How hard is it to retrofit drawers into existing cab box?

northcarolinaOctober 19, 2011

I don't mean roll-out trays, I mean converting from door cabinets to drawer stacks using RTA drawer boxes and hardware in already-installed cabinet boxes. The cabs are frameless. Would it be easier just to replace them with RTA cabs that are already drilled for drawer hardware and install the hardware before securing the cabinet to the wall; or is adding drawer hardware to an installed cabinet box doable? The countertops will be coming off, if that matters. The existing boxes are in good shape other than some yellowing around the edges (I would have to decide if I cared enough to do something about that, though I don't know what exactly -- advice welcome).

We are going to be doing this on a budget, but it's not so tight that we can't buy some new RTA cabs if that would work better (we will need a few anyway, with the layout I think I will be using). I am not too excited about the logo on the IKEA drawers, so even if we went with their cabinet frames I might order drawer boxes from somewhere else.

I also don't mind hiring out some of the installation, though normally I am comfortable with anything that can be done with hand tools and a cordless drill (like putting together RTA furniture, hanging stuff on walls, painting, etc). I'll have to hire a carpenter or our handyman at any rate to do the trims and countertop, unless I can talk DH into it. (Plumbing and electrical and flooring will be done by pros, in case anyone is wondering.)


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It's not hard at all. We just retrofitted a 24" MW drawer into a 30" regular cabinet. We then created a drawer for underneath the MW and turned the existing drawers sideways for pullouts. I'll try to snag a pic later.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 11:01AM
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For my kitchen remodel a couple of years back I went with Scherr's custom cabinets who make custom RTA cabinets. I'm sure that they could make RTA drawer boxes for the existing cabinets, as well as making a few additional cabinets.

And as far as installing the new drawers in the existing boxes they can make a template that you set inside your existing cabinet, aligned with the front of the cabinet box and then merely drill using a self-centering depth-limited drill bit in each of the holes in the template. Then all you do is attach the drawer glides to the drilled holes and slide the drawers in.

This last bit I know from personal experience. Due to a change on my part the cabinets arrived with the holes for the drawer slides in the wrong location, so Scherr's shipped the templates described above as well as the drill bit, and after 5 minutes work on each of the mis-drilled cabinets the drawer glides were installed and ready for the drawers to be slid in.


    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 1:19PM
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Thank you both! laxsupermom, that sounds very creative and I'd love to see a pic if you have one!

bob_cville, if they send a template AND the drill bit, then that is something I can handle for sure. :) (I had a moment there wondering what a self-centering drill bit looked like and whether we had one floating around somewhere. haha.)

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 2:43PM
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We just did this, however, we have framed cabinets. They turned out great! I wish had done more of them.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 3:33PM
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Anna do you have any before and after photos of your retrofitted drawers? I wish we had changed the 2 cabinets near the range draws.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 5:05PM
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Here's the pictures. I missed the part about RTA in your original post, so not sure how helpful this will be. We have faceframe cabinets that we refinished, so matching the finish wasn't a problem.

1 Like    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 9:58PM
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Wow, that looks great, Anna! Mine don't HAVE to be RTA drawers but it sounds like it'll be easy enough to do, so I thought I might as well since I will have to change out the doors anyway. Your kitchen is beautiful!

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 10:10PM
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Maybe you would like to know what cabinet makers do for about 90% of their cabinets. They measure the boxes and then order them from door and drawer makers in their area. They all aren't close, but they deliver or ship and have people to help you with your order. It is a specialty trade and almost every cabinet maker uses them. They will make whatever kind, size, finish you want and they will make them for use with whatever hardware you want. Sooooo... if it were me...

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 10:58PM
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Sorry it took so long to grab pictures. You'll have to excuse the construction dust & debris. We literally just installed the MW drawer and new drawers.

This cab used to be the typical 30" cab with 2 drawers on top and 2 doors on bottom (identical to the cab next to it.)

We reused the top drawers on their sides for pullouts for foil & plastic wrap. The drawers still need their inner fittings for this purpose. Ignore the dungeon walls. We're getting ready for our huge Halloween parties.

