Best Soft Close Drawer Slides

Ultimate Guide: Best soft close drawer slides (hands on review)

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Buying the best soft close drawer slides requires understanding drawer slide mechanics, brand names and mounting location. Did you know not all slides will open easily, close smoothly and without noise? Or, that brand matters as some invest in certification? In this guide we purchased, tested and ranked the best drawer slides.

First, after building and installing over a thousand drawers, I know drawer slides must be durable and reliable. 

But, a soft close drawer slide must also:

  • Be easy to open and not require a hard tug (too many brands do!)
  • Have strong dampers to catch the drawer to prevent slamming
  • Use two strong springs to pull the drawer shut
  • Stay closed when using in cabinets or carts (aka “self closing”)
  • And be QUIET when opening and closing

Seems simple, right?

Well, after spending $150 on testing out slides, plus $50 on a force gauge to measure open and close force, I found a lot of drawer slides on the market only do a few of these things correctly.

Top Picks:

  • Best soft close slide for new drawers:  Blum 563H undermount  are my only choice for new drawers. These slides are BHMA certified, Made in USA, and are from arguably the best brand in woodworking hardware. 
  • Best side mount (retrofit/new): Vadania side mount  soft close slides were sturdy, high performing and opened easy in my hands on review.
  • Budget choice (bulk): Lontan side mount  soft close are inexpensive AND well performing in this drawer slide review. And they are available in bulk packs of 6 and 10 pairs of slides.

Article Contents

The Best Soft Close Slides Won't Work If INstalled Incorrectly

Drawer Slide Jig

Before we look at the drawer slides, let’s start with the most important part of this article: if you don’t install a drawer slide correctly it doesn’t matter how good the drawer slide is.

And that is especially true of soft close slides.

So what do you need to install drawer slides correctly? Well, the combination of a drawer installation jig, rear mount brackets and the right screws are what I recommend.

Best Soft Close Drawer Slides

Based on my use and installations, here are my picks for the best soft close drawer slides:

1. Blum Undermount 563H: Overall Best Soft Close Drawer Slide

Blum 563H5330B 21' Tandem Drawer Slides Plus...
120 Reviews
Blum 563H5330B 21″ Tandem Drawer Slides Plus…
  • Complete kit for face frame or frameless application
  • Four-dimensional adjustment
  • Elongated holes for depth adjustment & bottom mount holes
  • Full extension and soft closing

Last update on 2020-10-27 at 04:16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

If you are making NEW DRAWERS the Blum 563H are my preferred undermount drawer slide with TOP BRAND reliability and certified durability.

Overview

There’s a reason most cabinets offer undermounts as upgrades: they perform better.

Fortunately, if you’re making new drawers a few simple measurement adjustments (these aren’t standard 1/2″ side clearance) and you’ll be able to build and install drawers with glass-smooth operation that should last for decades. 

Like other undermount soft close slides they are invisible once installed, come packaged with locking hardware, rear mounting brackets and are full extension so the drawer is completely opened.

HOWEVER, Blum sets itself apart from other slides with:

  • The durability you need for a long-term drawer slide 
  • BHMA certification provides for high initial and long term closing quality
  • Easy to open and smooth opening and closing with roller bearing design

And, as a bonus for Made in USA shopping, Blum slides are manufactured in the USA.

Features

  • Undermount drawer slide
  • Full extension drawer slide
  • Available in 18″ and 21″ lengths
  • Roller bearing construction for smooth performance
  • Hidden once installed with no part showing
  • Tool-less removal by unlocking the front drawer locks
  • Integrated soft close damper
  • Large dampers for smooth performance 

Pros

Cons

2. Vadania: Best Side Mount Soft Close Drawer Slides

VADANIA 18 Inch Drawer Slides Ball Bearing Soft...
312 Reviews
VADANIA 18 Inch Drawer Slides Ball Bearing Soft…
  • Full extension. Side mounting design.
  • Hydraulic Soft/Self Close feature designed for any the drawer close slowly…
  • Easy installation. Mounting screws included.
  • Maximum load capacity: 100 lb.

Last update on 2020-10-27 at 06:23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

For RETROFIT or new drawers you can't beat the stylish Vadania soft close drawer slides. They look great, operate smoothly and have top performance in this review.

Overview

The Vadania side mount soft close drawer slides came in as the best performing on my side mount soft close drawer slide review.

And for good reason as they had the best count of ball bearings and the only steel soft close catch.

But out of the package the Vadania slides immediately set themselves apart from the Lontan, Accuride and Promark drawer slides:

  • Sleek black finish perfect for modern applications (vs. the standard galvanized of other manufacturers)
  • Well oiled 
  • Damper and steel catch for durability

Features

  • Side mount drawer slide
  • Full extension to access the back of the drawer
  • Available in 10″ to 24″ lengths
  • Ball bearing drawer slides for smooth performance
  • Black finish for modern look
  • Integrated soft close damper
  • Tool-less drawer removal with flick of locking side lever

Pros

Cons

3. Lontan 4502S3 Soft Close Drawer Slides (Best Value)

Drawer Slides 22 Inch Drawer Slides of 6 Pairs -...
182 Reviews
Drawer Slides 22 Inch Drawer Slides of 6 Pairs -…
  • ※ What you get: You would get 6 pairs of 22in drawer slides, enough for 6…
  • ※ Soft Close: The drawer slides equipped hydraulic damper which allows…
  • ※ Easy to install: Our drawer slides are fitted with nylon detachable…
  • ※ Measurements: Length:22inch(550mm); Width:1.77inch(45mm); Thickness:…

Last update on 2020-10-27 at 06:03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

For new drawers and retrofits the budget friendly Lontan drawer slides off solid performance in a full extension soft close drawer slide.

