Drawer Slides Demystified

Like a hovercraft, drawers mounted to today’s metal slides glide in and out of their openings as if floating on a cushion of air. But slides come in many different types, and determining which to buy can be confusing. Here’s how to pick the best one for the job.

What makes up a slide

Drawer slides have two mating pieces. The drawer profile attaches to the drawer and slides into or rests on the cabinet profile, which attaches to the cabinet. Ball bearings or nylon rollers allow the parts to move smoothly past each other.

Slides with ball bearings, top, typically carry heavier loads. Sophisticated construction and heavy-duty materials make them more expensive than roller slides, bottom.

To see or not to see

One of the first considerations when choosing a slide is whether you want it visible when the drawer opens. Some visible slides come in various colors (white, ivory, brown, or black) to help them blend better with light or dark drawer boxes.



Hide that slide

To conceal slides otherwise visible from the front, add a false front to the drawer box, or build a drawer front with a lip wider than the box.


Think about drawer access

Drawer slides further differ by how far they allow a drawer to open.
Overtravel slides utilize a telescoping design that lets the drawer extend beyond the cabinet. Use them when overhanging countertops get in the way of drawer access. Make sure the cabinet location provides room for opening the drawer fully.
Full-extension slides also telescope, allowing the full length of the drawer to clear the cabinet. Choose these when you need easy access to the rear of the drawer, as in a file drawer.
slides allow the drawer to extend 78
of its length—a good compromise between 34
- and full-extension.
slides, as you might guess, allow the drawer to open 34
of its length. Choose this type of slide when unblocked access to the entire drawer matters little, or where space limits how far a drawer can extend.


Weigh the weight options

Typical light-duty slides have weight ratings up to 75 lbs, medium-duty up to 100 lbs, and heavy-duty for more than 100 lbs, below.

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