Cabinet Hardware Explained – From Decorative to Functional

Today’s cabinets vary as much in style as they do in functionality. Although styles can range wildly from simple big-box manufactured face frame cabinets with slab panel doors to intricately crafted custom cabinets hewn from the hands of generations of craftsmen, some things just never change. The cabinet hardware that makes these cabinets both functional and decorative is virtually universal throughout.

Yes, there are minor differences in cabinet hardware from one style of cabinet to another, however, the major types of hardware can be found in any style or construction of cabinet. The two main types of hardware are decorative and functional.

DECORATIVE CABINET HARDWARE

Decorative hardware, sometimes referred to as surface hardware, consists of the pieces that are mounted to the outside surface of your cabinet doors and drawer fronts. They not only provide the means with which to open your cabinet doors, they also give your cabinetry that finishing touch. The various types are:

*handle pulls

*cup pulls

*knobs

*backplates

*ring, bail and pendant pulls

Handle and cup pulls are rigid and require two mounting screws to attach to the cabinet door or drawer front. Bail pulls also require two mounting screws, however, they can be rigid or swinging type bails. Knobs are just simple post-pulls that require one mounting screw. Ring and pendant pulls can be rigid or swinging and normally require one mounting screw although some may require two with a small center-to-center measurement.

The mounting hole spacing measurement is the most important measurement of a cabinet handle pull if you are replacing existing hardware. This measurement is taken from the center of one mounting hole to the center of the other, thus it is called the center-to-center measurement (abbreviations include: C-C, C/C, CTC). Obviously if you are replacing existing cabinet pulls, you will need to match your new hardware center-to-center measurement with that of the holes already drilled into your cabinet doors. Common measurements are 3″, 3-1/2″, 96mm and 4″, however there are many more than just those four.

FUNCTIONAL CABINET HARDWARE

Functional hardware consists of the hardware pieces that make your cabinets do what they are suppose to do. Doors open and close, drawers slide out and back in, giving you access to the items you have inside. Basically, if your cabinets didn’t have any of this type of hardware in and on them, they would be pretty useless. These types include:

*door hinges

*drawer slides

Door hinges are simply the hinges that connect your cabinet doors to the actual cabinet but as simple as their function is, the types, sizes and options abound. The three main distinguishing types of cabinet hinges are concealed, semi-concealed and non-concealed. These all can come in a variety of opening angles, swing types (free-swinging vs. self-closing), overlay sizes, insets as well as finishes.

Drawer slides are the pieces of hardware that allow your drawers to slide in and out. They are sometimes referred to by other names such as drawer guides, drawer glides, drawer runners and drawer tracks. The three main types used on cabinets are: side-mount, side/under-mount and under-mount. These types can be further classified by the distance they allow a drawer to be opened such as 3/4 extension, full-extension or over-travel extension.

Cabinet hardware is not very complicated on the surface. It is the many options that these basic pieces come in that gets a little more in-depth, too in-depth for this simple primer on cabinet hardware.