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How to Build Kitchen Sink Storage Trays

Build these handy undersink roll-out trays in a weekend. You can tackle this project with simple carpentry tools and some careful measuring.

You can make all the trays in an afternoon using building products from your local home center or hardware store for as little as $80.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Getting the right stuff

Have you finally had it with that dark and dingy, I'm-not-sure-what's-there storage space under the kitchen sink? Well, these two types of roll-out trays, which ride on smooth-action ball-bearing drawer glides, will get everything out in the open and let you find exactly what you need at a glance.

This project isn't difficult. In fact, there aren't even any miter joints. All the parts are glued together and then nailed or screwed. You can make all the trays in an afternoon using building products from your local home center or hardware store for as little as $75. You can build everything with simple carpentry tools and some careful measuring. You don't need a table saw for this project, but it will help you zero in on more exact measurements, especially for the lower tray bases where accuracy is important for the ball-bearing drawer glides. The nail gun shown in the photos is also optional, but it makes assembly a lot faster and less tedious. It shoots thin 18-gauge nails.

In this article, we'll show you how to measure your sink base and custom-size and assemble the wood trays. We'll also give you some tips for installing the drawer glides without a lot of head scratching. You'll probably have to adapt the project dimensions to fit your space. For example, you may have a bulky garbage disposer that won't allow you to install both upper slide-out trays. In that case, just make one tray instead. If you have plumbing that comes up through the floor of your sink cabinet, you may need to shorten the lower trays to fit in front of the plumbing. In any case, add as many part of this project as you can to organize this black hole once and for all.

Before you get the materials, scan this article and see if you can build all the trays or only a few of them. At a home center or lumberyard, look for hardwood plywood. You can often buy 2 x 4-ft. pieces instead of a whole sheet. The hardwood plywood has two good sides and is smoother and flatter than exterior-grade softwood plywood. It costs more too.

In the hardware department, look for ball-bearing side-mount drawer glides. The pairs of the brand we purchased are exactly the same—there's no specific right or left, which makes things easier if you misplace a part. We used 20-in.-long side-mount glides to fit our 20-in.-long trays. This gave us some wiggle room in the back and a bit of extra space to get the pieces into place. If you have plumbing coming up through the bottom of the cabinet, you may need to shorten the trays and buy shorter drawer glides.

Then follow the photos for the step-by-step measuring and assembly instructions. Here are a few specifics to consider:

  • If the opening between the open doors is narrower than the opening between the sides of the frame, use the shorter dimension to make the base.
  • If you have a center stile or partition between the doors, you may need to make two separate bases for each side and a tray for each.
  • Make sure the base and the tray parts are cut square and accurately so the trays slide smoothly.

Measure the cabinet opening to construct the base for the lower pull-out trays

Carefully measure before you start and check for any plumbing obstructions. See the Materials & Cutting Lists in the Additional Information section below.

Mark the base to locate the center and side partitions

Be sure to locate the center partition exactly in the middle of the base; this way you'll be able to make the two trays exactly the same size.

Screw the partitions to the base

Align the side partitions even with the outer edges of the base.

Build the rays

Carefully measure as you build the trays because accuracy is important for the glides to work properly.

Fasten the glides to the partitions and the tray sides

Using a spacer is key to getting the glides positioned accurately.

The release lever disengages the drawer section
from the cabinet section of the glide.

A Word About Drawer Glides

The ball-bearing glides are designed to mount on the sides of the trays (Photos 6 and 7). The glides require exactly 1/2 in. of space between the partition and drawer on each side to work properly, so make the trays exactly 1 in. narrower than the distance between the partitions. If the trays are too wide, they'll bind and be tough to open, in which case, you'll have to take them apart and recut the tray bottom. If the trays are too narrow, the glides will not engage. Fixing this is a bit easier. You can just shim behind the glides with thin washers.

Watch for protruding hinges and other obstructions when you mount the lower or upper trays. You may need to adjust the height or placement of the trays to accommodate them.

Install the base assembly

Align the front of the base with the back edge of the face frame. If you have frameless overlay cabinets, mount it 1/8-in. back from the cabinet front.

Make and install the upper trays

The upper trays are mounted with two glides on one side. Use the jig in Photo 10 to mark the glide locations. Unlike the mounting method for the lower trays, this method aligns the center holes of the glide with the lines traced along the jig.

Seal the trays with polyurethane

You never know what kind of spill or leak will happen under the sink, so it's best to seal the wood. Once you've finished the project, remove the trays and glides, sand them with 150-grit sandpaper and brush on two coats of polyurethane. Let the trays dry thoroughly, then look through all that stuff you had stored under the sink. Toss out old stuff and combine duplicate products—and enjoy your reclaimed and now easily accessible space.

You'll find this one of the most useful projects to
make life in the kitchen easier.

Editor's Note:

After I built this same project at home, friends dropped by, saw it and were inspired to organize their sink cabinet. Because they have small children, I advised them to add childproof latches to secure the strong household cleaners they'll be storing.

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