How to Build Slide-Out Shelves for the Kitchen


Slide-out shelves have become standard features in contemporary kitchen design. Once you have them, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them. Add slide-out shelves to most traditional and frameless (Euro-style) cabinets using off-the-shelf materials and basic tools. The shelves work just like ordinary drawers and slide out of the cabinet on standard drawer slides. One half, or track, of the drawer slide mounts to each side of the shelf, while the other halves mount to the sides of the cabinet or to wood spacers fastened to the cabinet sides. The spacers allow the shelves to clear any hinges, face frame or door edge that extends into the cabinet opening.

Things You'll Need

  • Basic carpentry tools
  • 1-by-3 or 2-by-3 lumber
  • Circular saw
  • Drill
  • Wood glue
  • Wood screws
  • Drawer slides (1 pair per drawer)
  • 3/4-inch finish-grade or paint-grade plywood (for shelves)
  • Finish nails
  • Wood finishing supplies (as needed)
  • Draw level lines across both interior sides of the cabinet to represent the bottom edge of each shelf.

  • Open the cabinet door all the way, and measure any obstructions in the cabinet opening, such as hinges. The largest dimension determines the thickness of spacers to use, if required. With most cabinets, 1-by-3 (3/4 inch thick) or 2-by-3 (1 1/2 inches thick) lumber provides sufficient clearance for the shelves.

  • Cut two spacers for each shelf so that the spacers extend from the front edge to the back panel along each side of the cabinet. Cut the spacers with a circular saw. Position each spacer with its bottom edge on a reference mark (made in Step 1) and fasten it to the cabinet side with glue and wood screws. If an outer side of the cabinet is exposed and screws could come through and show on the outside, use metal L-brackets and screws to mount the spacer strips to the cabinet’s face frame and back panel, as applicable.

  • Mount the outer half of each drawer slide to a spacer strip (or cabinet side, if you’re not using spacers), using the provided screws. The bottom edge of the slide should be flush with the bottom edge of the spacer. Fit the inner half of each slide into its mating half (now mounted to the cabinet). Measure between the assembled slides to determine the total width of each shelf. Then, measure the depth of the cabinet (from the front edge to the back panel), and subtract 1/2 inch; use this dimension for the depth of the shelf.

  • Cut the bottom for each shelf from 3/4-inch plywood to equal the width and depth dimensions minus 1 1/2 inches in both directions (to compensate for the 1 1/2-inch combined thickness of the side pieces). Cut the side pieces to the desired width (the shelves can be like trays, with 1 1/2- to 2-inch-tall sides, or like shallow drawers, with 3- or 4-inch sides). Cut the front and back side pieces to length to equal the width of the bottom piece plus 1 1/2 inches. Cut the right and left side pieces to equal the depth of the bottom piece. To keep your cuts straight, use a circular saw with a straight edge guide or a table saw.

  • Build the shelves with glue and finish nails. The front and back side pieces should cover the ends of the right and left side pieces. All side pieces should be flush with the bottom face of the bottom panel. If desired, apply a finish (such as a high-gloss paint or polyurethane) to the completed shelves.

  • Install the inner halves of the drawer slides onto the right and left side pieces of each shelf, using the screws provided. Fit each shelf into its pair of drawer slides in the cabinet to complete the job.

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  • “The Complete Guide to Wood Storage Projects;” Creative Publishing international; 2006
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