How to Choose Drawer Slides
Drawer slides are something most of us rarely think about — unless they don't work properly. When picking out slides for your drawers, there are a number of considerations to keep in mind, including how they're mounted, the length of the slides, and how much weight they can bear.
Below, you'll get a basic introduction to the different types of drawer slides, including the characteristics, features, and applications of each type so you can pick the correct drawer slides for your cabinets.
ABOUT DRAWER SLIDES: USEFUL TERMS
Before we start discussing the different types of slides, we'd like to familiarize you with some commonly used terms in the industry. These include:
Ball bearing drawer slide: A ball bearing slide provides the perfect mixture of strength and value under a heavy load. Generally made of stainless or carbonized steel, ball bearing drawer slides are stronger and more durable than many older drawer slide types. These slides run in ball bearing retainers between the systems' telescopic parts.
Deflection:Deflection refers to how much the slide has moved under a certain load. Generally, this is the difference between the height of the slide when it is unloaded versus after it's been loaded.
Detent: This slide component is what creates the force needed to keep the slides in the position you want until you open or close the drawer.
Disconnect: This component lets you take out the slide's inner mount from its chassis. Common disconnect types include lever disconnects, friction disconnects and rail disconnects.
Full extension: This lets the drawer open to the slide's full length, which provides better access and makes it easier to use. Full extension slides work the best for kitchens and other places where you'd like unobstructed access to whatever you're looking for in the drawer.
Groove drawer slides: These slides are suitable for applications where the space in the drawer and cabinet is limited in comparison to other setups. They're usually meant for bedrooms, home offices and living rooms, and their lateral motion is extremely smooth.
Heavy-duty drawer slides:Often featuring weight capacities of several hundred pounds, heavy-duty slides are common in applications where heavy tools and equipment must be quickly accessed. They're commonly seen in industrial environments like safety gates, machinery, toolbox drawers, motion guides and freezers.
Hold-in: This detent type is designed specifically to keep the slide closed until enough force is exerted to open it.
Hold-out: This detent type is made to make sure the drawer stays open until enough force is exerted to close it fully.
Installation width: This refers to the distance from the drawer box's side to the cabinet where the slide is connected. If you are replacing slides, this can be a limiting factor, but it's important to determine when trying to figure out the type of slide you'll need.
Intermediate member: This is the drawer component located between the drawer member, which connects to the drawer, and the cabinet member, which connects to the cabinet. This component is critical for making sure the ball bearings function smoothly.
Load rate:The load rate is a slide's capacity to safely withstand a particular weight over and over when extended fully. The manufacturer provides this rate.
Lock-in:This mechanism keeps the slide locked in the closed position. You can only release it by pulling a lever.
Lock-out:This mechanism keeps the slide locked in the open position, and you must pull a lever to release it.
Over-extension: Over-extension, or over-travel, drawer slides are designed to be opened beyond full extension, which allows you to fully see and access all of your tools. This kind of drawer is especially useful where a large countertop might prevent you from being able to see everything in your drawer.
Progressive movement: This refers to all slide members simultaneously moving. This type of movement is extremely quiet and smooth.
Rail disconnect:A drawer slide's rail disconnect mechanism provides a rail with a latch that typically sits on top of the drawer slide and lets you lift the drawer from the slide easily.
Screw head clearance: This is the clearance, or internal distance, from an inner member of a slide to its chassis. You can then determine the max fastener height you can accommodate inside a drawer slide unit without affecting the ball retainers' motion.
Shock blocks: These valuable components are critical for your slides' durability because they minimize vibrations and the pressure exerted on slide components when a drawer is closed.
Side clearance:This figure specifies how much space is required on the sides of the drawer to mount it without the cabinet interfering.
Static load:This refers to the max resting load capacity of a slide pair when extended.
Telescopic slide:This slide is equipped with two or three members that enable it to extend farther than the slide's length in a static state.
