How to Change Kitchen Cabinets Into Drawers


Some cabinet designers fail to provide enough drawers, or there's not enough room for drawers. However, you can change a pantry or base cabinet into drawers by adding full extension side mount drawer guides. These guides attach to the sides of the cabinet jambs, flush with the face frame door opening. Build up the sides of the cabinet jambs with shims, and apply the guides to the shims and drawers. You can put four drawers into an average cabinet opening that measures approximately 12 by 24 inches.

Things You'll Need

  • 16 plywood shims, 3 by 18 by 3/4 inches
  • 4 drawers, 18 by 11 3/4 by 4 1/2 inches
  • 4 pieces oak lumber, 13 1/2 by 5 7/8 by 3/4 inches
  • Cordless screw gun
  • 24 wood screws, 1 1/2 inches
  • 4 pairs 18 inch full extension drawer guides
  • Remove the cabinet door. Locate the center jambs, or inside "walls," of the cabinet. There will be one on both sides of the opening. Measure the distance from the jambs to the inside of the face frame opening. It should be approximately 1 1/2 inches.

  • Measuring from the inside bottom of the cabinet face frame opening, screw the plywood shims one at a time to the right and left jambs centered at 3, 9, 15 and 21 inches from the bottom of the face frame opening running horizontally to the back. Screw one on then screw another one on top of that one bringing the shims flush to the inside edge of the cabinet face frame opening; these are your drawer runner side mounts.

  • Open the drawer guide package and separate the runners. Pick out the ones that say DL. Center and screw them on flush with the front of all four drawers on the left side. Screw the ones marked DR to the other side of the drawer. Use the screws that come in the package.

  • Center and screw on the runners marked CL ( left) and CR (right) to the plywood shims that you just installed, flushing them with the inside edge of the cabinet face frame.

  • Center and screw the oak lumber drawer front to the drawer from the inside of the drawer. You should have equal spacing all the way around the drawer front. Align the back of the drawer runner with the cabinet side runner. When the bearings fit into the slots on the runners of the cabinet and drawer, slide the drawer into the cabinet. Do all four drawers.

Tips & Warnings

  • Keep some 1/4 inch plywood shims handy in case the jamb-to-face frame measurement is off. Shim with the 1/4 inch if necessary to bring the side mount guides flush with the face frame.
  • Sand and stain the drawers and drawer fronts before installing, or rout the edge of the drawer front to match the existing cabinet design.
  • Always wear safety glasses when working with power tools.

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  • Photo Credit kitchen image by yong hong from
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