How Handy: A DIY Sliding Kitchen Drawer

January 27, 2012   //  Posted in: DIY, Kitchen, Organized   //  By: Emily   //  14 responses

I geeked out with excitement a little bit this week when I finally tackled the atrocious tupperware storage situation in the kitchen (the scene I explained in my January To-Do List). I know you can relate to the stacks of assorted plastics that stand tall like buildings in a metropolitan and then as soon as you reach in to grab the little round one that’s the perfect size for your leftover guac, the whole stack, and the stack next to it, and the stack next to that topple like dominos. And then you get angry and toss the little round one back into the topping-tupperware-fire out of frustration over not being able to find the matching lid, and the rest of the stacks crumble apart like a dry muffin.

And with that said, 99.9% of the time your conveniently organized tupperware cabinet looks like… this:

Food storage blowout. Must get my tupperware under control.

Am I right? Or am I right.

Kiss it goodbye (I really sound like an As-Seen-On-TV saleswoman, right?). I came up with a little solution, and it only cost about $10. Soon to be seen in every single other cabinet in my house, voila, a DIY sliding shelf.

Oh, organizational happiness.

I must warn, this whole tutorial was cautiously shot in the corner of the kitchen on a cold, dark afternoon, and many of the pictures are looking inwards on an even darker cavernous cabinet, so I’ll try and use pretty words to paint a picture on how this new little feature came to be.

I started very modestly by picking up a new 8′ furring strip ($2, sized as a 1×2 board at Home Depot), and finding leftover wood screws in the basement (1-1/4″). Sure, there are lots of different sliding drawer tutorials out there, but this one I thought up a little differently for the sake of tupperware organization, and plotted to use leftover pegboard from our summer pegboard project as the base of the drawer (genius, you’ll see why).

Also from Home Depot, I bought a set of 18″ european drawer sliders. I didn’t do research to determine what made them euro compared to other models, but with the plastic rolling wheels and identical mechanics as the filing cabinet drawers that I just worked with, they felt like the right fit. I could have gone for a longer model if they had it because the drawer is upwards of 22″ deep, but 18″ is was all that was in stock at the time. At $7, the sliders priced at 18″ were just fine.

So, the materials:

  • One or Two 8-foot furring strip(s)
  • Piece of pegboard
  • Two or Three dowels (make sure they can be wedged into your pegboard holes; the holes vary a bit between manufacturers)
  • Eight 1-1/4″ wood screws
  • One set of long drawer sliders (set comes with 1/2″ wood screws that you’ll need)
  • Drill bits, drill
  • Wood glue (optional)

Try and understand this overhead visual of how the cabinet and shelf will have to be laid out:

Kitchen sliding drawer hand drawing.

The first issue I needed to overcome was the fact that the framing around the front of the cabinet was wider than I expected, and to allow clearance for the sliders, I had to build the base in just a little bit.

The frame around the cabinet overhung the walls of the cabinet by 3/4" all around. A real issue when you want a sliding drawer to operate smoothly.

Fortunately, the 1×2 furring strip has a real measurement of 3/4″ width, and by cutting myself 2 pieces 20″ in length from my board, I instantly fixed the problem, extending them almost all the way back along the shelf.

I fit 22" pieces of furring strip along the sides of the cabinet to even out the framing issue.

I considered anchoring the furring strips up a few inches with screws into the sides of the cabinet, but I didn’t for two reasons: 1) I didn’t want to inadvertently damage the dishwasher to the right of the cabinet wall if I hit it with a screw and 2) I wanted to maximize vertical space by keeping it set low. The solution to washing machine damage control was to plan on wood gluing the furring strips in place at the base of the cabinet, (but for the time being I left them sitting there as a dry fit as I constructed the frame of the shelf that would slide).

The frame itself, as craftily drawn in that previous sketch, is composed of furring strip, cut into four pieces. At dimensions of approx. 11″, 11″, 17″, 17″, I used the rest of the board I bought and began to assemble the piece that would roll in and out of the cabinet on the sliders. Sure, it could have been a few couple of inches deeper if I had bought a second furring strip, but that’s OK.

