How to Make DIY Pull-Out Shelves

Maximize your storage space and stay organized with easy to build DIY pull-out shelves. This comprehensive guide will teach you how to make your own custom pull-out shelves for cabinets, pantries, and closets. With a few basic tools and materials, you can create functional pull-outs that slide smoothly on drawer glides. Learn proper techniques for measuring, cutting, and installing shelves that transform wasted space into accessible storage.

Introduction to DIY Pull-Out Shelves

DIY pull-out shelves are a great way to optimize storage in any room. Also known as roll out trays or drawer organizers, they allow you to access items pushed back into deep cabinets or closets. While custom built-ins can be expensive, with basic carpentry skills you can make functional pull-outs on a budget. This project is beginner-friendly and requires only simple tools.

Pull-out organizers slide smoothly on metal drawer glides mounted to the sides of a cabinet. Custom sizing each shelf allows you to fit them precisely into the existing space. The result is easy access to everything stored, eliminating rummaging and disorganization. Pull-outs also provide better visibility of what is stored in less used spaces like under sinks or in pantries.

Building your own DIY pull-out shelves has advantages over buying readymade versions:

  • Custom sizing – Size them to make the most of available space
  • Material selection – Choose wood type and finish to coordinate with your space
  • Cost savings – Less expensive than premade options
  • Easy installation – Attaching pre-assembled shelves is fast

With some careful planning and basic carpentry skills, you can create pull-out organizers tailored to your unique storage needs. This step-by-step guide will teach you everything you need to know to build your own.

How to Make DIY Pull-Out Shelves

Making DIY pull-out shelves involves careful measuring, cutting, assembling, and installing components. Follow these steps:

Choose Location and Take Measurements

  • Decide where pull-outs are needed – pantries, cabinets, closets, etc.
  • Clear out the space and remove any existing shelving.
  • Measure width and depth of interior space.
  • Note any obstructions like pipes or brackets.
  • Plan dimensions of shelves allowing sufficient clearance.

Select Materials

  • Wood type – Plywood, MDF, melamine coated shelving boards. Match existing cabinetry.
  • Glides – Full extension ball bearing slides rated for weight of shelves and contents.
  • Hardware – Wood screws, finish nails, edge banding, shelf supports.

Cut Wood Pieces to Size

  • From measurements, calculate dimensions for sides, fronts, backs, and shelves.
  • Cut wood to size with a circular saw, miter saw or table saw.
  • Cut pieces slightly smaller than interior cabinet dimensions for easy slide in access.

Attach Glides

  • Mark locations on sides to attach glides allowing shelves to clear top and bottom.
  • Attach glide brackets to sides according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Test fit shelving unit without shelves, ensuring smooth slide.

Assemble Housing

  • Attach back pieces to connect sides, keeping unit square.
  • Install remaining backs, fronts, and shelves into housing.
  • Check all pieces are square and shelves slide smoothly.

Mount and Secure Shelves

  • Slide assembled unit into cabinet space.
  • Secure housing into place by attaching to cabinet walls with screws.
  • Install trim pieces to hide glides and finish installation.
  • Load shelves and admire your DIY pull-outs!

Selecting Materials for DIY Pull-Out Shelves

Choosing appropriate materials is key to creating pull-outs that will stand up to regular use. Consider these factors when selecting materials:

Wood Types

The type of material you use to make the shelves and sides impacts durability, weight capacity, and appearance:

  • Plywood – Affordable and stable. Easy to work with and accepts different finishes.
  • MDF – Smooth edges with consistent density. Paints and stains well. Prone to swelling from moisture.
  • Melamine – Durable plastic coating resists scratches. Wipes clean easily. Limited to white or woodgrain colors.
  • Solid wood – Attractive natural grain. More expensive and prone to warping. Requires sealing.

Paint grade plywood like birch offers the best combination of economy, strength, and ability to blend into existing cabinetry with a painted finish. Pre-laminated shelving boards also create a built-in look.


