How to order drawers - Part 1

This is part 1 of a 4 part series about How to Order New or Replacement Drawer Boxes I have been answering questions for years about how to order new or replacement cabinet drawers.  So, I thought it might be time to revisit the steps necessary for placing an order for new or replacement drawer boxes.. Here are the choices and steps that you will be making to determine what drawer box type, what size and what slide hardware is right for you:

This article will discuss step one, or selecting a set of drawer slides for your new or replacement drawer box.

Epoxy Euro style slides - Epoxy Euro slides are available from many different manufacturers are a builder's grade slide and tend to be the least expensive drawer slide. The Epoxy Euro slide will be relatively easy to mount and will require a standard 1/2" clearance between the drawer box and each side of the drawer opening. The Epoxy Euro slide will require a total clearance of 3/4" in the height of the drawer versus the height of the opening. Or, you can order the drawer box 2" less than the length of your selected slides. This is necessary because of the way that the slide loads and locks into the cabinet portion of the slide. You will have to lean or lower the front end of the drawer when inserting or removing the drawer in order to pull the drawer free of the cabinet portion of the slide. This leaning or lowering of the drawer box can create a problem if the drawer is too tall or if the drawer is too long, as the dropping or lowering will cause your drawer box to hit the upper rail of your drawer opening and you will not be able to insert the drawer box into the opening. This problem is avoided by lessening the height or the length of the drawer box. Partial extension drawer slide useThe Epoxy Euro slide can be used in either a face frame or frameless style cabinet. When mounting in a face frame style cabinet, you will most likely need to use a rear mounting bracket to support the rear end of the slide when installed.  Normal installation for frameless cabinets is to attach the slides directly to the side walls of the cabinet interior.  Be sure to mind your screw lengths when attaching to the side walls, lest your screw go through the cabinet. The Epoxy Euro slide features a partial extension, which simply means that when your drawer or shelf is fully extended, it will only come out or extend about 3/4 of the length of the slides. Hidden area of drawer when using a partial extension drawer box slide[/caption] The standard load capacities for the Epoxy Euro slide is between 50 and 100 lbs. The main benefit to this slide is price. It is the lowest price, parts can be interchangeable and they don't require a lot of skill to install.  I have found the life cycle to be somewhere around 5 or so years, depending on use.

Full extension, ball bearing slides - Full extension, ball bearing slides are the next step up from builder's grade slide and tend to cost slightly more.  The full extension, ball bearing slide will be relatively easy to mount and will require a standard 1/2" ± 1/16" clearance between the drawer box and each side of the drawer opening.  Just take your drawer or cabinet opening and subtract 1-1/16" to determine your drawer width. Just like the previous slide, the full extension, ball bearing slide can be used in either a face frame or frameless style cabinet.  When mounting in a face frame style cabinet, you will most likely need to use a rear mounting bracket to support the rear end of the slide when installed.  Normal installation for frameless cabinets is to attach the slides directly to the side walls of the cabinet interior.  Be sure to mind your screw lengths when attaching to the side walls, lest your screw go through the cabinet.  The recommended screw for installing these is a #8 - 7/16" pan head (low profile). As its name implies, the full extension, ball bearing  slide features a full length extension, which means that when your drawer or shelf is fully extended, it will come out or extend the full length of the slides.full extension, ball bearing slide allows for easy access There are no hidden areas when using a full extension type drawer box slide[/caption] Your full extension slide will require only 1/4" to 3/8" clearance in the height. This is the minimum clearance which will give approximately 1/8" - 3/16" between the drawer and the bottom rail of the opening and 1/8" - 3/16" between the drawer box and the top rail of the opening. The height clearances are less with the full extension, ball bearing slides because they insert and are removed in a "straight on "manner and do not require lowering of the front of the drawer box. The ball bearing slide will provide a tighter feel to the drawer and will be a bit quieter in operation.  Whenever possible we recommend the full extension, ball bearing slide for side mounted drawer slide applications. The main benefit to using the full extension, ball bearing slide is the extension and smoothness.  The full extension, ball bearing slide also allows for a slightly taller drawer box to be used.  This slide is competitively priced and they don't require a lot of skill to install.  I have found the life cycle to be somewhere around 10 plus years, depending on use.