Overview

I was surprised with this drawer slide.

At the end of the day durability matters. And what do you think breaks first in a soft close slide?  The mechanism that closes the drawer. 

Fortunately, all three of the top side mounts in this review, including the Lontan, were constructed nearly identical with two springs and a large damper. Conversely, the lower performing slides had one spring and non-traditional designs.

Why is Lontan #3? Performance and affordability.

And, with their great bundled price, I’ve also installed these in a recent garage workshop makeover. And after loading one drawer (~15″ x 22″) to capacity with heavy screw boxes it has performed fantastic. Further, I’ve attempted to slam the drawer and it’s damper has worked each time. 

Features

  • Side mount drawer slide
  • Full extension drawer slide
  • Available in 16, 18, 20, and 22″ lengths
  • Ball bearing drawer slides for smooth performance
  • Integrated soft close damper
  • Tool-less drawer removal with flick of locking side lever

Pros

Cons

4. Accuride C-3832 Series Soft Close Drawer Slides

Accuride C 3832-C22ECP 3832 Series – 22″ Full…
  • 22″ Accuride Easy-Close Soft-Close Full Extension Ball Bearing Drawer…
  • Included: 1 Pair – Weight: 3.9 pounds each – Size Specs: 22″L x 0.5″W x…
  • Easy-Close feature brings drawers to a smooth gentle close – 100 lb. Rated…
  • Cam Drawer Adjust – Lever Disconnect – Easy access to 32mm & traditional…

Last update on 2020-10-27 at 05:01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

While Accuride is a TOP manufacturer of drawer slides, the C-3832 didn't quite measure up vs. the Vadania.

Overview

Accuride is a name brand in drawer slides.

And the Accuride C-3832 drawer slide is a strong competitor.

However, due to price and noise it falls to #4 on the list as it’s performance doesn’t stand out from the competitors to justify it’s hefty price tag.

Curiously, this slide had the #1 issue with side mount drawer slides: it opened loud. While most high quality slides have extra “bumpers” to ensure 3 tracks don’t do this my test showed a louder than average click.

However, if you’re an Accuride fan, and want to purchase slides from an industry name, then these slides are something to consider.

Features

  • Side mount drawer slide
  • Full extension drawer slide
  • Available in 12-28″ even lengths
  • Ball bearing drawer slides for smooth performance
  • Integrated soft close damper
  • Anachrome finish
  • Tool-less drawer removal with flick of locking side lever

Pros

Cons

5. Gobrico Soft Close Drawer Slides

Gobrico 10 Pairs of 22-Inch Rear/Side Mount Soft...
119 Reviews
Gobrico 10 Pairs of 22-Inch Rear/Side Mount Soft…
  • ★Length: 22in/550mm,Thickness/Clearance for each…
  • ★Mounting:Side/Rear Mount with brackets,Material: Work Harden Cold Rolled…
  • ★Package Included:6 pairs(12 Pieces) drawer slides for 6…
  • ★Hydraulic Soft/Self Close feature to slowly draw the drawer closed…

Last update on 2020-10-27 at 04:16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Gobrico features an economical buy-in-bulk price but was TOO HARD to open and slips on my list

Overview

In a side-by-side comparison with other heavy duty soft close drawer slides there just wasn’t anything offered that set this drawer slide apart other than a leading # of ball bearings on the inner rail (on a 22″ model, 54 bearings vs. 36 on most others). 

Features

  • Side mount drawer slide
  • Full extension drawer slide
  • Ball bearing drawer slides for smooth performance
  • Integrated soft close damper
  • Anachrome finish
  • Tool-less drawer removal with flick of locking side lever

Pros

Cons

6. Knape and Vogt 8400P Soft Close Drawer Slide

Knape & Vogt ” Full Extension Soft-Close Drawer…
  • Features a 100 lb. load rating class and innovative Soft-Close technology
  • 5 Pack of slides perfect for larger DIY projects or the professional…
  • Applications include wood residential and commercial furniture and…
  • Durable steel construction with Anochrome finish

Last update on 2020-10-27 at 05:40 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Based on my review, I would evaluate other slides first before the Knape & Vogt

Overview

For a brand name drawer slide with an industry reputation the Knape & Vogt are an option to the Vadania drawer slides but fall short on closing force. Due to a thinner design (7/16″), single spring design, shorter rail, and among the lowest closing force of all slides I don’t recommend this slide.

 
Unfortunately, this slide attempted a different soft closing mechanism with a single spring and it just didn’t compare head-to-head to the other slides. For that reason, when searching for the best soft close drawer slides I’d pass on the 8400P.
 
