Face Your Kitchen
Your Guide to Kitchen Cabinet Refacing

Drawer slides: what you need to know before making a choice

by Karl Fendelander
Face Your Kitchen Columnist

Like all of the hardware used in making your kitchen cabinets, you probably don't pay too much attention to drawer slides until it's time to replace them or they stop working. Drawer slides, sometimes called sliders or glides, are the pieces of hardware that keep your drawers sliding back and forth effortlessly, giving you easy access to whatever is inside. These silent workhorses of the kitchen hold everything you can stuff into your kitchen drawers and take a beating daily.

When refacing your kitchen cabinets, whether or not to replace your drawer slides is a question you have to answer -- and if you decide to replace them, it helps to know a few things first.

A drawer slide glossary

Here are a few important terms to know:

  • Installation width: The distance between the drawer side and the cabinet, this is also called side space occasionally.
  • Extension: Also known as travel, a drawer's extension refers to how far out you can pull it. This may be measured in inches or as a fraction of the slide's length (e.g., a 20" slide with a three-quarter extension should come out 15"). It may also simply be referred to as full or partial extension.
  • Extension loss: Sometimes drawer manufacturers put partial extension in terms of loss in inches (e.g., a 20" slide with a three-inch extension loss should only come out 17").
  • Over-extension: Also called over-travel, this measurement indicates that the slide can go beyond full extension.
  • Weight capacity: When measured properly, the weight capacity of a drawer slide is measured and tested in motion (i.e., not opened or closed). This dynamic strength is the standard for the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association (KCMA) and the Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (BHMA) and is tested over up to 100,000 slides. In general, shorter slides can hold more weight.

Basic types of drawer slides

Drawer slides typically come in three different styles:

  • Center mount: A single slide is mounted beneath the drawer for this style, which usually doesn't extend fully or hold much weight. These slides are less expensive, easy to install and concealed nicely under the drawer for a clean look.
  • Side mount: These slides are the strongest, most durable and most versatile -- not to mention the most common. They often include features like over-extension, which makes them an excellent and practical choice.
  • Bottom mount: Sometimes called side under-mount (or something similar) this style uses two slides, one on each side, tucked neatly under the drawer for the same clean look as center mount drawer slides.

There are many other combinations and other creatively constructed specialty drawer slides available out there, including double slides, which can open in either direction for access to a drawer on either side of a kitchen island, or soft-close slides, which have built-in shocks to prevent slamming. Talk to your contractor about what kind of drawer slides are right for your kitchen.

About the Author
Karl Fendelander cut his teeth on web writing in the late nineties and has been plugged in to the newest technology and tuned in to the latest trends ever since. With an eye for design and an ear for language, Karl has created content and managed digital media for startups and established companies alike. When he unplugs, Karl can be found biking about town and hiking and climbing throughout the West.

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