June 9, 2023  

How To Easily Add Drawers To Kitchen Cabinets

Upgrade your kitchen cabinets and instantly make them more functional by installing roll-out drawers. Whether you build your own or use a pre-made drawer, this is a quick project that will help you better organize your kitchen.

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There’s no pantry in our house so all of our food and kitchen items are stored in our kitchen cabinets. We have a decent amount of cabinet space, but does anyone ever feel like they have enough room for everything? 

Our upper cabinets are pretty organized, but most of our lower cabinets have been an unorganized mess until my recent kitchen organizing spree.

One of my very favorite ways to upgrade lower kitchen cabinets is by adding roll-out drawers. They make it so much easier to keep your cabinets organized and give you easy access to everything.

Installing drawers in your kitchen cabinets (or bathroom cabinets) is super easy — you can buy pre-made drawers or even build your own. If you’re not big on DIY projects, I promise you this one is painless and 1,000% worth it. All you need is a drill.

Looking for more kitchen organizing ideas? Take a look at these blog posts:


Why Add Drawers To Kitchen Cabinets?

Rollout drawers are a great way to maximize storage space in kitchen cabinets and make sure you’re utilizing the full depth of the cabinet. Here are a few reasons I love them:

  • Makes the full cabinet more accessible, easier to reach everything
  • Easily see everything in your deep cabinets without having to remove anything
  • Drawers with sides can be great for holding stacks of containers upright.
  • Makes your existing cabinets feel more “custom”
  • Installation is super easy and beginner-friendly
  • Lots of options for drawers with various dividers that give you customized storage for specific items

​Examples From My Own Kitchen

I’ve put a lot of effort into organizing our food in the upper cabinets and am really happy with how our small “pantry” organization works for us.

But while our upper cabinets were nice and organized, the lower cabinets have been pretty disorganized for the most part. I organized our baking supplies in a lower cabinet a few years ago but beyond that, the rest of the cabinets were pretty messy.

Most of our lower cabinets were filled to the brim with things and needed some major decluttering and intentional organizing. And a couple of our cabinets had never really been given a true purpose so they’d become messy catch-alls over the years.

​I finally got fed up with digging through cabinets to locate things and set out on a mission to get them organized once and for all.

It can be tricky to organize lower cabinets in a way that allows you to easily get to everything in the back, and that’s where roll-out drawers come in.

Our kitchen is as builder-grade as they come so all the lower cabinets have that annoying half-shelf which leaves a lot to be desired. 

Baking Cabinet

My first experience adding drawers to kitchen cabinets was a few years ago when I created our baking cabinet. We were out of space in the top cabinets, so I decided to find a good way to store all of our baking supplies in a base cabinet instead.

I bought a pre-made chrome drawer and not only was it super easy to install, but it was a game-changer in organizing that cabinet!

Small Appliances

Adding a large ash wood drawer to this cabinet means I no longer have to move things out of the way to get to things way in the back. This has been such a nice upgrade!

Liquor Cabinet

​Adding a wooden rollout drawer to this small cabinet in our kitchen island gave us a great place to store bottles of wine and cocktail mixers along with a couple of drink pitchers. I also keep my backstock of coffee syrup in here.

Our tallest bottles don’t fit under the top half-shelf so I organized everything from tallest in the front to shortest in the back and it rolls right under that shelf just fine.

You can also opt to remove those annoying half shelves, but it worked to keep this one and gives me a little extra storage space up top.

Pots & Pans

I used this cool roll out pots and pans organizer for a long time and it worked great for storing not only the pans themselves but also all the lids. It installs the same way as the other drawers, just four little screws.

I ended up removing this rollout organizer when I bought my Caraway pans because they came with nice organizers, but this was a great organization solution for us.

​Assessing Your Cabinet Space

Identify Where Roll-Out Drawers Will Be Most Useful

The first thing we need to do is assess your cabinet space to see where pull-out drawers might make sense.