DRAWER SLIDE MOUNTING OPTIONS
When shopping for drawer slides, you can choose between five basic mounting options. The most suitable mounting option for your drawers is usually determined by the following factors:
- The space in the cabinet available for the drawer
- The weight-holding capacities
The five mounting options are as follows:
Bottom-mount drawer slides are connected to a drawer box's bottom right and bottom left sides. They're generally guided by rollers and not ball bearings. They're usually partial extension, although full extension options are available, as well.
The bottom mount features an angle flange designed to support the drawer box. It helps index the side, which makes installation quicker and easier.
Bottom-mount slides were made for use in frameless cabinets, although in the United States, they've been adapted for use with face-frame cabinets.
Side-mount slides connect horizontally to the drawer and cabinet body. They are used in a wide range of applications due to their durability and weight-bearing capacity. These slides can come with either a roller or ball bearing mechanism.
The clearance needed between the slides and the cabinet opening's sides is generally about half an inch. Generally speaking, the only disadvantage to side-mount slides is that they'll restrict your drawer's horizontal width. If you're concerned about horizontal width, consider instead undermount slides with similar features.
Center-mount slides directly mount under the center of a drawer. These slides may limit your drawer's height, and you'll have to mind your cabinet's size. One advantage of these slides is that the installation is much easier, although these slides generally cannot hold as much weight as side-mount slides.
Undermount slides attach to a cabinet's sides and connect to locking devices attached to a drawer body's underside. These slides are a good choice if you want to showcase your cabinetry's quality because you can't see the slides.
These slides are also an option to consider if you have limited horizontal space because they usually require no more than a quarter-inch of space on each side. It's also important to keep in mind that undermount slides need a half-inch clearance both above and below the drawer.
Shop Undermount Glides
Groove-mount slides are not commonly found in the United States, and when we do see them, it's often on furniture imported from Europe. These slides mount into a groove milled into the drawer box's side. They're often identified by their groove height, the most common of which are 18 and 27 millimeters.
The load rating of groove-mount slides are generally light, and this option is usually used only in partial extension variations.
Another essential consideration when choosing slides is the slide length and the extension. High-quality drawer slides are built to last many years, so it makes sense to figure out the configuration you're most likely to enjoy for a long time. Making the right choice now will let you have convenient drawer travel that's appropriate for your countertop and lets you access everything in the drawer.
Most people purchase slides ranging in size from 10" to 28", although much longer lengths are available.
For center-mount and side-mount slides, you'll usually want to measure the distance between the inside face of the cabinet's back and its front edge, then subtract an inch. When measuring undermount slides, just measure the length of the drawer. To function properly, the slides must be the same length as the length of the drawer.
DRAWER SLIDE SIZE
When shopping for the right drawer slides, another thing you'll want to pay attention to is the size of your drawer space in your cabinet. Although there are many options available in terms of how a drawer extends, you must get a drawer that is appropriately sized for your cabinet.
What's more — if you have a countertop or cabinet that overhangs, it's a good idea to install drawers with over-travel, which will ensure you can reach all the contents in your drawers.
The three main drawer slide types are as follows:
Three-quarter extension: If you have older drawers, you might be used to limited access to the contents inside. These slides, which let you pull out your drawer to three-quarters of its total length, are an improvement over many older wooden guide drawers found in many homes. Three-quarter extensions are an affordable option for replacing old drawer slides.
Full extension: Full extension drawer slides are a great option for most homeowners or hobbyists because they let you see and easily access all the contents in your drawers.
Over-travel: Drawers that have an over-travel feature can be opened beyond full extension, which means you can enjoy more clearance than with a full extension slide. Over-travel slides are recommended if the countertops in your kitchen overhang or your cabinets have a lip. These slides will still provide you with complete access and visibility to the contents of your cabinet.
Clearance refers to the space surrounding your drawer box, which slides require to function properly. To connect slides to a drawer box, the setup needs to be a bit smaller than the cubby it will fit into.
