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Drawer Slides

Buying Guide: Drawer Slides

We have all experienced the frustration of drawers that are difficult to open and close. Luckily, it is easy to upgrade a sticky drawer or install a new one with special hardware that allows you to access them with ease. Drawer slides are ingenious devices that make the simple act of getting into your storage spaces smoother and easier.

There are a few different types available, each suited to certain drawers and various weight loads. The one you choose will be dependant on a number of factors, so consider the following questions as you search for the right drawer slides:
        • What types of slides are available?
        • How are they installed?
        • How far do slides allow a drawer to be pulled out?
        • What types of disconnects are available?
        • Are there special features you would like to have?

Slide Configurations, Disconnects and Installation Considerations

In addition to allowing drawers to move in and out, slides also prevent them from tipping downward when they're pulled out past the halfway point. Slides are typically configured and mounted either underneath the drawer or on its sides. Each style offers different advantages. You can also select from a few different disconnect styles. A disconnect is the mechanism by which a drawer is released from the cabinet, desk or other housing. Prior to purchasing, you would need to consider how far out you want the drawer to slide, how wide it is and what type of movement you prefer. Movement may be either telescoping or progressive.
Slide Types and Configurations: Slides may be mounted in a few different locations. The easiest to install is a simple track centered beneath the drawer. While this design cannot hold as much weight as other configurations, it can be more easily installed in small drawers where there is little clearance. Other designs include two tracks that are installed on the sides of a drawer or underneath it. Though slightly more complicated to install, these configurations allow for greater drawer capacity and smoother performance over time.
Older styles often used wooden rollers, but these have largely given way to newer materials, such as ball bearings, that offer smoother, quieter sliding and longer life. Slides may be full extension, allowing drawers to slide along the full length of the slide, or 3/4, in which case drawers can travel only 3/4 of the way down the slide. A few have extenders that allow drawers to be pulled out farther than the length of the slides themselves. Some slides may only be able to handle around 50-pounds of weight while others can handle 100-pounds or more.
The chart below details different slide styles, where they are installed and a few points of consideration.


Mounting Location

Points to Consider

Bottom-Mount Two rails installed on the bottom of the drawer, one on each side • May be 3/4 or full
• Requires ½-inch clearance
  on both sides of drawer
• May feature track and
  roller or ball bearing
• Hidden from sight
• Lessens drawer depth
Center-Mount One rail centered on the bottom of the drawer • Use where side clearance
  is less than ½-inch
• Supports less weight
• Easy to install
• Best for small drawers
Side-Mount Two rails installed on both sides of the drawer • May be 3/4 or full extension
• Ideal for kitchens and
• Requires ½-inch clearance
  on both sides of drawer
• Lessens drawer width
• Finish options include white
  epoxy and black zinc

Disconnects: Disconnects are the mechanisms that allow you to remove a drawer from its housing. There are three common types. Lever disconnects feature an internal lever that, when depressed, allows the drawer to slide out freely. Rail disconnects feature a latch that enables you to raise the drawer up off the slide to pull it away from the desk or cabinet it's housed in. Friction disconnects, unlike lever and rail disconnects, do not require the manipulation of a latch or lever.
        • Disconnects allow you to remove drawers, making repair and replacement of slides easier
        • Rail disconnects make drawer removal a smooth, easy process
        • Friction disconnects require force to pull through the ball retainer that holds the drawer in place
Installation Considerations: Before replacing your slides, check to see exactly what the problem is. In many cases, you may be able to repair the damage. If part of the track has somehow become bent, simply use a pair of pliers to work it back into position. If, however, you cannot repair the damage, it's time for new slides. Replacing old slides with slides of the same design will make your work easier. If you find the drawer needs to be replaced as well, bear in mind that you can probably keep the face and attach it to a new drawer to save yourself the time and trouble of having to stain or paint it to match the surrounding drawers and trim.
        • Wider drawers generally require slides with higher load ratings
        • Telescoping slides move in increments
        • Progressive slides move smoothly along the entire length of the track
        • Install a full-extension slide if you need access to the entire drawer


Shock Absorption: Hard closing is often what causes damage to drawer slides. In order to help protect them, look for slides that feature shock-absorbing capability to minimize both damage and noise when you slide the drawer closed a little too quickly.
Load Rating: Load rating determines the amount of weight slides can bear. If you plan to install slides on a drawer in which you store heavy objects or if the drawer is wide, look for slides with a high load rating.
Self-Cleaning Ball Retainer: Dirt and corrosion can attack slides, but slides that feature self-cleaning ball bearings resist environmental wear and tear for longer life. In most cases, they are self-lubricating as well and won't require the addition of a lubricant spray.