Time for New Drawer Slides
Nathan Gilbert instructs a homeowner on the way to replace drawer slides without removing the countertop
The plastic wheels on our 30-year-old kitchen drawers are falling off. Is it possible to replace and upgrade the drawer slides without removing the countertop?
—Robert Church, Stockton, CA
You’ll be glad to know that it is possible to install new drawer slides without disturbing your countertop. Even better, those slides can have smooth-rolling ball bearings instead of wheels, will allow a drawer to extend fully, and can even pull it shut with a gentle tug. Slides with these features used to be costly upgrades; now you can pick them up for about $20 a pair.
The new slides can be mounted to either the sides or the bottom of the drawer; choose the type that works best with your existing setup. Drawers with side-mount slides will already have the minimum ½-inch gap needed between each side of the drawer and the cabinet box. If there isn’t enough side clearance, use undermount slides, and modify the drawer for the new hardware to fit.
In cabinets without face frames, side-mount slides about the same length as the drawer depth attach directly to the cabinet sides. But in face-frame cabinets, the slides must be offset from the sides in order to extend past the frame. One offset option is to attach sockets to the cabinet’s back and face frame. Just make sure there’s enough clearance for the rear sockets when the drawers are closed, and that the slides are long enough to reach these sockets. (Don’t forget to factor in the thickness of the cleats or plywood pads needed to support the rear sockets.) Or simply get side-mount slides as long as the drawer and screw them to wood cleats fastened to the cabinet’s sides.
One more thing: Before you start this project, mark each drawer in an inconspicuous spot to identify which opening it came out of. That will save you from a big headache when it’s time to put the drawers back.
Shown: Nathan Gilbert employs a pair of drawer-slide jigs ( to help him install new soft-close slides. A former Generation NEXT apprentice, Nathan is now an Ask TOH TV cast member.