The Basics of Door Hinges

Learn about the different types of commercial door hinges and how to identify them.


A huge variety of door hinges are available in today’s commercial hardware market. Which hinge is right for your project? This article discusses hinge types, hinge characteristics, and basic guidelines on how to choose a hinge for your application.

Parts of a Hinge

Below is an illustration that details the components of a full mortise hinge. Pictured is the most common hinge used in the United States, a five knuckle, full mortise ball bearing architectural grade template hinge, four-and-a-half by four-and-a-half inches.

  • The leaves are fastened to the door and door frame.
  • The bearings keep the hinge aligned help the hinge last longer by reducing wear
  • The pin (shown slightly withdrawn from the knuckles as if being removed) holds the leaves together and provides the axis on which the door will turn
  • A knuckle is a loop of metal through which the pin passes
  • The top tip rests on the top knuckle of the hinge, stabilizing the pin; the bottom tip is attached to the bottom knuckle and helps keep the interior of the knuckles clean.

hinge diagram

Hinge diagram


The leaves can be of equal widths, or unequal; the leaves can be “swaged”, meaning bent to compensate for a door with a beveled edge; the bearings can be ball bearings, concealed bearings, lube bearings, or “plain bearings”, indicating no bearings at all; the pin can be non-removable or fixed; there can be five knuckles, three knuckles, or in some cases, no knuckles; and hinge tips can be decorative or serve a purpose, such as hospital tips, which are beveled to prevent things from getting caught on them.

Commercial architectural grade hinges can be standard weight or heavy weight; they can have square corners or round; and they can be “template” or “non-template” hinges, indicating whether its screw pattern matches architectural conventions so as to fit in standard hollow metal door preps or not.

Electrical options are also available, such as electric though wire, concealed magnetic contact, exposed electrical contact, and others.

Hinge Sizing

To measure a full mortise hinge, also called a butt hinge, lay it on a flat surface. Measure the height, then the width. When you specify full mortise hinge sizes, always refer to the height first, then the width.

hinge measure

Hinge measurement

Refer to this article for more detailed information on full mortise hinges and how to measure.

Heavy Weight vs. Standard Weight

Heavy weight hinges are used for very heavy doors or doors that are subjected to very high traffic. Hinge “weight” actually refers to hinge leaf thickness. Heavy weight hinges leaves run closer to .200 gauge thickness, while standard weight hinges are more in the range of .150 gauge thickness.

Hinge thickness is also dependent on hinge size. For example, a standard weight hinge 6 inches by 5 inches will be thicker than a standard weight hinge that is 4-1/2 by 4-1/2 inches.

Wide Throw Hinges

With wide throw hinges, the width will always exceed the height of the hinge. Wide throw hinges enable a door to open 180 degrees when a decorative door molding might otherwise prevent it from doing so.

hinge wide-throw

Hinge, wide-throw

Other Types of Hinges

All the hinges listed below are available in standard weight and heavy weight versions for different commercial applications.

Half Mortise Hinges

Half mortise hinges are hinges that have one leaf mounted to the visible front of the frame and the other leaf mounted in a hinge prep, or mortise, on the edge of the door. They usually only have a height measurement.

hinge half mortise

Hinge, half mortise

Half Surface Hinges

Half surface hinges are hinges that have one leaf mounted to the surface of the door and the other leaf mounted into a hinge prep on the jamb part of the door frame. These hinges usually only have a height measurement.

hinge half surface

Hinge, half surface

Full Surface Hinges

Full surface hinges have both leaves visible when the door is closed. One leaf is fastened to the surface of the frame and the other to the surface of the door. There are a few configurations of full surface hinges.

hinge full surface

Hinge, full surface

Swing Clear Hinges

Swing clear hinges are designed so that when the door is opened to 90 degrees, the door itself is completely out of the opening. For example, if you needed to move a cart through a door that was 35-1/2 inches wide through a 36inch wide door, unless the door was hung on swing clear hinges, you would have to be able to open the door 180 degrees in order to get the cart through the opening.

hinge swing clear

Hinge, swing clear

Template and Non-Template Hinges

“Template” hinges are full hinges that have a standard screw pattern and sizing to fit into an ANSI standard hinge prep, usually on a hollow metal door and frame. Most architectural (commercial) grade hinges are template hinges. Many residential hinges are non-template hinges.

Radius Corner Hinges

Radius corner hinges are hinges with rounded corners. “Radius” refers to the radius of the circle that would exist if the curve of the rounded corner were continued to form a circle. Architectural hinges are available with 1/4-inch radius corners whereas residential hinges are available in 1/4-inch radius and 5/8 inch radius corners.

hinge radius

Hinge, radius corners

Residential Hinges

Residential hinges are very similar to architectural hinges, with some differences. As stated above, more often residential hinges are non-template hinges, but they are sized the same as architectural hinges. Residential hinges also more often have radius corners than architectural hinges and are usually made of thinner gauge metal. Often one will see an architectural grade hinge used on exterior doors and residential grade hinges used on doors within the dwelling.

hinge residential

Hinges, residential

Spring Hinges

Spring hinges are architectural hinges that are spring loaded so as to shut the door. They are available in full mortise, with or without radius corner, in most sizes in which other full mortise hinges are made, and are available in template and non-template versions.

hinge spring

Hinge, spring

Continuous Hinges

Continuous hinges are hinges that extend the full height of the door. They are widely used on aluminum storefront and hollow metal applications. They are a good alternative for high traffic applications where added durability is necessary. Continuous hinges are available in aluminum, steel, or stainless steel, and, like architectural hinges, are available in different types to accommodate different conditions. Many of these configurations match those discussed in this article.

hinge continuous

Hinge, continuous

Pivot Hinges

Pivot hinges are used on heavy doors in high traffic applications and on many aluminum storefront doors. Since the weight of the door rests on the bottom pivot, the door does not “hang” as it does with other types of hinges, therefore there is less risk that the door will sag over time.

hinge pivot

Hinge, pivot

Electrified Hinges

Full mortise, pivot, continuous hinges and others are available with electrical options such as:

  • Electric Through Wire: A number of wires are threaded through the hinge in order to conduct electricity from the door frame into the door (or vice versa) to power electric locks or transmit contact closure from monitor switches in the door or in the locking hardware. Available with anywhere from 2 to12 conductors, typically 24 gauge wire. 2conductor,18 gauge wire is also available.
  • Concealed Magnetic Contact: a magnetic contact reed switch is concealed in the leaves of a full mortise hinge. When the door is opened, the leaves are spread apart, breaking or making the contact. Hinges with concealed magnetic contact are handed.It is possible to have both the above options in the same hinge.

hinge electric

Hinge, electric

Non-Removable Pins

In situations where you have an out-swinging secured door, you can use hinges with non-removable hinge pins. Non-removable hinge pins are pins which have a groove milled in the middle. A set screw is threaded through the middle knuckle to mate with the groove to inhibit burglars from pulling the pin and the door to gain entry.

Find the right hinge with SECLOCK

Finding the right hinges for your commercial doors doesn't have to be complicated. SECLOCK is the pro, one-stop premium shop for all types of hinges from multiple manufacturers. Contact us today to order hinges for your project.

Posted in: Product Education
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