Built-in closet drawers are one of the most sought-after features of custom closets. They are one of the main reasons many people gravitate towards a custom closet in the first place. But not all drawers are created equal. Learn what to look for so that you can make the right choice for your closet.

Important Facts About Built-In Closet Drawers.

Ever tried to open a drawer only to have it fall apart on you? Perhaps it was over-loaded, but more likely it was just poor quality. The quality is determined by the materials used to build the drawer, the drawer hardware, and the construction method. If you are going to add built-in closet drawers to your home, you will want to pay attention to all three of these things.

Drawers consist of a front panel, a drawer box, and some sort of sliding hardware that allow it to open and close. Most people focus their attention on the front panel because that’s the part you mostly see. But a drawer front is mainly cosmetic. It determines the style of the drawer but has little effect on longevity or quality. That is why quick and easy kitchen remodels include replacing the cabinet door and drawer fronts only. The drawer front is simply attached to the inside front of the drawer box with a couple of screws. Rather, it’s the construction of the box, materials used to build it, and the sliding hardware that ultimately affects quality.

Materials and Construction of Drawer Box

Custom built-in closet drawer constructed from wood using dovetail joints
Custom built-in closet drawer constructed from birch wood using dovetail joints.

Flimsy materials yield flimsy drawers. Nowhere is this more evident than in the construction of the drawer box. A high-quality drawer box is essential to a long-lasting drawer. Drawer boxes can be made of wood or PVC plastic. However, wood drawer boxes are always the better choice and will last longer. Many types of wood can be used, but Russian Baltic Birch is the most commonly recommended material for high-quality drawer box construction.

Some companies specialize in the manufacture of cabinet doors and drawer boxes. Therefore, quality drawer boxes can often be purchased pre-assembled in standard closet drawer widths of 18-inches, 24-inches, and 30-inches. Standard depths are 14, 16, or 20-inches. These sizes will work with most closet organizer systems. If you are going to use the pre-built boxes, select ones that include dovetail construction at the joints. If you intend to build it yourself, adding these dovetail joints on the sides of the drawer box will make the box stronger. It is well worth the extra time and effort it will take to build them this way.

The bottom of the box can be made from a somewhat thinner material than the sides, but keep in mind that the thickness of the material will affect the amount of weight the drawer can hold. Again, choose a plywood bottom over plastic or paperboard. The bottom of the drawer should be fitted to the box using a tongue-and-groove slot milled into the sides of the box. The bottom then slides into the box like a picture in a frame. A heavy-duty drawer that is going to hold a lot of weight will require a thicker bottom than a drawer designed for light duty.

Drawer Hardware

Drawer hardware can include the handle. But when we are talking about drawer hardware quality, we almost always mean the drawer slides. A simple drawer can be made in the form of a box that fits snuggly into a carefully fitted slot without any type of sliding hardware. In fact, if you have ever looked closely at antique furniture, this is often what you will find. Many still feel that the ability to build and fit a drawer in this manner is the hallmark of a fine cabinet maker. However, most modern drawers will be attached to their cabinets using some type of metal sliding mechanism/drawer slide.

A drawer slide consists of multiple pieces. There will be two or three parts to each slide depending on the type. No matter which type of slide you buy, one part is always a stationary metal housing that mounts to the cabinet or closet shelf/panel where the drawer will be fitted. It may have a “slide” section that moves along the metal housing to control the opening and closing of the drawer, or it could just use simple wheels that roll along the housing for this functionality. The other part of the slide mechanism is the runner that mounts to the drawer box itself. The attached runner slips into the housing that is mounted to the closet. This is how the drawer slides in and out of the cabinet/closet.

Most drawer slides are sold in sets of two so that one slide can be mounted to each side of the drawer box for stability. There are several different types of drawer slides that can be used. Make sure you choose the right ones for the job.

Types of Drawer Slides:

  • Euro Slides are one way to go. Euro slides are an inexpensive epoxy-coated metal slide that rolls on nylon wheels. This type of drawer slide is inexpensive and light-duty. It works well for keyboard drawers and other applications where weight is not much of a concern.
    Euro slides for drawers
    Euro slides are a good inexpensive light-duty drawer slide solution.
  • Ball bearing slides are another choice. These slides open drawers by using small metal ball bearings that roll smoothly and relatively quietly. Ball-bearing slides are available with a variety of weight ratings. Like most things, they can be manufactured to different quality standards so always check reviews before making your purchase.
    Ball bearing slides for drawers
    Ball bearing slides, as the name suggests, use metal ball bearings to slide the drawer back and forth.
  • Soft close slides are considered to be the highest quality slide you can get. For this reason, they are featured on most premium cabinets and closets. Soft-close technology employs a special spring and piston system of hydraulics to control the closing of your drawers. It ensures the drawer closes silently and smoothly every time. When you close a drawer with this feature, the soft close mechanism takes over when it’s about 80% shut and gently pulls the drawer closed the rest of the way. For this reason, it is impossible to slam a soft close drawer.
    Furthermore, soft close drawer slides usually mount under the drawer rather than on the sides of the drawer box, making them invisible to the eye when the drawer is open. They are available with numerous weight ratings. At closets.com, we use soft-close, under-mount slides rated for 100-pounds on all our custom closet systems that feature drawers.
    One set of under-mount, soft-close slides for drawers
    These slides feature premium soft-close technology to gently shut the drawer and prevent slamming.
  • Use Drawers in Your Closet Design

    Built-in closet drawers are a feature of most high-end bedroom closet designs seen today. They are used in closet islands, hutch units, underneath hanging sections, and in combination with shelves. It doesn’t matter if the closet is a walk-in or a reach-in. They can all benefit from closet drawers. Add them to your own closet for your personal enjoyment and convenience. And keep in mind that most homeowners both want and are willing to pay for custom closets with drawers like yours. Make your house the one everyone remembers with custom closets that are the envy of the block when you feature built-in drawers in your closet.

    Related Materials:

Leave a Reply