I am a fan, however, of the Knape and Vogt TruTrac slides for standard duty ball bearing without soft close.

Features

  • Side mount 
  • Full extension 
  • Ball bearing 
  • Integrated soft close damper
  • Anachrome finish
  • Tool-less drawer removal with flick of locking side lever

Pros

Cons

7. Promark Soft Close Drawer Slides

Promark 100LB Capacity Full Extension Soft/Self...
1,087 Reviews
Promark 100LB Capacity Full Extension Soft/Self…
  • Mounting: Side Mount : Clearance: 1/2 inch
  • Material: Cold Rolled Steel
  • Capacity: 100 lbs.
  • Designed for frameless and face frame applications.

Last update on 2020-10-27 at 04:44 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Based on my purchase and hands on use, I would evaluate other slides first before the Promark

Overview

I was expecting great things from these slides but was disappointed. Due to a sloppy rail when opening and the loudest closing noise these slides just didn’t measure up to the others on this list.

The Promark rear mounting brackets, however, were excellent and worked on all the slides I tested. And I particularly liked the extra wide rear width for easy screw hole access.

Features

  • Side mount drawer slide
  • Full extension drawer slide
  • Ball bearing drawer slides
  • Integrated soft close damper
  • Anachrome finish
  • Tool-less drawer removal with flick of locking side lever

Pros

Cons

Key Features of Soft Close Drawer Slides

So how do you know a good soft close slide from a mediocre one?

Here are six things to look for:

  1. Open force: a soft close drawer slide shouldn’t require a hard tug to open. This will be your first complaint with a number of slides.
  2. Closing force: the soft close slide must grab and pull a heavy drawer shut. And for this, two springs are a must.
  3. Quality of construction: The # of ball bearings, smoothness and tightness of rails, and fit and finish of slide all matter to long term reliability.
  4. Operating noise: ball bearing slides can “click and clack” when closed. But fortunately some manufacturers have taken the time to install well-designed bumpers to prevent this.
  5. Weight capacity: all rated themselves as 100 heavy duty soft close drawer slides. For 100+ pounds see our heavy duty drawer slide guide.
  6. Extension: soft close drawer slides are almost all full extension drawer slides with the exception of very short lengths (eg. 10″).

Finally, when it comes to length fortunately all slides are available in popular lengths. And most side mounts are found from lengths of 12-24″.

Undermount Soft Close Drawer Slides Overview

Who makes under mount drawer slides?

Blum has owned the market for this style of drawer slide. And for good reason with their intense focus on delivering quality products and continuing innovation. 

And, Blum also specifically targets the consumer segment – more so than other vendors who focus on manufacturing suppliers.

But there’s always competition, so let’s look at who else makes these slides:

  • Grass, like Blum, has a huge selection of drawer slides but (from my experience) is focused on commercial distribution and applications
  • CSH Hardware – who supplies many of the big box stores with a lower cost alternative to Blums
  • King slides – makers of high end push-to-open soft close drawer slides

Pairing push to open with soft close drawer slides

Don’t want hardware on the front of your drawers? 

Well, you’re in luck if you have a frameless design to your cabinets. By adding push to close to an undermount soft close drawer slide you can gently push the drawer front and the drawer will glide partly open.

While these aren’t cheap, you can factor in the savings of not having to purchase additional hardware (and install them).

Who makes these? A few options:

  • King under mount push to open slides that have this feature built-in
  • Blum TIP-ON is an accessory to their TANDEM slides that can be added to any compatible drawer to upgrade to push to open.

Heavy duty undermount soft close drawer slides

While heavy duty drawer slides, for me, start around 150 pounds there are a few options for soft close drawer slides at 125 pounds:

  • Blum heavy duty under mount with 125 pound capacity

Soft Close Drawer Slide Ratings

We’ll go through each drawer slide in detail, but after my testing I ranked the slides as follows. A few aren’t easy to find, so I’ve included links for buying now – and most are most economical in a 6 or 10-pack (just divide by quantity to get per unit).

Lastly, don’t forget rear mounting brackets, screws and a drawer slide jig when installing these soft close drawer slides:

Best Soft Close Drawer Slides
ProductEditor RatingAmazon Price
Blum 563H Soft Close Drawer Slides
Blum Soft Close Drawer Slides
51 Pair: $34.00 – Buy  

(Price as of 2020-10-26 at 12:13)


6 Pairs: $168.00 – Buy  

(Price as of 2020-10-26 at 12:13)


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Vadania Soft Close Drawer Slides
Vadania Soft Close Drawer Slides
4.61 Pair: Price not available – Buy  

(Price as of 2020-10-26 at 12:53)


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Lontan Soft Close
Lontan Soft Close Drawer Slides
4.61 Pair: $24.18 – Buy  

(Price as of 2020-10-26 at 10:14)


6 Pairs: $79.99 – Buy  

(Price as of 2020-10-25 at 21:46)


10 Pairs: $85.67 Buy  

(Price as of 2020-10-26 at 12:13)


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Accuride Easy Close
Accuride Soft Close Drawer Slides
4.41 Pair: $38.01 – Buy  

(Price as of
2020-10-26 at 12:44)


