If you’ve purchased drawer slides before you likely paused at some point and asked “what type of slide do I really need”? Due to the dozens of types of drawer slides on the market choosing a slide is confusing.
Types of Drawer Slides
Getting started, there are five aspects of a drawer slide to consider: mounting location, length of extension, weight rating, slide color and integrated features of the drawer slide. Together these features will determine what type of drawer slide you’ll want for your project.
Drawer Slide Features to Consider
#1 - Where will the drawer slide attach to the drawer?
When looking at a drawer you have four sides to potentially attach the drawer slide to. And, of course, there are slides for each side to consider.
The types of drawer mounting styles by popularity are:
- Side mount
- Bottom mount
- Under mount
- Center mount
- Top mount
#2 - How far do I need the drawer to open?
After considering where the drawer slide will be installed, the next consideration will be how far out the drawer slide will need to “extend”. A few considerations:
- Partial extension – where the drawer opens from 1/2 to 3/4 of the depth of the drawer (eg. you won’t be able to see the back of the drawer)
- Full extension – the full depth of the drawer is available when the drawer is open.
- Overtravel – when the drawer is fully open it extends past the frame of the cabinet.
#3 - How much weight will go in the drawer?
For most purposes a drawer slide will need to hold up to 100 pounds. And that’s the standard rating for most slides.
However, in some cases drawer slides will need to support up to 500 or even 1000-pounds. And that’s where heavy duty drawer slides come into play that come in 250, 500, and 1000 pound ratings.
Key considerations: A heavy duty drawer slide will not fit most standard 1/2″ side clearances so be sure to purchase them before building a drawer.
#4 - Do I need special features like self closing?
So the fourth consideration is toughest and can dramatically influence the cost of the drawer. Consider your drawer slide might need
- Self closing to make sure the drawer stays closed
- Soft closing to prevent the drawer from slamming shut
- Locking mechanisms to keep the drawer open (important on large, heavy duty slides)
- Push-to-open for frameless cabinets where no hardware is desired
#5 - What color and finish do I need?
For drawer slides that will be seen one consideration is certainly the finish of the slide. A few options:
- Side mount slides are generally available in black and zinc
- Bottom mount epoxy slides are usually available in white, cream and gray.
Types of Slides
1. Side Mount Drawer Slides
Side mount drawer slides are mounted on the drawer sides and come in the widest variety of extensions, weight capacity and features. Due to this a side mount is a popular slide for furniture, cabinets and even replacement of drawer slides like bottom and center mounts.
Key features of side mount drawer slides:
- Self close side mount drawer slides
- Soft close side mount drawer slides
- Heavy duty side mount drawer slides
- Locking heavy duty side mount drawer slides
Finally, side mount drawer slides are almost exclusively made in the classic ball bearing design.
2. Bottom mount drawer slides
The bottom mount drawer slide is one of the most common drawer slides around. Due to a simple design, easy installation and very low cost it is common in both older kitchens as well as entry-level newer kitchens.
While other slides have varying features this slide has no options other than length.
Key features of a bottom mount drawer slide:
- Self closing with a gravity slope over last few inches of slide travel
- 3/4 extension (meaning the last quarter of the drawer remains in the cabinet
- Extremely easy to mount and adjust
3. Undermount Drawer Slides
One of the best slides, in my opinion, is a soft closing undermount slide. Due to its unique design an undermount drawer slide has advantages the others just can’t compete with:
- Soft closing with huge mechanical closers
- Invisible design makes them disappear – you will not see the slide
- Advanced features such as push-to-open and even mechanical operation
4. Center Mount Drawer Slides
While not as popular as other styles of drawer slides a center mount drawer slide is a classic design dating back centuries. While there are variations of this in both metal and wood they both have one thing in common: they just don’t operate as smoothly as a new-style drawer slide.
Key features of a center mount slide:
- Mounts on the bottom center of the drawer
- Leverages a track system with guides to keep the drawer in place during extension
- Opens at most to 3/4 extension for drawer stability
- Features lower overall weight capacity
- Requires a specific drawer construction
- Harder to adjust
5. Heavy Duty Drawer Slides
These slides allow for loads of 250+ pounds to be moved from 12″ all the way out to 60″. And that range of movement and weight support comes with a heavy duty piece of metal as well as a hefty price tag.
- Load range from 100-1000 pounds
- Typically steel ball bearing slides
- Side clearances typically of 0.7″+ (varies by manufacturer)
- Optional locking mechanisms that hold the drawer open
6. Top Mount Drawer Slides
For an application where you won’t have a cabinet side to attach the slide to a top mount slide is what you’ll need. As the name implies, a top mount slide attaches to the “top” of the drawer space. For example, a pencil drawer under an open desk would use a top mount slide such that the slide attaches to the underside of the desk directly.
- Mount to underside of a cabinet or furniture surface
- Lower weight rating than standard side mount slides (typically under 75 pounds)
- 3/4 extension is common
7. Motorized Drawer Slides
For the ultimate in high-technology Blum offers a motorized Servo-Drive that adds electric drive to high end drawers. And while a potential for many styles of drawers this is a solution most common to push-to-open trash units.
Frequently Asked Questions for Types of Drawer Slides
Let’s take a look at common questions, likely including some questions you have, on types of drawer slides.
What is the best drawer slide?
There is no single answer to the question of what is the best drawer slide, unfortunately. However, by considering the five characteristics of mounting location, length of extension, weight rating, color and integrated features it’s possible to match a slide to your project.
But, if there is a single most universal slide, however, a side mount soft closing drawer slide is a very popular drawer slide for cabinets and furniture.
How do I choose a drawer slide?
To choose a drawer slide you’ll want to consider mounting location, length of extension, color of slide, weight capacity and features like self closing vs. soft closing. Then look at slides and understand your budget and application. Consider these questions:
- How often will the slides be used?
- Is self closing important eg. do you need the slide to stay shut in a moving RV?
- Are anti-slam features like soft closing important?
- Will drawer slides be new or retrofits?
How much clearance is needed for drawer slides?
While there isn’t a simple answer to how much clearance is needed for slides, there are three ways to determine this:
- Purchase your slide first and follow the instructions provided.
- For replacement slides measure the gap on one side of the existing drawer. Due to standardization most slides are 1/2″ clearance.
- If you haven’t decided on a drawer slide yet, but are using standard side mount ball bearing or bottom slides there are a wealth of slides available with a 1/2″ of clearance.
Can drawer slides be longer than the drawer?
Yes it is possible to have the drawer slides be longer than the drawer. While not common, if your slides support enough holes to support the weight of the drawer and it’s contents this can work. And for 3/4″ extension drawers where you don’t want hard to reach storage this can be a solution for a number of slide scenarios.
When considering types of drawer slides it is best to spend some time researching the features you need before making the investment. While your initial needs may be simple, surprising features like soft close can add user satisfaction to the drawer operation in the long term.