Home Hardware: How to Choose Quality Drawer Slides, Hinges, Baseboards

by Purvin Arshad

When remodeling a kitchen, the big stuff like the countertops, cabinets, or flooring comes to mind first. However, the small things that are not always visible will have a big impact in the long run. It can mean the difference between peace of mind or continuous lifelong headaches. The joy of remodeling goes stale if hinges in your cabinets rust or drawer slides stick soon after renovation. Aesthetics are very important when it comes to selecting quality hardware. But durability and convenience should also be high on your priority list.

Drawer Slides

cabinet drawer slides

Drawer slides are almost always made up of two parts. One part attaches to the cabinet box the other to the drawer. The rails joined to the drawer fit into the rail joined to the cabinet.

Drawer slides type

There are two types of rolling mechanisms which allow the drawers to move. One uses a nylon wheel (called roller slides) to allow the drawer to slide and the other uses ball-bearings.

The slides using a ball-bearing mechanism can carry a heavier load compared to the roller slides. Normally the roller slides can handle up to 100 pounds whereas ball-bearing slides can carry up to 400 pounds. The heavy-duty ball-bearing slides can carry an even greater load.

Slides can be purchased as side mounts, center mounts, or under-mounts. The placement of mounts only determines how hidden they are. The side mounts are sold in pairs and are visible when the drawer is opened. The under-mount slides are also sold in pairs while the center-mount is sold as a single unit. Both fit under the drawer and are not visible. The under mounts give a more refined look to the drawer. They are usually of higher quality compared to side mounts.

Roller slides are up to 20 inches long whereas ball-bearing slides go up to 60 inches in length. The guide rails of ball-bearing slides are longer, giving a greater contact area. This design makes them more stable than roller slides when the drawer is fully extended.

Drawer extensions

Drawer extensions define how far you can open the drawer. The most common are ¾ slider extensions. They allow ¾ of the drawer to extend out while ¼ remains inside the drawer cabinet. Full extensions allow the entire drawer to be pulled off the cabinet. Finally, the over-travel extension allows the drawer to be pulled beyond the full extension. It works best when the drawer has a lip. It is most suitable for larger filing cabinets.

The finish of rails only needs to be taken into consideration if they are going to be visible. The commonly available rails are metal with zinc coating. Colored rails are available in black, white and shades that match wood stains are also available.

Both types of rails also come with many motions enhancing features like:
The soft-close feature prevents drawers from banging by softly towing them in
The self-close feature glides the drawer in with the minimal touch
Push-to-open (touch-release) feature will open the drawer when the front is pressed lightly.
The locking feature will lock the drawer automatically when it is closed.

So which is better, ball-bearing or roller-slides? Roller-slides are an acceptable, economical option for general household use where the load is light. Ball-bearing slides are available with more options and perform well under all conditions. They offer more flexibility and a longer lifespan.

Cabinet Hinges

butt hinge

Hinges are devices that allow two parts to be joined together. The joint formed allows for one part torotate around the fixed joint. The motion may be full 360 degrees or a limitation thereof and is determined by the type of hinge used. They are typically used on doors, windows, gate lids, etc.

Hinge Types

The variety of hinges is enormous. It depends on factors like if they will be used indoors or out, or if their purpose is decorative or functional. How much fitting space is available? How many loads they have to hold up? They can also be purchased in different finishes and materials.

The Butt Hinge

This is the most common type of hinge used for external use. This type of hinge is made up of two matching leaves. Both leaves are attached to a bent drum. One of the leaves is secured in place and the other revolves around the drum allowing the door to swing. They are ideal for heavier doors as they can support the weight.

The Flush Hinge

These hinges are great where space is limited. One side of the hinge squeezes into the other when the door is shut. Although durable, these hinges are not intended for a heavy door.

Ball-Bearing Hinge

This is a heavy-duty hinge ideal for use on wide heavy doors. It gains its strength from the ball bearing holding together the two leaves. The friction between the drum barrels weakens them over time and breaks. The ball bearings cut down on friction making this hinge even stronger than the butt hinge. The bearings also allow the door to operate more smoothly cutting down on squeaking sounds.

Case Hinges

These are similar to butt hinges in terms of weight support and durability. They tend to be more stylish. Designed to impress, these hinges are available in a large variety of styles and colors. Their leaves are longer than other hinges which give greater support to the door. This makes them best suited for doors handling a lot of traffic.