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Gobrico Soft Close Drawer Slide
Gobrico Soft Close Drawer Slides
4.21 Pair: $19.99 – Buy  

(Price as of
2020-10-26 at 12:13)


10 Pairs: $129.99 – Buy  

(Price as of 2020-10-26 at 12:13)


[popup_anything id=”10632″]
Knape and Vogt Drawer Slide
Knape and Vogt Soft Close Drawer Slides
3.91 Pair: $27.28 – Buy  

(Price as of 2020-10-26 at 12:23)


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Promark Soft Close Drawer Slide
Promark Soft Close Drawer Slides
3.510 Pair: $103.00 – Buy  

(Price as of 2020-10-26 at 12:33)


[popup_anything id=”10632″]

Measuring Soft Close Drawer Glide Opening and Closing Force

Disclaimer: This is my personal testing method and consider as such since it was not performed in a controlled lab! 

The #1 usability issue with soft close close drawer slides is they can be hard to open.

And the #1 performance issue is the springs aren’t strong enough to pull a drawer and it’s contents closed.

Since this information isn’t published with any drawer slides I decided to invest a few dollars in a gauge used to calibrate the trigger pressure of guns. And the results validated what I “felt” were the best soft closing drawer slides without introducing the dynamics of an installed drawer. 

Step #1 - Measuring the Closing Strength

Drawer Slide Review Force Test
Force gauge to measure slide open and closing force

In this step I took each of the six slides in this review (except the Blum – I’ll update the review later) and mounted them exactly the same on a custom jig. 

For the test I used the Wheeler Professional Force Gauge.

Test highlights:

  • All six slides were measured 10 times for both tests
  • Test #1 was to measure ounces of closing force at 1.5″ from closed. And I chose this as it is just past the point where all six slides were “released” and under the power of their springs (maximum pressure).
  • Test #2 was to measure ounces of closing force 0.5″ from closed. Basically, was strength maintained near fully closed as the springs neared resting position.

Step #2 - Measuring Open Force

Look, I’ve installed aftermarket soft close drawer adapters and they close well. But they take a surprising force to open.

So, I tested out the open force of each slide as well. For this test I left the slide mounted in the jig and performed 10 “open” cycles.

High Closing Force Plus Low Opening Force Equals the Best Soft Close SLide

Vadania and Lontan easily won this test. And having installed both in drawer projects I wasn’t surprised.

The BEST closing force went to Gobrico but they had the hardest OPEN force. And a drawer that takes a hard tug to open is not usable.

While the EASIEST to open went to Vadania. 

While the findings weren’t surprising, they did show that two springs are a must (ruling out two slides – the K&V and Promark). 

Again, this test was a homemade test to give some measure of closing and opening force. It would be great for the industry to standardize a test to inform consumers in cycle tests of 100,000 opening and closings!

Common Questions on Soft Close Drawer Slides

1. Can I Upgrade to Soft Close Without Replacing the Slides

Have drawers you want to upgrade but don’t want to replace the slides?

If you have one of the millions (billions?) of drawers with bottom mount epoxy slides you’re in luck. 

In a matter of minutes a Rok Hardware Add On Soft Close Adapter can upgrade your existing drawers.

Do they work? If installed according to our add-on soft close adapter guide they can work great. While not as smooth to open as a Blum under mount they do the job.

The only downside? They were a little tight to start with on opening but loosened up.

2. What are undermount soft close drawer slides?

Looking at a cabinet opening there are three possible surfaces to mount the drawer slide to:

  • Top mount for slides like keyboard trays
  • Side mount for ball bearing slides
  • Bottom for, hold on, there are a bunch of mount types here. A bottom mount drawer slide will be screwed to the drawer bottom but be visible on the side (I refer to these as roller or Epoxy slides). And then there are center mount slides where the drawer runs on a single slide in the, you guessed it, center of the drawer slide. But finally, there are under mount that are fully concealed (Blum) and are installed on both sides of the drawer and are fully “under” the drawer.

So now that you understand the types of drawer slides, an undermount slide is different in that:

  • An undermount slide installs on both edges (vs. a center mount where it’s only in the middle)
  • Under mount slide is fully concealed.
  • Finally this type of slide requires a special drawer construction and widths that factor drawer side thickness, drawer bottom depth and side clearance

3. So should I use side mount soft close drawer slides?

Certainly. 

Since not every budget or project can adapt to an undermount soft close glide, the best alternative is to use a side mount soft close. 

As referenced elsewhere in this article proper selection, use of mounting brackets, the right screws and some patience is required. And while true for undermount installation, it’s doubly important for a side mount drawer slide (of any kind).

4. Are full extension drawer slides soft close?

Fortunately, all soft close drawer slides I’ve seen incorporate a full extension opening. So yes, a full extension drawer can be found with soft close.

Not sure what drawer extension is? Well, consider:

  • Extension refers to how much of the drawer is “extended” past the face of the cabinet when fully opened.
  • For example, partial extension drawer slides only open … partially. Most commonly, these slides open 75% or “three fourths”. And you see the issue here as you can’t access the back of the drawer.
  • On the other hand, a full extension drawer slide extends so the rear of the drawer is at least flush with the face of the cabinet.