In most cases, the drawer fronts disguise these gaps. When measuring for drawer boxes and slides, ignore the face of the drawer, as it is not relevant. You'll then measure for:
Side clearance:Side clearance, also known as horizontal or width clearance, refers to the difference between the width of the cabinet opening and the width of the drawer box. To measure, go from the outside right to the outside left of the walls of the drawer box.
Vertical clearance:Vertical clearance, also called height clearance, is the cabinet opening's height minus the height of the drawer box. Note that the top clearance and bottom clearance are often not the same, and these two should be added together to obtain the total vertical clearance amount.
Depth clearance:The depth or back clearance refers to the distance from the cabinet's rear wall to the drawer box's backside when the drawer is closed. You should measure from the back drawer wall's outside to the drawer face's inside.
DRAWER SLIDE FEATURES
Modern drawer slides come with an abundance of sophisticated features, giving you a luxurious experience for reasonable prices. When shopping for a good drawer slide, keep your eye out for the following useful features:
Shock absorption: Slides with shock-absorbing capabilities can withstand damage from shutting drawers quickly or roughly. This feature will also help minimize noisiness if someone accidentally slams a drawer shut.
Push-to-open:Eliminate the need for extra knobs or handles with drawers that easily open with a slight push. Consider slides with this feature for your kitchen or bathroom, especially if you want a sleek look with minimal hardware. Push-to-open drawer slides also offer convenient operation, letting you nudge drawers open easily, even if your hands are full.
Self-close: If a drawer has a self-close feature, it will return all the way into the drawer just by slightly pushing it in that direction. Again, this feature offers convenient operation, especially in areas like kitchens.
Soft-close:Soft-close slides feature a dampening effect so a drawer can go back into the cabinet gently without slamming. That functionality helps your drawers stay quiet and reduces potential damage from rough closing.
CABINETRY WEIGHT RATING
The weight rating of a cabinet is another essential factor if you want your slide to last for a long time. Make sure you're getting slides rated to hold the weight you'll need them to.
Generally speaking, the majority of slides are rated to either hold 75 pounds, 100 pounds or 150 pounds. This capacity is especially crucial to consider in areas like kitchens, where heavy pans and pots could compromise slides rated to hold less weight.
The weight ratings for drawer slides are calculated according to standard specifications. Drawer slides are generally rated based on a length of 18". Longer slides will not be able to hold as much weight, and those shorter than 18" will be able to hold more.
Two load rating types exist, and each must include the drawer's weight in the total load:
Static load: This factor is the drawer's weight limit without cycling, or opening and closing. The drawer slide should be able to hold the load without any buckling.
Dynamic load: The dynamic load is calculated by cycling a drawer supporting weight for a certain number of cycles. The drawer slide should be able to work properly with few to no changes to the required closing and opening force during the test.
During these tests, the drawer is pulled out from the drawer's center and cycled a certain number of times. This number is predetermined and is in accordance with industry standards. Number, speed, cycle frequency, distance traveled, stopping force, excessive vibration, improper installation and other factors cause the drawer to fail prematurely and negatively affect the slides' life expectancy and performance.
DRAWER SLIDE DISCONNECTS
A disconnect is a mechanism that lets you take a drawer out of the housing cabinetry. Common disconnect types vary from brand to brand and include:
Friction:Friction disconnects simply let you open the slide against the ball bearing force holding it.
Rail: A rail disconnect has a latch that lets you lift the drawer off the slide to pull it away from the cabinet or desk where it's housed.
Lever:Lever disconnects have an internal lever that lets the drawer freely slide out when pushed.
DRAWER SLIDE COLORS
There are several options available when it comes to the color and appearance of the slides. While most slides available today have a metallic zinc finish, protecting them from corrosion in relatively dry environments, some brands offer drawer slides that are black. These go well with black or dark-stained wood.
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