Choosing the Right Cabinet Drawer System

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Choosing the right cabinet drawer system will ensure you select the best quality drawer glides and box construction to make certain that your cabinets stand the test of time, as not all drawer systems or boxes are created equally. If you ask most Professional Kitchen Design Experts, they will tell you to always invest in the moving components when selecting your cabinets. Ignoring the quality of moving parts of glides and hinges is one of the most common oversights, typically discovered when it’s too late.

Choosing The Right Drawer System by Superior Cabinets. Author - Shahan Fancy, Superior Cabinets.


It typically comes down to your budget and style preference, and maintaining a balance between quality and style is where most homeowners want to be. Here are some additional items and price factors to consider that can impact your cabinet budget:

  • Overall Quality
  • Glide Extension Depth
  • Soft Close vs. No Soft Close
  • Concealed Box Sides vs. Open Box Sides
  • Bottom and Back Thickness and Material Quality
  • Easy Homeowner Adjustments
  • Overall Box Construction and Material
  • Colour of Box
  • Warranty  


Quality is subjective, and quality is typically measured and tested with time. Most Professional Kitchen Designers define quality by how long something will last and the overall craftsmanship. An average kitchen should last about 15-20 years with normal use conditions, and drawers and hinges are often places where things can quickly fail. Read more on Designing for Today and Tomorrow.  


GLIDE EXTENSION DEPTH:  Drawer glides, also known as drawer runners, typically come in Standard 3/4 [470 mm] or Full Extension [520 mm] depths. Choose full extension glides for a full-access experience. If full extension glides aren’t important to you, you can save on your overall budget by selecting 3/4 standard extension glides if that is an option with your cabinet maker or supplier. This is another common homeowner oversight, as many don’t consider drawer glide depth until it is too late. Most designers would say it is hard to go without them if you have had them. The video below showcases the massive gain in cabinet drawer accessibility with Full Extension Drawers vs 3/4 Standard Extension.

Soft Close:  Drawer box or drawer system features are also subjective. For example, soft close or silent close has almost become standard now and is excellent for a quiet and smooth drawer closing experience. Choosing upgraded drawer runners with soft close can also potentially decrease the number of seasonal adjustments you may be required to do, as there is less impact on the drawer fronts from closure.

Soft close is also a great upgrade for bathrooms, especially in ensuites or connected bathrooms or rental properties, as the sound is dampened when closed. The dampening effect of the soft close can also protect items inside the drawer from banging and moving around.

Soft Close May Not Be Good For Everyone: Remember that the soft close or silent close feature on your drawers typically makes them harder to open. There is a slight resistance for the first few inches of opening the drawer because the tension of the hydraulic dampeners needs to be relieved or activated, the same hydraulic mechanism that provides the soft close feature. If hand dexterity, mobility, and strength are concerns, you may want to consider not selecting this upgrade option.

Concealed Sides:  Some upgraded modular drawer systems have a concealed side plate on the large drawers for a bolder look. This is also great for preventing things from falling out of the drawer through the opening. While this upgrade isn’t essential to all clients, it should be considered if you are planning your forever kitchen.  

The pinnacle cabinet drawer box with anthracite black metal sizes, with full extension glides, by superior cabinets.

Bottom and Back Thickness and Material Quality:  Another small detail that is easily overlooked is the bottom and back material thickness and matching quality. A common industry standard build material for drawer box bottoms and backs is melamine, a durable and easy-to-clean material. If you can, ensure the melamine quality is the same as the cabinet cases or carcasses. In some rare circumstances, the drawer bottoms and backs may be a lesser material than the cabinet carcasses or cases. Typically, Thermofused Melamine is the best quality, and a 5/8” thickness is perfect. This can also come in a few different melamine colours, typically white or maple print (simulated wood grain).  

Accessories and Inserts That Fit: Are you getting a drawer system or a drawer box? This is an important distinguishing factor, as a drawer system often has many custom-fit inserts and accessory options that you can select at the time of ordering. These include cutlery trays, utensil trays, knife storage inserts, and more. See the full line of drawer inserts here.

Easy Homeowner Adjustments:  Seasonal adjustments for drawer glides and fronts should be done at least twice a year by the homeowner. Choosing a drawer system that makes it easy and sometimes toolless is what most people prefer. See our resources page for drawer box adjustment information. Adjustments are so simple with the Intelligent Drawer Systems by Superior Cabinets, also known as the Hettich InnoTech Atira system. See our video on how easy it is to remove the metal drawer system by Superior Cabinets. You only need a Double-Crosstip Pozidriv Screwdriver or a Phillips Screwdriver if you are careful not to over torque.


