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Changing Drawer Slides

Thinking about changing those old worn out broken drawer slides in your kitchen or bathroom vanity? Replacing them could be a challenge. Are they sticking, clicking, scraping, binding or just hard to pull out?

Learning how to put on new runners is going to be more challenging than you may think.

I have a few tips that can save you a lot of trouble if you decide to replace the slides yourself.

My confidence comes from having 27 years of on hands experience in the cabinet making industry.

Right up front, plan on making a couple of trips to Home Depot, Lowes or your local cabinet materials supply company while you are taking on this project.

If you cannot find the exact drawer slides that you have now, seriously consider hiring a professional cabinet maker to install the new ones.

Possible Problems When Replacing Kitchen Drawer Slides

Not all drawer slides operate the same way even though they may have a similar appearance. Problems will surely occur when you start to change them out. This is why it’s extra important to find the exact brand and model if possible.

The importance of what I am saying can be demonstrated by discussing white epoxy coated runners. Some are self closing and others are not. Even if you try to exchange one brand of self closers for a different brand, you may be contending with the top drawers hitting the countertop edges. A couple of manufactures self closing slides are designed so that when the drawer is pulled out, it rises up about 1/8” in the beginning of the operation. This can cause it to scrape either the drawer above it or the bottom of the counter.

Not all screw locations are the same and some of the mass production facilities use extra large screws to attach runners to the cabinet sides with. The larger screws are not self taping so you may need to have some ½” or 5/8” number six Phillips screws on hand.

Here’s another pitfall, the predrilled holes in the drawer slides may be larger on the new or old set. You may not be able to use the same locations or even the same screws. If it looks like the screw head isn’t large enough to hold it on, pull on the slide after you mount it just to be sure that it is not going to fall off later. This can be a safety hazard if left unattended to.

If you have a European kitchen design, where all of the gaps are an eight of an inch apart on your drawer faces, a different brand of slide may cause the gaps to become inconsistent. If this happens the cabinet slides may need to be moved up or down to a different location. In the next few paragraphs there are less extreme suggestions to try first. This video on drawer slide installation will give you some pointers that may help.

Ways to Make Adjustments When Installing New Drawer Slides

There are many ways of making adjustments in order for the new drawer slides to function smoothly. Patients is the number one ingredient you need to master before taking on the task.

Trial and Error
Remember the old cliché, “the third times a charm.” Once you get a couple of the drawer slides switched out things will begin to go a lot smoother. After the first or second try you should have a good idea of what you’re going to need to get from Home Depot, Ace Hardware, Lowes or that local cabinet supply company.

Replacing old drawer slides is usually a lot easier on the actual drawer than it is inside of the kitchen or bathroom cabinets. A flashlight makes a world of difference when you are crocked down inside of the base cabinetry trying to remove and replace screws.

Use common sense as you look and think through various places where you may be able to insert shims to make the slides operate smoother. You will have to loosen the drawer slide screws a little to insert the spacers into position. When you retighten them, it is usually best to use a hand screw driver. The shims should be placed as close to the screw locations as possible.

  • Tip: Add some WD-40 to the new sliders to make them work even smoother.

Moving the Hardware Up or Down
This can be a very demanding task. If at all possible avoid relocating the drawer hardware on the cabinet sides. A flashlight, carpenters square and tape measure will be very handy to have if you have to relocate runner positions.

Using a Hammer
Sometimes a slight tap here or there with a hammer can cause a drawer to operate more smoothly. Many of the production cabinet companies use a slotted hole adjustment technique on the drawer to attach the decorative face with. You can turn the hammer around and use the rubber end to tap the decorative face, if you need to make minor dimensional changes.

Loosen the Decorative Front Mounting Screws
If you change a kitchen slide and the drawer face is slightly off, you can sometimes adjust the front by loosening the attachment screws slightly and maneuvering the face to the desired position.

If you’re installing new slides in the entire kitchen, plan on spending several hours on the project depending upon how many drawers you have. Cabinet makers spend countless hours making adjustments in order for things to line up properly. You should take pride in your work and make sure that things are next to being perfect once you have completed changing the drawer runners. Every problem has a solution, don’t be in a hurry to change them out quickly, take your time and enjoy the challenge of doing something new.

Consider only replacing drawer slides in your kitchen or vanity cabinets that are not working properly. Once you get started, you will understand why I am making this suggestion. It’s a very laborious task to try and switch all of the old ones out for new slides.

Categories: Working With Drawers
  1. Susan Banks
    September 27th, 2009 at 07:46 | #1

    Thanks for theingo and I particularly like the last paragraph. The last sentence is a treasure enjoy the journey not just the destination.

  2. Susan Banks
    September 27th, 2009 at 07:47 | #2

    Sorry about the typo that statement was Thanks for the info.

  3. admin
    April 15th, 2010 at 07:06 | #3

    Thanks Susan! Honesty is always the best policy. I love doing things around my house and they are much more enjoyable when I have time to do them. Most cabinetry professionals are perfectionist when it comes to doing their work, if they are allotted enough time. When money is not an object that’s when the finest precision work is accomplished.

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