Choosing the right drawer slides for your cabinets can be a confusing issue for DIY-ers if you’re not used to all the varieties of slides and the terms used to describe them. Once you get a basic understanding of the terminology though, you’ll be able to confidently pick out the best slides for the job!
In order to simplify the topic, we’re going to break it up into two categories: side-mount and undermount. Some cabinets use center-mount slides instead, but those are less common and you’ll typically only be shopping for those if you need to replace an existing one that broke.
Side-Mount slides are the kind you’re most likely to be upgrading. They come in pairs and attach to each side of the cabinet drawer. The important thing to remember is that you’ll need clearance room between the drawer box and the sides of the cabinet. Almost all side-mount slides require ½” of clearance, so make sure you have enough room.
Undermount slides are also sold in pairs, but you’ll install them on either side of the bottom of the drawer. These are ball bearing slides and can be a great modern aesthetic choice for your kitchen since they’re not visible when the drawer is open. This type of slide requires less clearance between the sides of the drawer and the cabinet opening (about 3/16″ to 14″ per side), and has very specific requirements for the top and bottom clearance as well. Also note that the space from the underside of the drawer to the bottom of the drawer sides must be 1/2″ (the slides themselves are usually 5/8″ thick or less).
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that in order to replace side-mount slides with undermount slides, you’d have to rebuild your whole drawer box. This may not be the easiest upgrade for you to do yourself.
Unless you’re just replacing a broken slide, the main reason you’re replacing your slides is probably to upgrade to some of those nice extension or motion features your current slides don’t have. Here are some things to consider:
How much extension do you want from your slides? 3/4 extension slides might be a bit cheaper, but they’re not the most convenient to use and probably won’t feel like much of an upgrade from your old ones. If you go with full extension slides instead, it will allow the drawer to pull out completely and will provide much easier access to the back of the drawer.
If you want even more extension, you can even go with an over travel slide, which takes this one step further and actually allows the drawer to come completely out of the cabinet when completely extended. This allows full access to the drawer even underneath a countertop.
The two main motion features to look for are self close slides and soft close slides. Self close slides will fully close the drawer if you just give it a push in that direction. The other option is soft closing slides, which have a dampener that softly returns the drawer when you push it closed (any soft close slide is also self-closing).
The next step after choosing your slide type is figuring out the length you need. If you’re replacing a side-mount with a new side-mount slide, the easiest thing to do is just measure your existing slide and replace it with a new one of the same length. However, it’s not a bad idea to also measure from the front edge of the cabinet to the inside face of the back. That will give you the maximum depth for the slide.
To find the right length for undermount slides, on the other hand, just measure the length of the drawer. The slide length simply has to match the drawer length.
The final important aspect to consider is the amount of weight you need your slides to support. A typical kitchen cabinet drawer slide should have a weight rating of about 100 lbs, while some heavier-duty applications such as file drawers or pantry pullouts require a higher weight rating of 150 lb or more.
Now you know where to get started on picking out the right slides for your cabinet drawers! If you’re having trouble figuring out exactly what you need, feel free to give us a call at 800-882-0009.