5 Ways to Fix Out-of-Whack Dresser Drawers

I knew the drawers on this vintage buffet were a little out-of-whack when I bought it, but I was confident I could fix them. I did! And I learned some new tricks along the way.
1. Nix the nails!

Check for protruding nails or screws that could block the drawers from operating smoothly. I pulled so many nails out of this piece in really weird places. I’m not even sure what half of them were intended to do.

Nails are usually not the best things to use when repairing furniture. Use wood screws instead. They will “bite” into the wood and hold it in place better than a nail.

And—for goodness sake!—only put a screw where you need one to join two pieces of wood together. These nails were just sticking out of the back of one of the drawers for no good reason I could figure out.
2. Get the glue!

Check for any loose pieces on the drawers or inside the base of the dresser. Squirt a little wood glue, clamp it and/or place heavy objects (like books) over it to hold it in place while the glue dries.
3. New runners are easy to make.

This buffet was missing three runners. Without a set track to glide over, the drawers get all wiggly-jiggly and are hard to close properly. Luckily, I found two of the missing runners jammed in the back of the buffet when I removed the drawers. Those were easy enough to repair—just a dab of wood glue and a wood tack on each end to hold them in place. (See Tip #4 for more on that.)

I brought one of the runners to the hardware store with me and bought a piece of wood trim about the same thickness for a few dollars. Then I used the existing runner to trace a pattern and cut out a new one.
4. Remove the back of your piece. Make sure your runners are square in the front AND back.

THIS! This was the most important thing I learned on this project!

Removing the back panel also allows better access when attaching the runners in the back. Now they are right up front and you can reach them! It also gives you space to place a clamp while the glue dries for a better hold.
5. Lube it up!

Take an old candle or a bar of soap and run it along the runners, the bottom of the drawers and anywhere inside the piece where the drawers will touch when they are in place. This is a great trick to help them glide more smoothly.
Get more details on all five tips, check out my BONUS TIP, and see the finished buffet over at my All Things New Again Blog.
Courtney @ All Things New Again
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
Frequently asked questions
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  2 questions
  • Laurie Laurie on May 12, 2018

    I have an antique dresser I brought home and top drawer has no runner it is wobbly I don’t have saws and routers but this needs some work! There are two little nubs of wood inside drawer hole , spaced about where a runner might go , that don’t do much to stabilize it. Any ideas would be helpful


  • Jerry Baggerley Jerry Baggerley on Oct 17, 2019

    I have a dresser with wooden slides. The small plastic strips that the drawer slid on have worn through. Can I just replace the plastic pieces and where can I get them?

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