the drawer from front to back.  Make this adjustment if the drawer is sliding open or closed too quickly.  

To adjust the drawer slides:

  1. Remove the drawer box
  2. Find the adjustment at the rear of the drawer slide
  3. To tilt the drawer slide forward, rotate it toward the top.  
  4. To tilt the drawer slide back, rotate it toward the bottom.
soft-close drawer slide
A soft-close drawer slide
extended drawer slide
An extended drawer slide

How Can Dean Cabinetry Help?

We at Dean Cabinetry are more than happy to come out to do maintenance, adjustments, touch-ups or refinishing for you.  Especially if we were lucky enough to provide your kitchen cabinetry. It is in our best interest to keep your kitchen looking great for years to come, so please do not hesitate to give us a call for adjustments. If you are looking for more information on how to keep your kitchen looking spectacular, check out our post on kitchen cabinet cleaning.

If you purchased your cabinetry from Dean Cabinetry, we include two, two hour complimentary service calls within the first two years after cabinet installation.  Think of it like two free oil changes.  We will come out and spend 2 hours touching up and adjusting your kitchen cabinetry.  Give us a call anytime within the first 2 years after installation and we’ll be happy to stop by.

Beyond 2 years of your cabinetry installation, it is difficult to justify Dean Cabinetry returning to make complementary touch-ups months or years after the completion of your project.  Please contact us for an estimate for these services.

It is in our best interest to keep your kitchen looking great for years to come!