Cabinet Design and Drawer Box Construction: It’s What’s on the Inside That Counts

When cabinets are specified for a high rise or multifamily residential project it is not only about how they fit or look in the space. It’s also about what’s on the inside – specifically, the mechanisms and construction methods that impact everything from cabinetry’s cost to functionality.

In the videos that follow, I’ll provide a brief overview of the three types of drawer box cabinet construction – the plywood drawer box, the metal drawer box and the maple dovetail drawer box – and explain the benefits of each as it relates to functionality and budget.

Plywood Drawer Box:

The first and most cost-effective option is the plywood drawer box, in which the four sides of the drawer box are glued and screwed together. Some believe that a plywood drawer box is lower-quality than the popular maple dovetail; however, that’s not the case. The price difference truly lies not in the quality of the materials, but in the cost savings of gluing and screwing the drawer box together instead of the labor costs associated with creating dovetail joints. If concerned about the strength of a plywood drawer box because the bottom may be thinner than that of a drawer with a dovetail joint, consider upgrading the thickness of the bottom panel and using under-mounted glides that provide better support for the weight of the drawer instead of a side-mounted option.

Watch my video for more details on the construction of plywood drawer box:

Metal Drawer Box:

The second option is a metal drawer box, which complements a more contemporary style. In this construction method, the sides and back of the drawer box are made from metal, which maintains the design aesthetic of a modern kitchen even when drawers are open. The metal drawer box is also a cost-effective option – and is often less expensive than the plywood drawer box because it uses fewer materials. For this drawer box, the sides are attached directly to the drawer face. Under-mounted glides, which are less visible, are also used to preserve the sleek look. In this video, I elaborate on metal drawer box construction:

Maple Dovetail Drawer Box

Last, but certainly not least, is the most-used drawer box style in the U.S. – the maple dovetail. Its popularity is the result of high awareness of the dovetail joint method and lack of awareness of other options. This construction technique for a drawer joint involves creating a series of wedge shapes on the ends of each side of the drawer box. The joints are then placed together like a puzzle. The joint is so tight that once it is put together, it’s hard to pull it apart – even before glue is applied. This is the strongest type of drawer box and typically features a thicker bottom. Such sturdy construction ensures the drawer bottom will not sag, and is especially helpful for larger drawers. It’s even sturdier when used in conjunction with an under-mounted drawer glide. Here are some more highlights and benefits of the dovetail construction method:

When it comes time to select cabinets for your next residential multifamily development project, be sure to consider your options for the construction of the drawers, not just the exterior aesthetics.  How has drawer box construction influenced your cabinet selections?

Jane Kelly
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