How to recess a door hinge

Written by kevin mcdermott
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A door hinge has to be made of relatively thick metal (usually about 1/8 inch thick for a standard household hinge) because it has to hold the weight of the door. This thickness of the metal will hold the door out from the door jamb (the flat surface of the doorway facing in toward the opening) and interfere with the door's operation unless that hinge is recessed into the wood on both sides. If you've never used a wood chisel before, practice on some scrap wood before you attempt to recess the hinge.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Hinge
  • Razor knife
  • Wood chisel
  • Hammer
  • Power drill with pilot bit
  • Screwdriver bit
  • Hinge screws

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  1. 1

    Stand the door on edge, with the latch side on the floor, so the hinge side is facing up at you. Set a hinge in the position you want it on the edge, generally about eight inches from the top or bottom of the door or in the middle. Set it toward the side of the edge that will swing into the room, with the hinge pin hanging off that side.

  2. 2

    Use your pencil to mark around the rectangular plate of the hinge. Remove the hinge. Use your razor knife to cut around the pencil mark, making the cut about 1/8 inch deep all around.

  3. 3

    Peel away a layer of wood within the cut area, using your wood chisel and hammer. Make the cut inset the same depth as the razor-knife cut you made (about 1/8 inch).

  4. 4

    Place the hinge plate back on the door in the cutout area, so the hinge plate surface is even with the wood. Drill pilot holes into the door at each screw hole using your power drill and pilot bit.

  5. 5

    Load your power drill with its screwdriver bit. Put hinge screws in each hole to secure the hinge to the door.

  6. 6

    Repeat for each hinge on the door. Stand the door in the opening in its proper position, and repeat the inset process to hang the door, tracing and cutting around the hinge plates against the side of the door, opening and installing them with hinge screws.

Tips and warnings

  • Wear eye protection when using a power drill.

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