Adjusting hinges on ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets is an important part of ensuring they function properly and look their best. With some basic tools and a few simple steps, you can tweak your cabinet hinges for optimal performance. This guide will walk you through the entire process of adjusting cabinet hinges on RTA cabinets.

Introduction to Adjusting RTA Cabinet Hinges

RTA or ready-to-assemble cabinets have become increasingly popular in recent years. They provide an affordable and customizable way to get new cabinets installed in your home.

The term RTA simply means the cabinets ship in pieces and require assembly. The advantage is you can often get high-quality cabinets at a fraction of the cost by putting them together yourself.

However, because RTA cabinets ship disassembled, the hinges will likely need some adjusting once installed to get proper alignment and clearance. It’s a normal part of the installation process.

Adjusting hinges on RTA cabinets involves a few key steps:

  • Understanding the types of hinges (concealed, semi-concealed, traditional butt hinges)
  • Identifying issues like misalignment or scrubbing
  • Making micro-adjustments with a screwdriver to hinge plates
  • Testing and re-adjusting until optimal position is achieved

It may take some trial and error, but cabinet hinge adjustment is a learnable skill that makes a big difference in how well your cabinets look and operate.

Tools and Supplies Needed for Adjusting RTA Cabinet Hinges

Adjusting cabinet door hinges requires just a few basic tools and supplies:


A good set of screwdrivers is essential for adjusting cabinet hinges. You’ll need both a Phillips and flathead screwdriver. Ideally, choose screwdrivers with magnetic tips to avoid dropping screws during the adjustment process.

Wax Sticks or Crayon

To mark hinge positions, a wax stick or crayon can be extremely helpful. Look for wax sticks designed specifically for cabinetry or choose a basic crayon.


Proper lighting is necessary to see hinge components clearly during the adjustment process. Use portable shop lights or lamps as needed.

Ladder/Step Stool

If accessing cabinets above countertops, have a step stool or ladder handy to reach hinges safely. Proper height access prevents injury.

Cabinet Door Adjustment Table

This specialty table features padded levels to lay cabinet doors flat while adjusting hinges. Not essential but can be useful.

With these basic supplies, you’ll be ready to start adjusting those hinges on your RTA cabinets. Now let’s look at how to identify common hinge issues.

Identifying Hinge Issues on RTA Cabinets

Before starting adjustments, inspect each cabinet door and hinge carefully to identify potential issues. Here are some of the most common hinge problems with ready-to-assemble cabinets:

1. Misalignment

If the cabinet door is out of alignment with the face frame, it likely needs hinge adjustments. Signs include large gaps between doors/drawers or doors not sitting flush.

2. Scrubbing

Scrubbing happens when the cabinet door rubs against an adjacent drawer or door. Adjustments are needed to create proper clearance.

3. Not Closing Correctly

Doors that pop open, don’t fully close, or swing wide likely need hinge adjustments for proper operation.

4. Sagging Doors

Cabinet doors that appear to sag down likely have hinges that need to be tightened. This issue is common as cabinets age.

Catching any misalignments, scrubbing issues, or sagging doors early makes the adjustment process much simpler.

Types of Hinges Used on RTA Cabinets

To properly adjust your cabinet hinges, you need to identify the specific type of hinges used. Here are the three most common hinge options:

1. Traditional Butt Hinges

These basic hinges are mounted to the exterior face frame and door. They are typically easy to adjust but don’t conceal hinge hardware.

Traditional Butt Hinges

2. Concealed Hinges

Concealed cabinet hinges feature hinge cups recessed into the cabinet door and frame. This provides a seamless interior look and allows adjustments.

Concealed Hinges

3. Semi-Concealed Hinges

Semi-concealed hinges have one hinge cup recessed while the other side is surface mounted. Provides a cleaner look than butt hinges.

Semi-Concealed Hinges

Once you confirm the hinge style used on your RTA cabinets, you can move on to making adjustments as needed.

How to Adjust Concealed Hinges on RTA Cabinets

Concealed cabinet hinges are extremely popular on modern RTA cabinets. Here are tips for properly adjusting concealed hinges:

Understand Hinge Components

A concealed hinge contains three main adjustable parts:

  • Hinge Cup: Recessed into cabinet frame.
  • Hinge Plate: Attached to cabinet door.
  • Hinge Arm: Connects hinge cup and plate.

Understanding these components allows you to make micro-adjustments to door position.

Concealed Hinge Components:strip_icc()/ConcealedCabinetHinges-5c4a334246e0fb0001721fcd.jpg)

Adjust Door Position Vertically

To shift door alignment up or down, turn the vertical adjustment screw on the hinge cup clockwise or counterclockwise. Go slow to allow small incremental shifts.

