Also called saloon hinges, double-action hinges allow doors to swing in both directions while a tension rod brings the door back to the center position. In the home, double-action hinges prove useful for kitchens because they allow you to use your body to push the door open while you move dishes back and forth from the dining room, for example. However, you can fit other doors with double-action hinges, even those with traditional knobs and locks.
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How a Double-Action Hinge Works
A double-action hinge has two connected hinges. Just like a normal hinge, one side attaches to the door frame and the other side attaches to the door. The hinge "unfolds" when it swings one direction and operates like a normal hinge when it swings the other direction. Springs located inside the hinges apply tension to pull the door back to the central position.
Preparing to Install a Double-Action Hinge
Before installing a double-action hinge, remove the door and the existing hinges. Then examine the door frame itself. Look for any strips of wood on the top and side that would impede the motion of the door. Remove these if applicable.
Now you need to think about where the hinges will sit. Normally, a hinge sits on the outside of the door frame. But when two hinges exist, you must ensure that the metal piece that connects the two hinges fits your door frame. Ideally, one hinge will sit outside of the frame to the left, and the other will sit on the right side without requiring any adjustments to the door frame.
But with too-small hinges, the fastener that attaches to the door frame will not lay flat. You can potentially fix this by attaching the hinges to the door stopper on the hinge side of the door frame rather than removing said stopper, or by adding a suitable piece of wood. However, you may need to cut a thin strip off of the door itself to make it fit after attaching the hinge this way. Finally, depending on the style of the double-action hinge you purchase, you may not need to make any adjustments whatsoever.
Installing the Double-Action Hinge
Once you know that the metal fastener can lay flat on the door frame, measure 3 inches from the top of the door frame to mark where the top of the first double hinge will rest, and 7 inches from the bottom of the frame to mark where the bottom of the second hinge will rest. Because you need clearance above the door itself, measure approximately 2.75 inches from the top hinge (for best results, measure the height of the door and compare it to the height of the door frame in order to calculate an ideal top and bottom clearance). Save the bottom door measurement for later.
Note that double-action hinges come in sets of two (light to moderate traffic) or three (heavy traffic or a heavy door). If you need to install three hinges, the third hinge should be located about 2 to 3 inches down from the bottom edge of the top hinge.
After aligning the hinge with each mark, use a level to confirm straightness. Then use a pencil to mark the holes for the screws on the door frame and for the top hinge on the door. Drill pilot holes and screw the the hinge to the door frame.
Ideally, you can have a helper hold the door steady (resting it on top of some spare pieces of wood if needed) as you screw the top hinge into the door. While still providing support with the pieces of wood, lay the bottom hinge flat against the door and mark the screw holes with a pencil. Then drill the pilot holes and attach the screws. Now the hinges should be able to support the weight of the door on their own.
Adjusting the Tension Rod
Springs inside the hinges determine the amount of effort required to push open a dual-action door, as well as the amount of time it takes for the door to return to the center and to stop swinging.
The tension is adjusted by using an Allen wrench or metal pin to tighten or loosen the spring. Inserting a pin or screw keeps that desired tension steady.
Double-action hinges can be installed with the tension up or down. This refers to whether the adjustment point faces the ceiling or the floor. If installing double doors with double-action hinges, fitting one door's hinges with tension up and the opposite door's hinges with tension down tends to help them function smoothly.