No clearance for drawer slides --- how to mod?
January 19, 2015 3:21 PM   Subscribe

I hope to install side drawer slides on my kitchen drawers (I've been unhappy with undermount slides), but the enclosing cabinet doesn't have much clearance. Do I try to cut grooves in the drawers, or enlarge the holes in the housing?

I purchased Liberty 22-inch side drawer slides with the hope of putting noncrap hardware on the drawers of a unit near my stove. I clearly didn't plan out very well, because (a) they're longer than my drawers (although just the right length to fit in the housing, so I'm actually OK with that), and, more problematically (b) I have basically no clearance on either side of the drawer in which to mount them; there's space inside the drawer where they fit well (or would, with about 3/8 of an inch of shim or spacers). I'd like to figure out a way to salvage this project, but obviously there needs to be some cutting somewhere. The options I'm coming up with are as follows:

Option 1: cut grooves in the drawers so that the slides can be inset, and use a larger spacer/shim on the drawer housing since they'll be that much further from the side walls. This has the advantage that I don't need to mmodify the bigger, more complicated part (the drawer housing), but I'm unsure the side walls of the drawers are thick enough to structurally take such a deep gouge.

Option 2: cut wider holes in the drawer housing. I think the tools I have (a bulky circular saw) are unsuited for this task, since I surely can't get it in the drawer at the right angle; I'm not averse to buying a handsaw of some sort if necessary, since that's a useful investment. I'm also straight up worried about fucking up the drawer housing, which is a large part and presumably more difficult to replace if damaged than the drawers themselves. If I do cut wider holes, would just doing it at the place where the slides emerge (so that the opening will no longer be rectangular, but a rectangle with small "wider bits" on each side) be bizarre?

Option 3: some sort of hybrid with both a groove in the drawer and a widening of the drawer housing.

Which of these approaches, or what else aside from these, should I do, and are there considerations I'm not taking into account here?

Some gory details: the exterior of the drawer itself (not counting the front face) is 11 3/4 inches wide and 18 1/2 inches long. The drawer opening is 12 inches wide, but the interior of the drawer housing is 13 3/4 inches wide and 22 3/4 inches long. The front wall of the housing (which the drawer opening is cut into) is an inch thick. The slides apparently want half an inch of clearance on each side.

Pictures of the drawer housing and of the drawer (with the slides placed alongside, but barely visible).
posted by jackbishop to Home & Garden (12 answers total)
Can you cut down the drawers? Remove the face of the drawer and leave as is, cut down the back panel and the bottom of the drawer, reassemble the sides, back, and bottom, reattach the unmodified front panel and your new slides that now have room.
posted by cecic at 3:32 PM on January 19, 2015

Of the options you present, #1 makes the most sense with the least damage if things go wrong. Things can be done to reinforce or replace parts of the drawers.

Is there any room for bottom mount drawer slides? If so I would go with option #4, return the slides and do some more planning.
posted by zennie at 3:46 PM on January 19, 2015

> I'm unsure the side walls of the drawers are thick enough to structurally take such a deep gouge.

You could add some 1/8" plywood to the inside of each drawer to re-inforce the sides.
posted by Poldo at 4:51 PM on January 19, 2015

You can get full extension, 100lb capacity, bottom-mount glides, which might be easier to fit to your drawers. Something like these.
posted by mr vino at 5:09 PM on January 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

Second cutting down the drawer box. It's a bit more work, but it's the correct way to do it.

You'll notice that the drawer box and drawer front are actually separate pieces. Remove the drawer front. Figure out from the slide manufacturer's specs what clearance you need on the sides. Disassemble the box and cut the front, back, and bottom to the necessary width. Reassemble and install the slides.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:11 PM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Looking at your cabinet, you may need to add a cleat on one or both sides ( along the inside edges of the cabinet) to use side-mounted slides. They don't have to be pretty, just solid and secure.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:17 PM on January 19, 2015

Second cutting down the drawer box.