Adjust Door Position Horizontally

For left/right door adjustments, turn the horizontal screw on the hinge plate similarly. This shifts the door side-to-side.

Adjust Overlay

If the cabinet door overlaps the frame too much or too little, rotate the hinge arm slightly where it meets the hinge plate to adjust overlay.

Once you get familiar with how each component impacts door position, concealed hinges give you great control over alignment.

How to Adjust Traditional Butt Hinges on RTA Cabinets

While traditional butt hinges lack the adjustability of concealed hinges, you can still tweak door alignment as needed:

Mark Hinge Positions

Use a wax pencil to mark the current position of hinge plates for reference when making adjustments.

Loosen Hinge Screws

Partially back out the screws on one hinge plate with a screwdriver. Don’t fully remove.

Nudge Hinge Plate

Slightly nudge the hinge plate to adjust door alignment, then retighten screws.

Adjust Other Hinges

Work in sequence, adjusting one hinge at a time until door hangs correctly.

It takes some trial and error, but traditional butt hinges can also be finessed into proper door alignment. Just take it slow.

Step-by-Step Process for Adjusting RTA Cabinet Hinges

Now that we’ve covered preparations and hinge types, here is a step-by-step process for adjusting hinges on assembled RTA cabinets:

1. Inspect All Doors and Drawers

Open and close to identify any misalignment, rubbing or closure issues.

2. Starting on Top Row, Fully Loosen Hinge Screws on One Door

Choose an upper cabinet to begin adjustments and loosen all screws on one hinge.

3. Adjust Door Alignment

Slowly make micro-adjustments on the hinge to nudge the door into proper position.

4. Retighten Hinge Screws

Once aligned correctly, tighten down the hinge screws fully to set the adjustment.

5. Adjust Remaining Hinges

Move to the next hinge on the door, loosening screws and adjusting as needed until aligned.

6. Test Closure and Alignment

Open and close the adjusted door to confirm proper operation with no scraping or rubbing.

7. Adjust Next Door Above

Loosen hinge screws and tweak alignment of next upper door to match adjusted door.

8. Work Down Each Section

Follow the same process while working down from top to bottom until all doors are aligned.

9. Make Final Adjustments

Give all hinges one final check, tweaking as needed for optimal clearance and seamless appearance.

Cabinet Hinge Adjustment Tips and Tricks

Beyond the basics, here are some helpful tips and tricks for adjusting cabinet hinges of all types:

  • When removing hinge screws, place them in a magnetic parts tray to avoid losing any.
  • If hinge holes are elongated from repeated adjustments, use toothpicks to fill extra space before tightening screws.
  • For minor scrubbing issues, try adding thin adhesive-backed felt pads to problem spots before adjusting hinges.
  • To limit damage, place cardboard protectors between cabinets when tapping doors into position.
  • Always double check measurements between doors, drawers, and cabinet face frames for uniform gaps after adjusting.
  • If concealed hinge adjustments aren’t solving an issue, confirm the hinge plate is mounted perfectly vertical.
  • For wider gaps at the top of doors, try raising the inner door edge slightly with concealed hinge adjustments.
  • When doors feel loose or saggy, don’t just tighten hinges – the frame may be out of square and need reinforcement.

With practice and patience, you can tweak and finesse wobbly doors into perfect alignment. Just take it slow, confirm improvements after each adjustment, and enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done.

Troubleshooting Tricky Cabinet Hinge Adjustments

For most installs, carefully following the standard cabinet hinge adjustment steps will result in beautifully aligned doors and drawers. But some problem hinges refuse to cooperate. Here are solutions for some of the trickiest hinge issues:

Hinge Bind

If a door feels tight closing and hinge adjustments haven’t helped, the hinge bind needs to be corrected. Simply loosen the bottom hinge screws slightly to allow the door to find proper alignment.

Hinge Arm Limitations

On concealed hinges, a maxed out hinge arm won’t allow further adjustments. Switch to a hinge with more flexibility or shim behind the hinge plate.

Door Won’t Close

If a door won’t close or presses against an adjacent drawer front, try adding thick self-adhesive felt pads to contact points for clearance.

Out of Plumb Frames

When one side of a cabinet is out of plumb, the weight of the door will skew adjustments. Use shims under the cabinet brackets to level before adjusting hinges.

Loose Hinge Holes

Elongated hinge holes prevent secure screws. Fill extra space with toothpicks, golf tees, or wood shims before re-tightening screws.

Don’t get frustrated if a few hinges refuse to cooperate. With one of these solutions, you can outsmart even the most stubborn RTA cabinet hinge.

How Long Should Hinge Adjustments Take?

