How to Build Pull-out Shelves for Kitchen Cabinets

tightening a screw on a pull out shelf in a cabinet
What You'll Need
Wood glue
Wood screws
Quick-dry spray lacquer
1 by 3s for sides and cleats
3/4 inch plyboard for bottom
Drawer slides

Building pull-out shelves for your kitchen cabinets is a moderate-difficulty carpentry task that is a great project for those with some carpentry skills who are looking to branch out, and improve the look and usability of their kitchen in the process.

Step 1 - Take Measurements for Your Pull-out Shelves

blueprint, calculator, and tape measure

Create two-inch high cleats to bring the drawer sides away from the hinge of the cabinet door, so that it can properly open and the drawer will slide in and out easily. This process is called furring. To determine the appropriate thickness for your cleats, put the drawer slide in place inside of the cabinet and extend the inner rail. Put it as close to the cabinet's door hinge as it can get without actually touching it.

Measure the gap between the side of the cabinet and the drawer slide to determine how thick your cleats should be. Cut your cleats to match the depth of your cabinet (before the hinge), the measurement of the gap necessary to properly open and close your cabinet, and the two-inch rise of your drawer slides.

Put the cleats in position against the sides of the cabinet and measure between them, taking off one inch to compensate for the thickness of the drawer slides. This measurement will determine the width of your shelving, including the frame. The depth will equal the same length as the drawer slides.

You should now have the dimensions for your shelf's width and depth. Subtract 1 1/2 inches from the width and depth to get the size for your shelf's bottom.

Once you have these measurements, it's time to head to the hardware store for your wood. You will need four 1 x 3s for the frame, and ¾-inch plywood for the bottom of the drawer. The side cuts must be the same length as the drawer bottom, and the front and back cuts must be 1 1/2 inches longer to evenly cover the side pieces.

Step 2 - Build the Pull-out Shelves

cutting plywood with a circular saw

Firmly clamp the two side cuts and the back cut to the bottom so that all pieces are flush with the bottom edge of your plywood. Drill screw holes through the 1 x 3s that extend into the plywood, placed every six to eight inches. Then drill two additional holes, one at each end of the drawer back where it will overlap the sides.

Attach the sides to the bottom with glue and drywall screws, then do the same with the back drawer piece to attach it to the plywood and to the sides. Once the sides and back have dried, repeat the process used on the back drawer side with the front piece.

Step 3 - Finish

In a well-ventilated area, take your spray-on finish and a pair of goggles. Apply the spray-on finish to the new pull-out cabinet shelves. Have a rag handy in case there are drips or pools of lacquer. Let the lacquer dry for 30 minutes to an hour, then sand with a fine-grit sandpaper to smooth out the finish.