Rarely do we give a second thought to the way our cabinets and drawers open and close—that is, unless they squeak when they’re in motion and don’t glide on their tracks as easily as they should. The drawers of your furniture should function easily and quietly. This is easy to achieve with high-quality drawer slides, which are both easy to use and install.
Soft-close drawer slides have high-quality dampers to prevent the drawers from slamming when you close them. They are also outfitted with springs that help return the drawer gently to the cabinet. Slides that offer full extension are useful because they allow you to easily see and access the contents of the whole drawer. Read on to learn more about how to choose the best drawer slides for your next kitchen or bath DIY project.
- BEST OVERALL: LONTAN 20 Inch Drawer Slides Metal Drawer Slides
- BEST SIDE MOUNT: PROMARK Full Extension Side Mount Drawer Slides
- BEST UNDERMOUNT: Blum Tandem Drawer Slides
- BEST CENTER MOUNT: Accuride 1029 Center Mount Slide
- BEST EUROPEAN: Liberty 14-Inch Bottom Mount Drawer Slide
Types of Drawer Slides
There are several styles of drawer slides: side mount, undermount, center mount, and European. The type of slide that’s best for your needs will depend on your budget, how heavy the contents of your drawers are, and how much clearance you have between the drawers and the cabinets.
The most popular drawer slides are side mount drawer slides which, as their name suggests, attach to the sides of the drawers and cabinets. Although these slides do not support the bottom of the drawer, they can still bear a lot of weight. Side mount drawer slides are sold in pairs and operate via one of two mechanisms: ball bearings or rollers. Slides with ball bearings are typically made from high-quality steel and help drawers glide quietly and easily. Side mount drawer slides operate on rollers and are less expensive, but drawers on rollers typically cannot extend as far as those on ball bearings.
One of the primary advantages of side mount drawer slides is that you can remove drawers from cabinets easily, without using tools. One drawback of side mount slides, however, is that you can see them when the drawer is open. To install these slides, you must have about ½ inch of clearance between each side of the drawer and the cabinet.
Undermount drawer slides are sold in pairs and mount to the sides of the cabinet. They connect to locking devices that attach to the underside of the drawer. Because they are not visible when the drawer is open, these slides are a popular choice for those who don’t want metal hardware distracting from the look of their wood cabinetry. Undermount drawer slides are typically silent and don’t make the metal clicking sound that some other slides do.
The disadvantage of undermount slides is that they are typically more expensive than other types of drawer slides. Though they don’t require a lot of clearance between the sides of the drawer and the cabinet, they do have specific clearance requirements above and below the drawer. For these reasons, undermount drawer slides are typically used on high-end, custom-made cabinetry.
While most drawer slides come in sets of two, center mount slides have just one bracket that attaches to the underside of the drawer. Made of either wood or metal and fairly easy to install, center mount drawer slides are less popular than other types of slides because they can easily come out of balance, causing the contents of your drawer to shift and slide around. Another disadvantage of center mount drawer slides is that they can’t hold as much weight as other types of slides. For this reason, they’re not a good option for drawers that will contain heavy items.
Also known as bottom mount drawer slides, European slides are attached to the bottom edge of the drawer and the side of the cabinet. One advantage of European slides is they’re easy to install: They are simply attached to the bottom edge of a drawer, so there’s no guesswork involved when it comes to placement. And, because they use nylon rollers rather than ball bearings, they’re typically inexpensive, too. Two downsides to European drawer slides are that they tend to have lower weight capacities than side mount or undermount slides, and the soft-close feature is not always available for this style of slide.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Drawer Slides
Though you might assume that all drawer slides work the same way, several characteristics can affect their functionality. Before shopping for the best drawer slides for your home improvement projects, read on to learn about some of the most important qualities and features to consider.
First and foremost, make sure that the drawer slides you choose are the correct size for your cabinets. Drawer slides come in a variety of different lengths, with standard sizes ranging between 12 inches and 24 inches. To figure out what length you need, you’ll first need to establish whether your cabinets are frameless or have face frames.
- Frameless cabinets don’t need a rear mounting bracket. To establish the slide length they require, simply measure the total depth of the cabinet and subtract the thickness of the front of the drawer.
- Face frame cabinets have a frame around the front of the cabinet box and require a rear mounting bracket. This means that when measuring, it’s important to subtract ½ inch for the bracket as well as the thickness of the front of the drawer.
Drawer slides are typically made from wood or metal.
- Wood drawer slides are often found in high-end furniture and require expert craftsmanship to build. They have a traditional, classic look. They do, however, tend to wear down more quickly than their metal counterparts and don’t give you the flexibility to fully extend the drawers. Depending on the temperature and humidity in your home, these slides may also warp and stick.
- Metal drawer slides may not be as aesthetically pleasing as wooden ones, but they are more durable and are fairly easy to install. They are constructed with either a roller mechanism or a ball-bearing mechanism, both of which are unaffected by temperature and humidity. Metal drawer slides can be both self closing and soft closing. Because some types of metal drawer slides are visible when the drawer is open, you’ll want to buy slides in a finish that complements that of your cabinetry.
