Replacing your cabinet drawers can make a considerable difference in your home office (desk, file cabinet), kitchen (cabinets), bathroom (vanity) or bedroom (dresser, nightstand).
The reason may be the need for decoration or sheer desire to have a new style of drawers.
Related: Do You Paint The Inside Of Kitchen Drawers?
Either way, a drawer replacement almost always has something to do with improving the ease of access to your files, clothing or kitchenware.
How To Shop For Replacement Drawers: 11 Shopping Factors
Once you have made up your mind to embark on a drawer replacement project, you will need to consider a few factors to select the best replacement drawers and cut costs:
- Budget and Cost
- Type of the slide
- Drawer extension
- Weight rating
- Material of construction
Here is how to choose the best replacement drawers for your cabinets.
1. Budget and Cost
What is the cost of replacing your old cabinet drawers with new ones?
How much money do you plan to commit to the project?
Understanding the cost of the whole project would be helpful in preparing your budget.
According to Home Advisor, the national average cost of replacing cabinet drawers is $6,917. The typical range is $4,250 and $9,596. The lowest you could spend is $1,400 while the highest is $14,000.
The total cost depends on an array of factors:
- The material of construction of the replacement drawer is often a big determiner of how much you stand to spend.
- Of course, the kind of slides on the replacement drawers
- as well as the type of the drawer have considerable influence as well.
You can save a lot of money by finding more information about your prospective options and their alternatives.
If you would like a professional to do the whole job, you will need to factor in the cost of labor.
Here are other extra costs you should consider:
- Costs brought forth by sales taxes on replacement drawers, slides, and all other items you need
- Costs related to permits or inspection if any
- Cost of modifying, removing, or relocating the cabinetry. If you are moving an oven, range hood, OTR microwave, or sink just to accommodate the cabinetry, higher costs will be involved.
- Cost of repairing all the damages sustained during the process of replacing the drawers. For example, if you discover damages on the frames of the cabinet due to mildew growth or water damage, you will need to repair them before proceeding with the rest of the project.
The simple fact here is that the cost of the replacement drawers project is unpredictable and extra costs can come up unexpectedly and quickly.
Knowing exactly what you need can cut your costs.
That’s why you need to prepare a reasonable budget before everything else. After creating a budget, look for a way you can truncate the costs even further if you aren’t impressed with the figures you are seeing on the paper.
2. Choosing The Correct Drawer Slide
Slides control the manner the drawers retreat inside the cabinet when pushed and how it comes out when pulled. Here are the things to pay attention to:
Drawer slide mount type
What type of replacement drawers would you add on your cabinets? There are three types of drawers categorized by the manner they are mounted on your cabinet:
Under-mount drawer slides
These are ball-bearing slides often sold in pairs.
They are normally positioned below and close to the edges of the longest sides of the drawer.
It is traditional for these drawers to be mounted to the bottom of the cabinet and link to the locking structures attached to the underbelly.
They are invisible when the cabinet is open. This makes them a perfect choice if you are planning to highlight the cabinetry in your kitchen.
Better yet, they require very little clearance between their sides and the opening of the cabinet (often somewhere between 3/16” and 1/4” on each side).
Also, they require specific clearance on the top and bottom of the cabinet’s opening.
Drawer sides tend to be over 5/8″ thick. The space between the bottom of the drawer sides and the bottom of the drawer must be 1/2-inch.
Unlike under-mount slides, these slides are acquired as singles.
They are normally installed at the underside and in the middle of the slot in the cabinet.
Most of the options you will find in the store are made from wood complete with a ball-bearing mechanism. This doesn’t mean steel options are non-existent.
These slides are easy to repair and align because they come as singles.
They are easy to install as well especially when compared to other options – under-mount and side-mount options.
The only major flaw in center-mount slides is their inability to bear large weights which is never a problem in the two alternatives.
These slides, just like under-mount slides, are available in pairs.
The only difference is that they are installed on the sides of the cabinet as the name suggests.
The advantage of this type of slide is that the buyer is allowed to choose between ball-bearing and roller mechanisms.