Dry fit here for show, I made sure to leave 1/2″ on either side of the drawer to allow room for the sliding hardware itself (per the manufacturer’s installation instructions).

Dry-fitting all pieces of the sliding drawer, by golly I think it's going to work.

It came together easily enough with the help of 1-1/4″ wood screws. Because I lapped the wood together, and because I don’t own a fancy Kreg jig tool, I DIY’ed a little countersink space for each screw (without a countersink bit) so that the screws didn’t stick out over the surface of the drawer. With a 9/32″ bit, I pre-drilled about half-way through the board.

The tape on the drill conveniently shows me how far I’ve drilled into the board, because I didn’t want to go all the way through accidentally.

Tape on the drill bit allows me to see how deep I've pre-drilled into the wood; with the 9/32 bit, I didn't want to go in too far!

I followed up on each hole with a small bit to pre-drill through the rest of the way, and into the board that it would be joined up against (furring strip, being as narrow as it is, is quick to split in my experiences, and pre-drilling always lessens the chances of that happening).

Pre-drilled holes with a wide end will let the screw head sit deeper and not protrude.

Sanded down a little bit, the four pieces of wood were joined together with screws (in hindsight, I could have used a little bit of wood glue here as a reinforcement, but my end piece with a total of 8 1-1/4″ screws held together really strongly.

Screwing the pieces of furring strip together.

Next up, installing the metal sliders. I’ll preface this part with a note that any set you buy will come with instructions for installation and help you figure out how to piece them together correctly, since there are clearly pieces for the right side and different pieces for the left. It wasn’t hard.

I started by installing the outer sliders that attach to the edges of the cabinet (or in my case, the furring strip buffers). For convenience and ease of accuracy, I lined up the top of the slider with the top of the furring strip.

Lining up the slider with the top of the furring strip.

I then added the coordinating sliding piece to the outer part of the drawer frame. I found it easiest to match the pieces of slider together, set them down on the frame, and then lift off the already secured “wall” part. The still-loose piece along the frame shouldn’t shift, and you can quickly mark with a pencil or marker where the screws need to be drilled before the dog walks by and knocks the whole operation down with his tail.

Determining where the drawer sliding track needs to sit to match up to its mate on the wall.

Determining where the drawer sliding track needs to sit to match up to its mate on the wall.

With both sides assembled, I fit it into the shelf once again to make sure that it would fit and glide smoothly.

It fit alright, but glide, it did not. My bad, the tracks were positioned in such a way that the frame wasn’t raised high enough to clear a little lip at the bottom of the cabinet.

Oops, there's a cabinet threshold in the way.

As an afterthought (as I was writing this post, actually) I realize that I could have moved the tracks that are attached to the drawer frame lower to raise the shelf itself a centimeter higher, but my fix worked too.

Easy enough, let’s just raise the whole thing up a hair with a few pieces of scrap wood to act as a shim along the base. Bingo. I also took this opportunity to clean the inside of the cabinet and use some wood glue to attach the sliders to the walls. The shims stayed where they were to hold the tracks upright while they dried.

Little pieces of scrap wood shim the sliders up just enough to clear the cabinet threshold.

Shelf slid into place, I had the clearance I needed and the drawer worked wonderfully.

The drawer slides! Has clearance over the threshold! Woot.

Next up, I cut a piece of scrap pegboard to fit the job with a circular saw, and screwed it into the frame with a few wood screws.

Pegboard drawer top in place.

Still sliding, now with a solid surface to hold my tupperware, I began to cut my dowels into 6″ pieces. Length can vary, and as I mentioned in the materials list, the dowel size should fit into the pegboard, but make it a tight squeeze. Mine were 1/4″ diameter dowels.

I began to organize a layout for the tupperware containers to see what would work, and began popping the dowels into place appropriately in such a way that they would prevent the plastics from sliding around.

Using pegboard and dowels for sliding drawer organization!

Using pegboard and dowels for sliding drawer organization!

