Fixing a cabinet hinge
November 30, 2008 8:10 PM   Subscribe

HandymanFilter: Due to leaking water, a part of the particle board wall of a cabinet in my kitchen has crumbled and the hinge on the cabinet door has been separated from the cabinet wall, as seen in this photograph.

How would one go about fixing such a problem, short of removing the entire wall of the cabinet and replacing it with another piece of particle board? This cabinet is under a kitchen counter and in the corner of the room, which makes repair difficult.
posted by billtron to Home & Garden (7 answers total)
Since you have a wall right there behind it, there should be a 2 X 4 in the corner. I would rehang the hinge with a couple of long drywall screws.
posted by lee at 8:25 PM on November 30, 2008

You're going to want to get that rotten stuff out of there. I would cut out the rotten part and replace with a wooden patch (screwed to the 2x4 and glued around the other edges). then attach hinge to that.
posted by fshgrl at 8:27 PM on November 30, 2008

How would one go about fixing such a problem, short of removing the entire wall of the cabinet and replacing it with another piece of particle board?

Well ... I'd remove the entire wall of the cabinet and replace it with another piece of particle board, honestly. Anything less is never going to work as well. There's a reason particle board is nicknamed "Weet-Bix" by home handymen. Do not get it wet.

It looks to me that the door is fine, and it's the cabinet wall that needs repair. You might be able to patch the wall with a piece of wood of the same thickness, and some small aluminium sheets. More particle board will be fine, it's probably a standard thickness. Several glued thinner sheets to bring it up to the right thickness will work and will actually be stronger. It looks like there may be more damage up higher, and on the outside piece, but assuming not, basically what you need to do is:

Remove the door and empty the cupboard. Cut away the destroyed parts of the particle board, cutting slightly further than you need to (ie remove some healthy board), cut in a rectangle of known size, measure exactly how large that rectangle is, cut another piece of wood to that size, and make sure it fits exactly. Cut it very slightly too small, and use a thick glue (Araldite, or hot glue gun glue) to attach it and seat it exactly in place so that the edge to the kitchen, and the edge to the inside of the cupboard, are flush with the uncut parts. Use a ruler.

Save the thin strip of white plastic stuff if you can, you will hopefully be able to just glue it back onto the patch. If it's fine further down, just clean it of wet particle board in the section where it is to be re-attached.

You can get small aluminium rectangles with predrilled holes from hardware stores. Put these over the glued crack, drill guide holes with a small drill bit, and put in screws. Use at least three - one for each edge, one for the corner. Too many is better than too few, and they are inside the cupboard where nobody cares.

The row of "dots" looks to me like holes for shelf mounts - a wood screw run all the way through will do just as well to hold the shelf in place, or just redrill the hole for the mount where you want your shelf. Make sure you don't put an aluminium brace over where the shelf mount should be.

Next, redrill your holes for the hinge mount. That looks like a two-piece hinge that is designed to be attached to the door, have the hinge mount attached to the inner wall, then have the door fitted and the hinge adjusted. Fortunately, adjusting this is fairly easy, if tedious. In your case, leave the hinge mount on, take out the screws from the hinge mount, bend the top and bottom hinges to the "flat" (ie, fully open) position, and put the door back on the bottom hinge. Mark the places to drill holes with a pen, drill guide holes, and put the hinge mount and its screws in place. Then remount the door, close it, align it so it opens easily and closes to the "flush" position, and retighten the hinge.

Lastly, reglue your white strip of plastic over your patch. Leave it for a few hours for the glue to all dry, then it should be fine.

If you haven't fixed your underlying leakage problem, expect your patch to outlast the rest of the cabinet ...
posted by aeschenkarnos at 8:57 PM on November 30, 2008

IF the cabinet door isn't very close to the next door or some other obstruction, you might be able to get away with 'facing' it with plywood.

Take the door off and cut a thin-ish sheet of plywood to properly cover the hole and down to the level of the other hinges. Glue and screw the plywood on. Re-attach hinges. That top one won't hold very tightly into the plywood (not enough depth for the screws) but it will at least keep the top stable.

Adding the thickness of plywood will shift the whole door to the right by the thickness of the plywood, so be sure you have the space to do this. Some hinges can be adjusted back to compensate.

Good luck.
posted by Xhris at 9:28 PM on November 30, 2008

As someone who's just gone through two different kitchen rebuilds (my own and helping with a friend's), I'm with aeschenkarnos above: anything other than replacing it will be hacky. While you're breaking it down and replacing that entire side anyway, use plywood instead of particleboard. It's a long series of annoying steps to break all that down and get it out: you really want to get the entire 'carcass' or box out of the wall so you can work on it, and that will probably mean removing the NEXT, perfectly-fine cabinet too. But it's the only way I can see your fix being anything more than a hack to extend the life a bit.

Plywood would have survived your water problem. The next time I make a kitchen (god, let it be far, far in the future), particleboard will be banned from the whole project. Hell, now that I am familiar with how stupidly simple their construction is, I'll make all the cabinet carcasses myself, and buy only pro doors and fancy hinges.

Particleboard is the devil.
posted by rokusan at 10:26 PM on November 30, 2008

Particleboard is indeed the devil, but if your leak is fixed and you've thoroughly dried that particular devil out (preferably with a fan heater, on low, left running inside the cupboard with the door open for a day or so) then it will be crumbly and weak but not actually inclined to rot.

As aeschenkarnos says, the insides of a kitchen cabinet don't usually have to be beautiful, so if there's no structural integrity issue beyond the failure to support the hinge, I'd just do what lee says. Use a thinnish drill to extend the existing screw holes all the way through the particleboard and into the wood behind it, then lubricate a couple of long screws with soap, and use those to fix the hinges back in place.

You should find that the pressure from the hinge plate compresses the bulged particleboard a little, and that may actually be enough to disguise how buggered it is when you're looking at the cupboard from the outside. If not, drill more holes and use more long screws to fix metal strips above and below the hinge, which will get you more compression of the crumbly board's front edge.

If that isn't real timber to the left of the damaged wall - if that two inch strip I can see in the photo is in fact just another piece of particleboard edge-on - none of that will work. But you may find it's easier to replace that little strip with a decent lump of timber than it is to replace the whole cupboard wall.

In fact, if you do end up replacing that strip, you might find that removing it gives you enough working space to bash the left wall out of the cupboard and slide it out to the front. Then you could cut a piece of plywood to the same size, paint it white, slide it back into place, then fix it from inside the cupboard using cleats in the top, bottom and rear. If the strip along the top of the cupboard door is load-bearing, you'd want temporary struts inside before taking out the left wall.
posted by flabdablet at 4:59 AM on December 1, 2008

Here's one more vote for removing the damaged area of particle board, if not the whole piece. A lot will depend on what is behind that area -- is there a piece of healthy wood that the replacement piece can be attached to? Or is it just more water-damaged particle board?

The one point I'd very slightly disagree with aeschenkarnos is in what glue to use: if you are gluing in a small square of particle board or plywood, I would use construction adhesive on both the edges and the back side of the piece, rather than hot glue. (Construction adhesive is sold at hardware and building supply stores, can bridge quite large gaps, and is impressively strong. You can buy it in large tubes that fit into a caulking gun, or in smaller toothpaste-style tubes that you squeeze by hand.)

Before you begin, you'll want to make sure that you really did fix the leak, because otherwise all your work will be for naught and the particle board will just keep crumbling and growing mold.
posted by Forktine at 6:21 AM on December 1, 2008

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