Also, the size of the space between them and their corresponding cabinet opening can only be decided by the user – there are no spacing constants. Most homeowners choose a clearance of 1/2”.
3. Drawer Slide Extension
How far out do you want your drawer to extend when open?
You can choose one of the four popular extensions:
- 1/4 extension
- 1/2 extension
- 3/4 extension
As you can tell, 1/4 extension will allow just a quarter of the drawer to come out. This will certainly give you some considerable trouble when removing large or elongated items, but it’s perfect for small items. If there is very limited clearance in front of the cabinet, this is the best extension you can ever choose.
The 1/2 extension sounds like the ideal extension because it allows half of the drawer to come out of the cabinet. However, it’s still not great for elongated items.
The 3/4 extension (or full extension) is the best of all extensions because it permits three-quarters of the drawer to come out. It gives you unrestricted access to anything in the drawer. However, it demands a bigger clearance area in front of the cabinet.
Overtravel drawers extend up to the tip of the other extreme end. Some of them can be completely removed from the cabinet and easily replaced.
They are some of the commonly used types of drawers in kitchen settings.
More often than not, they feature roller slides on the sides.
Roller slides make it easy for a person without experience to simply tuck the replacement drawer into the opening of the cabinet along the roller lines without using tools.
However, they are not the best drawers if your kids are prone to messing around in the kitchen as they might easily pull them beyond the limit and destroy all your glassware.
Related: Replacement Cabinet Door Shopping Tips
4. Weight rating
Most homeowners rarely consider the weight factor when choosing slides for their drawers.
The weight rating of the slide determines the size of the weight that the drawer can comfortably hold. Overloading your drawers with weights they were not designed for would only hurt your pockets as you may find yourself doing frequent, replacement, or repairs and maintenance work.
Slides typically come rated as
- 75 lbs
- 100 lbs. or
- 150 lbs.
These are, however, not standard weights.
You can still find slides rated less and others rated as high as 220 lbs.
The choice of weight ratings will depend on your needs – if you intend the replacement drawers for a heavy-duty application like holding a bunch of heavy files in your office or food items in the pantry.
Manufacturers use a set of specifications to determine the weight ratings of their slides. By rule of thumb, slides with a length of 18” sits in the middle range of weight ratings.
The longer the slide is beyond the 18” threshold, the less the weight capacity; the shorter it is beyond the 18” mark the higher the capacity.
Manufacturers tend to factor in the weight of the drawer itself when determining the load rating:
This describes the drawer’s weight without cycling. The slides on these drawers are expected to support their loads without buckling.
Describes the load determined by cycling the drawer that has been weighted for a given a number of cycles.
Generally, load ratings are meant for slides with a length of 450 mm (18″) installed on a drawer with a width of 450 mm (18″).
The test drawer is normally pulled from the middle of the drawer, cycled to a few predetermined cycles based on industry standards, and measurements taken before final ratings are decided.
An array of factors can reduce the lifespan, reduce performance, or cause premature failure of slides.
- improper installation
- uneven distribution of the load
- excessive vibrations
- distance traveled
- stopping force
- frequency of cycles
- number of cycles
You might want to ensure the slides meant for your drawers are tested by one of the testing associations below.
Note that you need to be a member of these associations to view the details because the standards are copyrighted:
- American National Standards Institute/Business-area Industrial Manufacturer Association – ANSI/BIFMA X5.5-2008
- American National Standards Institute/Kitchen-area Cabinet Manufacturer’s Association – ANSI/KCMAA161.1-2006
- American National Standards Institute/All Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association – ANSI/BHMAA 156.9-2010
- Food Equipment National Hygiene/Sanitation Foundation (Global)/American National Standards Institute – NSF/ANSI 2
- WI Woodworking Institutes (California)
- Scientific Equipment & Furniture Association – SEFA-8-2007
The finish on the drawer should match the color of your cabinet. The closer the finish is to wall accents and the rest of the room’s color schemes and décor, the better.
The finish of the replacement drawer would normally resemble that found on cabinets.