5. Just how difficult is installing soft close drawer slides?

With so much focus on installation issues, maybe you’re thinking these aren’t the drawers for me.

But let’s consider, first, the alternatives:

  • Bottom mount drawer slides  only offer soft close with an adapter. And bottom mounts, while admittedly the easiest to install, still require adjustment and rear mounting brackets.
  • Standard side mount drawer slides are still ball bearing construction and must be installed with the same precision. While slightly easier as the soft close mechanism isn’t a concern, all the same vertical and horizontal adjustment is required.
  • I just can’t recommend a center mount slide – these exist in my woodworking opinion as ways to cheapen factory furniture.

In another way of saying it: no drawer slide is easy to install. Due to alignment needs a soft close drawer slide is slightly more difficult to install. But on the other end of the installation you’ll have the satisfaction of slam-free drawers.

6. I don't want knobs or handles - are there push to open soft close drawer slides?

Before answering that question let’s first understand cabinet construction:

  • A face frame cabinet cannot use push to open drawer slides as the drawer front is directly in contact with the “frame” of the cabinet.
  • However, a frameless cabinet is designed such that the drawer slide determines the position of the drawer front. As such, the drawer front has room behind it to be “pushed in”.

So with that in mind, there are push to open soft close drawer slides. And one of the best soft close drawer slides with this feature is the King push-to-open soft close drawer slide. While not the cheapest, considering cost savings on knob or handle hardware you might be able to justify them for the look.

7. 22 inch soft close drawer slides or 24 inch? What length do I need?

There’s a short answer to the length question when determining what slide length you need. 

To measure length:

  • Frameless cabinets do not require a rear mounting bracket, so the slide length is the depth of the cabinet minus the thickness of the drawer front.
  • Face frame cabinets require rear mounting brackets, so the slide length is the depth of the cabinet (from the frame front) minus 1/2″ for rear bracket

While most cabinets I’ve installed drawer slides in require a 22 inch slide (I build for face frames), an undermount design is usually 21 inches and bathroom cabinets tend to be 18″.

Just be sure to measure each cabinet as construction might vary. And that’s especially true in center island cabinets.

8. What about replacing drawer slides with soft close?

A retrofit soft close upgrade project is a great DIY project.

Other than choosing a slide, here’s what you’ll want to know before jumping in:

  • Remember this will require hands and knees work with potentially a trip or two into the cabinets.
  • Quality, quality, quality. Sure, you can spend $5-10 less on that drawer slide, but consider the time you’ll be investing for an upgrade and replacement. You don’t want to do this project twice.
  • Invest in a drawer slide jig, #8 Rok screws and a good quality cabinet clamp.

For choosing a drawer slide you’ll want to consider:

  • Clearance on each side of the drawer must be 1/2″ or you’ll be looking at a rebuild of the drawer.
  • Cabinet construction
  • Slide length
  • Weight of the drawer contents. 

For extra wide or deep drawers a soft close slide might not be the best option. 

9. Will a 10" soft close drawer slide work?

While I haven’t tried this length of slide, I have read the reviews on shorter soft close slides. 

And they generally aren’t good. 

So, be cautious with this length of slide and consider that they might not open fully. In fact, Vadania’s website markets them as a partial extension slide. But all things considered, for a drawer with 8″ of travel before it connects to the soft closing device is soft closing really a need? 

10. What's the scoop on heavy duty soft close drawer slides?

Before we get started with heavy duty, a drawer slide with a 100 pound rating is “medium duty” in my book. A heavy duty slide really starts around 150 pounds, and these beefy slides go up to 1000 pounds or more.

So, while there are heavy duty drawer slides with a soft close feature up to 125 pounds it’s questionable if they will “slam shut” in the first place. 

Personally, and in my experience, the drawers that slam shut are the lightweight drawers. So ask yourself: is a 100 pound drawer likely something you’ll open frequently? Is it slamming really a concern? 

11. How about low profile soft close drawer slides for shallow drawers?

For furniture and desks one common drawer slide need is for a low profile drawer slide. And by design, these slides are almost always side mount slides as the bottom of the opening is open.

So are there low profile soft close drawer slides? Not that I have found, due to the soft close mechanism space requirements. However a few options could be:

  • Use a bottom mount slide with an adapter.
  • However, an undermount soft close could work, but you will lose another 3/8″ of interior drawer depth.

12. Springs and hydraulics - just how does a soft close drawer slide work?

After examining a variety of side mount drawer slides one thing is clear: the industry is trying to find the best way to make these work.

But there are a few things in common:

  • When the drawer is opened a spring-loaded mechansim (there’s always one spring!) is pulled forward.
  • Then, at about 1-1/2″ a latch on the inner drawer slide is opened and the drawer continues to open.
  • When the drawer is closed, this latch is re-engaged with the soft close mechanism.
  • And this is where the mechanism driving this latch “kicks in” and pulls the door shut.

Basically, a soft close drawer slide has a moving ‘sled’ with a spring assist that pulls the drawer shut.

Why would you need a hydraulics then? Well consider what happens when you slam a drawer shut. With excessive force your action would push this sled back too quickly and the drawer would slam.

