With just a screwdriver and a few minutes per door and drawer you can upgrade your existing cabinets. I know, because I’ve done it! In this article you’ll learn step-by-step how to make your cabinets and drawers soft close.
Plus, learn which dampers and adapters to buy to avoid poor performing, creaking hardware. Hint: You can’t go wrong with Blum dampers (Amazon) or Vadania retrofit drawer slides (Amazon).
I start my day around 5am making coffee and trying my best to not wake up the rest of the family.
And while I’m usually paying attention every now and then I’ll let a door or drawer slip.
But, since I’ve updated my cabinets to soft close, the cabinet doors and drawers don’t slam.
While I’m the original cabinetmaker of my cherry kitchen (in 2005) I didn’t invest in soft close to start. So, I used dampers and retrofit slides to add soft close instead.
Here’s a few things to know, and what we will cover in this article:
- Cabinet door upgrades to soft close are a DIY project ANYONE can do. With the Blum damper it’s as simple as installing a screw.
- But while cabinet drawer upgrades are a bit more involved it is an easily done DIY project.
Best of all? Learning how to make your cabinets and drawers soft close is also an economy project at just $2-4 per cabinet door and $5-25 per drawer (depending on approach).
Tools and Supplies Needed
The great thing about this project is you’ll need minimal tools:
- Cordless drill
- 1/8″ drill bit
- Hand saw or miter saw (for drawers)
- Scrap pieces of plywood for drawer dampers (optional)
The dampers we’ll use all come with screws so no hardware needed.
How to Make Cabinet Doors Soft Close
First up is cabinet doors.
And while they are simple to install there are a few things to highlight when buying:
- Brand matters. I’ve purchased and tested many brands and only trust what I’ll recommend.
- Adjustment is #1. And since my recommended damper is infinitely adjustable you’ll have a huge range to adjust small to large doors.
Step 1 - Let's Make Sure Your Current Doors Will Support Dampers
First, a soft close cabinet damper is only possible if your hinges are concealed.
So what is a concealed hinge? As the name implies it’s a hinge you don’t see any part of when the door is closed.
What are my options if I can see the hinge? Unfortunately, outside of a more serious cabinet update the soft close hardware isn’t designed to work with face mount hinges.
Step 2 - Choosing a Cabinet Door Soft Close Damper
As a cabinetmaker and woodworker I like to test things out.
So, while I’ve used a wide variety of drawer slides, dampers and hinges for decades I do know their price can lead to temptation to buy a cheap damper.
And here’s why:
- I’ve tried the Rok Hardware dampers and they are all plastic, have a small damper and the doors bounced. So I returned them.
- Then I also tried the Grass all metal damper (marketed often by Rok) and while larger and easiest to install they don’t work as well as … Blum’s soft close damper.
The Blum 971A Soft Close Dampers (Amazon) are the only damper I’ll install. With the biggest damper, easy adjustment and incredibly smooth closing action they are simply the BEST.
Step 3 - Required Tools
Have 50 doors and worried this project will take a day?
No need to invest that much time. Instead, plan at most a few hours (1-2 minutes a door) if have the right tools:
Small cordless drill like this Tacklife compact drill (Amazon)
1/8″ pilot bit (if you don’t have one, this Dewalt set (Amazon) is a great starter set).
Why do you need a small drill?
Due to the Blum damper straight-in hole design the screw will be parallel to the cabinet frame or side.
With this design it allows flexibility for both full overlay and partial overlay cabinets. But because of this, the drill will be in tight quarters and a full size drill can create installation issues.
And I know about this because I’ve ran into it. So trust me, a small cordless drill will make a big difference in the speed and quality of the installation.
Step 4 - INstalling the Blum Damper
For both face frame and frameless cabinets the following steps are all that is required to install the Blum damper:
- Set the damper in the upper, hinge side of the door
- Drill a pilot hole (the size of the screw shaft, less the threads)
- Screw the damper in place, optionally using the provided spacer
Step 5 - Adjusting the DOor for the Perfect Soft Close
This step is as simple as a twist of a Phillips screwdriver. On the face of the damper is a Phillips adjustment screw that controls the pressure the damper head applies to the door.
Door closes too fast? Tighten the screw a quarter-turn and try again.
Door doesn’t close or is too slow? Just loosen the screw a quarter-turn.
That’s it! You are halfway done with learning how to make your cabinets and drawers soft close.
