How to Choose the Right Drawer Slide

how to choose the right drawer slide

Drawer slides are among the key components when designing cabinets and other furniture with drawers. Slides allow drawers to be pulled out and pushed in easily, reducing the friction between the drawer and the cabinet while ensuring the drawer’s contents are accessible. They also ensure a drawer can close completely, keeping the cabinets neat and safe.

Many different types of drawer slides are available, and various kinds are suitable for different applications. The many options can make it difficult to select the best types of slides that support your drawer’s functions. In this drawer slide buying guide, we share the essential features to consider when choosing the right drawer slide.

1. Types of Drawer Slides

The drawer slide structure is the most important feature to consider when choosing a drawer slide. The three most common types of drawer slide structures are:

  • Roller or rolling drawer slides: These consist of an inner drawer member that mounts to the side of the drawer box and an outer cabinet member that mounts to the cabinet’s inner wall. Each member has a plastic roller that moves along their axis to allow the drawers to be opened and closed. They work best in household applications as they can’t hold much weight and may be dislodged easily.
  • Ball-bearing drawer slides: These slides are also known as sliders, runners or rails. They consist of three elements — the cabinet member, the intermediate member and the drawer member. The intermediate member connects the other two others with two sets of ball bearings that glide over each other as you operate the drawer. The mechanism allows the drawers to extend fully and provides horizontal stability.
  • Friction slides: These are also referred to as solid-bearing or non-ball-bearing slides. They feature a unique style of self-lubricating interchangeable inner members that enable smooth and precise drawer motion. Friction slides allow for full extension of the drawers. They work well in outdoor applications because the lubrication prevents the build-up of dirt and debris that could hinder their operation.

2. Mounting Type

The mount type determines the drawer slide operation method. The cabinet design and application often dictate the type of mount. There are three main mount types for drawer slides:

  • Side mount drawer slides: These come in pairs attached to each side of the drawers. They’re available in roller and ball-bearing types. Side mounts require a quarter-inch to a half-inch of space between the sides of the cabinet opening and the drawer’s side. They’re durable, heavy-duty and allow for easy access.
  • Center mount drawer slides: These are single slides mounted to the center of a drawer’s bottom. Center mount slides are ideal if you want to keep the slides out of view. They are easy to install but have a low weight capacity. They also limit drawer height and typically only allow a three-quarter extension.
  • Undermount drawer slides: These come in the ball-bearing style and are mounted to either side of a drawer’s underside. Undermount slides require a small clearance between a quarter-inch and 3/16-inch and can open partway or all the way to provide full access to the drawer’s contents. They’re perfect for high-end cabinetry because they stay out of sight.

3. Length and Extension

The length of a drawer slide refers to its total length when a drawer is closed, while the extension refers to its length when the drawer is open fully. Slides are typically available in lengths between 10 inches and 32 inches. The slide length should match the drawer length to ensure the drawer doesn’t stick out of the cabinet when closed while allowing maximum extension.

Drawer sliders come in three extension options:

  • Full extension: Full extension slides allow the drawer to open completely while supporting lots of weight and allowing more access to the drawer’s contents.
  • Three-quarter extension: Slides with three-quarter extensions are the most common and cost-effective type. They allow drawers to extend up to 75% of the full length. Although they reduce access to the back of the drawer, they’re ideal for rooms with limited space.
  • Over-travel: These extend slightly past the cabinet’s front to allow full access to the drawer.

We highly recommend telescopic slides because they allow all three extensions. Telescopic slides consist of two or three beams that extend to 75%, 100% and 150% of the drawer length.

4. Load Capacity

The best drawer slide can support the weight of the drawer when open or closed. Heavy-duty slides use industrial-grade materials and feature compact designs that can hold up to 500 pounds. Medium-duty slides are available in multiple configurations, making them ideal for various applications ranging from 80 pounds to 300 pounds. Light-duty slides are the most versatile, cost-effective and best for household applications not exceeding 100 pounds.

5. Material

The material used for a slide determines its load capacity and the applications it’s suitable for. There are three main materials you should consider when choosing the right drawer slide:

  • Aluminum: High-quality, compact aluminum slides are ideal for various industrial applications, including electronic and construction fields. They are lightweight and corrosion-resistant, so they are suitable for outdoor applications.
  • Steel: Steel drawer slides are a popular and cost-effective option that can be used for a range of indoor and low-weight applications.
  • Stainless steel: Premium-grade stainless steel slides are durable and corrosion-resistant, making them perfect for drawers installed in harsh conditions, including outdoor cabinets and clean rooms.

Contact Jonathan Engineered Solutions for Customized Drawer Slides

Jonathan Engineered Solutions is a reliable manufacturer of practical and efficient slides tailored to your unique needs and applications. We offer a range of slides, including options with ball bearings, rollers and friction slides. We specialize in customized linear slide solutions that precisely meet our customers’ needs, regardless of their various industries.

We are a certified AS9100 and ISO 9001 manufacturer of linear slides with six decades of experience, so you can expect us to deliver slides that meet the highest performance standards every time. Still unsure what drawer slide you need? Contact us online or call us at 714-695-5734, and a member of our professional team will take you through the options and help you pick the right drawer slides.

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