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5 Considerations for Selecting Drawer Slides


If you've ever experienced a drawer that jams or doesn't open or close easily, you know how frustrating that can be, especially if it's a drawer that gets a lot of use. And if you have to yank a drawer open, this can break the drawer or even the furniture. This problem is sometimes the result of choosing the wrong type of slide mechanism for the drawer. If you have a project that includes outfitting new cabinets or assembling furniture whether it be for your home, an office setting or an industrial facility, you'll need to choose drawer slides that can do the job effectively and can take a lot of repeated use. Choosing the best drawer slides isn't difficult, but there are many options to choose from, and there are several things to think about before you choose. Here are some considerations for choosing the best drawer slide for the task. 

1. Drawer Weight Rating

First, think about how much weight the drawer will need to hold. Every drawer slide is rated for a specific weight load for how much weight it's designed to support. What will the drawer be used for and how much should it be expected to hold? If it's a filing cabinet, it will need to hold more weight than a drawer used for light office supplies. If the drawer will be used for more industrial applications, the slides may need to support even more weight.

Most drawer slides are rated for 75,100, or 150-pound loads. However, some ball-bearing slides can hold over 500-pound loads. Knowing how heavy a load the drawer will support can help filter out your choices.

2. Drawer Slide Mount Types

Drawer slide mount refers to how your slide will be attached to the drawer and cabinet. There are three options to consider.

Center Mount Drawer Slides

The first and most basic is the center mount. A center mount is affixed underneath the drawer. It is a single slide that is centered along the bottom. Since this slide is hidden underneath the drawer, these mounts are good if you would like to highlight the construction of wood cabinetry. They are also frequently a more economical choice. However, center mounts will typically have a lighter weight rating, so they aren't a good choice for large-capacity drawers that need to hold heavier loads.

Side Mount Drawer Slides

Side mount slides come in pairs and are mounted on both sides of the drawer. Side mounts require a clearance (usually about 1/2 inch) between the drawer and the cabinet opening. Side mounts can carry a heavier weight than the center mounts but are visible when the drawer is open.

Under Mount Drawer Slides

Under mount slides also come in pairs and attach to the underside of the drawer. These are a good choice for heavier loads and are nice if you prefer not to have unsightly hardware visible on your drawer sides. Under mounts are a popular choice but can add cost to your project, especially if you have a lot of drawers to fit.

3. Slide Length

The next consideration is the length. Drawer slides come in lengths from 7.8 inches to 36 inches in a variety of increments. If your drawers have overlay fronts where the front of the drawer covers the cabinet opening, you'll need to measure from the front edge of the cabinet to the back and then subtract one inch. If the drawers are inset or flush with the front of the cabinet, you'll need to subtract the thickness of the drawer front to arrive at the correct slide length.

4. Extension Drawer Slides

How much do you need your drawer to open? Drawer extensions come in three options — 3/4 extension, full extension, and over travel.

Most people will recognize the 3/4 extension drawer slides, as they are a common choice for many different types of furniture. With the 3/4 extension, part of the drawer remains inside the cabinet when opened. This is an economical choice and comes in many mount styles.

When using the full extension slides, the drawer can be extended out to expose 100% of the drawer. This is also sometimes referred to as full access.

Over travel allows the drawer to open beyond the full extension. This is useful if there is a lip or extension on the desk or countertop that prevents full access to the drawer with only the full extension slides. These are also typical for large filing cabinets.

5. Drawer Slide Motion Features

Drawer slides also come with a range of special motion options. The soft-close feature adds a dampening effect that closes the drawer without slamming. You can also choose self-closing slides, which pull the drawer in all the way with a slight nudge.

You may also want a push-to-open option, especially if you want to avoid having to choose handles or hardware for the front of your cabinetry. These slides require only a slight push; then the drawer slides open. These are great if you want a hands-free option. Some drawer slides combine the features of push-to-open and soft close.

Whether you’re mounting drawers in a small office or a busy production floor, knowing all of the details about how the drawers will be used will help you choose an appropriate slide. Consider what the drawer will contain to determine which slides you'll need for the right load rating. Think about who will be using the drawer and what their needs might be to select the best combination of features. Be sure to check if any additional drawer hardware is needed to get the right fit and the right look for the right price.

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The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.