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Build Organized Lower Cabinet Rollouts for Increased Kitchen Storage

Vertical rollout drawers are a great way to convert a half-empty base cabinet into a high-capacity food storage cabinet that can be custom-sized to fit your storage needs.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Overview

If you're tired of digging through cans and boxes to find a jar of tomato sauce hidden at the back of the cabinet, these rollout bins might be just the ticket. You can size them to fit inside any lower cabinet and customize them to suit the items you want to store.

This article will show you how to build them. The bins are simply plywood boxes with adjustable shelves—very easy to build. Sizing the boxes and mounting them on drawer slides can be tricky, but we've worked out techniques that make those steps nearly foolproof.

Money, time and tools

All the materials for these three rollouts were less than half the cost of three manufactured rollouts—a healthy savings.

You don't need advanced cabinet building skills or tools to make your own rollouts—the joinery and assembly are simple. But a table saw is almost mandatory for fast, accurate, good-looking results. And we recommend a pneumatic brad nailer, although you can certainly hand-nail or screw the parts together. Ordinarily, the side-mount drawer slides are tricky to install, but we make even that step foolproof, so don't let that part intimidate you. You'll be surprised how fast you can build yourself a few rollouts. Put in a full day and you'll be loading them with groceries that evening.

Sizing your rollouts

Everything you need for this project is available at home centers. You'll have to guess at the quantity of rollouts at this point so you can buy the proper number of drawer slides. One sheet of plywood will provide enough material for at least four rollouts. You can roughly figure one rollout for every foot of open base cabinet space you have. You can always return any uncut lumber or hardware you don't use.

To determine the width of your rollouts, gather the items you want to store. Cut the 1x3 cleats to length and space them from each side of the cabinet with 3/4-in. blocks (Photo 1). That space allows the rollouts to clear the doors and hinges later. Then start arranging your dry goods, separating them with the cleats. Leave at least 2-1/2 in. between the dry goods and the cleats. This allows for the clearance of wood thicknesses and drawer slides and 1/2 in. extra to make it easy to load the items and take them out. It takes a bit of rearranging and thought to arrive at the best sizes. If your base cabinets have vertical dividers between the doors, give each opening its own rollouts.

You'll probably have some rollouts facing one way and some the other. That's because rollout access may be blocked by neighboring cabinets at inside corners or because some cabinet doors don't swing all the way open. Determine the access direction while you assemble your rollouts. That's as simple as drilling the finger pull hole at the proper end. After the boxes are assembled, they'll work for either orientation.

Choosing the materials

Choose any 3/4-in. veneered interior plywood for your rollouts. Avoid construction plywood; it won't be as flat and may warp later. If you'd like your rollouts to match your cabinets, choose whatever type does the job. We just sanded the plywood end grain of our rollouts, but if you'd like a more polished look, buy iron-on edge banding to match the wood type.

Buy nice, straight, knot-free 1x3s for the cleats—the wood type doesn't matter. Select 22-in. European side-mount drawer slides rated to support 90 lbs. They'll come with their own screws and installation directions that show you how they work.

Figure A: Typical rollout

Figure A: Typical rollout

Figure B: Typical rollout grouping

Figure B: Typical rollout grouping

Construction Details

Figure A: Typical rollout. Decide on the width you want your rollout to be (“X”), then plug that number into the measurements shown here.

Figure B: Typical rollout grouping. You can use different rollout combinations, depending on the size of the cabinet.

Cutting the parts

Most base cabinets are 22-1/2 in. deep and have a 21-in.-high opening (measured inside the face frame, not the cabinet interior). If your cabinets match these measurements, use the height and width dimensions shown in Figure A for all of the side panels. Also use Figure A for the lengths of each top, bottom, front and back panel and shelves. If your cabinets have shorter openings or are shallower, subtract those differences from our Figure A measurements to cut your parts. Calculate the rollout widths based on your layout work inside the cabinet (Photo 1). Subtract 1 in. from the distances between the cleats to get the width for each rollout's top, front and back panel. That'll leave the 1-in. clearance needed for the drawer slides. Subtract 2 in. to establish the width for each bottom panel and the adjustable shelves. That'll leave an additional 1-in. clearance for the thickness of the 3/4-in. side panel and the 1/4-in.-thick lip in the front.

