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Drawer Slide Types and How to Choose the Right One

Many of the household objects we use everyday consist of different mechanical devices. One of the more overlooked of these are drawer slides. Drawer slides are found in drawers, cabinets, and many other types of furniture. Let’s examine the various types of drawer slides and how to choose the right one for your needs.

What Defines a Drawer Slide?

You may have already seen drawer slides affixed to the both sides of the drawers in your home. These are special devices that allow individual drawers in furniture to slide in and out easily.

Drawer slides are essential in most homes and residences as you can’t have drawers without accompanying drawer slides. These are typically hidden from view, so one may overlook their importance.

How Do Drawer Slides Work?

Drawer slides are also known as drawer runners because they help the drawer box “run” back and forth along their rails. A drawer is typically secured with drawer slides on each side, and this allows the drawer box to move along the rails evenly.

Drawer slides also support the drawer box’s weight and reduce friction as it slides in and out of the drawer housing. This is vital, as a drawer should always be easy to open and close no matter how heavy its contents are.

The Importance of Drawer Slides

In addition to reducing friction during movement, drawer slides also help extend the drawer’s lifespan. A drawer box that isn’t supported by a drawer slide would be in constant contact with the drawer housing, and this would wear down the surfaces on both.

This means it is essential for all drawers to feature an appropriate drawer slide that keeps the drawer box and housing connected but separate.

What Do Drawer Slides Consist Of?

Drawer slides consist of many different components depending on their type. However, they generally feature long and narrow rails made from metal. Let’s look at various types of drawer slides, what they consist of, and where they are used.

Types of Drawer Slides

There are numerous types of drawer slides out there. This includes:

Undermount Slides

Undermount drawer slides are drawer slides that are located underneath the drawer box. They offer more support than other types of drawer slides located on the box’s sides. Undermount slides come in different lengths depending on your drawer housing or cabinet depth.

A special type of undermount slide known as full-extension undermount drawer slides allow the drawer box to extend completely. This allows you to reach the back of the drawer easily.

Other types of undermount drawer slides allow the drawer box to extend partially. This type is favored by homeowners with limited space, where the drawer would not be able to extend fully.

Center-Mount Slides

Center-mount slides are a unique type of drawer slide that mount to the drawer box’s bottom.  However, unlike other undermount slides, this slide type features only one rail. As its name implies, this rail is positioned along the center of the drawer box bottom.

Center Mount Slides

Center-mount slides are a more economical option compared to other slide rail types as there is only one rail present in their design. However, their weight capacity tends to be very low. These slides are ideal for drawers where there is little to no space between the drawer box and the housing.

Roller Slides

Roller slides generally consist of two components: a cabinet member, and a drawer member. Each of these features their own “roller” or wheel made from plastic. The cabinet member is typically mounted to the drawer housing, while the drawer member is affixed to the moving drawer box.

Roller Drawer Slides

The roller on the cabinet member then fits into the groove on the drawer member, and the roller on the drawer member fits into the groove on the cabinet member. When the drawer is in its fully closed position, the cabinet member’s roller will be on the front. As the drawer is opened, the drawer member roller will move through the groove on the cabinet member. Once the drawer is fully extended, the rollers on the cabinet member and drawer member will meet.

This special design offers the drawer mechanism additional stability and helps keep the drawer box level as it extends. Roller slides are primarily used for desk drawers that are expected to bear light loads, but are still useful for a variety of applications.

Ball-Bearing Slides

Ball-bearing slides are one of the most common types of drawer slides. These also use rotating components in their design. However, they utilize ball bearings instead of rollers to facilitate the drawer box’s movement.

Ball Bearing Drawer Slides

These slides consist of three primary components: a drawer member, a cabinet member, and an intermediate member. As with roller slides, the cabinet member is mounted to the drawer housing, and the drawer member is affixed to the moving drawer box. The intermediate member interacts with two groups of ball bearings.

The first group of ball bearings interacts with the cabinet member’s grooves, while the second set interacts with the drawer member’s grooves. When the drawer is extended, the drawer member slides over the ball bearings that are between it and the intermediate member.

After the drawer member has extended to the end of the ball bearings group, the intermediate member will begin to move. This intermediate member slides along  the ball bearing group between it and the cabinet member until the drawer has fully extended.

Ball-bearing slides offer the stability and extendability associated with roller slides. However, they can withstand heavier loads, which makes them great for dresser drawers or even industrial machinery.

