Do Hinges Need To Be Recessed?

Doors are things we use every day, but we never really take the time to think about how they work or how the hinges hold the door to work. It’s only when you are installing a door into a frame that you have to consider this. One of the parts of mounting a new door is attaching the hinges, and when it comes to this, you may ask yourself whether the hinge needs to be recessed into said door and frame.

Hinges don’t need to be recessed, although it is common practice. The technique used (i.e., recessed or flush) is dependent on the type of hinge used, as some of them have to be recessed while others will work either way. Hinges can either be recessed or mounted flush onto the door and frame.

Whether you’re asking yourself this question because you are in the middle of installing a door yourself, or you’re just curious, before we can discuss whether or not door hinges need to be recessed, we first need to explain why door hinges are recessed in the first place. This article will also discuss the types of door hinges available on the market. Now let’s get started!

Why Are Door Hinges Recessed?

Door hinges are most often recessed into both the door and door frame to ensure that when the door is closed, the door sits flush against the doorframe and doesn’t leave a gap through which air and sound can travel. It is a way of ‘sealing’ off a room or building against the external environment and also helps insulate a space.

Do Hinges Need To Be Recessed?

When a hinge is recessed into the frame and door, it will also give a more professional look to the door’s final appearance and movement. But other than the appearance of a recessed hinge, it also helps keep the hinge in place. The mortise cut into the door and frame is usually not much larger than the hinge leaf, so when it’s installed into a recess, the hinge will be less likely to twist or move out of place due to the weight of the door.

Although there are some definite benefits to recessing hinges, it does make for a lot of extra work. For this reason, many people have wondered and argued on whether it is essential to do so. We’ll discuss this question in the next section.

Is It Necessary to Recess Door Hinges?

It has been common practice to recess hinges for many years. Most builders and carpenters learn this as the standard way of installing a door when they do their apprenticeships. However, since many DIYers are out in the world these days, people have started to question if you have to recess a hinge when installing it. You may be wondering this same thing right now (since you’re reading this article).

The answer; not really. But wait! Let us explain what we mean by “not really.” Some hinges have to be recessed to function correctly. In contrast, others can be mounted flush to a surface without impacting its function. So the long answer would be; yes for some, no for others.

If you’ve been installing doors for quite some time or have a lot of DIY experience, you may be able to tell just by looking at a hinge whether or not it needs to be recessed or not. But just in case this is your first time working with hinges of any kind, we’ve compiled two lists of hinges that do and don’t need to be recessed to make it easier for you.

Hinges that do need to be recessed:

  • Butt hinges
  • Ball-bearing hinges
  • Case hinges
  • Hospital hinges
  • Olive knuckle hinges
  • Pivot hinges
  • Heavy-duty hinges
  • Double action spring hinges
  • Barrel hinges
  • Soss hinges
  • Knife hinges

Hinges that don’t need to be recessed:

  • Flush hinges
  • Concealed hinges
  • T-hinges / strap hinges
  • Butterfly hinges
  • Bi-fold hinges
  • Flag hinges

As you can see, there are far more hinges that need to be recessed than those that don’t, but this is mainly due to the size of the hinges and the thickness of the hinge leaves. The need for recess hinges may also be determined by the application they are used for. Hinges that hold smaller attachments aren’t under as much stress as those that hold larger attachments and thus don’t need the extra support that a recess can provide.

However, in the end, it is all up to you, and you can decide whether you think it necessary or advantageous to recess the hinges you are working with.

Types of Door Hinges

Installing a door is not as easy as attaching a hinge to it and calling it a day. You need to know which type of hinge to use for which purpose and whether or not they require you to cut a mortise so that they can be recessed.

There are many hinges available on the market nowadays, so much so that it can be overwhelming when you walk into the hinge aisle of a hardware store and don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. We’re going to go over the most common types of hinges to stop you from experiencing that feeling of overwhelming.

Butt Hinge

Butt hinges are probably the most commonly used type of hinge. They consist of two identical leaves attached to a curled barrel, also called the ‘knuckle.’ One of the leaves is attached to the knuckle’s stationary part while the other is attached to the mobile part. They are used most often for external doors as they can support a lot of weight. Subtypes include lift-joint, rising, and ball-bearing butt hinges.

Flush Hinge

Flush hinges are one of the other most commonly used hinges. They were designed to take up as little space as possible on the side of the door and achieve this by having one of the leaves fit into the other when the door is closed, like two puzzle pieces. They aren’t quite as strong as butt hinges because of this design but can be used for both internal and external doors.


Strap hinges (also known as t-hinges or gate hinges) are the most interesting-looking hinges for sure. They feature one regular leaf and another elongated leaf, which makes this hinge look like a T. The longer leaf provides the door with much more support, so these are often used for heavy doors and gates. However, they are the least secure type of hinge since they are attached to the outside of a door and can easily be taken off.

Ball-Bearing Hinge

Ball-bearing hinges are the most durable type of hinge available today. Their design is similar to that of the butt hinge, except that they have a ball bearing between two separate knuckles. This helps reduce the friction that wears down the hinge over time by keeping it permanently lubricated, which means that the door will open and close more smoothly.

Concealed Hinge

Concealed hinges are exactly what the name suggests; concealed. They are most often used in cabinets but can be used for other doors as well. They attach to the inside of the cabinet’s frame and the back of the door so that when the door is closed, it sits flush against the front of the cabinet, and you can’t see the knuckles of hinges sticking out on the sides.


It turns out the answer to this straightforward question has a not-so-simple answer. While some hinges do need to be recessed, others do not. Hopefully, this article was able to help you understand why this is and which hinges fall into which category. However, it would always be best to consult a professional if you’re still unsure whether or not to recess the type of hinge you’re working with.


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