DH built a drawer box out of plywood and frankensteined a new drawer front out of the doors. Right now my cookie cutters are here, but they'll be switching spots with my tupperware.

Sorry about the poor picture quality. We have red bulbs in a good chunk of the house right now for Halloween.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 8:56AM
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I forgot to mention that DH and I are fairly accomplished DIYers so the frankensteining of the doors to create the drawer front was rather involved, but installing the drawers themselves is very easy.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 1:10PM
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lax - Wow, that is great, so creative! Yes, that's more than I know how to do myself, but that's what the door/drawer companies are for. ha. Thanks for the encouragement and the idea!

RRM1 - I believe we are thinking alike, thank you for the confirmation! I don't know of any local door/drawer suppliers, but several Internet companies have been mentioned on this forum, so I should be able to find something pretty easily.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2011 at 10:50AM
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I forgot to mention the url for Scherr's:

They have links off their page for Framless RTA Cabinets, Door and Drawer Fronts, Drawer Boxes, and Hardware, so they really could be a one-stop shop for your needs.

Here are a couple of images of their cabinets in my kitchen

    Bookmark   October 24, 2011 at 5:17PM
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Thank you! I believe I remember seeing your kitchen before. I like it a lot (I have a soft spot for QS oak). Do you know off the top of your head -- and this might not really be an answerable question -- how their RTA cabs compare in price to IKEA's?

    Bookmark   October 24, 2011 at 6:07PM
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AnaC54, please still be checking this thread. I would like to do exactly what you've done with your cabinets. Ours are 40". I'd like to remove the center stile and install drawers. Could you please tell me how wide your base cab was, how you removed the stile and what width drawers you installed. Thanks!

    Bookmark   October 24, 2011 at 9:26PM
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Before I priced the design out with Scherr's I used Ikea's 3D design tool to make an as-close-as-possible version of the layout using the stock Ikea cabinets in the program (mostly as a baseline or benchmark for price) using the closest matching door style.

I think the Ikea version of the entire kitchen would have been about $10200. The final result from Scherr's which included an upgrade to plywood cabinet boxes, matching veneered ends on exposed ends, custom sizes to maximize the space usage, a more expensive wood (QS-Oak) and dovetailed hardwood drawer boxes rather than Ikea's metal drawers, was about $17800.

In fact I found the final price quote from Scherr's, it is as follows: List Price Of Cabinets & Misc. Items $12159.53 Discount On Cabinets - 25% -3039.88 Doors & Drawer Fronts 4173.80 Discount On Doors & Drawer Fronts - 25% -1043.45 Drawer Boxes & Roll-Out Trays 1878.64 Discount On Drawer Boxes - 25% -469.66 Hinges 646.86

Drawer Tracks 737.36 Drawing Deposit -350.00 Stain + Finish Doors, Drawer Fronts, Cabinet Parts 2600.00 Sample Door Credit -25.00
TOTAL $17,268.20*

*Plus Shipping & Applicable Sales Tax (No Sales Tax On This Order)
Estimated Completion Date: February 2007
FREIGHT: Will Ship Freight Prepaid, Estimated Cost of $866.07 @ 4100 lbs. Includes Delivery To Residence
And Lift Gate Delivery Vehicle.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2011 at 10:52AM
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Thank you!

4100 lbs delivered. (ulp) Imagine unloading it.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2011 at 2:02PM
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We put in two sets of drawers. The drawer opening in one set is 35" and 42" in the other. The drawer boxes are 1" narrower (1/2" clearance per side), and 1/2" shorter in height than the opening (1/4" clearance for top and bottom). We had a cabinet maker modify the cabinets for us, and that's the size he made the new drawer boxes. We have side-mounted drawer glides.

I didn't see how he modified the cabinet, but the vertical stile in the center was installed with pocket screws and probably some glue, so I imagine he just unscrewed it and popped it out. The shelf in the base cabinet was non-adjustable, so he installed the horizontal rail that fits between the drawers against that.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2011 at 11:19PM
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