Skip to main content

Installing drawer slides on old drawers

When a drawer is in constant use, its suspension has to put up with a lot.

But what do you do if the drawer runner suddenly fails to do its job? This step-by-step guide uses a partial pull-out to show how easy it is to remove a drawer to check on it, and how new drawer runners can be installed if necessary.

Rarely can such a nagging issue be eliminated so quickly with so little effort?

What drawer fittings are available?

Of course, the industry has also thought about this type of sliding guide and brought us new fittings made of plastic – there are even complete drawer frames already grooved for the guide rails. These are only cut to length and plugged together. It is obvious that such constructions are not particularly resilient.

But there are other furniture fittings that also offer the finesses already indicated, which go far beyond low-friction pulling out and pushing in of drawers. Today, furniture is rolled, whether on wheels or balls. Rolling friction, after all, is known to be much less than surface friction. Some slides can roll the drawer completely out of the carcass, support considerably heavier weights, and sometimes even retract themselves regardless of the load weight.

The different drawer bearings necessitate some design and thus installation differences on the hardware side. For example, roller drawer slides with their usually riveted wheels are mounted in two parts: one part of the fitting on the cabinet wall, the other part on the drawer. Ball-bearing slides, on the other hand, thanks to their steel balls fixed in cages, are usually one-piece and are completely mounted on the side walls. Last but not least, the drawers are then usually simply snapped onto them in their entirety.

Mounting drawer runners

If fittings with roller guides are mounted on the side of the drawer side panel (side mounting) or so that it rests on the guide (overlay or tray mounting), depending on the model, mounting in a groove in the drawer side panel is also possible for pull-outs with ball-bearing guides (groove mounting). The pull-outs for 17 mm grooves are particularly suitable for converting old slide-guide drawers. In the case of new construction with ball-bearing part-extension slides, space can be gained with groove mounting: The distance between the drawer and cabinet side walls shrinks to just a few millimeters.

install drawer slides on old drawers

Drawers can also be crooked

A shoe cabinet is actually a practical matter. After all, it ensures that no mountains of footwear pile up in the anteroom when the esteemed lady of the house has once again been on a shopping spree. But its unmistakable usefulness is also what ultimately dooms the shoe cabinet. Because as often as shoes are used during the day and the week, so often are the compartments of the cabinet operated. Especially with inexpensive ready-made furniture, the wear of the suspensions is pre-programmed.

So it comes as little surprise when at the shoe cabinet suddenly the drawer spins. The drawer can only be pulled out with difficulty and constantly gets stuck alternately on both sides. Under this stuttering, the drawer slowly comes free, but in the end, it stands crooked in the guide. It’s pretty obvious that something is wrong here. Only what?

Remove the drawer and find the problem

To get to the bottom of the matter, the decision is quickly made: remove the drawer! This is hardly as tedious as it may sound at first. After the contents of the drawer have been moved aside, two retaining screws are found on the inside. These are located on the side directly behind the front panel and connect the drawer to the telescopic slides. As a rule, they are easy to remove. No sooner said than done! The two screws are unscrewed with a suitable Phillips screwdriver. Now the drawer can be easily removed by pulling it out of the compartment.

Normally, this is a quiet affair. But today, there’s a strong clatter in the side groove and suddenly the right-hand drawer is lying on the floor. The reason for the drawer’s strange behavior is found. After removing the drawer, it turns out that it only takes a slight touch to detach the left-hand slide as well. Its ball-bearing then only hangs crookedly in the profile. Finally, the ball bearing of the right rail is also found. It literally lies smashed on the floor – in pieces on the baseplate of the shoe cabinet. Obviously, there’s only one thing that can help here: install new drawer slides!

Tool and material

The tools needed to successfully install drawer slides include, in a nutshell: a suitable screwdriver. Using a cordless screwdriver would be overkill and is rather impractical in tight spaces anyway.

This project primarily requires new drawer slides to install. Fortunately, the simple models are available in any hardware store. Before shopping, however, remember the dimensions of the old rails! Two telescopic rails with a partial extension of 246 mm length are used here. In addition, a spray bottle with multifunctional oil is provided to lubricate the new drawer slides if necessary.

Tip: After removing the old telescopic rails (in this case the remaining profiles), be sure to keep all the screws! These are rarely included with new rails, but are usually universal.

Install drawer slides

The new drawer rails still grind a little sandy at first. So before installing them, the bearings are lubricated first. To do this, simply pour some multifunction oil into the center of the rail profile and then move the drawer back and forth several times. After that, the mechanism works perfectly.

Now the new drawer rail is placed evenly aligned with the drill holes on the inside of the shoe cabinet. There are several small holes in series on one side of the drawer. These must point out to the front of the cabinet because the drawer will be screwed to them later. Now, however, the telescopic rail is attached first. First, the rear screw is inserted and screwed in almost as far as it will go. Some air remains for corrective work.

Now the front screw must be screwed in. To avoid getting in the way, the extension is pushed away from the respective screw, i.e. in this case it is pushed backward. The front screw is also not yet completely tightened. Only when it is certain that the drawer rail fits well after installation are both screws tightened completely. This procedure is repeated for the second rail. Once both rails are securely installed, the drawer is pulled out on both sides as far as it will go. It was relatively easy to install the drawer hinges, but now the drawer must also be put back into the cabinet.

Assemble drawer

On both sides of the drawer, there is a groove intended to accommodate the roller drawer. The ends of the telescopic rails are now inserted here, and the drawer is then pushed onto the rails. Slight sideways movements can assist this process at the beginning. Once the drawer is reasonably stable, the rails can be advanced further through the groove to the front panel alternately with your finger to make things easier. The drawer screw holes must be aligned with the corresponding holes in the drawer rails. When everything is in place, the drawer and rails are connected again from the inside with the retaining screws. Done – the project ‘Installing new drawer rails’ is successfully completed!

How to Install Under-Mount Drawer Slides on an Old Dresser – Video

Max Welder

Max Welder

Hi! I'm Max Welder ( I always wanted to work with my own hands, repair something, do things. Now I combine my knowledge with computers and my own knowledge in the field of mechanics in order to understand which tools I like the most. I hope to convey some knowledge and experience.

Leave a Reply