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The 5 Types of Drawer Slides

Updated: October 12, 2022
Drawer slides are frustrating to understand. In this guide learn about the five types of drawer slides, mounting types and features like soft close.
Types of Drawer Slides
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The 5 Types of Drawer Slides

When woodworkers build drawers they know what the types of drawer slides are. But if you are new to drawer construction the terminology can be downright confusing. And no aspect of a drawer slide is more confusing than the type of mount.

Which makes choosing and buying your drawer slides first very important.

From confusing use of mounting locations, soft close vs. self close (they aren’t the same thing), and weight capacity there is just a lot of lingo to cut through.

In this article you’ll learn:

  • The five types of drawer slides by mounting location
  • Key features of each slide
  • Why slide mount and drawer slide size is important
  • Heavy duty drawer slides and when to use them
  • Why side clearance matters
  • Pros and cons of each slide type
  • And, key features of the various slide types

Types of Drawer Slides

Hey this is confusing – the rules change between top and bottom mounts on understanding mounting location. But first, here’s the five types of drawer slide mounting locations:

  1. Top mounts are connected to the “top” of the cabinet or furniture opening and side of the drawer
  2. Side mounts are connected on the side of the drawer and cabinet
  3. Bottom mounts are attached to the bottom of the drawer and side of the cabinet
  4. Meanwhile, undermounts are two slides attached to the underneath (invisible) of the drawer and side of the cabinet
  5. And lastly a center mount is single slide found on the bottom of the drawer (not visible)

Ok, so why have five types? Well, cabinet or furniture construction, aesthetics, features and cost dictate different slides. 

Let’s explore each type and what makes them unique. 

1. Top Mount Drawer Slides

Hardware Resources top mount drawer slide

As the name implies these slides are mounted on the top of the opening but to the side of the drawer.

Confusing right? Well, bottom mount slides are just the opposite – but we’ll get to those next.

Overview

Common uses: Pencil drawers in desks where side or bottom openings aren’t present.

Popularity: Due to these slides design they are generally limited use for keyboard trays or pencil drawers.

Purchasing considerations:

  • Look for full extension or over-travel to allow full access to the drawer contents
  • Since the full weight of the drawer and it’s contents is on the screws make sure you have the best screws with aggressive threads.

Features like soft closing or push-to-open are less common in this slide type.

2. Bottom Mount Drawer Slides

Liberty bottom mount drawer slide

You’d think a bottom mount slide would mount on the bottom of the cabinet right? Because, of course, that’s opposite of “top”.

But, alas, bottom mount drawer slides mount are mounted to the bottom edge of the drawer and to the side of the cabinet. However this makes this type of slide extremely easy to install as there’s a fixed position for each slide to mount to (you have no choice!).

Overview

Common uses: All types of cabinets and furniture.

Popularity: High due to the low cost of these slides (installed in millions of kitchens!)

Purchasing considerations:

  • Use a name brand like Liberty or Blum and avoid generic brands
  • For face frame cabinets use rear mounting brackets and 5/8″ or 3/4″ screws (or shorter, if needed).

Features like soft closing or push-to-open are not available in this slide type. Also, a 1″ top drawer clearance is needed for the drawer to be installed and removed.

For most drawers, the Liberty bottom mount slide is a great place to start. Remember to buy rear mounting brackets for face frame cabinets.

Manufacturers

Liberty – has been a leading manufacturer of bottom mount drawer slides

Blum – is a leading BHMA certified supplier of slides.

3. Undermount Drawer Slides

Blum undermount drawer slide

So to keep things confusing not only does this slide also install on the bottom of the drawer it’s also one word! Who knew understanding the types of drawer slides would involve a lesson in spelling.

But grammar aside, this is my favorite slide as it’s not only concealed but it has the best construction for soft closing slides.

And my favorite feature of this slide? It installs underneath the drawer and after installation is invisible when the drawer is pulled open.

Common uses: All types of cabinets and furniture.

Popularity: Typically used in higher-end furniture and cabinets due to it’s higher price point.

