Extended Shelf Life


So, if you follow me on Pinterest (for those missing out, find me here), you saw me obliterate the site with pantry picture after pantry picture.  Our pantry needed a serious storage overhaul.  Yes, cue the “first world problem” joke now.

Here’s what we were working with.

Not too bad so far, but let’s open the door.


Yikes, look at all those groceries.  Hmm how to reach them?  Easy solution- just wheel the thing out as it was intended.

Hm, no dice.  Still stuck in the same spot.  Ugh.  The pantry solution they built didn’t live up to its intended purposes, unfortunately.  The weight of all the groceries made the whole thing ineffective.  The thing was supposed to pull out much like the below picture.

There was just too much weight for the tiny wheels to do their job.  We were running into two main problems:

1) We weren’t making effective use of all the space.  Look at all that potential storage!

2) Groceries were getting lost in the back which is the reason we found a box of crackers that expired a year before we eventually found them.  Mm, tasty.

So, the dreaming began.  I found these magnificent pantry solutions on Pinterest.


Ah, yes, the solution would be individual pull-out shelves.  It was perfect!  That way we wouldn’t need to worry about pulling the whole pantry out thus running into the same weight problems.

I had visions of Container Store-level storage solutions dancing in my head.

I found these bamboo pull-out drawer options at Container Store but the maximum width was 20″ and we needed something 22″ wide.  And they were $69 each, meaning for five shelves we were looking at $345.  Not an ideal price for something that we’d have to figure out how to fit anyways.

We found another solution at Lowe’s in which we could order shelves that fit to our exact specifications through a vendor called Slide-A-Shelf.


We were getting closer to a solution but the price was still a little disheartening.  We were now looking at $425.  As Chris added this up in his head, I could tell he was convincing himself that he could replicate this for MUCH less expensive.

And we were off!  New pantry here we come!

The one thing I didn’t consider was the fact that we’d be living out of storage bins for meals.

Scrounging around plastic bins to find sugar, Paprika, and mac and cheese wasn’t exactly a thrill ride for someone OCD about organization.  Needless to say, the pressure was on to wrap this one up quickly.  Well, quickly turned out to be closer to four weeks rather than Chris’ original projection of it being just a “weekend project.”  My daily chants of “are we done yet, are we done yet?” probably didn’t help too much either.  Thank God one of us has patience (hint- it’s not me).


There were a few items we found in this house that had us scratching our heads- the gun rack/mini bar combo, the wood paneling, the freaky faucet in the guest bathroom- and the pantry was no exception, albeit a little more subtly. It was on wheels and presumably built with the intention that the entire contraption would roll out, but anything more than a bag of chips would weigh it down too much to roll… so getting to the pasta was a bit like spelunking. It was fairly well-made and was easy to hide (they had the decency to include a built in door… how thoughtful) so it took a back seat to a lot of other projects. Watching Julie struggle to reach the Pop-Tarts, though, I knew a solution would have to be found eventually.

Enter Pinterest, the bane of my existence.

Apparently while I sleep at night, Julie scours that stupid website for inspiration on ways to keep us busy on weekends. She stumbled upon pull-out pantry shelves, and it was all downhill from there. She went from dropping hints to flat-out pestering me to “fix” the pantry, and even put it on her Christmas list (seriously). I knew that I wasn’t going to get away with keeping the old pantry around much longer.

As with all of our projects, we looked into professional solutions first (just because I can do these things doesn’t mean I want to do these things). Conservatively, we were looking at approximately $400 for a standard solution that we would have to modify to fit, or over $500 for a custom fit solution… I’d rather keep tunneling to the basil. We then went to the store in search of a way to do this ourselves, and found some drawer slides in the home storage aisle that would bring the total closer to $200 (or $33 each), which was a bit easier to swallow, but still not tasty enough for our budget… no, we needed eBay- $48 shipped. 10-12 business days later and we were on our way to a new pantry (we purchase the 6 drawer slides for $5.99 each here).

First things first- out with the old. Once we took all the food out (the dining room table was now our makeshift pantry), it actually rolled. Sort of.


I wheeled it out the back door and stored in on the patio for a week. Fortunately bulk trash day was just around the corner, so I hacked it up with a sawzall and left it in a pile by the curb, never to be seen again.

