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Drawer Quality and Features Guide

dresser with drawers

When it comes to drawers, it's all about construction. Drawers need strength and durability to hold your items and withstand the wear and tear of daily activity. How the actual drawer box is built, and how it moves within a piece of furniture is key to determining how long a piece will last in your home. Next time you buy a dresser, chest, or other storage piece, look for these drawer construction quality cues to determine the perfect piece for your lifestyle.

Joint Construction

For drawers, joint construction is the way in which each side of a drawer is connected to create a box shape. Joints often require or employ other materials like metal fasteners or adhesives for greater longevity.

Closeup of Dovetail Joinery

Dovetail Joinery

Made up of interlocking wedge-shaped elements called pins and tails, dovetail joints are used on front and back corners of drawers for extra strength. This method of joinery is one of the finest, and when done well it doesn't require any fasteners, though adhesives are commonly used for extra protection over time. Easily identified by its beautiful interlocking design, the dovetail joint is a centuries-proven mark of quality and style.

Closeup of Mortise and Tenon joint.

Mortise and Tenon Joint

Due to its superior strength and simple design, the mortise and tenon joint has been used for centuries. Typically used to join two pieces of wood at a 90 degree angle, this joint is especially common in drawer construction. There are many variations of mortise and tenon joints, but each style involves a protruding tenon cut at the end of a piece of wood that fits neatly into a mortise, a hole in the corresponding piece of wood, which is then secured into place with an adhesive. Unlike dovetail construction, the mortise and tenon joint is usually hidden from view, though it rivals the dovetail joint in strength and durability.

Example of a butt joint.

Butt Joint

The butt joint connects two pieces of wood in simple fashion, with one end of a piece of wood flush against the side of another piece of wood, usually at a 90 degree angle. With nothing to keep the two pieces of wood interlocked or connected, this style of joint relies on adhesives and/or fasteners to hold the joint. The most basic of woodworking joints, it is less durable than a mortise and tenon or dovetail joint, and sacrifices style for simple construction, as the end grain on one of the two boards will be visible.

Closeup of corner blocks

Corner Blocks

Often made from plywood, drawer bottoms can be especially susceptible to sagging over time. Corner blocking uses triangular-shaped blocks that are glued or screwed into the four corners of a drawer to provide support at the drawer's greatest pressure points. The additional support to drawer bottoms and corners allows you to pack drawers tightly, without having to worry about the bottom falling out or breaking down.

Drawer Glides

Drawer glides determine how a drawer moves and the weight it can hold. Different materials, placement, and glide styles are all factors that effect how smoothly a drawer operates over time. When looking at furniture, be sure to test drawers by opening and closing them repeatedly, looking at how far the drawer comes out, and how easily it glides within the case.

Closeup of center-mounted/Under-mounted Glides

Center-Mounted/Under-Mounted Glides

Center-mounted drawer glides operate from beneath the drawer, with some styles allowing for full drawer extension and others providing for three-quarter extension. The glide can't support as much weight as a side-mounted drawer, but its position on the underside of the drawer keeps the metal or wood glides out of sight for a cleaner look. While the under-mounted positioning may reduce the drawer's depth to some extent, it also provides for greater drawer width.

Closeup of Side-Mounted Glides.

Side-Mounted Glides

A common choice for drawers, side-mounted glides offer the best support for heavy loads, and allow for drawers to open three-quarters or the entire drawer length. Drawers with side-mounted glides require space for the mechanism on either side of the drawer, sacrificing some of the drawer width. Side glides will be visible when you open the drawer, which may detract from the overall beauty of a piece of furniture.

Photo of wood-on-wood glides.

Wood-on-Wood Glides

Wood-on-Wood glides are great for maintaining the integrity of crafted wood furniture. The glides can support a large load, but are more susceptible to warping due to changes in temperature or humidity, which can create problems in opening and closing drawers, and may require maintenance over time.

Image of metal-on-metal glides

Metal-on-Metal Glides

Designed to carry a lot of weight, metal-on-metal glides ensure reliable movement as you open and close drawers. Most metal glides allow for full or three-quarters drawer extension, and won't succumb to warping based on changes in temperature or humidity like wood-on-wood glides. Some metal glide systems may make it harder to remove a drawer completely from its case.

Closeup of Ball-Bearing Glide.

Ball-Bearing Glides

This style of glide is usually made out of steel, and can hold up to 100 pounds. The ball bearings ensure smooth movement and lasting durability, and are often found on full extension drawers.

Additional Drawer Features

While all drawers consist of some form of wood joinery and a mechanism for movement, the features listed below are often added as bonuses to drawers for better quality, operation, style, or specific function. Although some of these features are reflected in a higher price tag, they provide better storage solutions designed to make your life easier.

Interior of a Felt-Lined Drawer

Felt-Lined Drawers

Felt lining is often found in one or two top drawers within a dresser, bedroom chest, or dining server, and is designed to protect both your items and the wood drawer. The felt-lining prevents metal items like jewelry or silverware from scratching the wood, and holds items in place for minimal movement as you open and close the drawer.

Closeup of Drop Front Drawer

Drop Front Drawers

The drop front drawer is becoming increasingly common as the need for entertainment storage in various rooms throughout the home has grown. Designed to accommodate media consoles or components, the drawer front can be dropped down by releasing a latch found on the inner sides of the drawer. You can then slide the drawer forward for easier access, or leave the tray with its front down for direct remote accessibility. Often called a media drawer, this drop front drawer allows you to keep consoles discreetly tucked away, yet easily accessible.

Underside of a Soft Close Drawer

Soft Close Drawers

While the name of this feature may vary by furniture brand, soft close drawers are easily recognizable. Soft close drawers feature metal glides that work to prevent drawers from rebounding or slamming closed, and require just a pat or bump to activate the mechanism, which then closes the drawer quietly, as if it were closing all on its own. Whether you give it a hard push or a small tap, the mechanism causes the drawer to slow down before shutting completely. An overall impressive feature, soft close drawers and can sometimes require a little more force to open, and may remain open if your tap or push isn't registered.

Dusty Drawers

Dust Proofing

Dust proofing is used between drawers to prevent dust from falling within a case onto cleanly folded clothing. Typical dust proofing consists of wood or fabric panels that are built into a dresser or chest and separate the top of one drawer from the bottom of another. Along with trapping dust and debris, dust proofing panels also prevent items like socks and t-shirts in stuffed drawers from getting caught when you open or close the drawer above them.

Now that you've learned about the factors that go into constructing a quality drawer, check out some of what we have to offer or ask us a question to learn more!