Drawer Bottom Construction Material

Home-center cabs may use 1/8" plywood for drawer bottoms, but pros in this thread explain why they prefer 1/4" or 1/2" material. December 27, 2006

I'm nearing the end of a 17 cabinet kitchen remodel. I've decided to outsource the doors and build the drawer boxes myself. What type of drawer bottom material is everyone using? I've noticed the commercial home improvement store versions use a 1/8" thick material, which I can't find anywhere. I'm contemplating using a 1/4" birch ply, but that seems thick to me. The cabinets are maple, and the boxes will be maple or hickory (light color).

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor J:
Quarter inch is not a little thick. It's the norm in my area. I would never use 1/8th. I'm sure it would stand up, but my reputation wouldn't. If you use 1/8th, make sure your drawers are not very wide. I would try to stay under 12" wide.

From contributor V:
Don't be misled by HD quality drawers. Somebody will buy them, but 1/8 bottoms, in my opinion, is as cheesy as you can get. I use nothing less than 1/4" and that's for budget projects. I can buy pre-finished plywood drawer side material that is already routed with 1/4" slot for the bottom, but if I'm making my own dovetail drawers, I'll usually route out for 3/8". Sometimes I'll even use 1/2" if it's an oversized drawer for small appliances or pots and pans. It's a little overkill, but I like the extra strength.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. 1/4" it is (minimum), and I'll look into the 3/8" or 1/2" for the pots/pans drawer. I was echoing comments from the boss (wife) about 1/4" seeming thick. 1/8" does seem thin and cheesy in anything but the smallest utensil drawers.

From contributor B:
In an effort to standardize how I build, I changed from 1/4" for regular drawers and 1/2" for pot drawers, to using all 1/2". I don't have to stock two sizes of ply and I can groove away when making parts. Makes for a tough box.

From contributor D:
Another vote for all 1/2". People appreciate that rock solid, always-flat feel. Makes a nice dull thud when you knock on it.

From contributor L:
1/2" Baltic birch bottoms in 5/8" soft maple sides.

From contributor H:
We use 1/4" melamine on an MDF core for our drawer bottoms. The sides and back are 1/2" Baltic birch.

From contributor E:
I switched to the 3/8" ply, myself. The 1/4" always seemed a little thin. I use dovetailed maple drawers, so 3/8" is the biggest groove I can cut without cutting part of the pins off. Although I do like the idea of using 1/2" to avoid having another size ply.

From contributor O:
I build my dovetail drawer boxes out of either 5/8" poplar or 5/8" maple Euro ply. All my bottoms are now made from 1/2" ply. As soon as the 1/4" ply started to be thinner than 7/32", I needed to make two passes with a saw blade instead of one pass with a dado. Too much time. Makes for a strong drawer. I would never think of using the 1/8" masonite; way to cheap.

From contributor Y:
I use 1/2 pre-finished ply with a butt joint ply drawer and undermount slides. The front and back are 1" shorter than the sides so that the bottom is 1/2" short from the front to the back. This way I do not have to notch for track and I pocket hole the sides of the bottom to the drawer sides and staple and screw the drawer bottom to the front and back. I can stand inside this drawer at full extension and often do it to demo for clients. At 175lbs that's pretty strong, in my opinion.

From contributor A:
Use Zargen from Grass or Blum meta boxes, min 1/2" bottom, but we use 3/4". Makes everything else look and feel cheap.

From contributor S:
We've recently switched over to 1 in and an 8th bottoms. What a difference these things made! I mean, I can dance in my drawers...

From contributor J:
1 1/8" bottoms? Are you insane? Why do you need to dance or stand in your drawer bottoms, for that matter?

From the original questioner:
Agreed. Exaggeration, perhaps? Glue a 1/2" ply and a 5/8" ply together to make 1-1/8"?

From contributor F:

My drawer boxes are 12mm (1/2") Baltic birch, sides and bottoms. There's nothing wrong with 1/4" bottoms. But the cost to go with the 12mm birch for the bottoms isn't that big a deal, and I use my construction method to outsell my competition. The housewives get worried if they get a drawer with a 1/4" bottom, as it will be another bad drawer that they have all come to get used to. On really cheap houses (for cheap builders), sometimes I will scab on a 1/4" birch skin (glue and staple) when I'm using Blum 230 el cheapo slides. Those drawers hold up very well. 1/8" ply for bottoms is why people come to all of us custom cabinetmakers for cabinets, as they want something better. Thanks to Home Depot, Lowe's, Jerry's Home Centers for selling really bad semi-custom cabinets for too much money to the public. I hope they keep using 1/8th skins for drawer bottoms, and that strange cheap particle board with the paper face on all of their cabinets, even on the high priced ones.

From contributor Y:
We build our drawers for strength and keeping material costs in line. Since our cabinets have 1/2 backs, we save on labour by not making grooves, backer stretchers, and give the client a full 12" inside as the back is nailed and screwed on. The fall-offs from the sheets give us all our drawer sides and many of our drawer bottoms as well, except for really wide pot and pan drawers. The fall-offs of the 3/4" cabinet sides and shelves give us the front and back for our drawer. All this optimization of material saves us money, waste disposal costs, and gives the client a great product. If I can stand in my drawers at full extension and impress a client, that is an extra bonus and is part of the marketing process. A 1/2" bottom that is pocket-holed to the sides is strong and fast, as I have a fast pneumatic pocket hole machine. It takes less than two minutes to assemble my drawer and bore back hole for tandem track and install front drawer catch. Whatever works best for you is great. Happy and profitable drawer building to all!

From contributor P:
I use 5/8 sides and ends, and pocket hole the ends to the sides, so there are no visible fasteners, once the drawer front is added. I use 1/2" bottoms... wouldn't even consider a 1/4". For 230 M, Blum, I staple the bottom to the sides and ends, full overlay. For tandem, I put it in a 1/2" wide x 1/4" deep groove. These drawers are solid.

From contributor Z:
The crowd roared when this took place about 10 years ago in a main isle in Atlanta, as the demonstrator picked himself up off the show floor...

A sales manager for a well known hardware company (man and company shall remain nameless), did stand in a cabinet drawer to prove capacity of the drawer suspension system. The cabinet collapsed! The 1/4" drawer bottom did not fail. 1 vote for 1/4" bottoms!

From contributor T:
To keep it simple, I use 1/2" Baltic birch for all drawer parts. Butt joints with the bottom and sides. All parts are glued and stapled. They are very strong, easy to assemble and I only have to work with a single thickness of ply - KISS.