We’ve observed through the years that many people choose cabinets for their kitchen or bathroom based solely on appearance – the kind of wood, stain color and door style, for example. Whereas looks matter, there are other aspects of cabinet construction that are equally important.
Whatever the type of wood, stain color or door style, there is a factor that can greatly affect the cost of cabinet door-drawer configurations. There are three basic combinations: 1) door(s) only, 2) door and drawer, and 3) drawers only. Whereas a door can be made from a single piece of wood, even the least expensive drawer must be constructed from at least five pieces front, back, sides and a bottom. In addition, the hardware used to mount a drawer is more expensive than the hinges used to mount a door. Therefore, a door-only cabinet is less expensive to create than one with a door and a drawer, and a cabinet with a bank of drawers is more expensive yet.
How good a cabinet looks doesn’t necessarily indicate its durability or lasting quality, especially when it comes to drawers. Did you ever open a drawer that rubbed, squeaked or wiggled?
Not all drawers open completely. That is, some types of drawer hardware prevent the back of the drawer from being pulled out all the way to the face of the cabinet. In the past, you might have thought that the failure of a drawer to open completely was inescapable. Not so. When full-extension drawer-glide hardware is used, the drawer can be fully opened. The back of the drawer is completely visible when the drawer is fully opened. Unfortunately, full-extension drawer glides are more expensive than the regular kind. But what a difference: smooth, roller-bearing operation and easy-to-remove drawers that don’t stick or rub.
To upgrade your cabinets to full-extension hardware, hire a cabinetmaker or a handyman if such a project is beyond your capabilities. The task is time-consuming, but not real complicated.
Not every drawer can be easily upgraded. In some cabinet configurations, upgrading could require complete drawer replacement. We will assume that your cabinet has the half inch of space required between the outside of the drawer and the side of the drawer opening. This means that the drawer opening must be a minimum of one inch wider than the drawer.
Also, mounting boards will have to be installed inside the cabinet on either side of each drawer. A 1-by-3 or 1-by-4 piece of pine normally is used, and it runs from the drawer opening to the back of the cabinet. Pine is reasonably easy to work with, economical and readily available. Plywood can work, but it is not recommended.
Each full-extension drawer glide comes in two pieces. One piece attaches to the drawer and the other to the mounting board (one on each mounting board and one on each side of the drawer). There is almost no room for error when it comes to the space between the drawer and the mounting boards. The boards must be parallel to each other and perpendicular to the face of the cabinet (a framing square can assist here). It is important to mount the drawer as low as possible without causing the bottom to rub against the base of the opening. This maximizes what can be stored between the inside of the drawer and the top of the opening.
Although the procedure we have described is possible to undertake with countertops in place, mounting-board installation and alignment is considerably easier to accomplish with the countertop removed. The additional access can actually turn a two-week job into a two-day project. In a cabinet shop, the track-mounting boards are the last of the internal items to be installed. A trick that cabinet makers use is to install the mounting boards into the cabinet case while they are attached to the drawer via the hardware. While holding the drawer in the closed position, the mounting boards are attached to the casework.