The Professional Kitchen Design Experts at Superior Cabinets prefer either the metal Intelligent Drawer Systems in either Grey/Silver or Anthracite/Black or the Solid Birch Dovetail Box. Both are the perfect choice for a kitchen that ideally lasts 15-25 years or more under normal use conditions. These would be considered Residential Grade (15-25 year lifespan).

Metal Sides:  Ideally, homeowners wanting metal drawer boxes want to select a double-walled system with steel ball bearings for lasting user convenience. Many homeowners love the durable metal-coated drawer sides, such as the Intelligent Drawer Systems by Superior Cabinets. They are great for everyday use and easy to adjust and clean. As a bonus, unlike some wood products used to make drawer boxes, they aren’t affected by fluctuating humidity within the home.

The pinnacle cabinet drawer box with anthracite black metal sizes, with full extension glides, by superior cabinets.

Metal Drawer Box Colour Options:  Some of the metal double-walled drawer boxes come in various finish options. The various colours typically only offer an aesthetic difference. Still, some homeowners have commented that the Silver Grey colour requires less dusting than a darker finish such as the Anthracite/Black finish. Again, this is subjective to the user and the environment. It is also important to note that some cabinet manufacturers can sometimes charge an upgrade for different premium colours, depending on how exclusive they are.  

The quantum cabinet drawer box with grey silver metal sizes, with ¾ standard extension glides, by superior cabinets.

Wood Dovetail:  If you are someone who appreciates fine craftsmanship and the warmth of wood for your cabinet drawer boxes, consider a finger-jointed Birch Dovetail Box. These are typically the highest in cost, but worth it for many. Dovetail joinery is generally considered the superior standard and an extremely strong carpentry method.

A finger-jointed dovetail cabinet drawer box in Birch wood by superior cabinets.

Pieces unassembled of finger-jointed dovetail cabinet material in Birch wood in the superior cabinets factory in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Drawer Box Construction Methods to Consider Avoiding in Your Forever Kitchen:  Drawer boxes that the Kitchen Design Experts at Superior Cabinets try to avoid are boxes constructed only of Melamine. This is not because melamine is a poor-quality material but more so to do with basic drawer box construction methods. This construction method is perfect for a Builder Grade (5-8 year kitchen), but there are improved options if you plan to enjoy your cabinets for the long term.

A basic quality cabinet drawer made of melamine fasted by staples.
A basic quality cabinet drawer made of melamine fastened by staples.

Some of these drawer boxes come only glued and pin nailed, and it is not uncommon for those fastening methods to break or blow apart in a few years with heavy use. Some manufacturers will also add dowels, which can help but is not as superior as other options. It’s important for homeowners to be mindful of this when comparing “apples to apples.”


Most high-quality drawer runners or drawer glides will come with a multi-year or lifetime warranty on the parts only. This warranty is typically provided by the manufacturer who fabricates the drawer glides and not necessarily by the cabinet maker or cabinet company. In some cases, the warranty is handled and provided by the cabinetmaker or cabinet company and is typically handled on a case-by-case basis, depending on the firm where you made your purchase. It is always important to check beforehand to know where warranty claims are handled, should you need to make one in the future.

The quantum cabinet drawer box with grey silver metal sizes, with full extension glides, by superior cabinets.


Not all drawers are built the same. Consider investing extra budget into the moving components of your cabinets to ensure they will last. Inquire about the finer technical details to ensure the drawer box or system you select will give you the many years of enjoyment you deserve. Use the product warranty as a guideline for what you can expect for a lifespan, as longer warranty coverage typically means the product will last longer under normal use conditions.

When in doubt, always work with a Professional Kitchen Designer to help you navigate these critical decisions. If you would like to speak with an in-house Superior Cabinets Designer in Saskatoon, Regina, Calgary, Edmonton, or Winnipeg, you can book an appointment here. If you aren’t near a Superior Cabinets corporate showroom, consider one of our Authorized Dealer Partners in Canada or the USA.


Here are some additional helpful articles to check out:
Kitchen Designer Cheat Sheet
Ways to Save Money on New Kitchen Cabinets
The Kitchen Cabinet Buyer’s Guide
Planning A Kitchen Renovation During A Pandemic
Common Corner Cabinet Types and Ideas
Bar Support Selection Guide
Butcher Block in the Kitchen, What you Should Know
Farmhouse Sink Considerations
Common Mudroom Design Oversights
New Paint Finishes on MDF for Summer 2022
New Wood Stains for Summer 2022 – Inspired by Nature
2022 Kitchen Cabinet Trends


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