Hardware connects and supports the shelves:

  • Glides – Look for full extension ball bearing slides rated for 100+ pounds. Side mount is easiest to install.
  • Fasteners – Use wood screws in pre-drilled holes to prevent splitting. Finish nails also help secure.
  • Edge banding – Iron-on veneer or PVC tape hides plywood edges. Provides a finished look.
  • Shelf supports – Metal pin and bracket systems provide adjustable shelves.

Drawer Glide Types

Mounted to the sides, drawer glides allow the shelves to smoothly roll out and in. Considerations when selecting glides:

  • Extension – Full extension slides provide maximum access versus partial extension.
  • Mounting – Side mount glides simplest to install versus bottom or rear mounted.
  • Weight rating – Choose 100-150 lb capacity for wood shelves loaded with household items.
  • Stop – Integrated stop prevents pulling shelves fully out accidentally.

For easiest DIY installation, look for side mounted full extension drawer glides with ball bearings and integrated stop.

Building the Housing

The main housing that holds the pull-out shelves consists of a front, back, and two sides. Follow these steps:

Cut Pieces to Size

From your interior measurements, cut the following from plywood or shelving boards:

  • Sides – Cut two pieces to the height of the interior space. For depth, subtract 3/4” from cabinet depth for clearance.
  • Top and bottom – Cut to width of cabinet. Subtract 1/2” from height for front and back pieces.
  • Backs – Cut two pieces same size as top and bottom pieces.

Attach Glides

Mount the drawer glides to the interior sides of the two side pieces:

  • Position glides equally spaced from top and bottom leaving just enough space for clearance above and below.
  • Attach glide brackets securely with provided screws.
  • Test fit the side pieces in the cabinet without shelves. The unit should slide smoothly.

Assemble Housing

  • Apply wood glue and clamp tops and bottoms to side pieces keeping the unit square.
  • Attach back pieces in the same way, providing a stable frame.
  • Let glue dry fully before continuing.

The main housing provides a sturdy base on which to install the shelves. Next the shelves are added and the unit is mounted into the cabinetry.

Installing Shelves and Completing Pull-Out

Adding the shelves involves fitting them into shelf pins or supports. The entire unit then mounts into the cabinet space:

Install Shelves

  • Cut shelves to length allowing small clearance between sides. Rip down plywood or use shelving boards.
  • Install shelves into housing at desired spacing using shelf pins.
  • Place trim pieces of 1×2 on front edges of shelves for a finished look.

Mount Housing in Cabinet

  • Slide assembled unit fully into cabinet space. Ensure shelves clear top and bottom.
  • Open doors or remove drawers in front to access sides.
  • Attach through the cabinet walls and into housing frame with screws.
  • Attach trim pieces along sides and top to hide glides if desired.

Smooth Operation

  • Glides may need adjustment to ensure proper alignment and smooth travel.
  • Adjust integrated slide stops so shelves pull out fully but can’t remove fully.
  • Test weight capacity by loading shelves before finalizing installation.

Your custom DIY pull-out shelves will roll out smoothly, maximizing your storage space!

Tips for Installing DIY Pull-Out Shelves

Follow these tips for a successful installation:

  • Build housing 1/4” narrower than cabinet opening for easy slide in access.
  • Use filler pieces to install in wider spaces for a custom fit.
  • Pre-drill holes in plywood to prevent cracking and splintering when screwing.
  • Select glides rated for twice the weight capacity needed.
  • Set integrated stops so shelves can’t accidentally pull all the way out.
  • Attach wood glue blocks to sides of cabinet to increase mounting stability.
  • Adjust glide alignment if shelves don’t roll smoothly after install.

Carefully measuring the existing space allows you to size the shelves precisely. Taking your time to ensure proper alignment will result in smooth operation.

Customizing Your DIY Pull-Out Shelves

One benefit of building it yourself is the ability to customize your pull-outs:

Match Cabinetry

  • Use same type of wood and finish as existing cabinets for an integrated look.
  • Laminate with matching cabinet veneer or paint to match.

Size for Function

  • Adjust spacing between shelves for storing specific items.
  • Make taller shelves for large objects like stand mixers and sheet pans.