Purchasing considerations:

  • These slides generally come in 18″ and 21″ lengths
  • Due to a rear locking mechanism that fits into the rear of the slide the drawer will be slightly shorter than a standard drawer
  • Best for new drawers and not retrofits

The major manufacturers are Blum and Grass, with some generic brands starting to enter the market.

4. Side Mount Drawer Slides

Vadania side mount drawer slide

See on Amazon: Vadania Soft Close

Chances are pretty good you have a cabinet, piece of furniture, file cabinet or tool box with large steel drawer slides mounted on the side of the drawer.

Of all the types of drawer slides the side mount slide is the most popular across the widest variety of applications. And, they are almost always a ball bearing steel design that’s about 1-3/4″ tall and 1/2″ thick.

And as their name implies they are (simply) installed on the side of both the drawer and the cabinet.

Common uses: All types of cabinets and furniture.

Popularity: All types of drawers, and work best in heavy duty applications.

Purchasing considerations:

  • Choose features carefully – especially soft close
  • For drawer weight over 100 pounds use a heavy duty drawer slide.
  • Always use rear mounting brackets for face frame cabinets
  • Use a drawer slide jig for installation
  • Great for retrofit drawer applications

5. Center Mount Drawer Slides

Center mount drawer slide

See on Amazon: Knape & Vogt Center Mount

This last type of drawer slide is least common (outside of factory furniture). And for good reason as it’s usually a single slide mounted in, of course, the bottom center of the drawer.

While many variations of this type of drawer slide have existed for furniture applications (wood and metal) it isn’t, in my opinion, the best drawer slide to use. But we’ll get to that later.

Common uses: Dresser drawers Popularity: Typically used for manufacturing dressers and factory furniture

Purchasing considerations:

  • Typically purchased as an after-market replacement slide
  • Be sure to verify slide length, rear mounting requirements, drawer bottom clearance and “side roller” requirements for the drawer edge

Key Drawer Slide Features

Best Soft Close Drawer Slides

Now that we have an understanding of where the drawer slides can be mounted it’s time to take a look at the features of drawer slides you’ll find.

Considering features, there are a huge variety of drawer slide types:

  • Self closing slides
  • Soft closing drawer slides
  • Push to open slides
  • Heavy duty (125 to 1000 pounds)
  • Motorized

Self closing types of drawers

This type of drawer slide is often confused with a soft close drawer slides. However, it serves a different purpose altogether. 

The best way to think of a self closing slide is as a “stay closed” slide. But that’s a bad marketing name so we’ll leave that alone…

What is a self closing drawer slide?

A self closing drawer slide is designed to keep the drawer closed and prevent it from opening unexpectedly. To provide this stay-closed feature a self closing drawer slide uses either gravity (bottom mount) or a rubber block (side mount) to reduce the chances a drawer slide might open.

How does a self closing drawer slide work?

Self closing side mount drawer slide
Rubber catch on self closing side mount drawer slide

While a locking drawer slide is required (keep reading) to keep the drawer shut under any condition, a self closing drawer slide will generally work like the following:

  • For top mount and side mount drawer slides a rubber tab (pictured above) will keep the drawer closed.
  • However in a bottom mount the drawer slide will use gravity that slopes the last 1/3rd of the drawer slide down and away. 
  • In my research neither center mount or undermount have self closing. 

Soft closing drawer slides

Because it’s very common for soft closing and self closing drawer slides to be confused let’s clear that up. Soft closing slides prevent the drawer from slamming shut. Meanwhile self closing slides keep the drawer from opening without the user pulling the drawer.

What is a soft closing drawer slide?

A soft closing drawer slide is designed to pull a drawer closed over (about) the last 2″ of drawer travel. By using a sled that connects and disconnects from the main slide, the soft close drawer slide will be “caught” and not slam. To accomplish this a soft close slide will use a damper to slow the closing force and springs to pull the drawer shut.

How does a soft close drawer slide work?

Soft Close Drawer Slide Vadania Mechanism
Vadania soft close slide with Springs and Damper (gold)

A soft close slide works by separating into two pieces. 

