Factors in Drawer Slide Selection

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Selecting drawer slides may be more confusing than installing them. There are many types, and some overlap a bit. The easiest way is to figure out likely drawer weights, the drawer depth, and then the mounting needs. After that, check out available slides, within the following categories:

Light duty slides: up to 75 pounds, usually plenty for residential cabinets.

Medium duty slides: up to 120 pounds, again suitable for residential cabinets, especially those that you expect to be really loaded up.

Heavy duty slides: load ratings range from 100 pounds to 500 pounds, which makes them great for lateral file drawers, large storage drawers and pantry pull-outs.

Specialty slides: TV pull outs and swivels; slides for cutting boards; pencil drawers; keyboard trays. 

• Side mount slides are the most popular for kitchen applications and many others, as they offer the greatest variety of extensions, weights and durability. Side mount slides mount on the drawer sides and on the interior sides of the cabinet (sometimes with support at the rear or front). Mounting is usually simple, but can be more difficult if face frame cabinets are used. Hardware is highly visible when drawers are open. 

•Center mount slides mount under the center of the drawer, and are the lightest duty slides normally available. Mounting is very easy in most cabinetry. A good choice for light duty drawers with special joinery--dovetails or fingerjoints. Hardware is invisible from the top. If there is a single slide, the weight ratings are lighter than those for dual slides. Blum's Solo and Tandem undermount slides allow drawer weights from 75 to 100 pounds, with drawer sizes from 9" to 21" deep. These are slick options when you want an invisible slide in a medium weight category. 

•Under mount side slides add capacity to undermount center slides, and are also easy to mount. These fit at the inside edges of the drawer sides, at the drawer's bottom, installing to the bottom. These are good, medium duty choices when you wish to show off special joinery, such as fingerjoints or dovetails. Hardware is invisible from the top.

•Side mount underside drawer slides are inexpensive and easy to install, with a good medium load rating (100 pounds). They mount directly to the bottom of the drawer side, and to the inside side of the cabinet. Their low cost and ease of installation can often make them a good choice. Hardware is moderately visible, as it is low down on the side of the drawer. 

At the start you need to know something about the drawers you're building: depth; width; load expected are minimums.

It's also nice to know whether or not you want full extension slides, 3/4 extension, or over-extension types. The need for full and over-extension types limits choices to side mount slides. Undermount, whether center or under-sides, give up to 3/4 extension. Undermount slides also have the tightest load limits, so if a drawer needs to carry a load, you'll need to select side mount types.

Drawer Depth and Slide Extension[b1]

Slides are listed for length at their longest closed dimension. The full closed slide must fit easily between the drawer front and the rear of the cabinet.

Travel[b1]

Travel is sometimes called extension, and tells you how far the drawer can be extended from the cabinet: 3/4 extension gives good access, with 3/4 of the drawer length totally accessible; full extension means the drawer opens the full length of the slide; over travel means the drawer opens more than the slide's length.

Slide Movement[b1]

Slides move in stages--telescoping--or progressive, with all parts moving at the same time. The progressive slide is the smoothest.

Disconnect[b1]

This is the feature that lets you take a drawer out of its cabinet when needed. Lever disconnect: an internal lever releases the drawer. Rail disconnect: a rail latch lets you raise the drawer off the slide, and out of the cabinet. Friction disconnect: no levers or latches, as you just keep pulling the drawer until it moves through the resistance of a ball retainer.

Sizing[b1]

When sizing drawer slides, check thickness of the assembly, as well as width and length. If the slide is too thin for your cabinet assembly, you'll have to shim. If it's too thick, it cannot be used. Light duty slides might be as thin as 1/2", while heavy duty slides may be over 3/4" thick. Face frame cabinet slides are easier to install using the specific, optional, face frame brackets.

Length sizing is usually simplified by checking manufacturer's charts, where the drawer size and cabinet depth are both stated. If those figures are not available, you can safely figure a 13" slide will fit a drawer length up to 12-1/2" and a cabinet depth of 13" to a little more, maybe as much as 14-1/2". Usually, the slide is sized to cabinet depth, with an allowance of an inch and a half or so (actually, you can exceed this allowance, using a much shorter drawer and slide, but that combination loses available storage space).

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