How to Choose a Commercial Door Hinge

When it comes to installation, using the wrong type of door hinge can really affect your commercial application. For example, if you have a high use or special requirement door opening, then your hinge needs to be matched to fit that demand.

Heavy duty, commercial door hinges are hardware built to connect multiple heavy objects and stabilize how they rotate. They are also known as heavyweight, anti-friction bearing hinges, or heavyweight ball bearing hinges. These are designed to work with heavy doors that are frequently used in high traffic places.

To find out how to choose a heavy door hinge, this guide walks through the aspects critical to commercial grade applications. Like how to find the total door weight (including additional hardware like closers), and other important considerations ensuring success. Additionally, there will be links to handy resources, specifications documents and live personnel to help with your project.

How to Choose Commercial Door Hinges

Are you sure that you need a heavy duty door hinge? The structure of your door is only one determining factor in how to pick an appropriate hinge.

So what makes hinge a commercial hinge, anyway? Typically, a business or industrial setting application such as a bank, hospital, warehouse, etc. would need fortification, limit access or monitor the doors operations. With each unique application, a business becomes dependent on the high demand placed on the door and hinge system.

Types of Hinges

Installers may not realize how many types of hinges there are and how each one provides a different strength or value to its application. It’s important to find the right type of commercial hinge to stabilize your entryway and make it safe for ongoing operations. So, without expert knowledge of commercial door and hinge pairing, installing the right match could be challenging.

Door Weight

Understanding the weight of your door and its usage is another factor necessary for successful service. You also need to know the door weight and the type of traffic moving through the entryway. High frequency doors need heavy duty commercial steel hinges, for example. 

Here are a few factors to consider before buying a commercial door hinge: 

How Will the Hinge Be Used

You should pick the heavy duty hinge that makes the most sense for your application. For example, the McKinney heavy weight bearing hinges work best for high frequency, heavy wood, and metal doors used for public buildings, schools, hospitals, and industrial settings. 

We provide guidance below on different sizes, types of heavy duty hinges, and applications. 

Understanding Costs of Hinges

Hinge costs mainly depend on the type of hinge, size, and the material it’s made from. Steel hinges are best for heavy-duty applications, but they tend to be higher cost than a lightweight, cheaper hinge.  

Custom-made or specialty hinges tend to have a higher price. The McKinney five-knuckle heavy weight full mortise hinge is a standard type of hinge used for most commercial applications. It comes in stainless steel, brass, and steel. These generally cost less while still using sturdy materials for long-term, reliable use.

Picking the Right Size of Commercial Door Hinge

Charts for matching height and thickness can be found below.

How Big is the Door (Height, Width, and Thickness)?

Heavier doors require larger hinges made from reliable, sturdy materials like steel. If you have a door that is quite large and wide, then you should pick a hinge that is 5” or more, rather than trying to make smaller hinges work with a heavy door. 

How Will You Install the Hinge?

There are four main types of installation for heavy duty hinges. 
  • Full mortise: Longer leaves with both fully mortises, one installed on the door and another on the frame. 
  • Full surface: Both leaves are installed to the surface, one to the door and one on the frame.
  • Half mortise: One leaf is mortised to the door, and another one is installed to the surface of the frame.
  • Half surface: One leaf is mortised to the frame another is attached to the surface of the door.

How to determine between mortise and surface? Mortise is better to use if you are using a door frequently because they are typically stronger.

Hinge Materials Available

There are generally four different types of materials available:
  • Stainless steel
  • Brass
  • Iron
  • Bronze

Steel may not be as strong or durable as brass, iron, and bronze materials, but it’s more affordable and resilient to corrosion. These are also available in different finishes from bright gold or silver, or you may want to choose a concealed or hidden hinge style.

Other Hinge Considerations: Removing the Door? 

If you have a larger industrial operation that often needs to remove the door for larger shipments or other applications, then you should look for door hinges with removable pins, such as a butt hinge. 

Choosing the Right Heavy Duty Hinge Bearing Explained

When it comes to picking a commercial hinge, it’s best to go with a heavyweight, ball-bearing or five-knuckle hinge. However, you may not need this type of heavy duty door. 

Based on the application and door size, select the proper weight and bearing type of hinge: 

  • Heavyweight, ball bearing or 5-knuckle hinges: These hinges work best with heavy doors in high-traffic, high-frequency areas.
  • Heavyweight, anti-friction bearings or 3 knuckle hinges: High-frequency and heavy traffic entryways with heavy weight steel doors would use these hinges.
  • Residential type, plain bearing hinges: Hinge leaves are smaller with lightweight designs that can’t handle heavy weight doors and high-traffic areas.
  • Standard weight, ball-bearing: Low to medium frequency entryways with medium weight doors are suitable for this type. 
  • Standard weight, plain bearing: For use with lightweight doors and low traffic points.

Other heavy duty hinge types available:

  • Butt hinge: One of the best types of hinges for heavy doors, these plain-bearing hinges have removable pins. They can be used for exterior and commercial doors, as well as interior doors. 
  • Spring hinge: This is a mortise hinge that has a built-in spring included with the barrel, enabling the door to close automatically after opening. This makes it a good fit for an external commercial door as it secures your building, keeps elements out, and doesn’t lose any heat or cooling from staying open. 
  • Concealed European hinge: Also known as a “flush hinge,” these commercial hinges are installed inside of the door which means that you don’t see them from the outside looking in. These are primarily used for cabinets, but there are also some heavy duty concealed hinges. 
  • Continuous or “piano” hinges: These hinges get their name from their unique design that runs the full length of a door, allowing the weight to be fully distributed along the entire hinge. While this hinge is mostly common for smaller items, larger piano hinges are used for blast doors, which you see in bank vaults, bomb shelters, and barn doors.