Essentially:

  • When the drawer is opened two springs and a damper are pulled forward about 1-1/2″.
  • Then a catch on the main drawer slide is released.
  • And left behind is a “sled” that is held in place but under the tension of a spring and damper.
  • As the drawer is closed the slide reconnects with the sled, and triggers the release pin.
  • The damper takes over and prevents a fast (slamming) close
  • Meanwhile the springs provide the pulling force to bring the drawer closed.

Pretty complicated, huh?

Heavy duty drawer slide

While some drawer slides call themselves heavy duty at 100-pound rating, the real heavy duty slides start at 125 and just get started at 250 pounds.

What is a heavy duty drawer slide?

A heavy duty drawer slide is a drawer slide rates for 125 pounds or more. Due to thicker sidewalls, heavier steel construction and enhanced ball bearings these slides can support loads up to 1000 pounds. And they also feature extension lengths of up to 96″.

How is a heavy duty drawer slide made?

heavy duty drawer slides
Heavy Duty Drawer Slide

First, heavy duty drawer slides are almost exclusively side mount, steel ball bearing slides with:

  • Weight ratings up to 1000 pounds
  • Extension from 10-96″
  • Side clearances typically of 0.75″ or more
  • Locking levers to hold slides open

The tricky part to these slides is buying the right weight load versus your budget. Due to the extra load capacity these are specialty slides with substantially higher cost versus a 100-pound or less drawer slide.

To learn more see our guide to the best heavy duty drawer slides.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Are soft closing and self closing drawer the same?

No. Soft close drawers are designed to prevent drawers from slamming shut through use of dampers and springs. While self closing slides are designed to prevent drawers from opening while the drawer is not in use.

Are top mount drawer slides mounted to the top of a drawer?

A top mount drawer slide is mounted to the top of the opening and side of the drawer. The most common use of this slide is for keyboard trays or pencil drawers.

What is the cheapest type of drawer slide?

Bottom mount and economy center mount drawer slides are generally the lowest price – but features are sacrificed.

Summary

While there are five main types of drawer slides, for most applications you’ll be able to quickly narrow down to just a couple of options. And, while expensive, make sure you choose a high quality slide that has been subjected to high manufacturing and industry quality tests.

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Last update on 2023-01-10 at 09:32 / Images from Amazon

  • About the Author
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( Woodworker )

Eric has been a professional woodworker for over thirty years and has worked in small cabinet shops making everything from kitchen cabinets to hand-made furniture. Now working from a home woodworking shop Eric is sharing his passion for woodworking, tool advice and how-to knowledge from his Minnesota-based woodshop.

7 thoughts on “The 5 Types of Drawer Slides”

  1. Hi Mark – this is usually done with pullouts where the drawer/box is taller than wide as a “guide slide”. For a standard drawer check out a Accuride 9301 instead for higher weight ratings. Follow manufacturer installation instructions, though, as this is not a standard configuration and the weight ratings cannot be exceeded.

    Thanks,
    Eric

  2. I am looking for a spice rack mounting system that allows me to pull the spice rack out (i.e., a vertical drawer) and then once fully extended, the mounting system allows me to swivel (i.e., turn side to side) the extended spice rack. This allows me access to the spices on the side of the spice rack that faces a corner-mounted cabinet, which is 45° from the end of the spice rack cabinet. What mounting system is available to fill this need and support multiple spice racks side-by-side? I get very frustrated using a lazy susan.

  3. Hello, I have a solid wood dresser that needs new slides. The slide attached to the dresser (center) is wood, however, the slide attached under the drawer is metal. My boy child managed to bend the metal and we cannot find replacements so it seems that we should just replace the entire assembly. The types of slides available do not appear to be able to handle a heavy drawer before it is loaded with clothing and a pre-teen boy. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. It is a great piece of furniture and really do not want to replace it but currently, 2 drawers are unusable. Thank you for your time and consideration.

  4. Hi Jamie,

    This is a common problem and there are two options. First, if you have 1/2″ of space on each side of the drawer a side mount drawer slide is the best option for a heavy duty solution. Second, though, you can look for center mount drawer slides as a replacement. If you can’t remove or replace all of the middle components you can install two of these slides (one on the left, one on the right).

    Good luck!
    Eric

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