The good thing is that the dowels can bounce around to different holes as your collection of plastic containers grows or changes. Once it was completed, I slid the drawer back into the tracks in the cabinet, and all checked out.

Using pegboard and dowels for sliding drawer organization!

No slide-age when I pull, or push. Not even when I do it aggressively.

Oh, organizational happiness.

The oak cabinets are another issue all together, but for now, tupperware storage makes the kitchen more bearable.

  • Diane
    6 years ago - Reply

    Brilliant idea! I hope that you don’t mind if I steal it. I’m also thinking of pots and pans; I wonder if I double the pegboard if that would support pans. Maybe add another 1 x 2 as support while building the frame.

    • Emily
      6 years ago -

      Thanks Diane! Please copy the idea! I hope it turns out well for you. I’m considering the same thing for pots and pans (but think it’ll require me switching which cabinet they’re currently in. I think one layer of pegboard would be fine with the weight, and yeah, another 1×2 to act as a cross brace would probably be a good idea to prevent bowing. Good luck!

  • Brittany aka Pretty Handy Girl
    6 years ago - Reply

    I love this tutorial (and therefore I love you!) Thanks for showing how you built the pull out drawer. I’ve been scheming for ways to build rolling shelves in our kitchen cabinets. Although, I need sliding shelves that can hold appliances and pots and pans. How much weight do you think those euro sliders will hold?

    • Emily
      6 years ago -

      Awesome, glad you liked the tutorial. The weight limit of the sliders was marked right on the packaging, and varied a little bit by the durability of the material it was made from (some were industrial steel-ish), and the length of the slider. I think I recall mine being suitable for up to 50-lbs, but I know there were models that were graded for 100-120-lbs too. Good luck!

  • Katie@BurbTales
    6 years ago - Reply

    Love this! I’m already wondering where I could use one of my own. Thanks for the tute!

  • Cathie
    6 years ago - Reply

    I love it!
    I’ve been wondering what you had in mind since you first mentioned the plastic mess. I had more of a drawer in mind, but I like the pegboard idea. Time to get my drawing paper out.
    Of course, now I see a huge dead-space above your plasticware that just screams for a sliding sister-shelf. Dish towel storage anyone?

    • Emily
      6 years ago -

      A sister shelf must come to exist; you’re right, the height of the cabinet definitely warrants something. Usually, it’s paper towel storage but we actually just ran out, that’s the real reason that it’s void of stuff.

      And since you mentioned a drawer without pegboard, I was also considering making something that had short walls so that it’d slide out and really contain everything like some of the more manufacturer designs I’ve seen. I like the pegboard because the pegs really do lock the plasticware in place – it still would be sliding around on a plain shelf. But the plain drawer with short walls (maybe 3-4″) will work wonders in other areas of the kitchen!

  • Lilia
    5 years ago - Reply

    Just discovered your site. I love this idea, thanks. Btw, love the dog. I have a Berner too; he’s the best dog ever. :)

    • Emily
      5 years ago -

      Glad you like it, Lilia! Dog buddies!

  • condoblues
    2 years ago - Reply

    I’ve been toying with installing a slide out drawer. Thanks for the great tutorial.

    Good to see your canine Quality Assurance Expert is on the job!

  • ginger
    2 years ago - Reply

    Wow, you’re talented!

  • Antonio Villarroel
    2 years ago - Reply

    Hi Emily,

    Thank you this great idea. I just needed the pegboard because I had a big sliding drawer for plastic containers that were always a mess.

  • Mary
    2 years ago - Reply

    In addition to the sliding shelf and the pegboard, I asked my hubby to make walls to go around three sides of the shelves. The walls keep orphan plastics from falling off the shelf and getting lost in the abyss. We all know if something falls overboard the shelf will not slide back. So I have the walls and love them. The walls are lightweight balsa with a quarter round in the corners for support. Easy, inexpensive and super efficient.

  • Kathy from CT
    2 years ago - Reply

    I have mine in a plastic container in my pantry, yet it was a contained mess. Borrowing from this post, I put the peg board & dowels in the container and viola! Thank you for this idea!

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