Thirding. I just did this exact same thing in my kitchen. You should be able to remove the drawer-front, then make the drawer narrow enough to accommodate the slides. I think that will be way easier than trying to gouge out a channel for the slides. Just take your time, measure twice, and cut once.
posted by The Deej at 5:59 PM on January 19, 2015

Yup, cutting down the drawer box itself is the best way to deal with this. I had to do the same thing in my kitchen a couple of years ago and it's less tricky than it sounds. Pop the front off, take the four sides off the box, cut down the bottom, front, and back, then reassemble. I used a nailgun for the reassembly, which I recommend if at all possible. Using screws or a hammer and nails would have made it hard to avoid splitting the wood.

Alternatively, if wider holes in the housing would work, I don't think that would necessarily be a bad idea. I would suggest widening the whole drawer opening rather than cutting slots so it doesn't end up looking wacky. I'm no professional, but my plan would be to drill holes at the two new corners on one side, use a jigsaw to cut between the holes and remove that piece, then do the same on the other side. I'd clean up the new cuts with a file or coarse sandpaper and call it good. As long as you carefully measure what your drawer fronts will cover and you have some margin of error before exposing your new cuts, I think this is workable.

Lastly, you can also get low-friction tape to apply to the crappy wood undermount slides you have now. Quick, easy, and cheap, although of course the real slides are nicer.
posted by pocams at 6:05 AM on January 20, 2015

I'd return the slides, visit one of the many online casework manufacturers, buy new drawer boxes and slides and pay extra careful attention to measurements so everything fits. The advice to resize your current boxes is ok, but maybe not with your limited tools (drawers need to be square to work well with slides, the finished dimension needs to be pretty close to right on, too); that's a lot to ask of a circular saw.

I worked with a cabinet and drawer box mfgr called Scherrs (no link, but the website is charmingly 90s) when I refaced all the drawers and cabinets in my kitchen (added a couple of giant drawers for appliances, too), and it was inexpensive and easy. There are scores of such mfgrs with fancier websites so you can compare prices and learn about dimensions and ordering.

Good luck.
posted by notyou at 6:32 AM on January 20, 2015

Best answer: From the photos, it looks like there's already enough space for the slides to fit between the outsides of the drawer boxes and the inside walls of the cabinet, and that the clearance issue is with the openings in the front of the cabinet.

If those were my drawers, I would screw the innermost rail of the slides to the sides of the drawer, then use a tenon saw (not a power saw!) and a sharp chisel to cut notches into the sides of the openings that were only just tall enough to admit the outermost rail of the slide, and only just deep enough to let the slide run properly.

I'd then fix the outermost slide rails into place with just enough plywood or MDF packing between them and the cabinet walls so that the very front of the outermost rail snugs neatly into the notch and ends up flush with the front of the cabinet. With the drawer closed, its lip should completely hide the rails and their notches.

I'd certainly do it as a notch rather than trying to widen the full height of the opening (on the if you can't hide it, flaunt it principle). It will be perfectly clear on close examination that the side slides are not original equipment, but as long as your notches are tidy and not visible when the drawer is closed, and your slides work well, then I think the design would strike any fair observer as sound.

What I would not do is cut the notch to fit only the intermediate rail in the slide, so that the outermost rail ends up butting up against the back of the opening instead of flush with the front. I think that would require far too much precision to let the slide work well in the long term.
posted by flabdablet at 10:14 AM on January 20, 2015

Best answer: would just doing it at the place where the slides emerge (so that the opening will no longer be rectangular, but a rectangle with small "wider bits" on each side) be bizarre?

I don't think so, because the only time you'd ever actually see the shape of the resulting opening is when the drawers were completely removed. At any other time, the "wider bits" would just be full of rail.
posted by flabdablet at 10:19 AM on January 20, 2015

Best answer: Also, when cutting my notches I'd do them slightly smaller than required with the saw and chisel, and then carefully and slowly enlarge them to final fit using a flat bastard file.
posted by flabdablet at 10:24 AM on January 20, 2015

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