Overview: Benefits of rollouts
It may sound like hype, but
adding rollouts to your
kitchen cabinets can be
life-changing. I speak from personal
experience. I recently added rollouts
to our entire kitchen, and this
is what happened:
- The kids have complete access to
everything they need—from cereal
to the recycling. Now they can
get their own breakfast and take
the cans to the curb—no excuses!
- My sore back and my husband's
bum knee are less of an issue
since we no longer have to constantly
stoop to find things in our
- Dinner prep goes a lot faster now
that we're not hunting for pot lids
and baking pans piled on top of
one another on our jumbled, dark
- We're saving money by not buying
things we already have (but that
had been lost in the recesses of our
cabinets). We can pull our shelves
into the light and see everything,
including the rancid oil and three
boxes of cornstarch we somehow
- The kitchen feels larger and
works better. The rollouts maximize
every cubic inch of storage
space, so I can store rarely used
appliances in my cabinets instead
of on my counters.
Are you a convert yet? This article
will give you tips for planning, buying
and building kitchen rollouts so
they can change your life too. You
can build a simple rollout drawer
like the ones shown in a couple of
hours for $20. But don't say I didn't
warn you. Once you see that rollout
in action, you'll want to retrofit all
your kitchen cabinets. What are you
Rollouts make this pantry kitchen super-efficient for storage while keeping everything close at hand.
Tip 1: Think inside the box
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Rollout drawers with sloping sides keep tall things
stable yet still let you see all the way to the back of
the shelf. These are good for nesting pots and pans
or storing different-size items on the same shelf.
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Lower sides (3 in. is typical) work well for smaller
items such as canned goods and spices. The low
sides make reading labels easier.
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Shelves with higher sides all around (6 in. tall
rather than the typical 3 in.) are ideal for tippy
plastic storage containers or stacks of plates.
Building a slew of identical drawer boxes is
easier, but having a variety gives you more
versatility. Think about what you're going to
store and build the boxes to suit your needs.
Tip 2: Use the right slides
There are a dozen kinds of drawer
slides out there, but if you want to
keep shopping and installation
simple, stick to these two types:
Roller slides glide on plastic
wheels. They're inexpensive, a
cinch to install (it takes about two
minutes) and nearly impossible
to screw up. You'll find them at
home centers under various
names including side mount,
under mount and bottom mount.
Most are rated to carry 35 to 100
lbs. For heavy-duty rollouts holding
items such as canned goods,
use slides rated for at least 100
lbs. The big disadvantage: Most
roller slides extend only three-quarters
of their length—the back
of the drawer stays in the cabinet.
Ball-bearing slides glide on tiny
bearings. The big advantage of
these slides is that they extend
fully, giving you complete access
to everything in the drawer.
They're about three times the
cost of roller slides, and they're
usually rated to carry 75 to 100 lbs.,
but you can get 200-lb. versions for
about $40 a pair. Home centers
carry ball-bearing slides, but you'll
find a wider variety at woodworkershardware.com. The big disadvantage:
They're fussy to install. If
your drawer is a hair too big or
small, these slides won't glide.
Tip: Make drawer boxes about 1/32 in.
smaller than you need. It's easy to
shim behind a slide with layers of
masking tape to make up for a too-small
drawer. It's a lot harder to deal
with a drawer that's too wide.
are harder to
and easy to
install, but they
Tip 3: Make the most of skinny spaces
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In a small kitchen with little storage
space, you can make even narrow
filler spaces work harder by
installing a vertical pegboard rollout.
Shown is the 434 Series 6-in. Base
Filler with stainless steel panel,
about $315, from Rev-A-Shelf.com
Kitchen designer Mary Jane
Pappas typically recommends
18- to 30-in.-wide rollout drawers
for cabinets: “Any larger and
they're too clumsy. Any smaller
and too much of the space is
used by the rollouts themselves.”
But there is one type of
rollout that makes good use of
narrow spaces, even those only
3 to 6 in. wide. Pappas says that
pullout pantries—single tall,
narrow drawers with long,
shelves, drawers, baskets or
be an efficient way to put skinny
spaces to work.
Tip 4: Start at the bottom
The most useful rollout shelves
and drawers are the ones closest
to the floor since these eliminate
the most awkward bending
and crouching. If want to limit
your time and money investment,
you'll get the most bang
for your buck by retrofitting
these areas first.
Tip 5: Store-bought rollouts—what to look for
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IKEA’s Rationell Variera pullout basket (out $20; ikea.com
) works well for medium-weight items.
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The Lynk Rollout
Undersink Drawer (about $65 at
home centers) can take heavy use.
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Slide Out Undersink
Basket (No. 80360; about $20 at
home centers) handles light items.
You can spend as little as $10
for a simple wire rollout basket
or as much as $100. So
what's the difference?
Look for rollouts with quality
slides and rollers can sag
or seize up under sacks of
flour and pots and pans.
Examine the slides to
check whether they're
roller slides (which extend
only three-quarters of their
length) or ball-bearing
(which extend fully). Ball-bearing
slides tend to support
heavier items and roll
Choose sturdy, chrome-plated
steel rollouts for
heavier items. Steel rollouts
come in different
gauge metals. Before ordering
online, shop around at
different retailers so you
can physically compare the
weight and density of the
steel used by different
Epoxy-coated wire rollouts
and plastic inserts work
fine for light-duty items,
but they have a tendency to
crack, bend and scratch if
packed with heavy loads
like canned goods.
Tip 6: Watch for obstacles
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Make sure sides don't collide with hinges or adjacent doors.
Every cabinetmaker has a
story about the rollout that
wouldn't roll out but
instead collided with something.
