The easiest way to add sliding drawers to existing kitchen cabinets

Did you know you can take an IKEA drawer from the PAX system and retrofit it into your non IKEA kitchen? I was blown away too! If you’re dreaming of a custom kitchen cupboard, follow this tutorial. It’s much easier than it looks with no advanced tools. I don’t have a single drawer in my kitchen. Building and adding sliding drawers to a cabinet is so intimidating. But I’ve found a way to hack it! In this post, I will show you how to add affordable IKEA drawers to your existing kitchen base cabinets!

My kitchen cupboard was not functional. I had a single shelf. I wanted to have a slide out pantry but only had a turntable. It was such a pain. I made this pantry pull out to customize my kitchen cupboards. Cabinet organizers can be really expensive, but this is a simple and inexpensive way to add a ton of function and organization to your kitchen. I always dreamed of a pull out pantry that I could stack condiments, oils and spices. I built this really cool custom sized pantry. It was so much easier than I thought!  (Tutorial coming soon!)

What you need to add drawers to the cabinets

Power tools


  • Laminate board (¾” x 24” x 48”)
  • Edge banding
  • Drawers
  • 1 ¼” Pocket screws
  • 1×2 pine or scrap wood

Which drawers to use in your kitchen cupboard

Before we dive into building this, we need to plan out the kitchen cupboard. The drawers you use will depend on the size of your existing cupboard. Measure the depth, cabinet opening and height of the inside of the cabinet.

Depending on the depth, you can use either the KOMPLEMENT drawers, or the SEKTION drawers. I got this idea when I built my IKEA PAX Wardrobe

  • If your cupboards are 23” deep or less, use KOMPLEMENT drawers. The KOMPLEMENT drawers are 22 ⅜” deep. 
  • If your cupboards are deeper than 23.5” use SEKTION drawers. The SEKTION drawers are 24” deep. 

Because my base cupboards are more shallow, I used the KOMPLEMENT drawers for the PAX wardrobe. One other advantage is that the KOMPLEMENT drawers are soft closing like the SEKTION drawers, but almost half the cost!

If I only wanted drawer boxes (no pantry), I could have used the larger length PAX drawers, but it would not have optimized the space as I would have had leftover that I would fill with spacers. Instead I used the smaller drawers to optimize my useful space with the pantry pull out on the side. 

Create a support wall for the IKEA Drawers

I used a piece of MDF as a second wall in my cupboard since I installed the slide out pantry. You can skip this step if you’re installing the drawers to the cabinet frame. 

I measured the piece of wood so it would fit snugly. I cut it to size with my circular saw and kreg jig rip guide. The rip guide makes it SO easy to make long straight cuts. You can also get the hardware store to cut this down to size. Make sure to get a good precise cut. It has to fit tightly inside your cupboard. I tested mine to ensure it fit. 

Add pocket holes to the board

To secure your board into the cupboard, use pocket holes. Pocket holes are strong and will ensure your cupboard wall doesn’t fall off. I installed pocket holes on the top, bottoms and back of the board.

I also added the edge banding so it looked seamless with the cupboards. It’s a small touch that makes the cabinet look like your builder installed it

How to install drawer slides to the base cabinet

IKEA KOMPLEMENT drawers are so easy to assemble. I followed the instructions to assemble the drawers. 

Although it sounds counter intuitive, don’t install the wall yet! On the cabinet frame, place a spacer under the drawer. Mark the bottom height of each drawer to make sure they will be equally spaced. Check to see if the drawers will hit any hinges when it slides out. This will determine how much thickness you need one one side. You can also adjust the drawers vertically at this point. 

Also make sure the cupboard door can open and close without hitting the drawer. If you have extra depth, don’t sit the drawer too far back otherwise you won’t be able to access the contents at the back of your drawer. 

Once you’re confident with your spacing, install the bottom roller slide that attaches to the cabinet frame first. You may need an extra spacer if you find the drawer hits the hinge as it slides out. In my case, I did not.

Install the support wall

Dry fit the drawer by placing the drawer inside the cupboard, even though it won’t be attached to the other side. Slide in the support wall. Adjust it until it’s in the perfect position that the drawer will be snug and straight. Mark this on the cupboard base. Use your pocket screws to secure the secondary well. Ensure it’s plumb before securing it. 

Adding sliding drawers to cabinets

Mount the drawer slide for the bottom drawer on the support wall. Follow the IKEA instructions to make the rail secure to the drawer. Make sure it slides in and out properly and the cupboard doors close without hitting the drawer. How cool is this kitchen storage space now!? 

adding sliding drawers to cabinets 2

Continue installing the remainder of the drawers. 

If you are installing the drawer directly in your cupboard

If you do not have a pantry pull out like I did, you can simply add spacers on each side to account for any difference between the drawer and kitchen cabinet frame. Install the spacer on one side, then the sliding rail. 

On the second side, measure the distance between the rail and wall. You may need a spacer to make it fit snug. Cut a spacer to the exact size needed that the drawer and rail can fit. Install the spacer. Aren’t you amazed at how easy it is?

Reveal: Kitchen upgrade by adding sliding drawers to cabinets

I am SO happy with these cabinet drawers. It’s so much more functional than kitchen shelves and it’s easier to access the contents in the back of the cabinet. It’s a great beginner DIY project. I know drawers seem intimidating but I only used a drill and saw for this. I can access all the contents of my drawers without the food containers falling over the floor. It’s so much more organized and convenient! 

I love the IKEA KOMPLEMENT drawer slides. They are a soft hinge that does not slam. The roller slides are smooth. They drawers feel sturdy and well built for daily use

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If you love kitchen organization, pin it!

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2 thoughts on “The easiest way to add sliding drawers to existing kitchen cabinets”

  1. I love this! Is there a way to do the drawers if our cabinet opening is narrower that then inside? There is about 3/4” all around framing.

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