How to Measure for Replacement Kitchen Drawer Boxes

How to Measure for Replacement Kitchen Drawer Boxes

Kitchen drawers endure a lot of wear and tear. Over the years they get yanked open and slammed shut thousands of times, and heavy contents shift with every movement causing the sides and bottom to loosen and eventually fail. If your kitchen came equipped with drawer boxes constructed using dovetail joinery, then they are probably still in great shape. But, if your kitchen has the typical builder grade drawer boxes held together with staples, they likely need replacement. 

An ideal time to replace old, worn out or broken drawer boxes is during a cabinet refacing project. Replacing your cabinet doors is an ideal way to beautify your kitchen and add value, replacing drawer boxes will increase the utility of your kitchen in just a few easy steps. You can even convert a doored cabinet to a pot and pan stack for added functionality. 

An image highlighting the dovetail joinery on a drawer box.

How to Measure for Custom Dovetail Drawers:

1. Remove Drawer Box to Measure 

Carefully remove your existing drawer boxes from the cabinet frame in order to accurately measure. Empty the contents of your drawers before removing as the drawers can be quite heavy when loaded. 

2. Measure the Inside Cabinet Width (ICW) 

Two factors will determine the width of your new drawer box: the Inside Cabinet Width of the cabinet that will house the drawers, and the type of drawer slide being used. The type of drawer slide being used will determine how much width is deducted from the drawer box in order accommodate the slide. For high quality soft close undermount slides like Blum (the preferred choice for most homeowners), the deduction is only 3/8”. A side mounted slide, which can be more economical, requires a deduction in width of 1”, making for a smaller drawer box. 

The ICW is determined by simply measuring the cabinet opening. On a framed kitchen this will be the inside measurement of the face frame from left to right. 

A framed cabinet shows the drawer opening.

On a frameless kitchen, the ICW is the inside width of the cabinet box itself. 

A hand holds a measuring tape in front of an opening in a kitchen cabinet. Measuring the space for a new drawer front for refacing the kitchen.
Measuring for a drawer box in a frameless cabinet.

3. Measure the Height of Your Drawer Box

Next comes measuring the height of your drawer box. Measure the height of the outside of the drawer box you are replacing. Most drawer manufacturers have standard heights ranging from 2.25” to 10.25” which cover the most common drawer box heights used in cabinetry over the last several decades. 

Altering the height of your drawer box is doable, for instance if you want to replace 2 shallow drawer boxes with a single deeper drawer box for pots and pans. Just remember to adjust the height of your drawer face to accommodate the drawer box. In general, the height of the drawer face should be 1.75” to 2” higher than the drawer box in order to accommodate the undermount slides and overlay. 

4. Measure the Depth

Measure the depth of the cabinet from the back of the cabinet box to the front. Most base cabinets are 24” deep. When measuring, check for obstructions in the back of the cabinets. In some cases, builders may run electrical or plumbing through the back of cabinets and you may need to deduct from the depth to clear the obstructions. The standard drawer depth for a 24” base cabinet is approximately 21”. A quality drawer glide like the Blum Tandem Undermount slide will allow for full extension of the drawer box for easier access. In general, the drawer box depth you select will be 2-3 inches less than the depth of the cabinet. 

5. Ordering New Drawer Boxes  

With the measurements you took using the steps above you are now ready to order your custom dovetail drawer boxes using our online order form. 

Select “Width Type” as Inside Cabinet Width and then enter your ICW width in the next box.  Select the Height of the drawer box required using the drop-down menu. Finally, select Depth using the drop-down menu. Selecting the Blum Undermount Slide will ensure your drawer boxes arrive ready to install. We will even mount the Blum locking device to the underside of the drawer box for you. 

Note – if you are replacing drawer boxes but intend to supply your own slides please select Exact Drawer Dimension under width type and input your drawer box width. Your measurements should be the exact size of the drawer box required (closest to our standard Height and Depth) .