Next, we decided to paint the walls inside the pantry. It had never been painted, and parts of it had never even been finished, and were still bare drywall. We decided to paint it the same color as the kitchen cabinets, but quite frankly you can’t even tell. Whatever.

Now the fun part- build five pull-out shelves. The means five shelves, mounting boards for five shelves, brackets for five shelves, fitting five shelves, sanding five shelves, painting five shelves… you get the idea. This was probably the most tedious project I’ve done in a long time.

I began by building the mounts for the brackets. These are critical in terms of support, but it’s not essential that they be pretty, or even exact, for that matter, so I cut 20 pieces of wood (10 2x3s and 10 1x2s). I used 2x3s because I had some left over from another project, and 1x2s because they’re not much bigger then the slides. Anyway, I mounted the 2x3s to the wall and wasn’t sure whether or not I anchored them to the beam, so I ran screws diagonally into the door frame to ensure they were mounted securely. The 2x3s didn’t add enough width in order to accommodate a shelf narrow enough to fit through the doorway when pulled out, so I had to mount 1x2s onto the 2x3s.


The most difficult part of this process (apart from the tediousness) was making sure everything was level. In order for the shelves to slide out properly, everything has to be even and level, not only in reference to itself but also in reference to its opposing piece. Doing it right for all five shelves was at least an entire day’s work!

Once the mounts were up, I could install the sliders- sort of. I actually had to pull the sliders apart and mount one half to the brackets, the other half to the shelves. This was probably the most frustrating part of the entire project. I realized early on that the pantry itself was not square and in fact narrowed as you went toward the back wall. Fortunately the slides had mounting tabs that allowed for gradual adjustments, so I was able to shim them out until both side were equidistant across the entire depth of the pantry.


If you’re still with me after the last two paragraphs, you’ve made your high school geometry teacher proud.


If you’re not with him, don’t sweat it.  I was lost on day one.


Anyway, we were finally getting to the meat and potatoes of the project- the shelves. Shelves are generally pretty straightforward, but this was a unique situation in that every shelf had it’s own unique width, and it had to be exact. When drawers are built for furniture, cabinets, etc., they’re built in a factory which ensures computer-aided precision measurements every time… I just had a tape measure. I measured the distance between the slides but had to subtract the width of the 1x4s I was using for the sides, and that was the width of the base. I had to make five unique measurements and precision cuts for the shelf bases, and once I had those pieces I had to make four sides for each one. I used 1x4s for the sides and back and 1x2s for the front so that the contents of each shelf would be easier to see, and to act as a handle. Finally, I nailed the inner slide piece to each side of the shelf. After almost going deaf from driving 125 nails into these things, I had some functional shelves.

Safety first!


The last order of business was to sand and paint everything.  I used high-quality wood which has pretty sharp edges, so we rounded them off and painted everything with an oil-based enamel so that it wouldn’t rub off from all the abuse they will undoubtedly suffer through.


I got the shelves installed but wasn’t satisfied with the amount of effort they needed to be pulled in and out. I insisted on ball-bearing sliders, but we definitely ended up with a lower end product. I doused the bearings and slider contact points with white lithium grease, and the difference was night and day (just don’t tell Julie I used automotive-grade lubricants in her kitchen)!

After getting everything installed I noticed what was possibly the greatest oversight in the history of the house: there was several feet of space above the shelves that had never been utilized properly, so I quickly cut two permanent shelves out of scrap wood to allow for storage of some of the items we don’t use very often. I mounted up the door I cut to size, mounted a spice rack to the door, and we were finally able to get our non-perishables out of plastic boxes.

If you think this post was long, well… so was the project. Believe it or not, this took longer than both our bathrooms combined. With more than a week’s worth of cumulative work days, this was perhaps the most labor-intensive project to date. As tedious as it was at times, it was definitely worth it. It required plenty of problem solving, precision, and craftsmanship to be something I’m truly proud of. Best of all, though, is that Julie is absolutely ecstatic and loves the new pantry, which made it all worth it… because that’s one less thing she can bug me about now.


There’s just something about a new door that makes me so happy.

Look at all those crisp, white shelves just waiting to be stuffed with groceries!