Step 6 - Soft Close Door Frequently Asked Questions
Still have questions on if this is right for your kitchen or bathroom?
Let’s cover a few of the frequently asked questions.
Should I worry about the damper rubbing the cabinets?
I’ve had these dampers installed on my cherry cabinets for a decade and have had zero issues. But, it’s a kitchen I built and applied a high quality finish.
The other option? Replace the hinges with a soft close hinge that has an integrated damper that won’t touch the door.
Do I install the damper on the hinge side?
Yes – the damper must be installed on the hinge side to operate properly.
Can I replace the hinges instead?
Hinge replacement is a valid approach, but generally more costly and will require more time identifying the right hinge. Due to complexities of overlays hinges are not simple to buy – and a damper avoids this need in most cases.
How to Make Cabinet Drawers Soft Close
Almost any drawer can be updated to soft close hardware.
While some might be easier than others, if your drawer fits one of these categories then you’ll have a great chance at a DIY upgrade if your slides are:
- Side mount ball bearing slides
- Bottom mount drawer slides (aka epoxy slides, pictured above)
- Center mount slides with a 1/2″ clearance on each side
Fortunately, just these three slide styles cover a vast majority of current kitchens (80%+). And out of those, the incredibly economical bottom mounts make up a vast majority of older or base-model cabinets.
Continuing on, there are three primary methods of making cabinet drawers soft close and we’ll cover these each separately:
- Method #1: Use an add-on soft close damper and keep the slide (easiest)
- Method #2: Replace the drawer slide with a soft close side mount drawer slide (a DIY project)
- Or, Method #3: Retroft/upgrade the drawer and slides with undermount slides (skilled project)
Method 1: Adding a Soft Close Adapter to an Existing Drawer
Cost: $4-7 per drawer
Let’s first take a look at your drawer slides to see if this method is an option:
- First, open the drawer and see if there is a slide mounted to the bottom edge of the drawer.
- If so, keep going and remove the drawer by pulling it out and then gradually up as it reaches the end of it’s opening extension
- Lastly, look at the side of the cabinet for a second part of the slide with a roller (as pictured above).
Purchasing The Adapters
I’ve looked everywhere for this style of add-on soft close adapter and have found only one: the Rok Hardware adapter (Amazon) .
- You’ll need just one adapter per drawer
- Rok Hardware sells these in packs of 2 or 10 (unit price almost half when ordering 10!)
- Screws are included, as are installation instructions
Tools & SUpplies Needed
This method requires very few tools and no measuring.
- Cordless drill
- For frameless cabinets – no supplies
- For face frame cabinets a 1/2″ x 2″ x 14″ piece of plywood or scrap wood and three 1/2″ screws
Step #1 - Mount the Soft Close Adapter to the Cabinet
First up is attaching the adapter to the cabinet.
If you have frameless cabinets (the cabinet side extends to the front, typically 3/4″ in width) then simply set the adapter on top of the bottom mount slide and attach with provided screws.
However, if you have a face frame cabinet you’ll have two steps:
- Attach a piece of plywood or scrap wood (noted above) to the *right* side drawer slide. The right slide is the “guide slide” and should have a U-shaped top that tracks the drawer.
- Then, attach the soft close adapter to the plywood.
Step #2 - Attach the Soft Close Drawer Catch
Next up is universal to all types of cabinets.
First, re-install the drawer. Then close the drawer and open it partially and slip the drawer side catch. Next, align it to the top of the cabinet catch with a 1/16″ gap and screw in place.
Method #2: Replace the Drawer Slide
Soft close adapter not work or don’t have bottom mount slides?
As long as you have a 1/2″ gap on either side of the existing drawer you should be able to do a side mount soft close upgrade.
Let’s take a look at the basic steps:
- Determine the size of the slides
- Select a soft close side mount drawer slide
- Install using a drawer slide jig and the right screws
Method #3: Rebuild the Drawer
This is a project I’d tackle, but my shop is full of tools to do the job.
With this being an advanced project (and cost) we’ll cover this in a future article.
But, the best soft close drawer slides in my opinion are an under mount drawer slide (Blum are again my favorite). And by building a new drawer you’ll be able to meet the custom bottom and side clearances.
Hopefully this article was useful in understanding how to make your cabinets and drawers soft close.
Be sure to check out our other resources for installation tips and other hardware choices.