How to Adjust or Replace Cabinet Latches

If your cabinets have latches to hold them closed, and are not closing all the way, or are very hard to open, chances are you need to adjust or replace the latches. This is a really easy job to do; much like adjusting the hinges was in the last post.

There could be any number of reasons that your cabinets aren’t latching properly, this can be anything from improper placement of either the latch or the catch, to having too much weight in the cupboard, which can slightly alter the placement of one or both of the pieces (even on the side of the cupboard) due to the flexing of the cupboard material.



Assess the Problem

Look at the problem cabinet’s latch and catch hardware. If they don’t look broken (if you’re not sure, check a cabinet that works fine with the same hardware) then you can move on to diagnosing another problem. If they do look broken, simply replace them as described below.

If you think that the problem with your latches is that you simply have too much weight in the cabinet, try taking some of the weight out of there and try the door again. If it latches and stays closed, this is your problem. To fix it, you can either keep the weight to where it closes properly, or adjust the hardware as described below.

To check if the problem is that your latch and catch aren’t lining up, you can do one of a couple of things. The easiest and probably the most readily available way is to simply set the latch against the catch without closing the door, and look at how it sits against it. This will likely require a flashlight.

Cabinet Latches

A typical double roller catch for a cabinet door.

The other option is to put chalk on either the latch, or the catch and then touch the pieces together to see where the chalk rubs off. You can close the door all the way if you don’t have anything that rotates, but if you have a catch with some cylinders on it, you don’t want to, as they will rotate and you won’t know where your chalk was rubbed off of first, which is causing the problem. I had to do this on an old cabinet we used to have, which had a double roller catch, and I used blue children’s sidewalk chalk, since the white chalk wouldn’t show up on them.

Once you have figured out where the problem is, either by eyeballing it, or by using the chalk, you can fix it as described below.

Fixing the Problem

Adjusting the Hardware:

Latch Hitting Off-Center.
If your latch is hitting the right hand side (when viewed through the door) of the catch on a door with left hand side hinges, try moving the catch back by loosening the screws holding it in place and gently sliding it towards the back of the shelf. Tighten the screws and test to see if it works right, if not, either chalk it up again, or look at it and find out where it is hitting now and make the proper adjustments. As with most things of this nature it might take a few tries to get it just right. Move the catch forward if it is hitting on the left hand side. This process is simply reversed for a door that opens the opposite way, moving it back would help if it hits the left side of the catch in that case.

It might also be possible with some latches to move them from side to side; you will be able to tell because yours will have longer holes in the bracket running parallel to the bottom of the door where they are screwed in. If this is the case, just loosen those screws and move the latch left or right until it is in the right place and retighten the screws.

Latch Hitting Top or Bottom of Catch
If you can’t move your items to reduce the weight on the cupboard, or if your latch just hits the top, or bottom of the catch you can do one of two things. The first is to look for long slits for screws running parallel with the side of the door with screws in them to move the latch up and down. If yours has them, loosen the screws, move the latch up if it’s hitting the bottom, and down if hitting the top, tighten the screws, and test it.

If your cupboard doors are uneven, you can try moving the entire door up, or down, depending on what is needed as described in our post about adjusting your cabinet doors. If the doors are even, move both doors up or down using the hinges to keep that look.

Replacing or Moving the Hardware:

If your latch and catch are in good working order, but you cannot get them to line up properly to allow the door to close right, you can easily move them by simply removing the screws, taking them off, and following the instructions below.

If your catch mechanism or your latch is broken, it is easiest to just replace it with the same type of hardware. All you need to do is remove the screws from the broken part, and put them back in with the new one, right into the same holes then make the adjustments needed as described above. Sometimes you can get away with this for different latches as well, as a lot of times the holes are in standard spots.

It gets a little tougher if you have to move the hardware into another spot, but not by much. You will need to measure where your new hardware is going to go and mark out the holes with a pencil or marker. Once the holes are marked use a drill bit that is slightly smaller than the size of the screws that come with the item and use masking tape to mark your drill bit at the depth of the screw and drill your holes. After that all you need to do is put the pieces on and make adjustments like before.

Adjusting cabinet latches should be part of every home owner’s knowledge base. The job only takes about five minutes to complete, slightly longer if you need to drill new holes, and can make a huge difference in how your cabinets perform and even look (nothing looks worse in a kitchen than a partially opened cupboard door).

Photo courtesy of Wickes

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