Recessed Door Hinge

Why Do Door Hinges Have To Be Recessed?

In Remodeling by Giovanni ValleLeave a Comment

Installing a door isn’t as easy as it sounds. A door is one of the most functional pieces of any home or furniture, and its functioning is essential. So why do you actually need to recess your door hinges?

Door hinges need to be recessed so that there’s no gap between the frame and the door when the door closes. If there were a crack between the frame and the door, air or bugs might be able to get through. It can also help with the door’s weight by not putting so much pressure on the frame.

Below, I’ll discuss the importance of recessing your door hinges and the few instances where it may not be necessary. Additionally, I’ll explain what an inlet or outlet door hinge is and how it works.

Do I Have To Recess My Door Hinges?

If you’re in the middle of a home project, you may be looking for any way you can cut time or material costs. Recessing doors, one of the less glamorous home projects, might be the focus of your subtraction. Is recessing your door hinges necessary?

You may have to recess some door hinges for them to function correctly while others will be okay without recessing. Also, if you don’t recess door hinges that require it, there will be a gap between your door and the doorframe. It’s worth taking the time to recess your door hinges properly.

Even if you’re thinking of your door hinges in the context of your cabinet doors rather than the front/back door, you won’t want a gap between the door and frame. It’ll look unprofessional and defeat the purpose of putting a door on.

About Door Hinges

Door hinges are the little metal pieces that help your door swing open and closed. They’re usually made up of a few moving, rolling parts and two large, sturdy pieces that go into the door and the frame. If you were to drill a hinge into a piece of wood and put the other piece on another piece of wood, there would be a space when the door opens and closes.

Recessing means to attach something by placing it deeper into the wall or surface where it’s attached. For doors, this might look like drilling out a one or two-inch (2.54 or 5.08 cm) pit for the hinge to go into. This way, when the door opens or closes, your door will be flush against the frame.

You can also buy hinges, more typically for cabinets, that are already “recessed” in a sense. Recessed door hinges are sometimes called hinges with an offset or an inset. These hinges come with the hinge pushed out so that nothing needs to be cut out of the door or frame.

If You Don’t Recess Your Hinges, You’ll Be Letting in Air

So what if you let in a bit of air? You don’t technically have to recess your door hinge. The door will open and close either way. But, without recessing the little bit of air coming through can have more of an effect than you might expect.

When you’re heating your home, the tiny air gap can mean losing tons of money in energy costs during winter. Your door will let out hot air and let in cool air, meaning your furnace has to work faster. Additionally, if you live in an area with lots of bugs and critters, the slight gap may mean more insects in your house. This is because when winter comes, mice and bugs look for warmth thus they might crawl right in through the gap and infiltrate your home.

A door that closes completely also gives you peace of mind. You know that nobody will be able to bust it with a crowbar or stick anything inside that could harm you.

If you are dealing with a cabinet or piece of furniture, the air, critters, and crowbar fears might not apply to you. In general, though, there’s a reason your cabinets need to have a recessed door hinge. It usually makes things look more professional and cleaner. If the aesthetic isn’t essential to you, then it might be a step you ignore.

Recessing Depends on the Door Hinge

Some door hinges are okay without a recess, but they are far and few between. You should double-check the instructions to see how deep a recess needs to be created for the door hinge to function. In general, door hinges that might not need a recess are:

  • Bi-fold hinges (which help doors swing in both directions)
  • Concealed hinges (which can be used for cabinets, furniture, and interior doors)
  • Flush hinges (usually used for furniture and cabinets)
  • T-Hinges (typically used for gates)

If you want to skip this step, your door will still open and close. However, as we mentioned above, it can affect the overall functioning of your door. You could always skip the recess and see how big of an effect it makes, then add the recess later. This would require doing the job twice, though, and it’ll probably be easier to just do everything at once.

You Can Recess Your Door Hinges by Creating a Mortise

You can make a recess if you have door hinges or cabinet hinges that don’t create a recess. Contractors and carpenters do this by creating a mortise. A mortise is a hole you’ll cut into your door to put the hinge in. Usually, your door or hinge instructions should give you the measurement of how deeply you need to cut into the frame to set your recess.

This YouTube video can give you a visual representation of how to recess your door hinge:

If you don’t have inset or inset hinges, cut a hole in the side of your door hinge and into the frame of wood you’ll be setting the door on.


Insulating your home correctly can save you tons of money on energy bills. You don’t need to recess your door hinges, but doing so will ensure the door closes tightly against the door frame. Otherwise, you’ll be leaving a gap wide enough for warm air to escape or cold air to come in.

Additionally, leaving minimal space after closing your doors prevents critters from crawling in. It also keeps you safe against tools a burglar might use to break down your door.


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