Now, most interestingly, consider that a soft close slides function is dictated by this spring. Or, pair of springs on the higher rated slides. Thinking back to the alignment discussions in this article it should be evident you’ll need to have a solid alignment for this spring-loaded sled to have the best closing force.

13. Self closing drawer slides are the same as soft closing drawer slides - right?

These are two different concepts when it comes to drawer slides. 

First, even the best soft closing drawer slide does have a “hold in” force generated by the spring. But it isn’t considered a self closing drawer slide.

Instead, a self closing drawer slide is best described as a “stay closed” drawer slide. 

The difference?

On a side mount ball bearing slide there is a rubber catch at the very rear of the outer drawer rail. When the drawer is closed the inner rail fits over this catch and is held in place.

14. Why are drawer slide brackets required on face frame cabinets?

The answer to this question is a bit of basic geometry. 

And the simple fact that soft close slides require a perfectly parallel installation for optimal performance.

Let’s start with what happens when you don’t use a drawer slide bracket on a soft close slide:

  • You’ll need to cut backing blocks on each side of the drawer slide that are precisely the right thickness to keep the slides parallel.  Now that doesn’t mean the same thickness as the gap behind the face frame, it means to obtain a parallel slide install.
  • Shims. And a lot of them. Because neither is the cabinet guaranteed to be square nor is the drawer, you’ll need to use shims to achieve a perfect fit.

Now, with a drawer bracket you’ll have complete freedom to position the slide anywhere you want.

No shims.

No side mounting blocks (that need to be carefully installed to the cabinet side, no less).

Less time installing.

And a better result. Still wondering if they are worth the extra few dollars? 

15. Can I use a soft close drawer slide on a trash can cabinet?

Yes, but I’d temper expectations of the slides performance. Due to the higher weight loads with a trash can you’ll be pushing both the effective width and weight of most slides.

But, if you’re building a trash can pullout one slide that might be worth the extra investment is the Blum Heavy Duty Soft Close Slide that offers up to 125 pounds of support. And still includes full extension capability and the Blum brand reliability.

16. What's the best way to install a Blum undermount slide for a slide-out shelf?

Want to add a custom slide-out to a base cabinet? This is a great way to access pots and pans with a soft close sliding drawer. Here’s a few considerations:

  • You’ll want to plan for hinge clearance so your slide and drawer clear the cabinet door. On a face frame cabinet I like to use a strip of wood just behind the face frame to allow for hinge clearance (picture below).
  • Watch drawer width maximums – over 20″ and the soft close mechanisms might not have enough strength to pull the drawer shut. 
  • Last, if you need still need hinge clearance you can try a face mount hinge that fits a Blum face mounting plate (start with the 33-series hinges)

17. How to fix soft close drawer slides

If installing drawer slides wasn’t frustrating enough, when they fail it’s even more frustrating. When this happens, though, there are two things to check:

  1. Why did the drawer slide fail?
  2. Is the slide damaged beyond repair?

While these two are related, the truth is finding out why a drawer slide failed is tricky.

Checking for drawer slide damage

To start you’ll want to take a look at the drawer slide, cabinet and drawer itself to find out what went wrong:

  • Missing ball bearingscheck for missing ball bearings on the innermost rail attached to the drawer.
  • Broken latch – on the innermost rail, check the latch that engages the soft close sled. If the plastic is broken it’s time to replace.
  • Broken damper or spring – while not as common, check the springs and damper with the drawer not installed. Verify under no load it engages, stays opened, and smoothly closes.
  • Installation issues – if the drawer slides aren’t installed parallel and equidistant to each other the slides will not work. And most commonly, when you try to insert the drawer slide rails you may end up forcing the slides. If this just happened, re-check your measurements.

Repairing or replacing the drawer slide?

Since a soft close drawer glide is a precision piece of hardware any malfunction is best solved by replacing the slide. Sure, you can probably replace a missing bearing or mend a broken latch. But it will likely fail again.

However, it’s vital to correct any installation issues. If you didn’t use rear mounting brackets on a face frame cabinet then buy them. And if your alignment is off then fix it! 

18. What's with the disconnect lever on side mount drawer slides?

If you haven’t removed a side mount drawer slide from a cabinet you’ve likely not encountered the disconnect mechanism. And it can lead to an embarrassing moment where you don’t know how to remove the drawer.

Here’s a few tricks:

  • Almost all side mount slides have a disconnect lever on each side of the slide.
  • And, they work in opposite directions since slides are “flipped” when installed on the left and right of the drawer opening.
  • However a few side mount slides have a push-in detent.

So with the drawer fully extended, look at the side of each drawer for this lever and push it either up or down to release the slide rail.

What is a Soft Close Drawer Slide?

A soft close drawer slide is a specialty drawer slide that prevents drawers from slamming shut and assists the drawer in closing. Soft closing is achieved through a damper that prevents the drawer from slamming and springs that gently pull the drawer shut. 

How to Install Soft Close Drawer Slides

Unfortunately a number of soft close drawer slides are damaged due to improper installation. But this can be avoided with the right preparation, tools, and accessories.