Chris’ brilliant upper, fixed shelves for storing non-everyday items, aka Julie needs a stool to reach.

You know we had to do a staggered shot to show up those catalog, inspiration photos.  Oh la la.

And here are the shelves at their max length.  Look at all that storage!

It didn’t take us long to cram the shelves full again.

Everything is so easy to reach now.  It’s been a HUGE difference in grocery grabbing morale around here.

And here’s a full shot (although it doesn’t even show the upper, fixed cabinet).  Man, we crammed a lot of shelves in there.

Ah, there are those upper shelves.  Guess we won’t be needing you anytime soon, mister red solo cup.

And now for that spice rack.  Did this fool you into thinking I’m an expert chef?  (Pst, I’m the furthest thing from that.  Chris pretty much does all the cooking).

Did you notice those oh-so-cute labeled glass jars peeking out in some of the pictures?  We’ll be posting about those soon so stay tuned!



Filed under Kitchen

81 responses to “Extended Shelf Life

  1. Aileen Johnson

    Love It! I wish all the shelves in my pantry slid out. It makes it so much easier to find things. Chris did a wonderful job.

    • DO or DIY

      Who knew something so simple could be such a godsend? i highly recommend it!

      • Daline

        the only thing that I would have done different is have the door hinge on the opposite side. Seems like it would be more convenient??

      • DO or DIY

        1) It would have been way more convenient, but if the hinges were on the other side we wouldn’t have been able to open the door far enough to slide the shelves out due to the trim around the doorway leading to the dining room.

        2) After an epic battle of penny-pinching vs. quality materials, the door is currently leaning against a wall in the dining room. Stay tuned for a “pantry door revisited” post.


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  3. Gorgeous!!! I have tons of “how to” sites pinned on this very topic, but yours was BY FAR the clearest, most realistic demonstration of how to actually DO it. 🙂 Thanks!!!!

    • DO or DIY

      Ah, thank you! So glad to hear your feedback! Good luck if you’re about to set off on your own pull-out drawer creation. Now, having had ours for two months, I have no idea how we did without for so long! Thanks for stopping by!


  4. Mary Kate

    What did you use for the base of the shelves? Is that plywood?

    • DO or DIY

      I used a prefabricated product that is basically several slats of pine pressed together to form a shelf. It’s available at most home improvement stores and is generally the simplest solution for building a shelf that is almost a square because it’s available in depths up to 24″. Plywood may have been more cost-effective, but it would have taken considerably more time to cut.


  5. Corby

    You had my full attention until you hacked up the old pantry shelves with a saw….and threw them away to go to the landfill. You could have just left them in their good condition at the street for someone else to take and use. You completely discredited this blog for me. They would have made someone a very nice shelving unit for linens, towels, etc…for the garage, etc. Wasteful people. Very disappointed in you both.

    • DO or DIY

      Hi Corby,

      Thanks for your concern, but the real reason I cut the shelves up (at 11pm the night before “bulk trash day”) was so that our trash collectors would have something a bit more manageable than a 7′, 100+lbs pile of wood to deal with. These guys work hard and some people throw away some really heavy items, and quite frankly I don’t want to be “that house.”

      The truth is that what you can’t see in the pictures is that those shelves were beyond disgusting: an unknown number of years of scratches, spills, and general abuse made them suitable for nothing less than the trash pile. We initially considered converting the existing shelves into our “slide-out” type, but the wood was probably within a few months of the early stages of rot, and quite frankly the idea of someone putting them in their home makes me sick. Trust me, if there were a way to save them, we would have done it ourselves.


      • jodi goodman

        I’m sad too.😢 Coat of paint is magical!!!! Should see some of my before and afters!!!!!! Someone would have loved to have had them!!!!

    • DO or DIY

      Hi Corby,
      I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about your comment and was actually talking to some friends about what to do with housewares no longer needed. We ran into this issue this past weekend when we stopped by Salvation Army to donate an old TV. To my surprise, they wouldn’t take it. They have a policy of only accepting TVs newer than 2008 (which our TV isn’t) which made me think of your comment. What do you do when not even the non-profit organizations will take your unwanted items?