Pocket Door Slides

Pocket door slides use ball bearing or a track slide system to slide the doors away from view. This helps save space and gives the cabinet a sleek appearance.

pocket drawer slides

These doors are usually used in home media centers. However, they are also commonly used in wardrobes and armoires to optimize space usage. If you intend to build your own home media center or armoire with doors that move out of view, pocket door slides are the right choice for you.

2- Way Travel Drawer Slides

This drawer slide type is for drawers that need to be opened from either end. Such drawers are typically found on kitchen islands or tools carts. These slides typically rely on ball bearings, so they can also withstand fairly heavy loads in their drawers.

double action drawer slides

3/4 Extension Drawer Slides

This type of drawer slide allows the drawer box to extend  to around 3/4th of its complete length. Such slides come in both ball bearing and roller types, and are ideal for drawers or dressers located in places with limited space.

If you don’t mind digging into the drawer housing to reach the back of the drawer box, a ¾ extension drawer slide may be the right choice for you. They are frequently used in bedroom dressers where you do not need the drawer box to extend outwards fully.

Full Extension Drawer Slides

Full extension drawer slides are similar to ¾ extension drawer slides. The key difference is that they allow the drawer box to extend out fully in its open position. These slides are ideal for drawers and dressers where space isn’t an issue. Users can reach for items at the back of the drawer box with ease, which makes it ideal for many different applications.

full extension slides

Linear Guides

You may have seen linear guides before and mistaken them for drawer slides. The two can have a similar appearance, but linear guides are preferable in certain situations. Linear guides are essentially support mechanisms for carrying heavy loads and ensuring straight linear motion. They consist of a sliding carriage portion and a rail. The sliding carriage portion moves along the rail and offers support for the load.

Linear guides come in many styles, the two most popular of which as roller bearing guides and sliding contact guides. You may be wondering where exactly linear guides are used. Unlike drawer slides, these aren’t typically used for drawers and dressers. Instead, they are primarily used for heavy duty applications such as in industrial machinery, 3D printers, and CNC machines.

How to Choose the Right Drawer Slides

As you can see there are many different types of drawer slides to choose from. Choosing between each one can be tricky if you aren’t familiar with drawer slides. Let’s look at some considerations to keep in mind when choosing drawer slides to make the selection process easier.

Load Rating

As mentioned above, different drawer slide types offer different load ratings. Center-mount slides offer the lowest load capacity as they possess only one rail.

When comparing dual rail side-mounted slides, the ball bearings variety typically offers greater load capacity than the roller slides. For high load applications, you may be interested in using linear guides.

Drawer Movement Direction

You should also consider the direct your drawer will be moving in. Most of the drawer slide types mentioned above allow you to extend the drawer box outward and then back into its housing.

If your drawer housing is open on both ends, you can extend your drawer box outwards in two directions with a 2-way travel drawer slide.

Extension Length

It is also vital to determine how much you would like your drawer to extend outwards by. Full extension drawer slides ideal for drawers that extend outwards completely and allow you to access the drawer boxes' entire contents easily.

¾ extension drawer slides allow the drawer box to extend out to around 3/4ths of its full length, which is preferable for bedroom dressers or places with limited space.

You can also check the rail length for each slide. It is recommended to use the longest slide for your application, but without exceeding the drawer’s depth into the cabinet housing. Most roller slides feature guide rails that are around 20” in length. However, there are ball bearing slides that feature guide rails with longer lengths up to 50”.


Drawer slides also vary in terms of durability depending on their type. The stainless steel ball bearings on ball bearing slides tend to offer better durability than the plastic rollers on roller slides. If you intend to make your drawer last for many years, it may be better to choose ball bearing slides over roller slides.


The drawer slide examples we have spoken about so far are primarily used for drawers that move horizontally. This is because many of them are specifically suited for horizontal movement.

For example, roller slides aren’t fixed into the grooves they move through. So if you were to use them for a vertical drawer, the rollers would pop out of the grooves. This isn’t generally a problem with ball bearing slides as their members aren’t likely to separate from their ball bearings they move across. This makes ball bearing slides useful for both horizontal and vertical drawer applications.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are many considerations to keep in mind when choosing drawer slides. If you are seeking high-quality drawer slides for your needs, check out Hinge Outlet.

Our online store features a wide selection of drawer slides of different types. Our experts can help guide you with the selection process. So get in touch with us today and make the right drawer slide choice for your needs