Follow these steps to install soft close drawer slides:

Step #1 - Ensure proper drawer side clearance

This step is so important that if it cannot be done properly you may consider not using soft close drawer slides. Since the soft close mechanisms operate with damper mechanisms they require precise alignment and spacing on each side of the drawer.

If the drawer is too wide, the pressure will prevent the drawer from closing. But if the drawer is too narrow the slides will not operate in parallel and cause binding pressure.

For this reason, ensure your drawers have precisely the proper side clearance.

Step #2 - Use rear mounting brackets for face frame cabinets

This step is simple but very important. Before installing your drawer slides in face frame cabinets you will want to purchase rear mounting brackets.

Why is this important? Well, attempting to build-up shims for the side of the cabinets is time consuming and will create an issue related to Step #1 – the side clearances will be extremely hard to keep perfect.

But the good news? Rear mounting brackets are just a few dollars a drawer.

Step #3 - Drawer jigs are your best friend

Starting into the installation, the first step is placing drawer jigs on either side of the cabinet to support the drawer slides.

A few considerations:

  • Using two jigs allows you to set, measure and verify equal gaps during the cabinet-side of the installation.
  • However, the real value of two jigs comes in for face frame cabinets when attaching the slide piece to the drawers. Once the cabinet slides are installed, reverse the jigs to point out. Then set the drawer itself on the drawer jigs and pull the drawer slide out.
  • Making sure the drawer height is properly set, simply screw the slide to the drawer (on each side).

Without jigs you’ll need to measure and experiment (unfortunately, required for frameless cabinets). I like the Kreg Jig Pack With Clamps as a value pack with the jigs, clamps and a cabinet knob drill guide as well.

Step #4 - Adjust gently and never force a slide

There is no such thing as a ball bearing side mount that needs a hard shove to install. Due to the construction of these slides that’s inviting the slide to break.

And all too often that calls for a negative review of the slide.

Instead, plan for many adjustments, gentle installation, and stop when frustrated. And that will happen.

Step #5 - Use the right screws and install them all

Plan for the screws that came with your slides to be junk. And instead, purchase a higher quality screw like the Rok #8 screws that will provide a better grip. Because the last thing you’ll want is to re-adjust drawers in a year after cheap screws start to come loose.

Buying Guide for Soft Close Drawer Slides

Determine Your Cabinet Construction

Because installation of drawers is a complicated task you’ll need to understand your cabinets construction. Why does this matter? Well consider:

    • On a frameless cabinet the slide will attach directly to the side of the cabinet.
    • While a face frame cabinet will require the slide to attach to the face frame and then the back of the cabinet (with a rear mount bracket).

So what’s a face frame cabinet? Simple. If your cabinet has a “frame” like a picture on the front of the cabinet box you have a face frame cabinet. Inversely, no frame means you own a frameless cabinet.

Get the Slide Length Right

Nothing will start your drawer installation project off worse than having the wrong length slide.

But to help you out, here’s my cheat sheet to choosing the right length of soft close drawer slide:

  1. The drawer slides should be the same length as the drawer.
  2. Slides should never be shorter than the drawer
  3. While slides can be longer than the drawer, for face frame cabinets they must leave room at the back of the cabinet for mounting brackets.
  4. Plan for rear mounting brackets on face frame cabinets. They can take up to 1″ of depth from the drawer and the slide must reach into them sufficiently to hold the drawer weight.

Finally, as a point of reference almost all kitchen cabinets require a 21-22″ slide and most bathrooms use 18″ slides. If you are replacing slides then just measure the existing drawer depth.

Drawer Slide Brackets Are a Must for Face Frame Cabinets

Ball bearing drawer slides with a soft close mechanism require perfection or they won’t work.

For this reason you’ll absolutely need to use a rear mounting bracket on face frame cabinets or risk a nightmare installation. And here are three reasons you’ll be glad you purchase your slides with brackets:

  1. Rear brackets allow small left-to-right drawer adjustments with ease.
  2. The alternative to a rear mount bracket is shimming.
  3. Drawer installation time can be cut by as much as 80% (seriously!).

I’ve installed thousands of bottom mount drawer slides in my woodworking career. And I would refuse to start installing drawers in face frame cabinets without a bracket.

Drawer Slide Screw Considerations

While all quality drawer slides will include screws that doesn’t mean they are best for your installation. A few things I like to keep in mind:

  • For rear mounting brackets I like to use larger diameter, aggressive thread screws.
  • On face frame cabinets you’ll need to drill a pilot hold to avoid splitting the wood or breaking a screw off.

Lastly, you’ll need to make sure to install screws generously. Once the drawer is installed and gliding smooth carefully install additional screws and test the drawer operation continually.  Due to drawers holding upwards of 100 pounds I always use two large screws in rear mounting brackets. You can check out our guide to cabinet screws for more on what I like to use.

Check that the slide won't interfere with the drawer construction

This is a trade-off as some of the best slides require room under the drawer.  But, side mount soft close slides are visible.  We’ll get to this in a minute, I prefer to trade off a little under-the-drawer space for a hidden slide.  And you can make the drawer a tad wider. 

Key thing to note here?  Not all slides will work with existing drawers.  And, don’t assume the same if you are making drawers.  I’ve made this mistake (once).

