Pull-out Shelves: Gliding to a Hardworking Kitchen

Pull-out shelves unleash the storage potential on a typical 24-inch deep, 30-inch wide, lower kitchen cabinet. With standard shelves, you have to stoop down (ouch) and peer into the dark recesses to see what’s back there. Mmm, peanut butter—that expired in 2008?

Eliminate this Neverland of lost pots and pans—and peanut butter—simply by retrofitting your existing cabinets with pull-out shelves.

Pull-out shelf basics

The beauty of pull-out shelves is that you’ll bring the contents of the cabinet out into the light of day with one easy tug—a boon for anyone with limited mobility. Most pull-out shelves feature a shallow lip around the edge so that items don’t tumble off as the shelf glides in and out.

Pull-out shelves typically come with full-extension gliding hardware that supports up to 100 pounds. However, most manufacturers recommend keeping the load to 75 to 80 pounds maximum.

Retrofitting existing cabinets with pull-outs is usually easy—most cabinets have adjustable shelves that are easily removed. If your shelving is fixed in place, however, you’ll have to consult a woodworker to see if the shelves can be taken out.

Sizes and styles

Pull-out shelves come in standard or adjustable sizes to fit various cabinet interiors. They are available in three basic materials:

  • solid wood (usually the most expensive and well-made).
  • plywood sides combined with medium density fiber (MDF) bottoms.
  • metal wire that’s lightweight and easy to install, but also the least substantial.

You’ll also find a variety of specialty options such as pull-out shelves with slots for storing trays, baking pans, or lids. Other options include bins that hold waste baskets and units that swing out from corner cabinets. Look for pull-out shelves at home centers, discount stores, and online.

Costs and caveats

Prices for individual shelves start at about $13 for a low-end wire or plywood and MDF unit, up to $745 for a solid wood specialty unit for a corner cabinet.

If you purchase the shelves yourself and hire out the installation, expect to pay anywhere from $250 to $600 for a full day’s labor. At about $20 each, for example, 24 shelves would cost about $730 to $1,200, installed.

If top-quality work is important to you, custom cabinetmakers will build and install pull-out shelves. Typical costs are $135 to $210 per shelf, installed. In an average-sized kitchen with 12 base cabinets and 24 shelves, expect to pay $3,240 to $5,040 for custom-made pull-out shelves.

Keep in mind that some cabinets aren’t as well-suited to pull-out shelves. Narrow shelves, for example, may require a pull-out that glides on hardware installed on an existing shelf. The pull-out will likely work best for spices or small items.

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