Butterfly Hinges Perfect for Cabinet Upgrades


Kitchen and bathroom cabinet upgrades are some of the most popular home renovation projects today. Not only can new cabinetry transform the look and feel of your space, but it can also add functionality, storage, and value to your home. When undertaking a cabinet upgrade or replacement, one important decision is the type of hinges to use. Butterfly hinges are an excellent choice for many cabinet projects and offer unique benefits over other hinge options.

Butterfly hinges, also called articulated hinges or articulate hinges, have two hinge pieces that pivot and fold. This allows the cabinet door to open wide in a smooth, sweeping motion that lies flat against the side of the cabinet. The butterfly mechanism provides an attractive, seamless look and allows for full access to cabinet contents.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore why butterfly hinges are perfect for cabinet upgrades in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and more. We’ll cover the pros and cons of butterfly hinges, recommendations for selecting and installing them properly, and tips for achieving the best results from your cabinet hinge upgrade or replacement project.

What are Butterfly Hinges?

Butterfly hinges are specialized cabinet hinges that consist of three parts:

  • A mounting plate that attaches to the cabinet frame
  • A door plate that attaches to the back of the cabinet door
  • The butterfly mechanism itself which connects the plates and allows the signature wide-opening motion

The butterfly mechanism is made up of overlapping tabs that pivot and fold. Manufacturers may use slightly different shapes and systems, but the basic function is the same.

When the cabinet door is closed, the butterfly hinge tabs lay nearly flat. As you open the door, the tabs rotate and expand in a symmetrical motion, allowing the door to open wide and fold back flat against the cabinet side. This “articulating” motion is where the hinges get the alternate name articulated hinges.

Butterfly Hinge Diagram

Butterfly hinge pieces in closed and open positions

Butterfly hinges allow cabinet doors to open past 90 degrees up to a full 180 degrees. This gives complete access to the contents of the cabinet without having to move dishes, food items, or other contents to reach them.

Unlike standard hinges, butterfly hinges provide a smooth, sweeping motion rather than a simple pivot. They are self-closing due to their spring-loaded design and have built-in adjustability features. We’ll go over the key benefits and features of these specialty hinges next.

Benefits of Using Butterfly Hinges

There are several compelling reasons to choose butterfly hinges for your next kitchen, bathroom, laundry, or any other cabinet project:

Wide Opening Angle

The key benefit of butterfly hinges is the extremely wide opening angle they provide. Doors mounted with butterfly hinges can open up to 180 degrees, lying flat against the cabinet side.

This gives you complete access to the contents without anything blocking your view or reach. You don’t have to move dishes, pots and pans, or other items around to access what’s at the back of the cabinet.

Smooth, Sweeping Motion

Rather than a simple pivot, butterfly hinges open with a smooth, sweeping motion. The hinge allows a graceful, elegant door movement that is pleasing to the eye and touch.

Easy Cabinet Access

The wide opening angle coupled with the smooth motion makes cabinets with butterfly hinges very easy to access. You can reach the entire cabinet interior without any obstacles or limitations.

Clean, Seamless Look

When closed, butterfly hinges are designed for minimal gaps. This gives cabinets a seamless, integrated appearance. The hinge itself is largely concealed between the cabinet and door.

Some options like self-closing butterfly hinges are completely invisible when the cabinet is closed. Choosing hinges that match your cabinet color helps them “disappear” into the design.

Self-Closing Ability

Many butterfly hinges are self-closing. The spring mechanism allows the cabinet door to glide closed smoothly when you release it within a certain angle range.

This is a great convenience feature, especially for kitchens and busy family spaces. You don’t have to take the extra step to manually close doors that get left open accidentally.


Butterfly hinges allow adjustments during and after installation. You can fine-tune the door position and alignment to eliminate gaps, improve movement, and account for settling or shifts over time.

Potential Downsides to Butterfly Hinges

While butterfly hinges have many advantages, there are a few potential disadvantages to consider as well:

Higher Cost

Butterfly hinges typically cost more than standard hinges. Pricing can range considerably based on the materials, finishes, features, and quality. In general, expect to pay $5-20 per hinge.

The higher hardware cost may or may not be a significant budget factor for your project. It’s a good idea to weigh the benefits of smooth motion and full cabinet access against the higher price point.

Trickier Installation

Installing butterfly hinges takes more skill and time than basic hinges. They must be aligned and positioned properly to function as intended.

If you don’t have much DIY experience, butterfly hinge installation may require hiring a carpenter or cabinet specialist. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.

Door Weight Limitations

Butterfly hinges have weight limits for the doors they can support. This ranges by hinge style from about 10 pounds up to 50+ pounds. Heavy doors, like those made from solid wood, may require specialty hinges.

Check the door weight before choosing butterfly hinges. Overloading them can lead to sagging doors and malfunction over time.

Project Scope Considerations

For minor cabinet refreshing, basic hinges may be the more economical choice. Butterfly hinges make the most sense for larger kitchen or bath overhauls and full cabinet replacements.

