Sliding Kitchen Cabinet Drawers

This is a project that I completed November of 2013

The Problem

You know those cabinets in your kitchen where things get pushed to the way way back?  You never bend over far enough to see to the back!  So much wasted space… until now!

As many of you know, these shelves are very deep, but only the front six to eight inches are actually useful because you can’t see anything farther back.  I would say that 50% of the shelf space is wasted. Time for them to go!

The Solution

Some nice sliding drawers would be nice! I’ve never had any so I wasn’t quite sure how much space I needed between them or even how many I would really want.

  • Five sounds good, because the very bottom has to slide as well.
  • They need to have full extension sliders so that items in the very back can be lifted straight up.
  • I imagine the spacing between drawers will get progressively larger from top to bottom so that larger/heavier items can go on the bottom.
  • they should have a tall lip around the sides and back so that items don’t fall off.
  • A lip on the front is needed as well, but I don’t want it quite as tall as the sides so that you can get an item out without actually pulling the drawer out if desired.  This will also make a good handle to pull on!
  • Sliders should be heavy duty enough to withstand future children hanging on them. (yea right!!)

The Method

First things first!  The sides of the cabinet are inset quite a bit.  I will have to space the drawer slides out from the side somehow.  Maybe while I’m at it, I’ll add some strips of wood to help keep things level.  Each strip has plenty of wood glue behind it. The three finishing nails cannot hold any weight, they only hold the strip in place while the glue dries.

I found quite a few benefits from making these panels this way

  1. The plywood plus the 1x pine board will allow the drawer slide to barely clear the edge of the cabinet, maximizing available width
  2. by having identically spaced strips on either side, I won’t have to check any vertical measurement when it’s time to install the slides
  3. I can attach the slides to the pine boards before mounting them in the cabinet. This will allow me to screw the slides down on my work bench instead of having to work inside a cramped cabinet
  4. The thin strips of wood will act as support for the drawers. This means I can put just enough screws in the pine board to hold the slide in place. The pine board can then ‘flex’ in and out to compensate for my inaccuracy of the drawer widths and reduce binding

Now it’s time to make some drawers.  Thankfully I have a wonderful friend who loaned me their router table.  I would say a router is a must for a project like this.  Hopefully these pictures will explain how I went about building the drawers!

To mount the drawers slides, I had to decide how much space I wanted for each drawer.  I wanted to place cans on the top shelf, which are usually 4.5″ tall, so I will position the shelf so that I have 4.75″ between the bottom of the first drawer and the lip of the cabinet.

Because the sides of the drawer are 3″ tall in the front, that gives me a range of around 2″ to vary where the drawer slide is placed on the drawer.  I then attached the stationary part of the slide to the 1″x3″ board that will be screwed into place inside the cabinet.  I only used two screws so that the board could flex in and out to compensate for the imperfect drawer.  I can do it this way because the weight is also supported by the strips of wood on the sides.

For each additional drawer, I added one more inch of vertical space.  Here is a list of the available vertical space for each drawer

4-3/4″,   6-1/4″,    7-1/4″,   8-1/4″,   9-1/2″

Once the drawers were built, installing them was a very easy process due to those horizontal strips of wood.  I was able to attach all slides to the 1″x3″ boards and the drawers before placing anything in the cabinet.  Two little screws, and bam!  Happy Wife.

I put back exactly what I took out of the cabinet before I started.  Recall that the cabinet was essentially fully utilized before due to the fact that we could only store things toward the front of the cabinet.  It’s pretty obvious we were using less than half the true capacity!!

3-1/2 Years Later

As of today, February of 2017, the drawers still functions flawlessly.  They slide in and out perfectly smooth.  While they don’t stay perfectly organized, nothing ever gets lost or forgotten about.  My soon to be four year old has yet to climb on any of them, so they haven’t really passed the child test yet, but we will see!

What would I do differently? Nothing! Seriously, the only screw up I made was that I nailed one of the drawer joins from the front instead of the side (I don’t think I’ve noticed it since the day I did it though lol ).  The drawers have served us well without fail or issue.  I just wish I had about four more sets of them!

I truly believe that the design of allowing the drawer slides (the ones which are mounted to the sides of the cabinet) to flex in and out is a key to the long term life of the slides.  It is nearly impossible to build the drawers perfect so that there would be no stress on the slides due to misalignment.  Before I did this project, I read many cases of people talking about the slides getting stiff over time and such.  I believe I have avoided that issue.

Material List

Total Cost Estimate: $260