Be especially careful when you lay out the cleats, measure openings and cut the rollout parts. European side-mount drawer slides leave very little room for error. It's best to use a table saw for all of the cuts and to double-check widths and lengths so the boxes will fit together perfectly and engage and operate smoothly in the slides.

Assemble the rollout boxes

Glue and nail the lip on each bottom panel (and shelves) before assembling the rollouts. A thin bead of wood glue on each edge is all you need. Then hold the edges of each panel flush while you pin them together with 1-1/2-in. brads spaced about every 4 in. (Photo 2). Next, drill the 1-1/4-in.-diameter finger pull hole. A Forstner bit will make the neatest hole, but a sharp spade bit will work, provided you use a block on the back side to prevent splintering (Photo 3). The hole defines each rollout's open side.

Cut the 24-in.-long shelf standards down to 18 in. with a hacksaw. Look at the embossed shelf numbers to determine which end is the top and cut from that end. Nail the standards in place with the brads provided (Photo 4).

This is the best time to apply the finish of your choice to the rollouts. Lightly sand everything with 220-grit sandpaper and add the finish. We chose two coats of water-based polyurethane to protect the wood against dirty fingers and marks from cans.

Install the drawer slides and cleats

Rip the 1x3s down to 2 in. and then screw on the drawer slides (Photo 5). It's easiest to remove the drawer part of the slide to access the anchor holes. Hold the slides flush with the top and front of each cleat while you punch little starter holes with a scratch awl, and then send in the screws. Just do one screw at a time so you can adjust the placement as you add screws. You'll need right and left sides for the end cleats. Then replace the drawer side slides and lay the cleats in the cabinet.

Begin with one of the end cleats and press it against the temporary 3/4-in. blocks while you drill three 1/8-in. pilot holes. A combination drill/countersink bit works great for this. Then screw the cleat to the cabinet floor with 3-in. screws (Photo 6). Space the next cleat with a leftover scrap from the first rollout top, front or back. That way the spacing between the drawer slides will be perfectly sized for smoothly operating rollouts. Hold the spacer up from the cabinet floor with 3/4-in. blocks so it'll be centered on the drawer slides. Hold the cleat snug, but not tight, against the spacer while you drill and then screw it to the cabinet floor. Repeat that step with the rest of the cleats. Skip the 3/4-in. blocks on the last cleat and just use the rollout spacer. Screw a 1x3 “hold-down” rail to the back side of the cabinet (Photo 7). It'll help hold the rollout cleats in place when you pull out heavily loaded rollouts.

Finally, disengage the drawer side slides and screw them to the bottom of each rollout flush with the bottom and front (Photo 8). Finish up by inserting each rollout, then load them up!

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • Clamps
    • Miter saw
    • Air compressor
    • Air hose
    • Brad nail gun
    • Cordless drill
    • Tape measure
    • Circular saw
    • 4-in-1 screwdriver
    • Countersink drill bit
    • Framing square
    • Forstner drill bits
    • Hacksaw
    • Punch
    • Self-centering drill bit
    • Table saw

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

    • 3/4-in. hardwood plywood (1 sheet makes 4 rollouts)
    • One 1x3 the width of the cabinet (hold-down rail)
    • 4 ft. of 1x3 (drawer slide cleats)
    • 8 ft. of 1/4-in. x 1-1/8-in. mullion (base and shelf front lips)
    • Four 2-ft. shelf standards with clips
    • One pair of 90-lb.-rated full-extension side-mount drawer slides
    • 1-1/2-in. pneumatic air nailer brads
    • Woodworking glue
    • Small box of 3-in. screws
    • 1-1/4-in. Forstner drill (for drilling finger pulls)
    • 220 grit sandpaper

Comments from DIY Community Members

Share what's on your mind and see what other DIYers are thinking about.