When you're measuring
for the spacer width,
watch out for protruding
hinges and doors that don't
open fully or that protrude
into the cabinet opening.
Confessions of a RollaholicI'm addicted to rollouts. Last winter I replaced every
single cabinet shelf in our kitchen with rollouts, custom-designed for whatever needed storing. I've built
about 15 more for my shop. I've learned that the key
to a useful rollout is to decide what you want it to
hold and design it around that purpose. These vertical
rollouts in my shop are dedicated to jugs, cans
and jars of finishes and solvents. Before starting, I
carefully laid out exactly what would
go on each shelf on the workbench to
get the sizes and spacing just right.
They work fantastic.
Travis Larson (aka Shop Rat)
Tip 7: Avoid mistakes with a story stick
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Make a story stick
Mark the exact widths of your rollout
parts on a stick. That eliminates the
math—and the mistakes.
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Close-up of story stick
Mark the roller part sizes on the stick.
The most obvious way to size rollout parts is to measure
the opening of the cabinet and then do the math.
But that's a recipe for mistakes because it's easy to
forget to subtract one of the components (like the
width of the slides or the drawers) from the overall
measurement. So try this: Forget the math and mark
your measurements on a piece of scrap wood. It's a
great visual aid that helps you prevent mistakes and
having to walk between your kitchen and
your shop constantly to double-check
Tip 8: Divide up wide spaces
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Adding a divider creates 12 handy rollouts instead of 6 big awkward ones.
If the cabinet is more than 30 in. wide, consider
installing two narrower rollouts side by side rather
than a single wide one. This means some extra building
work and buying more slides, but the smaller rollouts
will operate more smoothly and easily. Wider
shelves and drawers tend to bind or rack as you slide
them in and out.
My daughter called her pantry “the black hole” because she
could never find what she needed on the deep shelves. I
replaced the five full-width shelves with two six-drawer
stacks of sturdy full-extension drawers from IKEA, supported
by interior center panels. We spaced the drawers carefully for
the types of items she planned to store.
Finishing touches include soft-close
dampers on the drawers and iron-on edge-banding
for the birch plywood panels. [The
Rationell 18-in.-deep, fully extending
drawers cost about $38 each at ikea.com.]
Jim Wagener, Ashfield, MA
Tip 9: Baltic birch is best
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Baltic birch is the best choice because it doesn't have voids.
Cabinetmakers love Baltic birch plywood for rollouts
because the edges look great. Unlike standard
hardwood plywood, Baltic birch never has voids
in the inner core. It may not be labeled “Baltic
birch” at home centers, but you'll be able to identify
it by comparing it with other hardwood plywood
in the racks. It'll have more and thinner
laminations in the plywood core. The biggest disadvantages
of using Baltic birch are that it costs
more than standard hardwood plywood and can
be harder to find. A 4 x 8-ft. sheet will run you $65
compared with $50 for standard hardwood plywood.
If your home center doesn't carry it, try a
Tip 10: Keep drawer boxes simple
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Rollout box parts
Keep boxes simple with butt joints. Brads and glue make them plenty strong.
All the drawer boxes in my shop are super simple:
butt-joint corners and glued-on bottoms. No
rabbets, dadoes or dovetails. They don't look very
impressive, but they've held up for years. So I
built my kitchen rollouts the same way. If simple
boxes can carry tools and hardware, I figure they
can stand up to kitchen use, too.
Gary Wentz, Senior Editor
Field editor tip:
Consider having drawer boxes made to
your exact specs and then install them
yourself. The average cost of a solid
maple, dovetailed single drawer that
we order is about $35. Compared with
buying material and finishing it yourself—not to mention the dovetail
joints—you can't beat it. And it looks much nicer.
Steve Zubik, NestWoodworking, Northfield, MN
Rollout Ideas and Plans: Simple Pantry Rollouts
A great way to get more storage space in even the smallest
kitchen is by putting those narrow spaces and filler areas to
work with a rollout pantry. We have two great projects to
choose from. One is a handle-free version that lets you line up
more than one rollout bin in a single cabinet. The other is a
more traditional, three-drawer pantry rollout that reuses your
existing cabinet door and hardware. Both versions make it possible
for you to use every cubic inch of storage space in your
kitchen. Type “kitchen storage” in the Search Box above for more articles on rollouts.
Rollout Ideas and Plans: Classic Rollouts Plus a Trash Center
Base cabinets have the least convenient storage in your
kitchen. This article will show you how to bring everything in
your cabinets within easy reach by retrofitting your base cabinets
with classic rollout shelves. It also shows how to construct
a special rollout for recycling and trash without using
expensive bottom-mount hardware. The article gives you
step-by-step instructions for measuring, building the rollout drawer
and its carrier, attaching the drawer slides, and mounting the unit in the cabinet.
Rollout Ideas and Plans: Rollouts in Underused Locations
The space under sinks is often overlooked, but it's prime real
estate for rollouts. This article gives step-by-step instructions
for how to build two types of customizable rollout trays that fit
around and below plumbing pipes, garbage disposers and
other obstacles beneath your sink. These rollouts transform
that “I'm not sure what's under there” storage space into an
organized and efficient location for cleaning supplies that lets
you see everything you've got in one glance.
Rollout Ideas and Plans: Rollouts at Ankle Level
Turn wasted toe-kick cavities into clever flat storage space for
serving trays, cutting boards and baking pans. This article
shows you how to construct self-contained rollout shelving
units that you assemble in your shop and then just slip into
place beneath your existing cabinets. The article steps you
through measuring and building the shelf and carrier units, and
then installing them in your kitchen. Even if you've never built or
installed a drawer before, this article will show you how.