      Then, I had a friend introduce me to this site called “The Freecycle Network”: http://www.freecycle.org/ where you can post your unwanted (free for the taking) items under your particular city. What a great idea to reuse items and keep them out of our landfills! Craigslist also has a free section that I tend to forget about. We will definitely be keeping these options in mind next time we have an unwanted item that we’re not sure what to do with.

      Thanks for your comment! It really got us thinking!

      • Leslie

        What a nice, polite and well-researched reply to a somewhat snarky comment! At least the wood will eventually rot, unlike most things sent to landfills.

      • monica.trautwein

        Second-ing Leslie’s comment. Your reply is a great testament to your values. It’s refreshing and I appreciate you for it.

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  7. I need the exact thing in my pantry. Can I borrow you? LOL

  8. Stephanie

    Brilliant and superbly done! I’m not sure why you put the new door on to open from the right. I think it would have been easier to have it open like the old door (with the opening on the left).

    • DO or DIY

      Hi Stephanie,

      I actually pondered this very conundrum for hours, and you’re absolutely right- it would be more convenient if the hinges were on the right. Unfortunately, there’s an entryway into the dining room just to the right of the pantry, and that frame would have prevented the door from being opened enough to allow the shelves to slide out. With a right-hinged door I had about 90* of door motion whereas with the hinges on the left, I have about 120*.


      • Stephanie

        That’s what I wondered . . . . which is probably why the old shelves didn’t slide out. I’m not sure I would want the door opening like that. . . I’d probably consider an alternative or no door. Great job, by the way! Can I hire you to fix MY house? **grin**


        How about forgetting that particular door and install a bi-fold. It would require putting the hardware on top of that frame. It could be a louvered door or a solid one. Probably can be seen in the closet department of the hardware store or Big Box stores.

  9. I’ve done a couple of these and they are indeed picky work. Kudos on your grand success and good measuring. For mounting the rails though, I would suggest pocket screws, ie Kreg screws. Coarse thread 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches in length. The softer or crumblier your wood, read mdf or particle board, the longer the screw you’d use. This puts the pressures on the screws to hold the weight and, as important, movement further from the edge of the wood, and therefore allows the forces to be spread out through more of the material. It also ties the wood and sides together even more. Nails will work, but may work out in the mid to long term. Unnoticed this could allow your heavy laden shelf to crash down and out as you pull on it one day. I would also recommend a high quality/grade construction adhesive at every joint. Loctite’s PL Premium is what I use most. This further reduces stresses on the joints and fasteners.

    A fun, satisfying and challenging project. A hearty “Atta boy!” to Chris

    • DO or DIY

      Thanks for the tip, Bill!

      The ultimate goal of any project we do, of course, is to be as budget-oriented as possible. In this case, that meant using glues and fasteners that I already had on hand. Keeping that in mind, I “doubled up” on the number of nails and screws and ensured I had redundant support, so hopefully we won’t see any surprises anytime soon. Nonetheless, I’m definitely cautious about heavy loads and am keeping a close eye on the condition of my shelves.


  10. What?!?!!? This is brilliant!! I absolutely need to do this in my house!!! Does your door not get into the way of the shelves at all????

    • DO or DIY

      It’s definitely close for a few shelves, but the door doesn’t get in the way much (though one shelf will hit it if it’s not opened all the way, and actually had to be notched slightly). The trick is to make sure the door can open more than 90* so it will swing clear of the shelves.


      • Oh shoot! I don’t think I can do this in my pantry even though I would LOVE to. The way our pantry is in the kitchen, the door opens towards the wall and there’s no putting the door through the wall allowed. Darn! Oh well, there are wire shelves in the pantry now and I will just be happy to get some solid wood shelves in there! Pull out or not!

        – Runt

      • DO or DIY

        Figuring out the door was definitely a headache, but I did make one critical error: I built the shelves assuming they’d clear the door. There was no existing door or frame, so I had no way to accurately account for the reduced width through the frame due to the door. The only solution at that point was to manipulate the hinge placement the make sure the door swung open wider.

        In your case, all you have to do is measure the distance from the back of the opened door to the other side of the frame and then build shelves or a slightly lower width. Your shelves may not be as wide, but trust me, the increase in convenience far outweighs the decreased space!