Olive Knuckle Hinge

These hinges are unique in that when fitted a door is opened it forms an “H” shape. A gap is created between the door and frame of about 2 inches. This hinge can also be used to widen a passage. This is an economical way of making a passage wider to allow a walker or wheelchair to pass easily.

Butterfly Hinges

Having a shape like a butterfly with wings spread, these hinges are great for decorative purposes. The large array of finishes and designs make them ideal for cabinets or decorative boxes.

Hinge Material

Due to the constant stress hinges bearing, the material of hinges needs to be strong.

Stainless Steel

Hinges of stainless steel tend to be strong, durable and they are economical. Stainless steel also resists corrosion. This is important for hinges used outdoors or in humid environments where the air is salty and moist. Moisture and salty air corrode metals quickly leaving hinges weak and at risk of breakage.

The problem with stainless steel is that it does not accept different types of finishes too easily. So stainless steel hinges are more appropriate for places where matching is not important. Steel can withstand higher temperatures than aluminum, this is why fire-rated doors use only stainless steel hinges.

Aluminum

Aluminum is another good material for hinges. While aluminum is more prone to corrosion compared to steel, the corrosion only forms a thin layer on its surface. The inner part of the piece will not corrode. It weighs around 40% less than steel. When installing multiple hinges, aluminum can minimize the overall additional weight to the structure. This means there will be less stress on the joint objects, and their life will be longer.

Brass and bronze

Other hinge materials include brass and bronze, both of which are alloys of copper. Bronze hinges have a low melting point so not useful for fire door grade. Unless they get the specific treatment they have a low tolerance for corrosion. Both materials are great at tolerating different finishes. This makes them good candidates to accept a wide range of colors giving more choice for matching.

So which is the better material for hinges? Actually, all materials have their own individual positive and negative characteristics. You have to decide where to use the hinge and pick the most suitable one for that location and purpose.

The initial cost of stainless hinges is a bit more than aluminum hinges. However, stainless steel hinges are more durable so they last longer. You can buy brass and bronze hinges in a large variety of finishes, making them appealing for aesthetic purposes.

Baseboards Moldings

solid wood baseboards

Other than a decorative function, baseboards protect your walls. It is amazing at the amount of abuse the lower portion of a wall takes. Vacuums bang against it, your shoes kick it and leave scuff marks. Lastly covers the unsightly joint between the wall and floor.

Solid Wood Baseboards

Due to the punishment they take, a lot of baseboards material are mainly solid wood. One concern with natural wood is the sustainability issue. It is important to make sure you get your pure wood baseboards for a supplier that supports sustainability. We would not want to purchase from someone cutting down jungles to produce the baseboards. The price of solid wood baseboards varies from one dollar per foot to 3 dollars for three-inch pine baseboards.

Finger Jointed Pine Baseboards

Also solid wood but made by gluing together smaller interlocking pieces. The biggest advantage with these is they are cheaper than solid wood baseboards. This is because the small waste pieces are their materials. They are factory-primed so no need to deal with knots or warping issues. Jointed pine offers greater flexibility, making them easier to install than pure wood. One drawback with these is that joints will show. If you don’t want that manufactured look then consider a really dark stain to try to hide the joint.

One other issue is the glue for joining the pieces may have formaldehyde and other chemicals. You may not want that gas spreading throughout the house.

Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF)

These types of baseboards are very popular. Besides being one of the most cost-effective options they are very easy to install. They are pre-primed, are softer than pure wood, and ideally suitable for do-it-yourself projects. MDF resists fungus and molds so ideally suited to ocean front or moist, foggy environments. MDF baseboards are made of wood fibers mixed in resins and pressed together under high heat. The bonding agents holding them together may contain formaldehyde that can release gases into your home for years.

PVC Baseboards

We typically associate PVC with plumbing but it is now possible to get them baseboards. They resist all types of natural elements and are great for places where water is going to be an issue. Although the PVC boards themselves are a fairly cheap option, the problem is that they tend to be brittle. Each time the installer will need to drill a hole wherever a nail is. This adds to the installation cost.

Aluminum Baseboards

Aluminum baseboard is increasingly popular in modern decoration. It beautifies the space, protects the corners and ground just like all baseboards. Moreover, compared to other materials, aluminum baseboard has higher strength and flexibility, and is also resistant to mildew, moisture and termite. Aluminum is eco-friendly too as it can be 100% recycled. As long as they are installed properly, aluminum baseboards can last for decades.

When purchasing an aluminum baseboard, pay attention to match the color and finish with the home decoration style. Make sure you have all accessories and fixing parts.

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