Consider whether the project scope justifies the higher hardware investment. They’re ideal for new custom cabinetry but overkill for a single lazy Susan replacement.

Types of Butterfly Hinges

If you’ve decided butterfly hinges are right for your project, the next step is choosing a type. Manufacturers offer several styles tailored to different cabinet materials, door weights, and features.

Full-Overlay Butterfly Hinges

Full overlay hinges are designed for cabinet doors that completely cover the cabinet “box” or frame. No part of the cabinet frame is visible around the closed doors.

Full-overlay butterfly hinges have square mounting plates. They can open up to 180 degrees so the doors can lie flat against the cabinet sides.

Full Overlay Butterfly Hinge

Partial-Overlay Butterfly Hinges

Partial overlay cabinet doors sit partially over the cabinet frame. Some part of the frame is visible around the closed doors.

Partial-overlay butterfly hinges have curved mounting plates to provide the proper overlay positioning. Like full-overlay types, they open to 180 degrees.

Partial Overlay Butterfly Hinge

Inset Butterfly Hinges

Inset cabinet doors sit flush within the cabinet frame opening. No part of the frame or door overlaps. Inset hinges are used to allow the proper 90-degree door positioning.

Inset butterfly hinges are specialty hinges modified to the inset installation style. They articulate so the door still opens very wide.

Inset Butterfly Hinge

Concealed Butterfly Hinges

Concealed butterfly hinges provide a super streamlined, “invisible” look. The hinge is completely hidden when the cabinet is closed.

These hinges install with part of the mechanism inside the cabinet frame. Choose concealed hinges for a super modern, integrated cabinet design.

Concealed Butterfly Hinge

Self-Closing Butterfly Hinges

Self-closing butterfly hinges have a spring mechanism that automatically closes the door when it’s within a certain opening angle. This is typically around 75-90 degrees.

Self-closing butterfly hinges prevent doors from being accidentally left open. They provide smooth, reliable door closure every time.

Decorative Butterfly Hinges

Some manufacturers offer butterfly hinges with decorative finishes like antique bronze, chrome, matte black, and more. This allows customizing the hinge style to match or accent your cabinetry.

Decorative hinges can complement ornate wood species like cherry or maple. They can also mimic vintage hardware looks.

How to Choose the Best Butterfly Hinges

Keep these tips in mind when selecting butterfly hinges:

  • Cabinet style – Choose hinges made for your specific cabinet door style: full overlay, partial overlay, or inset. Measure for the proper overlay if unsure.
  • Hinge positions – Most cabinets use three hinges: top, middle, and bottom. Very large/heavy doors may need four hinges.
  • Weight capacity – Verify the hinge is rated for the door design, wood type, and size. Medium-duty hinges support 25-45 lbs typically.
  • Features – Decide if you want self-closing, concealed, or decorative hinges based on budget and design.
  • Ease of install – Look for hinges with easy, adjustable installation. Consider your DIY skill level as well.
  • Warranty – Opt for hinges with at least a limited lifetime mechanical warranty from the manufacturer.
  • Reviews – Check reviews on home improvement retailer sites for real-world feedback on hinge models. Look for durability, smooth motion, and easy adjustment.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for maximum weight ratings and installation steps. Allow 1/8” clearance around the door perimeter for proper movement.

How to Install Butterfly Hinges

Installing butterfly hinges takes careful alignment and adjustment to achieve proper door function. Follow these steps:

Step 1: Remove Existing Hinges & Doors

Start by removing the existing cabinet doors and hinges, retaining any mounting screws. Use a putty knife to scrape off any old paint or finish from the cabinet frames.

Step 2: Position Hinge Mounting Plates

Mount the new hinge plates in the original screw holes if possible. Use a tape measure and level to position the plates evenly spaced up the door side edge. Follow the manufacturer spacing guidelines.

Step 3: Install Cabinet Mounting Plates

Hold each cabinet mounting plate in position and mark pilot holes with an awl. Drill the pilot holes at the marks and attach plates with the provided screws.

Step 4: Install Door Mounting Plates

Repeat the same process to install the door mounting plates on the back of the doors. Take care to position them accurately.

Step 5: Install Hinge Mechanisms

Attach the butterfly hinge mechanisms to the mounting plates according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Insert pins, tighten screws, and click pieces securely into place.

Step 6: Adjust Door Fit & Alignment

Rehang doors and make alignment adjustments. Most butterfly hinges allow front-to-back, side-to-side, and depth adjustments with a screwdriver.

Step 7: Repeat for All Doors

Remove, install hinges, and adjust each door one at a time until complete. Open and close doors to test for smooth, wide motion and proper self-closing function if applicable.

