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How To Fix a Broken (or, “Damaged”) Cabinet Drawer

January 14th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

There is not really a particular method teaching how to fix a broken cabinet drawer other than troubleshooting possible ways to repair the broken cabinetry part that is not working properly. It has been my experience that many broken slide out mechanisms can be repaired unless they have been severely damaged. In such a case the only solution may be to have a new one fabricated rather than repairing the damaged part.

First let’s identify some of the names associated with this cabinetry member that you are repairing.

Part names:
A “drawer front,” sometimes referred to as a “cabinet face,” references the actual decorative outside piece. It may have been fabricated from Formica, real hard wood, melamine, thermofoil material, MDF or vinyl wrapped onto a medium density fiberboard.

Slides are the metal hardware pieces that are most often screwed into place. Sometimes they have been pressed into position with a special machine that forces a piece of plastic about 1/4″ wide into a pre-drilled hole in the cabinet member. There should still be screws involved in keeping the parts assembled. If there are not any screws holding the slides in place you may not be able to complete the task at hand.

The drawer box consists of a bottom, sides, back, slides and the actual box front piece.

External hardware will obviously will be refereed to as the “knob” or “handle.”

  • Tip: Remember many cabinet shops will be glad to assist you with fixing the problems that you may be encountering. Oftentimes, they will do the work for nothing just to win your confidence and to help build their reputation.

Troubleshooting How to Repair a Broken Cabinetry Drawer

Here are some possible problems that you may look for while trying to repair a broken, kitchen, vanity, office, desk, file or laundry room cabinetry drawer and a few ways of discovering what the problem actually is related to.

Start the troubleshooting process by using your ears in conjunction with trying to operate the drawer that is not function properly. Be very observant with your eyes as well. Your looking for any evidence that suggests that the cabinet parts may be rubbing against one another.

Remove it from the cabinet completely and reinstall it. While you have it out take a good look inside the cabinet to see if there is something obstructing the flow.

What causes drawers to not work properly and ways to correct the problem?

Loose screws:

If you here clicking noises, or something that sounds like it is causing a sound comparable to friction on two surfaces it is quite possible that you may have loose screws. The sound of metal on metal should be recognizable.

  • Remove the drawer and tighten all of the screws that are holding the slide members in place. You must tighten the ones on the inside of the cabinet as well.

Drawer slide is broken:
Another possibility is that the drawer slide member has a broken part such as a missing ball bearing or even a plastic wheel on the cabinet slide member may have cracked or is binding.

  • Find a local cabinet supply company to purchase the replacement parts from. Take the actual slides with you or broken parts so they can give you professional advice.

The size of the slide out box was not made properly:

The slide out box may have been originally made to large and if it was made to small it will bind as well. As you are pulling it outward try wiggling it back and forth. If there is a lot of play or slop between the cabinet and the drawer it’s probably too small.

  • If it’s too small try using thin pieces of cardboard as shims between the cabinet side and the slide. You just need to loosen the screws and wedge the shims close to where the screws are located. If you think the drawer was made to big you can run a pencil line along the actual drawer slide from front to back and trim it down along the mark that you made. Your cut should not exceed 1/16 of an inch.

The bottom is touching the cabinetry rail or the drawer face below:
Cabinet bottoms could be made of thin materials and they are sagging down so much that they are rubbing on the cabinet rail, bottom, or door or drawer face below.

  • Try making or having a thicker bottom fabricated, to fit on the inside, by a cabinetry shop. It should be no less than 1/2” thick. Place it on the inside and screw it fast from the outside of the existing bottom. This should pull the bow (or, “warp”) out and fix the problem.

Expansion due to water absorption:
Water damage will often cause swelling either on the cabinetry or slide out. This will cause a binding effect.

  • It is possible to shave the drawer down (refer to the above reference “the size of the slide out box was not made properly”) but in most cases a new one will need to be fabricated. It really depends upon the extent of the water damage on the effected areas.

The drawer slide part is not inserted into the cabinet slide member correctly:Sometimes there is a simple solution because the two slide parts are not correctly interconnected.

  • Try removing the drawer and reinstalling it. Do not force anything, especially if you are working with slides that have ball bearings inserted in them. If you are experiencing resistance, be patient and gentle while attempting to reinsert it into the other members. Sometimes it is just a matter of wiggling, pulling it out a little or jiggling it up and down to get it to install correctly. Full extension slides installed on many file drawers may react in this manner.

In my thirty years of making, installing and repairing cabinets, I have encountered many drawers that do no work properly. Every situation is going to require a different approach when you are trying to fix a damaged, or broken cabinetry part. With careful observation, by using your eyes and ears, you should be able to find what the problem is by following the troubleshooting suggestions that I have shared with you. 

One other thing, f you are having difficulty with file drawer rails you can order replacements through Amazon.

Now that you have learned how to repair (or, “correct”) cabinetry members that are not functioning properly, fixing a kitchen, laundry room, office, vanity or file drawer should be easier than before you read this article.

Discovering what causes the box or slides to not operate correctly is only the half of the project. If the repair becomes more than you can handle, you consult a local cabinet manufacturer not a sales person at the hardware store or supply company. Oftentimes, they are not professionals and they do not understand how to actually fix the cabinet problem or even how the hardware operates.

Categories: Working With Drawers
  1. Tammy
    April 21st, 2010 at 12:00 | #1

    I have a bathroom cabinet drawer that something spilled in and the particle board has bubbled up and is on both sides. How or can I replace just that. The drawer itself is in good condition, just the bottom is messed up. The same issue with my kitchen cabinet under the sink. Looks like a previous water leak. Not as bad as the drawer but looks awful.

  2. admin
    April 21st, 2010 at 13:14 | #2

    Tammy, yes you can insert a new bottom on-top of the damaged one. That is the easiest way to fix the problem. Take the drawers to a local cabinet shop, it’s should be a ten minute job for a professional.

  3. Christine
    September 9th, 2010 at 14:00 | #3

    You’re the only place that has addressed broked dresser drawers. I have two in 2 different pieces of furniture. Problem is that I cannot get the drawers out. They both seem to have “stoppers” at the back on the rail (if that is correct). How do I get them out? Of course they are both are at the bottom of the furniture pieces.

  4. Kelly
    November 2nd, 2010 at 08:24 | #4

    So, I have a kitchen cabinet drawer. The drawer is fine, but the thin piece of wood that the slide is mounted to (maybe what you call the cabinetry rail?) has come unstapled from the cabinet frame. In that process, a small piece broke off where the staple is mounted. Do I need to get a new piece? Where? How? Wheter I get a new piece or not, how do I remount it properly? Thanks for your help. Greatly appreciated

  5. Meranda
    August 21st, 2014 at 09:02 | #5

    I have a dresser that the 2 bottom drawers will not stay on the Drawer Slide. It’s almost like the slide is not big or wide enough to fill the gap for the drawer to stay in. or the dresser is too wide for the drawers to go into. Would replacing wider slides solve the problem? Do they make them in different widths?

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