Sliding shelves are awesome, but the prices are crazy! These DIY pull out shelves are attractive, durable, and a fraction of the cost!
In 2016 I wrote my first sliding shelves post, and it went viral! Seems everyone wants them, but not many are keen on the prices. Here’s my 2023 update with an easier way to build beautiful DIY pull-out shelves!
The Problem With Lower Cabinets
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The problem with most lower cabinets in the kitchen or anywhere else is that they are just too deep, and we’re just too old and stiff. Stuff gets pushed to the back and forgotten, because the effort involved in excavating and mining kitchen paraphernalia or cleaning products from the depths of lower cabinetry far outweighs the reward. So we push, we pile, and we forget. This leads not only to wasted space but also to duplicate purchases, as we keep buying things we already have, simply because we can’t reach them, or we’ve forgotten we ever owned them in the first place.
The easiest way to reach the nether regions of a cabinet is not for you to go to the nether region (a simply barbaric notion) but for the nether region to come to you.
The solution – sliding shelves
Enter slide-out shelves, pull-out shelves, sliding shelves, roll out shelves – whatever the heck you want to call them.
When I first lit upon the idea of DIY pull out shelves for the kitchen (back in 2016), I went online to see how much they would cost. Amazon sells the following for $104 (in 2016 they were $85.)
My original kitchen in Connecticut called for 11 of them, so you can understand why I started this DIY slide-out shelf undertaking in the first place!
Well time rolls on, and here in our Florida home, I find myself once again in need of sliding shelves. Only this time, I know much better than I did back in 2016. I’ve stripped my design down to the essentials, made it much easier and streamlined the process of installing drawer slides.
Let’s have a look at my new-and-improved sliding shelves! You can still find the tutorial for my original design at the end of this post.
DIY Sliding Shelves Tutorial (The New & QUICK Method)
Step 1 – Cabinet drawer slides
Consistency and repeatability are key when it comes to installing drawer slides for multiple base cabinets. To take the guesswork and repeat measuring out of the equation for my latest pull-out shelves in our garage laundry room, I built drawer slide framework that I could use for either side of any cabinet.
All of our cabinets have face frames that intrude 3/4″ into the cabinet opening on the sides and top. To have slide out shelves, you have to install a 3/4″ spacer before you can install the drawer slides anyway, so my new method just makes it easier and consistent.
This framework is the same depth as the cabinets as measured from the back wall to the interior side (back side) of the face frame. I picked a height that would give me more headroom for the lower pull-out shelf and a little less for the upper shelf.
Next, I installed the cabinet-side slides. For the bottom shelves, I measured up 1/8″ from the bottom edge of the framework to make sure I had enough clearance. I initially installed the top sides flush with the top of the framework as shown below, but I later lowered them flush with the bottom edge of the top framework. This adjustment was so we could better accommodate the range of heights of our cleaning products.
I built 6 frameworks – enough for 3 cabinets and 6 shelves. I installed them using construction adhesive and a few brad nails.
Step 2 – Build the sliding shelves
My original method used pocket screws, some fancy jigsaw work, and sheets of PolyWall. My new method ditches all that for simplicity.
Instead of using 1/2″ plywood (which would necessitate using pocket screws), I used 3/4 inch plywood (all of it was scrap I had lying around), and I assembled the shelf with a combination of DAP Weldwood wood glue and DAP Weldwood instant wood adhesive.
The instant adhesive creates a quick strong bond while the wood glue works to create an even more durable bond.
To make a sliding shelf, I first cut the bottom from 3/4″ plywood. The depth is equal to the measurement from the back wall to the inner part of the face frame (in my case 21 inches) minus double the thickness of a piece of plywood (1 1/2 inches) for a depth of 19 1/2 inches. The width of the base is equal to the measurement across from face frame to face frame minus double the thickness of a piece of plywood (1 1/2″) minus double the thickness of one drawer slide (1″).
I then cut four 2-inch strips of plywood – the lengths of two them equal to the depth of the base (19 1/2″ in my case). The other two pieces were cut to the width of the base PLUS 1 1/2″. Assembly couldn’t be easier.
I first glued the two sides onto the base, and then I glued the back and front.
As I did with the original sliding shelves I made, I finished these with Danish oil – it gives a beautiful color and protects the wood.
Finally, I installed slides to the sides of the shelves and installed them. With this method, I got a perfect install with each and every pull out shelf!
And since we all know hoe much you like to snoop around other peoples’ drawers…here ya go!
DIY Pull-Out ShelF TUTORIAL (The original Method)
I wanted to start with the double cabinet pictured above. I wanted two big slide-out shelves, spanning the whole space. That would require knocking out that center support column.
I love breaking stuff!
This left some pieces on the top and bottom that needed to be chiseled out.
I then filled the hole in the bottom with drywall filler. You could also use Bondo wood filler, which has since become my go-to filler. There was no need to be fancy, as I would be covering this part later with adhesive melamine edging.
Don’t worry! That silly support was not load-bearing. The granite is fully supported by the other three sides of the carcass, and the drawer above is supported on the sides. However, just to be safe, I reinforced the crossbar below the drawer with a piece of 3/4″ plywood (not pictured).
Installing Drawer Slides for DIY Sliding Shelves
That shelf was not removable, at least not without destroying the sides of the cabinet. I left it in place and used it as a handy guide for placing the drawer slides for my DIY pull out shelves. I opted for quality ball-bearing drawer slides. They hold a hell of a lot more weight than the cheap ones with the wheels. They look better and feel better, too. For 22″ slides, they run about $16 for a pair at Home Depot. If you don’t have a Home Depot or Lowe’s in your area, Amazon carries them for about a dollar less than the Big Box stores.