      • Hm.. I guess that does make sense. Maybe I’ll take a measuring tape to the pantry when I get home and see just how much of a difference the width would be from that point…. Any ideas on what to do with the extra space that will be on the side where the door is? I may be thinking about this wrong, but if I do what you suggested, wouldn’t there be dead space on the side of the wall where the back of the door is?


      • DO or DIY

        There will be dead space, but trust me, it will be worth it. Depending on how wide it is, you could possibly make a small shelf for some of your less-frequently used items.

      • I will definitely give it a try! Thanks for all your help!!

      • DO or DIY

        Good luck!! It’s a lot of work and time but so worth it in the end!


  11. sheluvz2cook

    I just want to say….”GREAT IDEA!”
    THANK YOU :),

  12. Kelly

    Aaaah! Finally! I’ve been scouring the Interwebs for a decent (not too expensive) alternative to the cavernous pantry I have in my kitchen. It’s such a mess, it hurts my feelings. It’s 24 inches deep, 16 inches wide and each of the 3 sections is a little over 2 feet tall with ONE. SHELF. EACH. I’m pretty sure there is stuff breeding back in the recesses of this thing. I CAN’T WAIT to try this! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    • DO or DIY

      Haha, you are so welcome, Kelly! Good luck on your own adventures into pantry renovating- it sounds enormous… but in all the wrong ways! I have to tell you- my life is so much easier with these new pull-out drawers (as first world of a problem as that sounds). 🙂


  13. Mary

    I love this idea!. Our house had one built into the kitchen when we moved in. However, I had my husband add one shelf. It seemed to me that there was still some wasted space in our unit. I asked him to build a shlf that was just the right size for a loaf of bread and hamburger/hot dog buns. And Presto!..we now have a bread shelf! (not bread box). Works great. My door opens from the other side–keeping eyesight “in” the kitchen–so I can watch what’s cooking.

    • DO or DIY

      Isn’t it amazing what a little shelf reorganization will do? I wish we could leave our pantry door open but our little mischief maker (*ahem Chloe the cat) likes to wander in and hide out. 🙂


  14. I am working on the same type of project and am looking at drawer slides. Were you unhappy with your choice of drawer slides? Would you choose something different?

  15. Kev

    OK, you two need to stop blogging about your awesome DIY projects; my wife is getting all kinds of crazy ideas for me to do! 😉 Your skills (and tool collection) greatly outweigh mine.

    From what my wife has shown me of your blog, you guys do a great job on your projects!


    • DO or DIY

      Kev, this may be my favorite comment to date. Haha! Thanks for stopping by and good luck with the wife’s requests! If she’s anything like me, I’m sure you have yourself a handful!


  16. cheryl

    What you did looks fabulous! And should work great. Seems like a lot of work though. I kept wondering why you would chop up good shelves, then make more? Would it not have been much easier to just add/replace the cheezy wheels with some heavy duty ones?

    • DO or DIY

      Hi Cheryl,

      It was a lot of work, but totally worth it in the end. I love the convenience of not having to reach to the back of a shelf and knock over everything along the way.

      I hacked up the old shelves for a variety of reasons. For starters, they just weren’t an effective use of the space. Second, I don’t think people realize how heavy all of your food can get, and how much work it is to roll it out (plus the weight of the shelves) just to get a can of soup. The individual shelves are much larger, lighter, and are less work to move in and out.

      More than anything, though, the shelves weren’t in very good condition. Years of scratches, spills, and who knows what else had taken their toll. I don’t think they were very sanitary, and I suspect the wood was in early stages of deterioration. I cut it up into more manageable chunks so it would be easier for our garbage guys to handle.


  17. Christy

    What are your dimensions of your pantry. Ours is very narrow and very deep. Wondering if this would work for us? Would love to know the size of yours…..?

    • DO or DIY

      Hi Christy,
      Our Pantry is 26″ W x 22″ D x 8 feet tall. I would consider ours narrow and deep as well, which is why we really needed pull-out shelves. I could never find everything in our pantry when the shelves were stationary. I had stuff hidden all the way in the back that would get lost back there!


  18. Jamie

    Can I ask an approximate price range? Like under $100, $200, etc. I found this product called QuikTrays and was thinking of purchasing but if your DIY is more cost effective I may try it myself too.

