August 2008
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Stretch storage space
Cabinet testing
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Moveable storage devices make it easier to reach or to use every inch of your cabinet space. Before you head to the home center or organizing store, examine the contents of your cabinets and counters. Small appliances eat up counter space and make a kitchen feel cluttered. Next, carefully measure cabinet interiors. Many organizers we tested come in various sizes, and the dimensions are usually listed on the box, but fractions of an inch count.

When you get to the store, read the installation directions. Check to see whether they’re clear and that the cabinet space project is on a par with your skill level. Some instructions left our seasoned testers baffled. While some companies claim a screwdriver is all it takes to install their organizers, we think a power drill is a must for this project. A drill-bit extender, available at hardware stores, is helpful for fastening screws in tight spaces.

Pull-out shelves

These shelves are typically installed in base cabinets, on the bottom of the box itself or on an existing fixed shelf, or in both places. They create accessible storage in cluttered kitchens for consumers’ most-mentioned items, including small appliances (34 percent), papers (28 percent), and food items (17 percent). A few points to consider:

Rev-A-Shelf pull-out shelf cabinet organizer
Rev-A-Shelf pull-out shelf
Determine the volume. Some shelves are deeper than others, and ones with sloped slides might hold less than ones with straight shelves. Case in point: The Knape & Vogt MU14-W and the Rubbermaid 80340 are both 14 inches wide, but only the straight-sided Rubbermaid could handle a pair of 2-pound coffee containers side by side.

Decide on the cabinet space construction. Solid-construction shelves contain spills and keep small items from falling through. But open wire shelves make it easier to see items stored in the cabinet space. Beefy, industrial-looking metal was preferred by some of our staff members, but if you have white interiors, you might want painted or powder-coated metal.

Look for smooth mechanics. A drawer that slides in and out of cabinet space easily will probably function better over time than one that sticks. We placed a 10-pound weight in each drawer and then used a force gauge to determine resistance.

Retractable trash cans

Trash cans are always installed in base cabinets, preferably under the sink or as close to it as possible. For undersink cabinets, make sure the plumbing won’t be in the way.

Pick a type. Some trash cans slide in and out of cabinet space on tracks that are mounted to the bottom of the cabinet. Others attach to the cabinet door. On-the-door units are pricier and a lot harder to install, requiring complicated shimming unless the cabinet is precisely the right size. But they let you use the cabinet handle to access the trash can, rather than having to reach for the can itself.

Consider the configuration. Some models have multiple bins that hold recyclables in addition to trash. The Rev-A-Shelf 4WCTM-12DM1, for example, comes with two or four containers. Other models, including the Knape & Vogt PDMTM15-2-35, include a mini bin designed to hold extra trash bags.

Think about durability. Our testers subjected the receptacles to 30,000 repetitions (see Inside CR Test Labs). In endurance tests, ball-bearing assemblies historically do better than those with nylon wheels. So we were surprised when one sample of the Closetmaid 3185-31, which has a ball-bearing design, ground to a halt after just 2,500 cycles.

Lazy Susans

Knape & Vogt lazy Susan cabinet organizer
Knape & Vogt lazy Susan
Those organizers make the recesses of corner cabinets more accessible.

Weigh the difficulties. The simplest lazy Susan is harder to install than most other cabinet space organizers we tested. That’s because the center pole has to be perfectly plumb for the unit to rotate smoothly. And if you have stone or composite counters, you’ll need to add a spacing block inside the cabinet to attach the lazy Susan’s top spindle mount.

Realize the storage limitations. Even with their adjustable shelves, lazy Susans can’t fit everything. Our testers had to tilt an average-sized coffeemaker to get it into and out of one unit.

Learn more about how we test kitchen-cabinet organizers. Watch our testing machine in action in the video above.