Do a walkthrough of your kitchen and consider where it would be helpful to be able to reach the back of the cabinet more easily. Consider what you want to store in the cabinet and if a drawer would make it easier to reach things or help keep containers neatly stacked. 

If there is a shelf in your cabinet, you’ll also want to decide if you’ll keep the shelf as is or remove it. I’ve chosen to keep the half shelf in my cabinets so far, but removing it might be worthwhile to make room for taller items in that bottom drawer.

​For example, I store our small kitchen appliances in one of our larger cabinets. I keep our most-used Instant Pot in the front of the cabinet so it’s easiest to grab, but it’s always so frustrating when I have to unload most of the cabinet just to reach the waffle maker way in the back. (See photo below)

Adding a large pull-out drawer to the bottom of the cabinet made it SO MUCH EASIER to get to everything and I only wish I’d done it sooner.

Take Measurements

Grab your tape measure and a piece of paper and write down the cabinet width and depth. It’s also helpful to jot down the height between the bottom of the cabinet and any shelving so you make sure to get the right height drawer.

Lastly, you’ll also want to take measurements of any obstructions that may affect drawer installation. Things like plumbing, electrical and even the cabinet door hinges can get in the way of a drawer so make note of them now.

And if you have face frame cabinets, you’ll also want to measure those so you’re sure you get a drawer that fits in the cabinet opening.

Selecting A Cabinet Drawer

Do you need a pullout or a rollout?

What is the difference between a pull-out and a roll-out drawer? When you start researching and shopping for this project, you’ll come across a few different terms. They are used interchangeable quite often, but this is the actual definitions I landed on:

  • Pullout Drawers Or Pullout Shelves: Rollouts attach to cabinet doors or drawer fronts so when you pull the handle or knob, it pulls out the shelf or drawer. In lower cabinets, I see this most often used for hidden trash cans where pulling the handle on the cabinet door pulls the whole shelf out with it.
  • Rollout Drawers or Rollout Shelves: Rollouts are rolling shelves or drawer boxes that sit on the inside of your cabinet, typically mounted to drawer slides. For these, you open your cabinet door just like normally and then grab the drawer to roll it outward. These are what I’ve installed in my kitchen. They are easy to install in existing cabinets and don’t require you to make any adjustments to the cabinet door. I’m going to talk specifically about these today, though the same principles apply to pull-out drawers just with slightly different installation.

What type of drawer is best?

​There are a few different options to consider when shopping for drawers to add to your existing cabinets.

  • Material: Solid wood and stainless steel are common with these drawers. Both are very durable materials so it really comes down to preference. I have used both and I like that the stainless steel drawer won’t be damaged by moisture like wood can. The biggest con to me is that the bottom of the drawer isn’t solid so little crumbs can fall through and collect on the bottom of your cabinet. It’s a little tough to clean that up with the drawer sitting on top. Solid wood drawers look really beautiful you just want to take care not to spill anything that might damage the wood. I’d probably stay away from drawers made with cheaper materials like particle board as they won’t likely hold up well.
  • Drawer sides: The roll-out drawers I’ve used have four sides of equal height. You can also find drawers with only three sides, leaving the front edge flat which makes it more like a shelf. I think both can be great options, though technically a drawer with four sides will be more sturdy in construction.
  • Drawer height: The drawers I’ve used have pretty short sides but you could also look for deep drawers with taller sides to help hold stacks of items upright. The height of the drawers that makes the most sense will depend on what you plan to store inside.
  • Capacity: Pay attention to the weight capacity when you are shopping, especially if you plan to store heavier items inside. And ideally you want to place your heaviest items in the back of the drawer. For our appliances, my heavy Instant Pot had to go in the front because it’s too tall to slide under the upper shelf, so I balanced it out by placing a heavy crockpot in the back. The drawer feels plenty secure but it’s always good to be conscious of how you’re loading them up so you don’t put too much weight in the front.

What drawer size do you need?

Your cabinets are most likely a standard cabinet size which makes it pretty easy to find a pre-made roll-out drawer. Once you find a drawer you like, check the size options and find one that’s slightly smaller than your cabinet.