Bearing structures also matter when selecting the proper hinge. Each has a different structure for lightweight or heavyweight applications, which is predominantly based around the number of knuckles. Higher knuckles are used for heavyweight hinges.  These bearing types break down into the following:

  • Plain bearing: There’s nothing special about these bearings. These are standard for residential, low traffic, and lightweight doors. 
  • Anti-friction bearing: Bearings can be made of different materials. Anti-friction bearings are made from engineered plastics that lubricate the bearing surface. The nylon piece works as padding for the door, allowing it to easily swing smoothly across the surface of the nylon. This leads to less wear on the hinge.
  • Ball bearings: These are designed to pitch the knuckle weight against a hardened steel raceway. This allows the knuckle to ride the bearing surface smoothly. A single-piece cup prevents moisture and dust from getting inside the bearing. There are different weights for ball bearings, starting with a standard weight 2 ball bearing. Heavy weight ball bearing hinges have 4 or more. 

What Applications Use Heavy Duty Door Hinges 

Since the type of hinge depends on the application, it’s important to understand how the doors will be used and what hinge is needed to stabilize the weight and frequency of rotation. They may be used for entryways, industrial access doors, gates, cabinets, and other structures. Most hinges are made from aluminum or steel so they can resist corrosion, which makes them last longer than a standard hinge. 

There are unique applications where specific door hinges are required. These are some of the most common applications for heavy duty hinges:


Within medical practices, hospitals, and other industrial medical facilities, heavy lead-lined doors can protect against radiation. You may need neutron shielding, ballistic doors, vault doors, and other security access doors with hidden hinges to handle the frequency of rotation. 


For secured access and armored doors, heavyweight hinges provide a secure way to stabilize military grade access doors and other large load doors. 

Chemical Processing Plants

Heavy duty stainless steel doors are frequently used in processing plants and chemical warehouses where there is application machinery, processing equipment, and corrosive materials. 

Industrial Security Doors

Petroleum and natural gas facilities may use heavy duty gate hinges for industrial access entryways. They may also be used in mining and other secured storage facilities. 

Marine Applications

Most marine applications need heavy loading and unloading doors, steel gates, secure personnel access, and security doors. 


Gate hinges, heavy duty panels, and large steel doors are frequently used on construction sites, but each project is different and may use a variety of ball-bearing hinges depending on the load and traffic. 


Livestock containers and special entry gates often need heavy duty hinges with 5-knuckle ball bearings. 

Research and Development

Laboratories and containment centers often use heavy duty hinges to protect employees and the projects. Many facilities need to contain radiation with large, security access doors. 

Heavyweight Containers

Shipping containers use heavyweight, 5-knuckle ball bearing hinges to contain and secure large-scale cargo. 

OEM Requirements

Do you make your own equipment or need specialty hinges? Heavy duty hinges can be made for entry doors, gates, loading doors, control cabinet doors, and many other unique applications.

Illuminated Panels 

Signage panels need hinges for illuminated wall cladding, LED panels, LCD displays, and other panel types. 

In each of these applications, heavyweight hinges can be used to improve and streamline the performance of your operations. Your doors, gates, and panels will feel stabilized and secure by having the right size of hinge as well. 

How to Know What Size Hinge I Need?

There are only two dimensions you need to remember with door hinge sizes: height and width. 

To know the necessary height of a door hinge, check the door thickness and door width. 


To know the necessary width of a door hinge, check the door thickness, standard backset size, and max clearance needed. 

table - height of hinge

Note for Hinge Width: The measure of hinge width refers to the measurement across the full leaf span when in open position. 

In addition, these charts show the common sizes of door hinges. For special applications, you can use this formula below:

How are Commercial Door Hinges Measured: Formula for Door Hinge Sizes

Before calculating the door hinge size, you’ll need to know the following:

  • Door thickness
  • Backset size
  • Maximum clearance
  • Note: For wood doors and frames, measure with the door flush with the casing or by the face of the frame. 
  • Note: For metal doors and hollow metal frames, the door has an inset of an estimated ⅛” typically.

Now apply to this formula: 

(Door thickness - backset size) x 2 + clearance needed = Door Hinge Width 

One final note on how to measure a door hinge: 

If you have a hinge that does not fit the approximate standard size, then go to up to the next larger width. For those with a door hinge width that is greater than its height, then you will need a full mortise hinge. 

How to Know Number of Hinges Needed for Your Door

The general rule for the number of hinges needed is one hinge every 30 inches. Using this rule, here are some common ways to number hinges: 

  • Door heights up to 60” = 2 hinges
  • Door heights between 60” and 90” = 3 hinges 
  • Door heights over 90” and under “120” = 4 hinges

Some precautions are necessary for doors with widths over 37” and under 48” due to their unique size. One extra hinge may be placed for additional strength, especially if you need more tension applied to the frame due to its width. 

In addition, if using a spring hinge, you will at least two spring hinges for any application. 

What Number of Knuckles Do My Hinges Need

So what is the knuckle of a hinge? A hinge knuckle is the hollow cylindrical center point of the hinge, where the two leaves meet. Knuckles may also be called loops, joints, nodes, or curls. 

There are 2-, 3-, and 5-knuckle hinges when considering hinges, but only 3- and 5-knuckle hinges are used in heavy duty applications. 

  • 2-knuckle hinges are only used with residential doors. 
  • 3-knuckle hinges come with different bearings and are made for most heavy duty applications. You will purchase these with a plain bearing or anti-friction bearing. 
  • 5-knuckle hinges are typically used for heavyweight doors and come with ball-bearings or plain bearings. 

Did You Pick the Right Hinge?

It’s hard to know sometimes what will be best. We can help you select the right hinges lickety-split. Just call our experts or reach out to us to get help