Undermount Concealed Slides - Since its introduction, the undermount soft close, self close drawer slide has been popular and will continue to be in the future.  This is the drawer slide that everyone thinks they want...  Let's take a look at the slide and its uses and restrictions.  For the purpose of this article, we are only referring to modern undermount slide models, such as BLUM 563, KV MuV, Vitus USE or similar drawer slides and that your drawer construction will support the use of these slides.  Details are below.

  • The undermount or bottom mount slide will require special preparations/considerations, such as:
    • Special calculations for drawer box width
    • Availability in 3" length increments instead of 2" increments
    • Special construction of drawer box, requiring a recess of 1/2" under drawer to accommodate the slide hardware (our standard construction method)
    • Special "notching" and "boring" of the drawer to accommodate the slides (available at the time of ordering your drawer box)
    • Installation of locking device on bottom of drawer box (normally sold separately)
Blum locking devices, installed
Blum locking devices installed on bottom of drawer box
Drawer box notch & bore
Rear of drawer box shows the necessary "notching & boring" for typical undermount slides
Full extension with undermount drawer slides
Most undermount drawer slides feature full extension opening

This drawer shows the ease of access when using the full extension, undermount slide[/caption] First of all, to measure for the use of the slide you must have already decided what the drawer material will be and how thick the drawer material is.  These slides are manufactured for 3 primary drawer box thicknesses; 1/2", 5/8" and 3/4".  The 3/4" is the least common size and will normally require a special model slide, if available.  Some manufacturers do not make an undermount slide model for 3/4" thick drawer sides. Once you have determined the thickness of your drawer box side material, you must have the following clearances for your drawer box.  

  • The clearances below are combined for both sides...
  • 1/2" thick drawer sides will require a 5/8" width clearance
  • 5/8" thick drawer sides will require a 3/8" width clearance
  • 3/4" thick drawer sides will require a 7/16" width clearance
  • All of these slides, regardless of the thickness of the drawer box sides will require a 3/4" or greater combined clearance for height
  • Example:  5/8" thick birch drawer - cabinet drawer opening width 16" - the drawer box width will be 15-3/8".

Now that you have determined what the width and height of your drawer box will be, you can decide on the depth of the drawer box.  These slides are typically available in 3" increments from as small as 9" to as long as 30".  The most common sizes are 15" to 21", as these are what commonly fit in a bathroom or kitchen cabinet.   Be sure to consider the total overall length of the slide for clearance in your cabinet.  A typical 21" undermount slide will require about 22" clearance from front to rear.  Typical slide lengths will require about 1" additional for installation clearance.  Specific clearance information is available for each of the slide manufacturers. The normal installation of the drawer slide is similar to the side mounted slides...  The undermount slides can be installed in either a face frame or frameless style cabinet and may require the use of rear mounting brackets.  Specific installation instructions are generally available from each manufacturer. The benefits of undermount drawer slides are generally aesthetic and "cool".  Your drawers will look good because there is no visible drawer slide hardware when your drawer is pulled out.   If you are proud of your drawer boxes, this may be a priority for you.  The fact that these drawer slides capture the drawer box on its way back into the cabinet and pull it closed can also be a benefit.  The main benefit is that the slide, when capturing the drawer to close, also slows down the closing and prevents drawer slamming.  This may be important for customers with children, from a wear and tear aspect, as well as safety for small, sensitive fingers.  The life cycle seems to be in the 5 plus year range, anything with pistons and complicated parts is subject to additional malfunctions and wearing.  This life cycle rating is also based on use.

In Part 2, we will explore choosing your drawer box material