Tips for Getting the Best Results

Follow these tips and tricks to get the most out of butterfly hinges in your cabinetry project:

  • Clean cabinets thoroughly so hinges adhere well and move smoothly.
  • Take doors off in pairs to keep them organized. Label doors to match hinge locations.
  • Tighten screws gradually to avoid stripping. Don’t overtighten.
  • Adjust one hinge at a time in small increments for the best alignment.
  • Make sure doors seal properly in closed position and have even reveals.
  • Use shims if needed to fine-tune spacing and alignment.
  • Test motion and flow before reinstalling adjustable shelves and interior fittings.
  • Check alignments again after a few weeks once cabinets have settled. Make minor tweaks.

Take the time to properly install and adjust butterfly hinges. Your efforts will be rewarded with stunning cabinetry function and visual appeal.

Butterfly Hinges for Specific Cabinet Types

Butterfly hinges provide benefits for many cabinet installation projects. Here are recommendations for popular kitchen, bath, and storage spaces:

Kitchen Cabinets

For kitchens, self-closing butterfly hinges are extremely useful. They make it easy to access contents while keeping the space looking neat. The wide opening angle allows you to reach everything without removals.

Butterfly hinges keep tall pantry cabinet doors out of the way. For bottom cabinets, they allow access to items way at the back. No more crawling inside to reach things!

Choose heavyweight hinges for big, solid wood doors. Concealed hinges maintain a sleek, seamless look.

Bathroom Cabinets

In bathrooms, butterfly hinges on wall cabinets let doors fold back flat. This allows accessing towels or toiletries without the door being in the way.

For vanities, the smooth motion keeps cabinet doors from hitting adjacent walls or fixtures. A self-closing function helps prevent slamming.

Decorative butterfly hinges are nice for upgrading a basic builder-grade bathroom vanity. Water-resistant finishes are recommended for humid areas.

Laundry Room Cabinets

For laundry cabinets, butterfly hinges on upper cabinets keep doors completely out of the workspace. No need to have cabinet doors in the way when folding and sorting.

They allow smooth operation even when the doors are extra wide or heavy. Concealed hinges maintain a streamlined look.

Living Spaces & Home Offices

In living areas and home offices, butterfly hinges provide full access without impacting room flow when cabinet doors are open. Self-closing models provide a neat, tidy appearance.

For display cabinets and curio cabinets with glass doors, decorative butterfly hinges enhance visual interest. The articulating motion makes contents more visible.

Entertainment Centers

Butterfly hinges are perfect for media cabinets and entertainment centers. The wide opening range allows easy component access without struggling around cabinet doors.

Concealed hinges provide a super clean look. For open-style entertainment centers, decorative hinges coordinate with the units’ style.

Common Butterfly Hinge Problems & Solutions

While butterfly hinges are very durable, issues can occasionally arise. Here are some common problems and troubleshooting tips:

Sagging Doors

Potential Cause: The door is too heavy for the hinge rating.

Solution: Replace with heavy-duty butterfly hinges designed for heavier doors.

Hinge Binding

Potential Cause: Hinge plates are misaligned or need adjustment. Screws are overtightened.

Solution: Loosen screws and realign plates per manufacturer instructions.

Self-Closing Problems

Potential Cause: Linkage is stuck or obstructed. Spring needs adjustment.

Solution: Remove any obstructions. Adjust spring tension as directed.

Loose Hinges

Potential Cause: Screws not fully tightened. Stripped screw holes.

Solution: Tighten screws properly or relocate hinge position to new holes.

Noise & Squeaking

Potential Cause: Hinge needs lubrication. Interference with cabinet or door.

Solution: Apply lubricant sparingly per brand guidelines. Adjust to eliminate interference.

With proper installation and care, butterfly hinges should provide many years of smooth, reliable service. Be sure to follow all manufacturer guidelines and warranty details.

FAQs About Butterfly Hinges for Cabinet Upgrades

Can you put butterfly hinges on existing cabinets?

Yes, butterfly hinges can easily upgrade existing cabinets. Remove old hinges, install butterfly hinges in the same locations, and adjust fittings as needed. Concealed hinges may require some cabinet modifications.

Do butterfly hinges work on all cabinet door styles?

Butterfly hinges are made for full overlay, partial overlay, and inset cabinet doors. Make sure to choose the right hinge design for your specific cabinet door style. Measure door overlay if uncertain.

How much weight can butterfly hinges support?

Butterfly hinge weight capacities range from about 10 pounds up to over 50 pounds. However, capacities vary greatly by hinge model. Check manufacturer specs to ensure the hinge is rated for your cabinet door design and materials.

Can you adjust butterfly hinges after installation?

Yes, one benefit of butterfly hinges is that they are adjustable after installation. You can tweak the fit, alignment, and reveal gaps with a screwdriver as needed over time. Take care not to overtighten screws.

Do butterfly hinges work with soft-close mechanisms?

Many manufacturers make butterfly hinges designed specifically to work with soft-close devices for an ultra smooth, quiet closing motion. These integrate a self-closing hinge with dampened closing from about 15 degrees.

How long do butterfly hinges last?

With proper installation and normal use, the lifespan of butterfly hinges is similar to other quality hinges. Expect at least 10-15 years of service with occasional tightening and adjustment. High-end steel hinges could potentially last 25+ years.