In my experience, there’s usually one inch of clearance on all sides of the drawer. Double-check that the size of your drawer will fit through the front opening of your cabinet and won’t interfere with any obstructions inside your cabinet.

Should you build or buy rollout cabinet drawers?

This completely depends on what you prefer to do! Cabinet drawers are pretty simple to build so it you have the tools, time, and know-how, this can be a great DIY project. I’d also recommend pricing out your materials and comparing that with pre-made options.

For me personally, I have the skill level to build a simple roll-out drawer but with limited time on my hands I decided that investing in a quality, pre-made option was the best route for me.

My Favorite Cabinet Drawers

You can find cabinet drawers on Amazon, at The Container Store, and at home centers like Home Depot and Lowe’s. Here are a few great options, most are available in several widths so check if they have one sized for your cabinet!

  1. Chrome Roll-Out Drawer
  2. Ash Wood Rollout Cabinet Drawer
  3. Elfa White Mesh Pull-Out Drawer
  4. Chrome Roll-Out Bakeware Organizer
  5. Under Sink Two-Tier Organizer
  6. Simplehuman Pull-Out Cabinet Organizer With Divider
  7. Chrome Roll-Out Double Shelf
  8. Rev-A-Shelf Rollout Trash Cans

Option 1: How To Install Pre-Made Cabinet Drawers

Pre-made rollout drawers are super easy to install in your kitchen cabinets. They should come with the wood screws and drawer slides, and they’ll likely include a template to help you align the slides in your cabinet.

Take a look at the following steps to see how easy these are to install, but make sure to consult the instructions for your drawer when it comes time to install it.

Step 1: Use the paper template to line things up

My drawer came with a paper template that you put along the front edge of your cabinet. It’s marked with the location of the drawer slides so you know exactly where to place them. This makes it really easy to get things lined up without doing a bunch of measuring!

Step 2: Mark where the four holes will go

​Once the bottom bracket is in position, use a pencil to mark the four screw holes.

Step 3: Drill four holes for your screws

Using the drill bit size specified in the instructions, go ahead and drill four pilot holes. This part can feel a little stressful because you’re drilling right through the bottom of your perfectly good cabinet, but I promise you the holes are tiny and this is really easy to do so you won’t mess it up.

Once you’re done drilling, I like to grab my mini vacuum to clean up the sawdust and any little crumbs in the cabinet. 

Step 4: Attach the bracket to your cabinet

​Screw the included wood screws through the bracket and into the holes you pre-drilled.

Step 5: Install the drawer

Now it’s time to slide the drawer into the drawer slides. For my wood drawers, this involved lining up the wheels on the drawer with the tracks on the base bracket, then sliding the drawer in place.

The stainless steel drawers I’ve used attach to the base bracket with four small screws, simply line up the holes and assemble with a screwdriver.

Option 2: How To Build A DIY Rollout Cabinet Drawer

​First, you’ll need to determine the dimensions of your drawer, being sure to factor in room for the drawer slides. Then you’ll cut your sides and base pieces down to size.

Drawer bottoms are attached using dados (grooves) most of the time. And the sides are typically assembled with pocket holes.

​Here are links to a few really great tutorials for DIY Cabinet Drawers:

This is a super simple do-it-yourself project you could get done over the weekend or even a day. Is this an upgrade you could use in your kitchen? Where else would you use roll-out drawers?

Looking for more kitchen organizing ideas? Take a look at these blog posts:

Have a fantastic day!

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About the author

Emily Counts is the founder of Small Stuff Counts, a home and organization blog she created in 2013. Her goal is to help moms make home life easier so they can create beautiful, organized, and thriving homes. She shares life at home as a mom juggling two young kids and being a working mom with a corporate job. The Iowa-based blogger lives in the suburbs of Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband, two children, and rescue dog. Emily has collaborated with brands including The Container Store, Cricut, Command Brand, Bissell, Sam's Club and Rubbermaid.

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