1 - 13 of 13 comments
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September 24, 3:20 PM [GMT -5]

This is a good project if you have cabinets without a shelf in the middle. Regardless, adding some pull out trays or units will really make your life easier and are worth the time it takes to make them.

December 28, 7:03 PM [GMT -5]

Loved this plan for roll outs. My son completed the roll outs for me. However; we made one minor mod to the basic plan. Since my wife and I have problems bending over and reaching back into the roll out shelves, I had my son add rollout shelf drawers inside the roll outs. Now, my wife (73 year young) can roll out the space, then pull out the shelf drawer to get what ever she needs. Works really neatly.

November 08, 8:36 AM [GMT -5]

it would be nice if they let you print the drawings full size

June 24, 10:17 AM [GMT -5]

If I were to make this, I would change the top board with a couple steel rods. The purpose of a Rollout is: More Storage space, and to eliminate stooping and digging for your groceries.

February 09, 9:16 PM [GMT -5]

I am currently adding more cabnets and rolling storage trays to our kitchen. these are helpful. I'm getting ready to build an island also i could use some tips or ideas if anyone has some. I really like the family handy man.

February 03, 12:20 PM [GMT -5]

pankus dad

A questioin. Can the Kreg screw system be used to assemble these pull out drawer units? Kreg screws (combined with glue) could make the assembly go faster.

January 13, 10:48 PM [GMT -5]

Awesome, just awesome. I did it. love it. I'm a 61 year old gal just starting to get the hang of tools. This is the BEST DIY site there is !!!!

August 19, 2:58 PM [GMT -5]

Treeman,

I had the same problem with my kitchen base cabinets. A 3/4" shelf about half way up from the bottom running the length of the cabinet. I simply cut a 1" slot in the back of my plastic bag pull-out and placed the top shelf for the boxes just above the slot. The pull-out rolls in and out clearing the existing shelf.

Like I wrote in my last post, it much eaiser to build the pull-out assembly on a 1/2" plywood base, make sure it fits your openings and make sure it rolls. Then set the whole thing inside the cabinet and screw it down to the base of the cabinet with one 2" wood screw to keep the base from moving.

August 19, 2:46 PM [GMT -5]

I built a modified thinner version for storing plastic bags, freezer bags and foil wrap. The bottom portion has a 4" ovel to access the plastic bags. The top portion holds the boxes of sandwich/freezer bags and wraps. I built the whole thing on a 1/2" plywood base and slid it in the opening.

August 03, 4:29 PM [GMT -5]

Though I like the article and found it quite useful these type of roll outs will not work with the base cabinets we purchased. Our cabinets have a solid built-in 1/2 sheft in each unit so I would need to install an upper and lower set of drawer slides. My problem is trying to figure out how to install the cleats and spacers, that the drawer slides attach to, to the sides of the cabinet walls without putting a screw out into the open face of the cabinets.

Do you glue the spacers to the cabinet walls and screw the cleats to them? Also will glue hold the weight of groceries/pots and pans?

Thanks for the good work
Jim

May 17, 4:05 AM [GMT -5]

My wife and I are currently building our second house. We purchased the cabinets for the first house and then installed the units. Although they were well constructed, they mostly had shelves in the lower cabinets and the cabinets I am building myself for this house will have almost all drawers in the lower areas.

The designs for adding roll out units in existing cabinets are well thought out but should include some discussion of the type of existing cabinets in that face frame cabinets will require the addition of spacers to clear the face frames whereas european design cabinets will more easily accept the roll out additions.

May 15, 12:12 PM [GMT -5]

I have been waiting for Family Handyman to give me a step by step on this project... if they have done it before in the last 5 years somehow I missed it... Thank You!!
Sally

April 29, 9:32 AM [GMT -5]

This is indeed great project!!

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Build Organized Lower Cabinet Rollouts for Increased Kitchen Storage

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