How to Install Drawer Slides On Face Frame Cabinets?

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Drawer slides allow drawers to move in and out of cabinets. They must be properly installed to function well and support the weight of your belongings. Proper installation depends on cabinet and drawer slide type. In this article, learn how to install drawer slides on face frame cabinets in three types.

Face Frame vs Frameless Cabinets

Cabinets consist of several different parts. The sides and back of the cabinet are known as the carcass. Some frames also have a piece attached to the front, called a face frame. Cabinets without this front piece are known as frameless cabinets. 

Face Frame Cabinets

Face Frame Cabinets are more common in American cabinetry. The openings to the cabinet are slightly smaller than the carcass.

Mounting hardware, such as drawer slides or hinges, are attached to the face frame and back of the cabinet. 

Frameless Cabinets

Frameless cabinets are common in Europe and are often known as ‘European-style’ cabinets. The opening to the cabinet is the same size as the carcass.

Mounting hardware is attached to the sides of the cabinet carcass. 

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How Do Drawer Slides Work?

A drawer slide is made up of two pieces:

  • One piece of the slide attaches to the drawer itself. This piece is known as the drawer profile.
  • The other piece attaches to the cabinet, and is called the cabinet profile. Nylon rollers or ball bearings allow the drawer profile to smoothly slide along the cabinet profile, allowing you to open or close the drawer. 

Slides with nylon rollers are less robust than slides with ball bearings. They are used to mount lighter drawers.

Heavy or extra-large drawers are better suited to ball bearing slides, which are able to support their weight. These heavy-duty slides generally cost more than nylon roller drawer slides. 

Side mount drawer slides

Types of Drawer Slides

There are three kinds of drawer slides that can be used to mount drawers in face frame cabinets. They are; side mount, under mount, and center mount. 

Side Mount Drawer Slides

Side mount drawer slides attach to the sides of the drawer box. When installed in a face frame cabinet, the slide is then attached to the face frame, as well as to the cabinet back. Two slides are used, one for each side of the drawer.

Side mount drawer slides that include ball bearings are attached in the middle of the side of the drawer. Because of their placement, they are highly visible when the drawer is open. 

Side mount drawer slides with rollers are attached at the bottom corners of the drawer box. They provide some support to the bottom of the drawer, and are less visible than side mount ball bearing drawer slides. 

Under Mount Drawer Slides

Under mount drawer slides consist of two slides, attached to the bottom of the drawer box. They provide support to the drawer’s bottom. Under mount drawer slides are mounted to the cabinet back and to the bottom of the opening in the face frame. Three slides may be used for very heavy or large drawers.

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Learn exactly how to install bottom mount drawer slides in our guide here.

Center Mount Drawer Slides

Center mount drawer slides use a single slide. The slide is attached to the bottom of the drawer, and mounted to the bottom of the cabinet opening, as well as in the back of the cabinet.

Center mount drawer slides are most often used with small, lightweight drawers. They are not visible when the drawer is open.

How to Install Drawer Slides On Face Frame Cabinets

Follow these steps to install drawer slides in a face frame cabinet. 

  1. Confirm slide orientation. Some side mount slides are ‘handed’, meaning they must be installed on either the left or right of the drawer. These are generally marked with an L or R. Unhanded slides can be installed on either side of the drawer.
  2. Measure and mark the drawer profile. Proper slide alignment allows your drawers to easily open and close. For side mount drawer slides, measure and mark from both the bottom and the top of the drawer box sides. For under mount slides, measure from both sides. Use a level to ensure the drawer profile is parallel to the drawer bottom.
  3. Attach the drawer profile to the drawer box. Drawer slides come with mounting hardware, including screws. Use a drill or screwdriver to attach the drawer profile to the drawer box, following the marks you made in the previous step. If the drawer has an overlay or false front, the front of the slide should press up against this part of the drawer. You can also make this process easier by using a one of the best cabinet hardware jigs to drill.
  4. Measure and mark the cabinet profile. Insert the drawer profile into the cabinet profile. Put the entire drawer into the opening in the cabinet’s face frame. Mark the top and bottom of the slide on the face frame, and double check your work with a level. Remove the drawer profile from the cabinet profile.
  5. Attach the cabinet profile to the face frame. Use the provided hardware and a drill or screwdriver to attach the cabinet profile to the face frame, using the marks you made in the previous step as a guide.
  6. Attach the cabinet profile to the cabinet back. Use the manufacturer-provided bracket or standoff and mounting hardware to connect the cabinet profile to the back of the cabinet. 
  7. Check the alignment. Slide the drawer profile into the cabinet profile. Pull the drawer in and out several times to ensure that it easily clears the cabinet’s face front. Adjust any loose screws.

How Much Weight Can Drawer Slides Hold?

Drawer slides can hold anywhere from 35 pounds all the way up to several hundred pounds. Center mounted slides hold the least weight, while there are heavy duty side mount slides that can hold hundreds of pounds.

To function properly, drawer slides must be able to support the weight of the drawer box and it’s contents. Manufacturer’s ratings indicate how much weight a pair of drawer slides can handle over their expected lifetime. 

  • Center mount slides are rated for no more than 35 pounds. 
  • Other light-duty slides can support up to 75 pounds. 
  • Medium-duty slides can carry up to 100 pounds. 
  • For more than 100 pounds, heavy-duty slides are necessary. 

How Far Should Drawer Slides Extend? 

Different types of slides are used, depending on how much access you need to the drawer and whether or not it is directly below a countertop overhang. 

Side mount drawer slides
  • Use overtravel slides to create drawers that completely exit the cabinet. They are useful when full access to the drawer is necessary, and when there is a countertop overhang. 
  • When you need to easily and consistently access the back of the drawer, and there is no countertop overhang, choose a full extension slide. Full extension slides are great for file drawers. 
  • ⅞ extension drawers allow most of the drawer to exit the cabinet, allowing very good access to the drawer box. ⅛ of the drawer will remain inside. 
  • ¾ extension drawers let ¾ of the drawer pull out from the cabinet. They allow the least amount of access to the back of the drawer. 

Tips for Installing Drawer Slides

There are a few tips to help you get your drawer slide installation correct:

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  • Always use the included screws, rather than replacements. Drawer slide screws must be extremely low profile, to allow the profiles to slide past each other.
  • Consider using a high quality soft close drawer slide. These prevent slamming, which extends the life of your drawer slides.
  • Use the correct size slide. Slides come in a range of sizes, from ten to 28 inches long. Measure the distance from the back wall of the cabinet to just behind the face frame. Choose slides that are as close to this measurement as possible, without going over. 
  • If this is your first attempt at drawer slide installation, consider using under mount slides. Because the cabinet profile rests on the bottom of the drawer opening, they are easier to level than side mount drawer slides. 

After installation, you can spray the cabinets or add stain – whatever look and finish you prefer.

Conclusion

You have three options when installing drawer slides on face front cabinets; side mount, under mount, and center mount. Attach the slide to the drawer first, then to the cabinet. Make sure your slides are level and evenly spaced, and that they can support adequate weight for their purpose. 

Ellenkate grew up on job sites run by her family’s construction company. She earned her theater degree from The Hartt School, a prestigious performing arts conservatory in Connecticut. Her design and DIY work from her Chicago loft was featured in the Chicago Reader and on Apartment Therapy.