    • DO or DIY

      Hi Jamie,
      The 5 drawer slides cost us $48 total (including tax and shipping) and the wood was definitely under $50 so I’d approximate this project at just under $100. We had a funky sized pantry so we knew going the manufacturer pre-built route wasn’t an option without going custom (which means expensive) so this was the most cost effective method available to us. Hope that helps!


  19. Linda

    Kudos to the husband for such a great job on the shelves..And you are a fortunate lady…Does he know about swing clear but hinges? They might make it possible for the door to open from the opposite side…

    • DO or DIY

      We’ll have to look into that hinge option. We’re actually about to put up the new door we picked out so this will come in handy! Thanks for the tip, Linda.


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  21. Lisa Simmons

    Thank you for posting this. This is really nice and I have been looking for a great panty pull out idea.

  22. So the gliders were $48 but do you know what the total project cost was? Just curious how much it ended up saving after all the wood, etc. Thanks!

    • DO or DIY

      The wood added up to about $50 so we were right around the $100 mark for the full pantry renovation. Much better than the $200-400 comparable options we found!


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  25. So how are those gliders holding up after two years? I am about a week away from starting this project myself..

  26. Maggie

    OMG! I have hated my pantry for 6 YEARS! among other things…. and finally started to look for ways to fix things around here with a rather limited budget (I use the term loosely). This is PERFECT! Thank you so much! Hubby has this great collection of tools, stuff I never knew existed, so after repurposing a bathroom shelf unit that about tipped right into the shower, making it an elevated “doggie table” (and learning what a router is when it’s not for home networking, but wood), my confidence level is almost there for something like this. The detail y’all put in (since I’m rather OCD about directions) has me thinking I might be able to pull this off (with a few mess-ups along the way, I’m sure). But great job! And thanks!

  27. Elizabeth

    Hey Chris, do you fancy a trip to England? I’ve got loads of shelves etc needs putting up! Lol
    Great job.

    • DO or DIY

      Don’t tempt him! He’d hop across the pond in a split second if given the chance… especially if you live close to a pub. 🙂


  28. What a great way to update your non-functional pantry. I love it people take on a project themselves and have such success. Storage seems to be the trend with home buyers these days. Keep up the good work!

  29. M. Wilson

    Ok. So i built a pocket door for my pantry for maximum clearance. About to start this project and was wondering is the height of the shelves and are you happy with the space?

  30. give Chris a medal, or a trophy or a trip to Hawaii. He deserves it. Beautiful job

  31. Todd B

    In your last picture, I’m wondering how you secured the wire shelf to your door (my door isn’t completely solid).


    • DO or DIY

      We used mounting tabs found at home improvement stores. Our door is solid wood so it may not hold as securely on yours so you may want to secure in a few additional places for extra measure.


  32. Diane

    I’m definitely jealous. I paid a lot of money to have pull out shelves in my pantry when a local big box store installed new cabinets in my kitchen. Unfortunately the stuff the cabinet wall is made of is so thin the weight of the groceries caused the mounts to pull out of the wall. So now my pantry holds only light things:spices, wraps, tea bags, etc. what a waste! You give me inspiration though – am going to figure out how to reinforce those walls!


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  34. Denise

    Laughing right now, because I have the same floor tile, and the same deep cabinets. I am soooo doing this. Thanks for the great info, as it will be a huge life saver! No more old cans, and lost straws!

  35. Melodee Hadaway

    Newbie here. What length of sliders did you use? Our closet(converting into pantry) is 29 inches wide x 24 inches deep, not accounting for door frame. How much framing(door frame consideration) did you figure into it? Thanks.Mel…

  36. Beth Bishop

    I have to tell you, that looks like sn enormous amount of work! Great job! I’m curious. It appears that the new door you installed is hinged at the left, whereas the old door was hinged on the right allowing much easier access to the kitchen. Am I wrong? Was there a reason for that? And, if you had to do it again, would you use a door hinged on the right?

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  38. Lisa Love

    I need help! I can’t get my slides to work. We put the drawer in alright, but as we push in the front sides pop out. I figured the problem was that the frame was too wide so I have cut back the width. See I had to build a frame because the left side of the pantry is much deeper that the door opens. So one side is anchored to the wall and the other side is connected by back braces.

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  40. Annie

    Why didn’t you have the door open the other way?

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