Soft close drawer guide: build, replace or retrofit (Guru Guide 2021)

Share on pinterest
Share on facebook
Share on email
Share on twitter
Share on reddit

If you buy something through our links, this site will earn a commission. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Building or upgrading to a soft close drawer requires understanding drawer construction, mounting options and drawer brands. Did you know for new drawers its best to use an undermount soft close slide? While for retrofits a side mount soft close is usually required (and most economical). In this article we’ll show you the right slides and tools to make your drawers better.

With soft close drawer slides available from just over $10 up to $35 a drawer it’s not really a question as to having soft close drawers. It’s a question of what style drawer slide you’ll need.

And while I prefer the industry best Blum 563H Undermount  for kitchen drawers, there are budget slides too for less used drawers or retrofits.

Replacing the drawer slide not an option? Well, there are soft close drawer adapters that we’ll review as well.

In this article we’ll review:

  • How to make new drawers soft close with the right slide
  • Retrofit replacement soft close drawer slides
  • Soft close adapters that work with epoxy drawer slides (aka bottom mount)
  • Screws and jigs you’ll need to properly install your drawers
  • Features of a soft close drawer slide to be aware of prior to purchasing

Top Picks

  • Best for New Drawers: Blum 563H  are the premium soft close drawer slides for new drawers. And, they are Made in USA and BHMA certified.
  • Best Retrofit Drawers: Vadania Side Mount  are a stylish black, feature dual springs and are EASY to open (some aren’t).
  • Soft Close Adapter: Rok Soft Close Adapter  for existing epoxy or ball bearing slides will update an existing slide to soft close for a fraction of the price.

3 Options for a Soft Close Drawer

A drawer isn’t something we thing about all the time. But when we use one it’s a growing trend that we expect it to open without noise and not slam when we close it.

Which is what a soft close drawer is all about.

Wondering if you can upgrade your existing drawers? We’ll show you two options.

Building new drawers and want the best drawer slides with soft close? We’ll show you those too.

With that, here are the three options you’ll have for a soft close drawer:

  1. New drawers simply start with the right soft close drawer slide.
  2. Replacement drawer slides require basic skill with a cordless drill and 10-15 minutes a drawer.
  3. Soft close drawer adapters are the easiest to install and use your existing slides.

Lastly, while a drawer slide with soft closing built-in performs the best you’ll have an upgrade with the adapter too.

Start Off With Soft Close Drawer Slides

Soft close drawer slides

If you’re starting off with new drawers then you have a variety of great options to choose from.

But, skill, tools and ambition come into play in terms of which slide to choose. So generally I’d consider:

  • If you have the skills and tools to build the cabinet, go with the best undermount drawer slides. They require some custom measuring, grooves and holes but the results are well worth it.
  • However, if you are a weekend warrior and just starting out, a side mount soft close drawer slide is best. 

Replace Existing Slides with Soft Close Drawer Slides

It’s always best to do a little more work. 

And that’s why choosing to replace your existing drawer slides and use a drawer slide with a built-in damper and two springs a side is the best course of action. While you’ll likely need to use a side mount soft close drawer slide, it’s for the best in the long term.

If you have epoxy slides, like the ones pictured above, they will only extend 3/4 of the way. And, by replacing the slide you’ll upgrade to a soft close drawer AND have a full extension slide that will let you get to the back of the drawer.

Upgrade to Soft Close Drawers Without Replacing the Slide

Bottom mount drawer slide with a soft close damper attached

Cost: $4-7 per drawer

Skill: Basic

Let’s first take a look at your drawer slides to see if this method is an option:

  1. First, open the drawer and see if there is a slide mounted to the bottom edge of the drawer.
  2. 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
  3. Lastly, look at the side of the cabinet for a second part of the slide with a roller (as pictured above).
If you have a drawer like this, then keep reading. Otherwise jump to Method #2.

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) .

Purchasing considerations:

  • 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. 

Required tools:

  • Cordless drill

Supplies:

  • 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.
Installing adapter block in a face frame cabinet
Soft close adapter installed on side of cabinet

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.

Installing the drawer side soft close catch

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.

But don’t.

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). 

  • Phillips screwdriver

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:

  1. Set the damper in the upper, hinge side of the door
  2. Drill a pilot hole (the size of the screw shaft, less the threads)
  3. Screw the damper in place, optionally using the provided spacer
You will be faced with the choice of using or not using a provided (gray) damper spacer. An easy test is if your doors “lay over” the face of the cabinet more than 1″ you won’t need the damper. But if you doors are less than 1″ overlay then you’ll need the spacer for proper performance.
 
Fortunately Blum provides great installation instructions, shown below and also available online. Make sure to bookmark this page for links later.
Source: https://www.blum.com/us/en/downloads-videos/

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.

Summary

While adding soft close drawer slides to your drawers from the start is best, there are always options to upgrade later. Be sure to plan some time, have patience, and buy the right screws and jigs before you start.

Drawer Supplies on Amazon

Last update on 2021-10-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Leave a Comment

Exit mobile version