Dovetail Drawer Box Features:

Custom dovetail drawers from Nieu include: 

  • 5/8” thick solid birch construction 
  • Dovetail joinery built for a lifetime of durability 
  • Low VOC, clear UV finish for extra water resistance 
  • 3/8” matched melamine bottom for added load capacity 
  • Shipped assemble for easy installation 
  • Blum locking devices installed for you when Blum slides added to your drawer order 

Update Your Kitchen with Custom Dovetail Drawers

Update Your Kitchen with Custom Dovetail Drawers

Taking on a kitchen cabinet refacing project is a cost-effective way to upgrade the aesthetic of your kitchen. It is also an ideal time to upgrade the utility of your kitchen by replacing broken or worn out drawer boxes with new, high quality, dovetail drawers with soft close undermount slides.  

Drawer boxes endure a lot of abuse in a kitchen, repetitive slamming causes items to shift, eventually weaking the joints of the drawer. Dovetail drawer boxes are the most durable method of constructing drawer boxes and when paired with soft close undermount slides are a simple way yet highly functional upgrade to your kitchen.  

A side view of four kitchen cabinet drawers, the top three are small and the bottom is taller. The side of the wooden dovetail drawer box is showing againts the Stepped Shaker drawer fronts in Winter White.

What are dovetail drawer boxes?

Dovetail drawer boxes employ a pin and tail method of joinery to lock together the four sides of the drawer creating a very strong connection between the walls of the box. The pins are cut into the ends of one side of the box while the tails are cut into the joining piece. Adding a small amount of glue and locking the two pieces together creates a drawer box that doesn’t require screws to hold it together. Lesser drawer boxes use butt joints and either staples or screws to connect the four sides which can and will inevitably fail.  

Dovetail drawer boxes also add a sense of style and artisanship to your kitchen as the jig-saw puzzle look of the joinery is visible from the sides and harkens back to the days when such joints would have been made by hand with basic tools and not the modern machines of today.  

Dovetail joints have been used in all manner of construction including log houses in colonial days, stone works in India and even Egyptian furniture dating back to 3100 BC. With that sort of longevity there’s little doubt that a drawer box constructed with dovetail joinery can withstand the rigors of the 21st century kitchen.  

A side image of a kitchen cabinet dovetail drawer showing the dovetail joinery in the wooden drawer box.
A side view of a Nieu custom drawer showcasing the dovetail joinery of the wooden drawer box.

Are dovetail drawer boxes worth the investment?

A dovetail drawer box constructed from a birch or maple plywood coupled with a soft close undermount slide will outlive lesser drawer boxes joined with staples or screws. The single most requested upgrade when working with customers on their kitchen cabinet refacing project is upgrading builders grade melamine drawer boxes that have become wobbly or loose due to regular use.

While dovetail drawer boxes are more expensive than melamine drawers, their longevity and utility make them a worthwhile investment for any kitchen upgrade and the simple beauty of the artisan joinery acknowledges the timeless nature of good engineering.  

Where can I add dovetail drawer boxes to my kitchen?

Dovetail drawer boxes can replace any drawers currently in your cabinets. It is a straightforward process of measuring your current cabinet opening, height and depth and ordering custom drawer boxes to fit. An easy upgrade to your kitchen is to convert a standard base cabinet with doors and shelves into a pot and pan drawer stack.  

A pot and pan drawer stack typically consist of two deeper drawers on the bottom, usually 11’’ to 12” in height on the face, and a shallower 4” to 6″ drawer at the top. The two deep drawers are great for reorganizing pots and pans and make finding a matching lid and pot much easier than digging through standard base cabinets with shelves. The small drawer on the top usually serves as home for cutlery or as a utensil drawer for items such as spatulas and measuring cups.  

An image of four open drawers in kitchen cabinets with dovetail drawer boxes and white stepped shaker drawer fronts with squared black drawer pulls.
Dovetail drawer boxes paired with the Stepped Shaker drawer front in Winter White.

Do dovetail drawers improve resale value?

If you are refacing your kitchen cabinets to boost the resale value of your home consider replacing your drawer boxes as well. When prospective buyers are touring your home, they will open and close both a cabinet door and drawer to check for soft close upgrades. Upgraded cabinets doors like our selection of shaker cabinet doors and dovetail drawer boxes will impress buyers and let them know that you were mindful of both quality and utility when you upgraded your kitchen.  

The Summary:

Adding dovetail drawers to your refacing project provides an additional level of upgrade to your kitchen. If you’re getting started on your refacing project, use our free Design Quiz to find your style, watch our How To Measure video, and at any time Talk to an Expert if you need help. A custom looking kitchen is just a few clicks away!