As such, you are more likely to find drawers finished in
- Waterborne UV
- Natural Finish
- Glazed or
Most slides come with
- bronze or
- copper finish.
6. Motion features
Make a decision on whether how you want the drawer to move.
Push to Open drawers come with slides that open with a slight nudge to the front of the drawer. This removes the need for pulling and handles.
This type of drawer is perfect for more modern kitchens that emphasize the reduction of hardware in living spaces and the kitchen.
Self-Close drawers come with slides that permit them to slide entirely into the cabinet when you push one end of the drawer. They are the most used type of slide drawer.
Soft Close drawers operate very much like the self-close drawers except they come with a dampening effect which ensures that they slide softly into the cabinet without slamming.
7. Shock absorption
Drawers that are prone to slamming and hard closing tend to have a short lifespan and may ruin the interior parts of the cabinet. This can cost you a lot of money in repair costs.
Fortunately, some slides come with shock-absorbing features that reduce the impact of accidental slams and the amount of produced noise.
8. Installation considerations
- What type of disconnects do your drawers come with?
- Which one do you prefer?
A disconnect is a mechanism that lets your remove your drawer from the housing.
Drawers are sold with three types of disconnects:
Lever Disconnects come with an internal lever that, when depressed, permits you to slide out the slot. They are the easiest to work with.
Rail Disconnects features a latch that lets you raise the drawer off the slides before pulling out of the slot.
Friction Disconnect slides, unlike their rail and lever counterparts, don’t use levers or latches. Rather, they allow you to pull out the drawer against the resistance force of the ball bearings holding it.
It is easy to ignore the influence of the brand on the quality and even cost of replacement drawers you get.
Some of the renowned makers in the industry have 25+ experience in dealing with cabinetry and parts. As you would expect, established brands would charge their drawers highly compared to new entrants or less known brands.
This doesn’t necessarily mean replacement drawers from less established brands are of low quality.
Here are some of the trusted makers of drawers and slides
- Hawthorne & Reid
10. Materials of Construction
The worst nightmare you could have is buying replacement drawers made from a material that can’t be used together with that used to make your cabinet.
It just goes unsaid that the replacement drawer and the rest of the cabinet’s body should be made from the same materials.
There are aesthetics and practicality reasons why you should match replacement doors with cabinets made from the same material.
Most cabinets today are made from these materials:
- MDF (medium-density fiberboard)
- Solid Wood
- Rigid Thermofoil
Check the material of the construction of your cabinet and choose drawers made from the same materials.
Cabinets come in different sizes, so do replacement drawers. Also, there is no clearly defined standard size for cabinet doors.
You will need to walk to the store with the exact measurements of the cabinet opening so that the store assistant can help you choose the correct size of the door.
Online stores make it even easier by allowing you to confirm the size on the internet in real-time.
Besides the size of the opening, you will also need to provide the location of slides on your cabinet. This is because some companies supply replacement doors with pre-installed slides.
So, if the slide location does not match theirs, you will have to send them your specification so that they drill your replacement drawer in the right places
This may cost you a few extra dollars. Some companies will let you do the drilling yourself, which is cheaper.
You may also need to provide the locations of the handles because they are discretionary at times. Companies that would let drill hole for the hinges may expect you to do the same for handles.
How you take your measurements will also depend on the kind of slide and extension.
Remember to specify the type of your cabinet – framed or unframed. Your door company will provide all the instructions you need to take the measurement.
Whether you are outfitting new cabinetry or updating your kitchen, selecting the right replacement drawers for your cabinets can seem daunting.
However, you will be surprised by the ease of choosing the best options if you pay attention to a few characteristics as well as the benefits that come with each type of drawer.
There are numerous factors to bear in mind when selecting a replacement drawer. Your budget and the cost of the replacement can determine what you choose. The kind of slide on the drawer as well as the level of the extension will influence your decision as well.
Ensure that the material of construction in the replacement drawer and the cabinet are the same.
Also, get your measurements right to avoid incurring extra costs making a trip back to the store to obtain the right options.