How much weight a drawer slide can bear is one way to evaluate its quality—the higher the weight capacity, the better. Slides that are meant to bear heavy contents are sturdier and more durable than those that don’t hold as much weight. Some styles of drawer slides, like center mount and European, tend to have lower weight capacities than undermount and side mount styles. The best drawer slides have a capacity of at least 75 pounds. Most standard options cap out at a 100-pound weight capacity, though heavier-duty products are available at a higher price point.
Some metal slides are coated with a chemical that protects against rust and corrosion. While stainless steel is designed to resist rust, other types of steel are susceptible to rusting if they are exposed to moisture, which is not unusual in kitchens and bathrooms. Anti-rust coatings will extend the life of your drawer slides and are commonly found on high-quality slides.
Metal drawer slides come with either nylon rollers or metal ball bearings.
- Drawer slides with plastic or nylon rollers, like European roller slides, are typically more affordable. They’re a good choice for drawers that don’t need to bear a lot of weight. Some are designed to work with self-closing drawers.
- Slides with ball bearings are generally sturdier and have higher weight capacities. Most soft-closing and self-closing drawers have ball-bearing mechanisms.
Our Top Picks
Now that you know more about drawer slides, it’s time to start shopping. The recommendations for the best drawer slides consider the features above, including type, size, material, and weight.
These soft-closing side mount drawer slides from LONTAN are affordable and effective. They fully extend, so you can easily see and access all of the drawer’s contents. These slides are made from cold-rolled steel, with a steel ball-bearing mechanism that ensures smooth operation. What’s more, they have integrated hydraulic dampers so drawers open and close silently. With locking side levers, the drawers can be removed without using any tools.
LONTAN’s soft-close slides have a 100-pound weight capacity, so they’ll hold as many kitchen accessories or as much bath gear as you can fit into a drawer.
These full-extension side mounted drawer slides from PROMARK are constructed from cold-rolled steel and coated in an anti-rust. Thanks to their high-quality ball-bearing mechanism, they open and close smoothly and silently. These drawer slides are built for the long haul, too: they’re treated with an anti-rust coating to protect against corrosion and can bear up to 100 pounds of weight, so they’re suitable for drawers that contain heavy objects.
These slides are available in a variety of different lengths, ranging from 12 inches to 24 inches. They’re available in packs of either five or 10 sets, which is ideal for those who have a full-kitchen DIY upgrade in mind.
Like all undermount drawer slides, these from Blum are not visible when the drawer is open, making them just the ticket if you have quality wood cabinetry that you want to show to best advantage. These soft-close drawer slides have large, integrated dampers, allowing them to open and close quietly and smoothly. They’re certified by the Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (BHMA), so you can trust you’re getting a high-quality product.
This model has a 15-inch length, but 9-inch, 12-inch, 18-inch, and 21-inch options are also available, providing a solution no matter what the depth of your drawers. They’re designed to fit drawers that have a side thickness of ½ inch to ⅝ inch. Made in the USA, these slides come packaged with all of the screws and accessories you need to outfit one drawer.
This center mount drawer slide from Accuride is 15 inches long and designed for drawers that are up to 16 inches wide. It has steel ball bearings and offers three-quarters extension, so it remains out of view when the drawer is open. Like other center mount drawer slides, the Accuride can’t bear a lot of weight—it has a weight capacity of just 35 pounds—so it’s best for light-duty applications.
The full installed length is 14⅞ inches and is meant to be suitable for drawers with depths ranging from 12⅝ inches to 14½ inches.
European bottom mount drawer slides are affordable and easy to install. This pair from Liberty is constructed from stamped steel, coated with a white epoxy finish, and should match white cabinetry perfectly. These self-closing drawer slides have a rolling mechanism and offer three-quarters extension.
These slides can be purchased in packs of one, two, three or four sets of slides, making them suitable for projects both big and small. They are available in lengths ranging from 12 to 24 inches. Like most European-style drawer slides, the Liberty bottom mount slides have a lower weight capacity of just 50 pounds, so they’re suitable for drawers full of clothes and personal effects, but perhaps not heavy kitchen equipment.
FAQs About Drawer Slides
If you still have questions about how to choose the best drawer slides, the following frequently asked questions may help.
Q. What size drawer slides do I need?
The size of drawer slides you need depends on the depth of your drawers and cabinet. Simply put, drawer slides should be the same size as your drawer, after you subtract the depth of the drawer face.
Q. How do I measure drawers for slides?
Remove the drawer from the cabinet, and turn the drawer upside down. Measure from the underside of the front of the drawer to the back of the drawer; that is, measure everything except the drawer front. Then round the measurement down to the nearest whole number: a 15½-inch drawer, for example, would require a 15-inch slide.
Q. Will it be a problem if I go for a slider that has a plastic engagement pin?
Sliders with stainless steel engagement pins will last longer and be more durable than those with plastic engagement pins.