Adjusting all the hinges on a full kitchen’s worth of RTA cabinets is not a quick process, but also doesn’t have to take forever if done efficiently. Here are some general time estimates:

  • Per Door: 5-10 minutes
  • Per Section: 30-60 minutes
  • Full Kitchen Cabinets: 3-5 hours

Working in manageable sections with adequate lighting, tools, and breaks will keep the process moving along smoothly. Rushing through hinge adjustments risks subpar alignment and door function. But taking your time ensures impressive results.

When to Call a Professional for Hinge Adjustments

While DIY hinge adjustment is entirely feasible for most homeowners, certain circumstances do warrant calling in a professional:

  • Cabinets still under warranty – improper adjustments could void the warranty.
  • Extensive repairs needed – if doors are extremely out of alignment or hinges are damaged/missing.
  • Little DIY experience – first-time adjustments on expensive new cabinets can be nerve-wracking.
  • Tricky design elements – unique cabinetry, corner units, or glass doors often benefit from a pro.
  • Medical limitations – those with back issues or dexterity problems should avoid the strain and risk of adjustments.

Even if you need a carpenter to tackle the initial hinge tuning, learn how to do touch ups. Adjustments are often needed as homes settle over time. But don’t be intimidated to DIY it either – the basics are straightforward with a little care and patience!

Maintaining Properly Adjusted RTA Cabinet Hinges

Your hinge adjustment work doesn’t end once the doors are correctly aligned. Maintaining your RTA cabinets will require occasional hinge tweaks and upkeep.

Here are pro tips for keeping cabinets looking their best long-term:

  • Every 6 months check hinges for loose screws and snug them up if needed. Loose hinges can shift out of alignment over time.
  • Listen for scrubbing sounds when opening/closing doors. At the first sign, adjust to prevent damage.
  • When cleaning cabinets, wipe down hinge pins/caps to keep debris free. Built up gunk can prevent smooth operation.
  • Consider replacing standard hinge screws with self-tightening screws. They resist loosening over time.
  • If doors start to sag later on, don’t just tighten hinges – aging cabinets need reinforcement too.
  • Make micro-adjustments immediately if you notice doors shifting out of alignment. Don’t let issues compound.

Don’t duck out on basic cabinet maintenance. Well-adjusted hinges and doors properly cared for will give you many years of flawlessly functioning cabinets.

Ready for Beautifully Aligned Cabinets? Adjust Those Hinges!

That covers everything you need to know to master adjusting cabinet door hinges on ready-to-assemble cabinets.

While the process takes some time and patience, remember that meticulously adjusted hinges make a world of difference in both the appearance and performance of your kitchen. Whenever you catch your reflections in those perfectly aligned doors, you’ll appreciate the effort spent.

So grab your tools, queue up some music, and get busy tuning those wobbly doors into seamless symmetry. With the steps outlined here, you can achieve stunning results. Those buttery smooth cabinets are within your reach – just slowly turn a few screws and finesse those hinges.

Frequently Asked Questions

Still have some lingering questions about adjusting RTA cabinet hinges? We’ve got you covered with concise answers to the most common FAQs:

How much should I budget for a professional to adjust RTA cabinet hinges?

On average, expect to pay $50-100 per hour with a minimum service call fee for a professional to adjust hinges. Many charge in the $250-350 range for a medium-sized kitchen.

Will new RTA cabinets definitely need hinge adjustments?

Yes, nearly all new RTA cabinets require at least minor hinge adjustments during initial installation. This tweak and alignment process is standard.

Should I replace cheap cabinet hinges on new RTA cabinets?

Upgrading low-quality hinges to soft-close concealed models will improve performance and adjustment flexibility. But optional if current hinges function.

How difficult is it for a beginner DIYer to adjust cabinet hinges?

The basics are straightforward with a little care and by working on one section at a time. Patience is key. But don’t be intimidated to learn!

My cabinet door hits the wall before closing. How do I fix this?

Try adjusting the hinges towards the outer edge of the door subtly to pull it tighter to the cabinet when closing. If minimal, adding a cabinet catch can help too.

Why do my newly adjusted cabinet doors need hinge tweaks again after a few weeks?

As a new home settles over the first year, shifting and settling can nudge doors out of alignment. Maintain vigilance and do touch ups as needed.

How do I stop my cabinet doors from slowly sagging down over time?

Regularly check for loose hinge screws and tighten any wiggle room to prevent sagging. Also reinforce weakening framework and consider adding shelf pins long-term.

My doors seemed aligned at first but now have wide gaps between them. What happened?

Humidity changes can subtly impact wood dimensions. Recheck alignments seasonally. Also confirm cabinets weren’t accidentally shifted during cleaning or use.