How to Pick Kitchen Cabinet Drawers (page 1 of 2)

Improved glide technology makes it possible for drawers to be larger and hold heavier items.

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Kitchen cabinets should be both beautiful and functional, which is where drawers and glides come in. Choose cabinetry that makes your kitchen life more convenient. Stronger glide technology has resulted in bigger drawers that can handle heavier items. Drawers now store everything from utensils, cutlery and spices to bulkier items like pots, pans, dishware and chopping blocks. Drawers may be kept simple without partitions or divided for easy organization. Drawer fronts typically mimic the style surrounding door faces and can be flush, overlay or lip-edged.

"One trend we've gravitated towards is drawer-only designs for base cabinetry," says Mark Hutker, an architect based in Martha's Vineyard. "In lieu of doors, we stack lower, middle and upper drawers for chef-inspired cabinet design."

Frequent use and heavy drawer contents call for drawer glides, which aid drawers in their function of opening and closing. Many cabinet manufacturers offer a variety of side, top and corner-mounted drawer glides. Quality drawer glide options range from three-quarter-extension, epoxy-coated glides that bear up to 75 pounds and allow most of the drawer to be pulled out from its box, to full-extension slides, which hold up to 100 pounds and allow access to the entire drawer. Some glides can't be used with particular cabinetry styles. It's also important to check load ratings for drawers. Options range from 50-pound to 100-pound capacities.

Material Options and Construction

Solid hardwood has traditionally been the choice material for drawer box fronts and sides. Solid wood joinery includes dovetail, finger, tongue-and-groove, dowel, biscuit and dado joints. "Dovetail joinery is the strongest way to make a drawer," says Josh Kayer, owner of Martin-Star Cabinetry in Richmond, Va. "The construction won't loosen over time."

Resilient drawer boxes are also commonly made from engineered woods, such as veneered plywood, particleboard and medium-density fiberboard (MDF) with joinery often doweled and glued together. Make certain drawers have a minimum of 3/8 to half-inch thickness, especially on the bottom. Avoid flimsy drawers made from thin particleboard with a laminate or wood veneer and any drawers with stapled construction. "While solid wood is premium for drawer front and sides, plywood is a better choice for the bottom section of a drawer because it won't shrink or swell," Kayer says. Other common drawer materials include metal and manufactured melamine.

Most slides operate with plastic or metal ball bearings. Confirm slides are produced from heavy-duty materials with easy-gliding rollers or ball bearings, whether they are side, bottom or corner mounted. Drawer slides typically are made of stamped metal and most are unfinished. However, some can be purchased in black or dark brown finish. The best quality slides won't rust over time. "To test cabinetry slides, open the drawer fully and check to ensure the drawer feels tight within the drawer cavity," says Alabama-based builder Erica Neel of Structures Inc. "Make sure that the drawer opens easily, quietly, and does not tilt up or down when fully extended.


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