Enhance Hardware

  • Add pulls for easy access to lower shelves.
  • Install lighting strips to illuminate interior.
  • Use soft-close glides for controlled closing.

Increase Storage

  • Incorporate smaller trays or bins on shelves to optimize space.
  • Install pegboard backing to hang tools or utensils.
  • Use a sectioned top shelf for spice storage.

Take measurements and make sketches to design the perfect pull-outs for your needs. Get creative to maximize the storage possibilities!

Mistakes to Avoid with DIY Pull-Out Shelves

While pull-out shelves are an easy DIY project, avoid these common mistakes:

  • Using under-rated glides that can’t support weight of shelves when fully extended.
  • Forgetting to account for door and drawer clearances when taking measurements.
  • Not fully securing housing into cabinets, allowing unit to pull away from wall.
  • Misaligning glide brackets so shelves stick or don’t extend fully.
  • Not pre-drilling plywood leading to cracked edges.
  • Forgetting integrated stops so shelves accidentally pull all the way out.
  • Making shelves too wide to allow clearance between sides of cabinet.
  • Skipping wood glue when assembling housing frame reducing stability.
  • Loading shelves before installing causing boards to break from weight.
  • Not checking for level shelves, resulting in slipping contents.

Carefully plan the design, take detailed measurements, secure glides properly, and test operation before loading to avoid problems.

Safety Tips for Installing Pull-Out Shelves

Follow these important safety precautions:

  • Use eye and ear protection when cutting wood or drilling.
  • Only use sharp drill bits and saw blades for clean cuts.
  • Allow glue to fully cure before loading weight onto shelves.
  • Attach stopper on drill bit to avoid drilling too deep into cabinet sides.
  • Don’t overload shelves beyond rated weight capacity.
  • Mount housing securely into wall studs whenever possible.
  • Install child safety locks to prevent accidental opening.
  • Ensure shelves are level to keep contents stable.
  • Watch for sharp edges or hardware protruding into the interior.

Take your time and don’t rush the installation. Carefully constructed pull-outs will safely support all your storage needs for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions about DIY Pull-Out Shelves

Some common questions about building your own pull-out shelves include:

What tools do I need to build pull-out shelves?

You’ll need basic woodworking tools like a circular saw, drill, carpenter’s square, clamps, sandpaper, and safety equipment. Other helpful tools include a table saw, jigsaw, router, and nail gun.

How much weight can DIY pull-out shelves hold?

Select side-mounted, full extension drawer glides with ball bearings rated for at least 100 pounds capacity. For heavy items like canned goods, look for 150+ pound rating.

How do I mount pull-out shelves into the cabinet?

After assembling the unit and ensuring smooth operation, secure the housing into studs or the cabinet sides using wood screws through the top, bottom, and sides.

What is the best material for pull-out shelves?

Paint-grade plywood provides durability at a low cost. Solid wood also works but is prone to warping. Pre-laminated shelving boards offer an attractive finished look.

How much space should I leave between the shelves?

Base spacing on the tallest items being stored, leaving 1-2 inches of clearance above. Spacing shelves between 8 to 15 inches apart is common.

Can I install just one shelf with slides?

Yes, single shelf pull-outs mounted on each side work well. This style is easiest for retrofitting existing cabinets.


Installing DIY pull-out shelves is a great weekend project that will instantly upgrade your home’s storage. By transforming wasted cabinet space into accessible, organized storage, pull-outs make it easy to access everything stored.

Carefully planning shelf dimensions, selecting durable materials, and taking time to ensure proper installation will result in sturdy shelves that provide years of service. Building your own allows complete customization to make the most of the available space.

Follow the techniques described in this guide to create pull-outs tailored to your unique needs. From kitchen pantries to bathroom vanities and media centers, slide-out shelves reduce clutter and maximize every inch of your cabinetry. With a little time invested you can gain valuable skills and storage space!

So grab your tools, materials, and measurements and start building your own pull-out shelves this weekend. You’ll love the convenience and organization they provide.