Prepping for the Drawer Slides
Before I could install the slides, I had to install some gap-filler plywood strips on which to mount the slides. You can see that the face frame around the cabinet is not flush with the inner cabinet walls. The gap was 13/16″, so I filled it with strips of 3/4″ plywood and three washers at each of the three screws used to secure each strip. Now the mounting strips were flush with the edges of the frame. This was necessary so the sliding shelves could function unimpeded.
After installing all of the mounting strips, I installed the slides.
I finished prepping this cabinet.
The only other cabinet that needed modification was the one under the stove. This is where I keep dog food and where I kept a few pots and pans (removed in the following picture). The plan here was to have one slide out shelf on the right side to hold the big dog food container and two pull out shelves on the left to hold the bread machine and some other stuff. Because of the stove’s power supply, I had to use 18″ slides on the lower left instead of the 22″ slides I used everywhere else.
A slimmer center support
That center support was a big waste of space, so I took it out and built a smaller one out of 3/4″ plywood. I secured it in place with glue and pocket screws. I needed a center support here because I would be installing an upper sliding shelf on the left, and the slide’s support strip needed to be secured in the front and back. I’m not sure why I didn’t get a picture of that support strip, but this picture shows the bottom one.
Crawling around in these cabinets was difficult for a lumpy old turd like me.
The other three cabinets were singles and just needed to be emptied before I installed the DIY sliding shelves. I didn’t take pictures of the process, because it was repetitive, and images of a large middle-aged man squirming around in narrow cabinets shouting profanities might be upsetting to some. Here are the “before” shots of the remaining three cabinets.
Building the Sliding Shelves
Okay, with the slides installed, it was time to build my DIY pull out shelves based on my notebook scribblings. I’ll give dimensions as they relate to the width and depth of the cabinet, in case you are interested in building a few.
I used drawer slides that are each 1/2″ thick, so together that makes one inch. Here are my dimensions:
I used 1/2″ birch plywood. It is important to use high-quality plywood for a project like this. I drilled pocket holes around three sides of the base and on the short ends of the back piece using my Kreg Jig. This has been one of my most loved and used tools, and it is essential for any DIY cabinetry. Click here to find it on Amazon.
Cutting the Sides
To make the sides of my DIY roll out shelves, I first drew the curve I wanted on one of the pieces then cut it out with a band saw. A jigsaw would work just as well.
I sanded the curve to get it as smooth as possible.
Then I used that piece as a template and traced the pattern on all my other side pieces.
Assembling the Pieces
I started constructing the roll out shelf by securing the back piece to the base. First, I ran a bead of glue along the back edge of the base.
Then I placed the glued edge onto the back piece and screwed it into place.
Here is the base and the back.
Next, I ran a bead of glue along one of the base’s sides and screwed it into the corresponding side piece.
After tightening the screws, I wiped away any excess glue that squeezed out on the inside.
Then I attached the other side, screwing it in place along the base and the back piece where I had drilled the pocket holes.
I secured the front piece to the base and sides using glue and brad nails.
Sanding the Assembled Pull Out Shelves
When the glue was dry, I sanded the edges.
Finishing the DIY Slide Out Shelves
My DIY pull out shelf was now ready for finish.
I opted for Watco Danish Oil in medium walnut color.
This stuff is great for quick finishing. I especially like it on plywood. I didn’t put it on the base, as I would be covering that later.
Look how the Danish Oil makes the edges of the plywood pop.
Installing Polywall on the DIY Pull Out Shelves
To cover the bottoms of these sliding shelves, I used a product called Polywall. Polywall is like a shelf liner on steroids. It is much thicker and far more durable. You can find it at your local Home Depot or Lowe’s. It comes in 4’x8′ sheets and runs about $20.
Because of its size, thickness and floppiness, it is a bit difficult to work with when trying to cut the full sheet. It gets easier though as the pieces get smaller. I cut out the sizes I needed for all of my shelves then applied Loctite Power Grab construction adhesive to the shelf bases and smoothed it out with a plastic taping knife.
I then installed the Polywall and pressed it in place.
Installing the Sliding Shelves
With the shelves built and finished, it was time to head back upstairs. I screwed the slides onto the shelf sides and installed the pull-out shelves into the cabinet.
If I left it here, there would be a gap showing when both doors were closed, so I cut a thin strip of Polywall and glued it to the inside of the left door. Now when the doors are closed, only the white Polywall shows through the gap.
Moving around the kitchen, I installed the other shelves and filled them with all the appliances, pots and pans I could.
And now look at my gorgeous granite, barren and beautiful and shining in the morning sun.
Cost for these DIY sliding shelves: about $300
For the Less DIY-Inclined
I understand that not everyone has the time, tools or energy to tackle this project, and that’s okay! Sometimes it’s easier or more practical to buy what you need. In fact, when Handan gave my pantry a makeover, in which she incorporated some wire roll out shelves, she ordered more of them for us to install under the sink and under the cabinet next to the fridge. I love them every bit as much as my own creations! Click the pictures to see the products.
For those who are more inclined to buy than to DIY, here are some of our favorite roll out shelves available for purchase.
For corner cabinets and blind corners, there are some awesome solutions from Rev-A-Shelf!
Here are some solutions for under-sink and trash.
And a couple for those tight spaces…
If you’d like to see how I made use of the little wasted spaces around the kitchen, then click on the picture below to see my DIY Rolling Jar Storage tutorial. You’ll be glad you did!