8 Steps to Build Drawers

8 Steps to Build Drawers

Well, we now know how to build doors, so of course, we’re going to talk about how to build drawers too! I tried a few different methods, but I found that these steps created the most accurate sizing!

Step 1: Cut Drawer Sides

First, you’ll want to cut the sides of your drawers. The height will depend on how tall you want your drawer based on the space you have and the opening you want to create. I suggest leaving some wiggle room so that it’s not sliding against your frame, but you also want it to be tall enough to get the most of the space.

The length will be based on the drawer slides you have. These come in specific sizes, so you want to get the longest possible option that you can. For example, if your cabinet depth is 23”, you’ll want to get the 22” length drawer slide. This means your drawer side will also be 22” long.

Step 2: Install Drawer Slides

This is a trick that I learned from Ana White DIY. Instead of building the entire box at this point, install your slides first. This will give you a more accurate size for the drawer width. When you install, you’ll need to check for a few things. First, you may need to add some spacers behind the slides if your face frame causes your slide to run into it. You want to make sure you have clearance! 

Second, you’ll want to make sure that the distance is the same between the slides from the front to the back. If you built your own cabinet boxes, hopefully, this is the case. But it’s possible that it is off a little. Or, if you’re installing this in older preexisting cabinets, it’s actually pretty likely that they’ve gone wonky! If this is the case, just add shims until they are exactly the same (or within ~⅛”). I like to use a laser measuring tool for this since it’s a bit easier to get exact measurements.

Then, determine the middle of where you want to install your slide and use a level to draw a straight line. This line will allow you to match your screw holes up to ensure that you’re installing it level!

Once you have your line, disassemble your drawer slide so that you just have the piece that goes in the cabinet (check your drawer slide instructions to verify). Then, take the larger of the two pieces, and install along the line using 3-4 screws.

Step 3: Install Sides

Take your side and hold it up to your installed drawer slide, marking where you want the piece to go. Then, I used my multi-mark tool to draw a perfect line all the way across. You’ll follow the same method as before, installing the other part of the drawer slide along this line!

Once they’re installed, slide them back into the cabinet so you can prepare for step 4!

Step 4: Cut Front and Back Pieces

Now that your sides are in, you can get an exact measurement for how long your front and back pieces need to be. Simply measure the distance between the side pieces for the length. If they are SLIGHTLY off, go with the shorter size.

The height will be the same as the side pieces.

Step 5: Assemble Drawers

You’ll want to assemble these on a completely flat surface using pocket holes and wood glue. Drill pocket holes to the front and back pieces, to the sides that will be facing the front and back. This will ensure that they won’t be visible (the front will be covered by the drawer front). Then, using clamps and a square, start assembling your drawer boxes.

Step 6: Dry-Fit

Before installing the bottom, I like to dry-fit my boxes just to make sure that everything is correct. Just slide the drawer slides right back in and make sure that everything is working well. When you first push the drawer in, it’s going to go in rough. Open and close it one or two more times and it should glide easily. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to make adjustments. It may be a bit wonky because there isn’t a bottom, but that’s ok. Otherwise, move on to Step 6!

Step 6: Cut and Install Bottoms

Flip your drawer box upside down, and measure the full width and depth. Your bottom panel will be the entire size of the drawer box.

I find that ¼” plywood is strong enough, but if you want to use something thicker, you definitely can. Just make sure you have the clearance under the drawer to easily slide in and out. Once the panel is cut, you can install it using wood glue and nails.

After it’s installed, I also like to use a chamfer bit around all of the edges. This just helps the bottom disappear a bit when the drawer is open. It isn’t necessary, but it adds a nicer finish.

Step 7: Build and Install Drawer Fronts

To build these, I actually found that the best method was to use the same method I use in Option 1 of my Shaker Cabinet Door post. Make sure to check that out for full details, but it basically includes using a ½” panel, adding ¼” boards for the rails and stiles, and edge banding to clean it up.

Next, I determine where my hardware is going to go, and pre-drill holes. Then, I take some screws and start them in the holes before holding the drawer front up to it’s designated place. Then, I screw the front all the way in so that it’s in place.

Next, I open the drawer and add two screws from the inside. Then I can unscrew the screws from the front, and install the hardware! I know this seems like a lot of steps just to get the front on, but it’s the best way I’ve found to not have the front piece moving around while trying to install. You can also pop some nails in, but I found that things still shifted on me.

Step 8: Finishing Details

Whether or not you wait until the end to start doing this step is totally up to you! You can also do it as you build, which can sometimes be easier. You’ll want to make sure you do the following:

  • Sand: Sand inside and outside each of the boxes to create really smooth surfaces.
  • Caulk: If you’re painting, you can use white caulk. If you’re keeping the drawer boxes natural wood, I’d suggest using either clear caulk or almond color. Either way, make sure it’s a thin bead or it can look messy. I just like to caulk all of the inside corners.
  • Edge band: To clean up your rough edges along the top of the drawer, edge banding is definitely the way to go.
  • Seal: I highly highly recommend sealing everything with at least 3 coats of water-based poly. This will make your drawers much smoother and protect them from any potential stains or spills. 

And that’s my quick 8-step crash course on how to build drawers! It takes some maneuvering and getting used to. But, the last piece of advice I’ll give: if your cabinet box is small, install the drawer slides BEFORE assembling the box. This definitely takes some advanced planning (which I DID NOT do), but it’s worth it. It’s very difficult to install slides in very tight spaces. But, sometimes this can’t be helped, and you just have to suffer through it. Know that I’m right there with ya, but you got this! Now, let’s go build some drawers! 😆💪

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