Drawer problems generally trace back to the guides

Q: My niece is just tall enough to pull out my kitchen drawer and hang on it. Over time it has become wobbly and is hard to operate. How can I fix this?

A: Most drawer problems can be traced to abuse. People like to slam the drawers or quickly yank them open.

Quality cabinets have quality parts, and cheap cabinets use cheap parts. Likewise, drawers and their hardware follow the same guidelines.

Even if the drawer front (the pretty part you see with the knob attached to it) is genuine solid wood, the box it is attached to may be made from poorer quality materials. It doesn’t sound like the actual drawer is the problem here, though, but rather the drawer’s guides.

There are several ways a drawer slides in and out of the opening. One way is with a wooden rail that runs front to back in the cabinet. The drawer has a channel that accepts the rail. The drawer also rides on top of friction pads on the rail directly under the drawer so that the drawer doesn’t wear down the cabinet.

The drawer also may be attached to a bar over the drawer using a plastic guide at the rear of the drawer. Finally, metal guides with rollers can be used for a smooth and quiet operation.

Remove the drawer and inspect it. You will probably have to lift the door to get it out of the opening, particularly if you have metal guides.

Your problem will be pretty evident once you remove the drawer. It may be that a plastic guide has broken or that a guide has simply pulled away from the cabinet.

With cheaper cabinets, the problem is usually that the plastic guide has broken. This part is available at a home center and costs less than $1. They make three different sizes, so if you are not sure of the size, buy all three and save yourself a trip back to the store. The part simply attaches to the rear of the drawer and runs along the length of the rail.

The other problem may be that the rail is loose from the cabinet or is bent. If it’s loose, stick a couple of screws in the end (short ones so they don’t protrude through the cabinet). If it is bent, buy a replacement and align it with the holes of the old one.

If your drawer rides on top of a wooden rail, the problem is probably on the bottom of the drawer. If you flip the drawer over, you may notice that one side of the channel has torn out.

You can glue the old piece back in and put a couple of brads in it to hold it together until the glue dries. Wait at least 24 hours until you use it.

Your problem may also be with the drawer box itself. If it is falling apart, you can try to glue it back together and then use some “L” brackets to stiffen it up.

If you have metal guides on either side of the drawer, check to see that they are secured to the sides of the cabinet opening. Also, check that the metal slides are secured to the outside bottom of the drawer. The slides have little rollers that fit into the guides.

Maybe a roller has broken or a guide or slide needs to be replaced. If so, take the broken part with you and get a replacement. The style and length of the new part need to be the same for an easy installation. Use a level to make sure the new part is installed perfectly straight so the drawer won’t bind when in use.

The drawer guide should be placed with the wheels facing the front of the opening. It has some oblong holes so that you can position it correctly and make final adjustments before you screw it in.

The slide should be placed at the outside bottom of the drawer with its roller at the back of the drawer. The end without the roller should be placed against the back of the drawer front. Tip the drawer up, slide the rollers in and push the drawer into the opening.

Mike Klimek is a licensed contractor and owner of Las Vegas Handyman. Questions may be sent by email to handymanoflasvegas@msn.com. Or mail to 4710 W. Dewey Drive, No. 100, Las Vegas, NV 89118. His web address is www.handymanoflasvegas.com.

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