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How to Choose the Right Drawer Slide?

Nov. 01, 2021

Considering the number of times you'll open a drawer over it's lifetime, it's easy to see why choosing the right one is an important decision. Many factors will play into your choice: price, features, finishes and even just a preference for the tactile feel of a given slide. This guide will help you zero in on the one that best fits your needs. Note: While there will always be a place for wooden drawer slides, this guide will focus on the metal versions, which offer functionality not found on any wooden slide.

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Which Mounting Method?

Metal drawer slides are offered in three basic types: side-mount, undermount and center-mount. The amount of space between your drawer box and the cabinet opening will affect your decision. If you are replacing existing slides, you should stick with the type you have, since the drawer is built for specific clearances meant for that type of slide. If you are building new, you have the freedom to choose according to your needs. Read on to learn about the three different mounting methods.


As their name alludes to, side-mount slides mount to the side of the drawer box. They are common on everything from utility cabinets and toolboxes to kitchen cabinets. Side-mount slides are available in ball-bearing versions and epoxy/Euro versions, which have a nylon roller that rides in a track. The ball-bearing types offer the benefits of smooth ball-bearing operation, high load capacities, and options for full-extension and over-travel. They also typically include a detent as standard, which keeps the drawer from creeping open if the cabinet is slightly out of plumb. The epoxy-coated versions offer self-closing action and an opening detent, which keeps the drawer open for easy access as you work. These slides require clearance – usually 1/2" – between the drawer slides and the sides of the cabinet opening.

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Undermount slides offer two benefits that side-mount slides do not: they are totally concealed beneath the drawer, and, since they don't require as much space on the sides for clearance, they offer slightly more storage area inside the drawer. Keep in mind, though, that you will lose a bit of drawer height inside the drawer, since the slides require added clearance beneath the drawer. Undermount slides also commonly sport premium features like soft-close, which has made them a top choice for high-end cabinetry. The drawer boxes have specific requirements for side thickness, drawer dimensions, and often require notching at the back, so be sure to check the spec sheets if you are building drawers.

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Center-mount drawer slides are an older type of drawer slide that still sees use today, although they are more often sold as replacements for older cabinets. Like undermount slides, they are totally concealed, but instead of being mounted under both sides of the drawer, a single slide runs down the middle. Because they have limited weight capacity, center-mount slides are typically only available in 3/4 extension, and usually lack features such as soft-close and self-close. Center mount drawer slides are sold as single slides. They are available in classic wood version or ball-bearing versions. The required clearance depends on the thickness of slide.

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