Drawer construction considerations for soft close drawer slides

Looking at undermount  slides?  You’ll want to make your choice before you build the drawers.  Or make sure they are compatible (with modifications) for a retrofit.

Planning height of drawer

Some drawer slides require a change to the interior height of the drawer bottom.  Why?  Well, it allows for an undermount slide to be concealed.  The trade-off is less drawer space. 

However, since under mount drawer slides need minimal clearance I typically make the drawer 1/2″ less than the height of the opening. This maximizes the drawer sidewall and avoids any installation issues with the drawer rubbing the top of the face frame (or cabinet top).

Considerations for attaching slides

A few slides will require a custom dado cut to allow the slide to be attached.  This isn’t a big deal as it’s typically concealed.  Planning heavy duty use of the drawer?  If you are debating use of woods a hardwood side will hold up better over time to the weight and screws.

You can also buy pre-cut drawer slides if you don’t have access to plywood, a truck or a table saw to make them.

How to convert existing drawers to soft close drawer slides

There is an easy way and a hard way to do this.  Want the easy way?  Match the slides you currently have to the soft close slides.  

First check for compatibility

Drawer slides, you will find, come in three different varieties.  Take this into consideration when you switch to a different slide – unless you are making new drawers.  Three styles of slides:

  • Under mount / center mount slides – these slides come in a wide variety of designs and may or may not allow the existing drawer to support a similar under mount soft closing slide.
  •  Bottom mount – you likely have these if you see a slide at the bottom of the face frame or there is a large wheel at the front of the cabinet-attached slide. Consider side mount soft close slides if these are your slides.
  •  Side mount slides – unless you are using heavy duty drawer slides then chances are you’re looking at a standard 1/2″ side clearance with ball bearing slides.

Retrofit considerations

Converting existing drawers to soft close slides starts with a few basic measurements:

  • Width and height of drawer opening
  • Width and height of drawer
  • Depth of cabinet
  • For under mounts, clearance between the drawer bottom and the side of the drawer 

Fortunately, 90% of drawers that aren’t soft close have a 1/2″ gap on each drawer slide.  The easiest solution for these cabinets are side mount, ball-bearing style soft close. 

However, if you have the budget and ability to adapt the drawer, I highly recommend the BLUM line of soft close slides.  My favorite feature with these are they are “bump to close”.  These slides are so smooth you can give the drawer a gentle bump and they glide close.

Frequently Asked Questions for Soft Close Drawer Slides

Can I upgrade existing drawers to soft close?

Most existing drawers can be upgraded to soft close if they have a 1/2″ side clearance. Or, a soft close adapter can be used for bottom mount drawer slides to add soft close without need for the drawer slide to be replaced.

How do you measure for soft close drawer slides?

First, identify the rear clearance requirements of your drawer slide. This clearance typically ranges from 1/8″ up to 1-1/2″. Then, measure from the back of the cabinet to the front edge of the face frame or cabinet box. Using this as your maximum length find the next shortest slide. For example, if your clearance is 1/2″ and the cabinet depth is 23″ then the longest slide is 22-1/2″. Then rounding down you will want to use a 22″ slide. Lastly, remember the clearance changes by manufacturer and frameless cabinets typically do not have a rear clearance requirement.

What is the best soft close drawer slide?

After years of installing drawer slides my preferred soft close drawer slide is the Blum Tandem with Blumotion. Due to a large damper, strong closing mechanism and easy to open action these slides are perfect for high quality kitchen and furniture hardware. And, Blum is a trusted industry manufacturer with decades of experience and strong brand reputation.

What are the easiest drawer slides to install?

The easiest drawer slides to install are bottom mount drawer slides. First, since a bottom mount slide can only be installed on the bottom edge of the drawer side the drawer installation is fast and without any real options. Second, the cabinet installation is simple and forgiving as the cabinet side has to simply be mounted flush with the face frame or face of the cabinet. And last, these slides do not require a precise alignment between the left and right slides since they employ a roller and not ball bearings.

Are soft close drawers hard to open?

Some soft close drawers are hard to open. In fact, in my experience, low quality side mount soft close drawer slides are commonly the hardest to open. As you’ll see in the force test of this article one slide required over 4 pounds of “pull” per side to open (8 pounds total + drawer weight).

Can you replace drawer slides with soft close?

There are two ways to replace drawer slides and upgrade to soft close. The first is to install an after-market adapter that will work with the existing slide. But the second is to replace the existing slide with a side mount soft close drawer slide that will provide for a smoother close and (usually) less open force than an adapter. However, to upgrade an existing drawer to a soft close undermount slide you’ll need to rebuild the drawer.

Summary

While higher priced than standard drawer slides, using one of the best soft close drawer slides will improve the usability and enjoyment of any drawer they are installed on. Hopefully this article was able to show you the differences in the variety of manufacturers and which slide is best for your next project.

References

Recommended Reading

6 Comments

  1. Catherine S. April 19, 2020
  2. E.D. Tryon April 19, 2020
  3. Daniel April 20, 2020
  4. E.D. Tryon April 20, 2020
  5. Emma May 6, 2020
  6. E.D. Tryon May 6, 2020

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