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Old 01-27-2014, 06:01 PM   #1
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Fleetwood Cabinet Drawer Mod

This thread details modifications that I made to the drawers inside my motorhome. I apologize for the length of this post, but I wanted to give as much detail as possible, in case any of you wish to attempt the same mod. This was a time consuming and difficult project. I would only recommend it for someone that has good cabinetry skills. I do not - and as a result, I now have high blood pressure and less hair on my head.

Anyone that’s looked beyond the surface of their Fleetwood cabinets, knows that Fleetwood has never been known for the quality of their cabinet making. There are trade off’s in purchasing an RV however, so this was something I had to take into consideration when I bought my Providence seven years ago.

Fast-forward to now: the bottoms of several of the drawers throughout my MH are beginning to cave in. After removing the drawers and examining them, I found that Fleetwood cut corners when they made the drawers. They stapled the drawers together and used inexpensive paper thin wood for the drawer bottoms. These drawer bottoms are unable to stand up to the rigors of RV use. The bottom pieces are slid into a channel without any screws or glue. Any amount of weight in the drawers can cause the drawer bottoms to flex, especially when traveling. Several of mine have flexed to the point where they have caved in - popped out. Some of my drawer slides are failing as well. Some drawers don’t slide in/out without binding, and I keep finding ball bearings on the floor from the failing drawer slides.

I decided it was time to fix all of my drawer bottoms and replace all of the drawer slides. I could have just concentrated on the broken drawers, but I was sure that the remaining drawers would all fail over time. My 27 year old son made a hobby of woodworking many years ago, so I asked him if he could help me with this project. He agreed and we both figured it would take us about a week to complete...boy were we wrong!

My son did some research and said the easiest way to fix the drawer bottoms was to modify them, by gluing 1/4" plywood underneath the drawer bottoms. This worked well on most of the drawers, but the larger galley drawers needed something more, so we added cross-bracing below those drawer bottoms, along with glue along the drawer bottom edges. This part of the project was fairly easy.







I love the new soft closing drawer slides that are so popular in new homes today. They take extra force to open, so I thought they would be ideal in an RV. They are however fairly expensive. I came to the members of this forum for some suggestions on the best slides to use and got several replies. I ended up using Centerline soft closing slides from my local Rockler woodworking store on most of the drawers, and KV soft closing slides for four of my smaller 12" drawers (Rockler doesn’t make 12" slides).

Out of the box, three of the Rockler Centerline slides had to be returned due to defective soft closing mechanisms. Although the KV soft closing slides were a much cheaper design and were not as beefy as the Rockler slides, none of them proved to be defective.

This is where the project took a drastic turn - Fleetwood did a terrible job building the support structures for all of the coach’s drawers. Again, no screws or glue used, only staples. This allowed the drawer structures to flex side to side. Adding the heavier Rockler drawer slides only made this problem worse. On top of that, most of the drawer structures either had wood that was bowed or they were not stapled straight, which caused many of the drawers to bind. At this point we were forced to rebuild almost all of the drawer structures. This took a great deal of time and patience. I lost mine, so I am thankful that my son was able to keep his cool and push forward. Not a single drawer was easy, they all seem to take a 2-3 hours of work each to get them to open/close smoothly. This is where our level of inexperience came into play. Neither one of us had ever installed drawer slides before.

In all, we removed and modified 16 drawers - every drawer in the coach. The entire project ran me $460 in material. It took us four weeks to complete, not one as we originally thought. It took us 60+ hours. Would I attempt this again? No, I would have stopped with the drawer bottom mod and left the slides alone, but it may be easier for someone with a lot more cabinet experience.

Craig
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Old 01-27-2014, 06:44 PM   #2
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Sorry, but no problems with my 2003 Pace Arrow! Good information.

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Old 01-27-2014, 08:16 PM   #3
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Thanks for the great info Craig.
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Old 01-28-2014, 05:14 PM   #4
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I would probably have built new boxes and just attached the drawer fronts onto them. I'm going to do something similar for the drawer in my bathroom.

R
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Old 01-28-2014, 05:36 PM   #5
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Interesting, I have a 2005 Fleetwood built 5er and it has router cut dovetail joints using 1/2 Baltic birch plywood sides. It's definitely not stapled. I am skilled at cabinetmaking and also would have made new boxes using a router jig to make dove tail boxes and reused the cabinet faces but without the tools to do that what you did will work. This does, however, bring up a larger issue of continued decline in build quality in our coaches. What year is your rig?
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Old 01-28-2014, 06:01 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul R. Haller View Post
Interesting, I have a 2005 Fleetwood built 5er and it has router cut dovetail joints using 1/2 Baltic birch plywood sides. It's definitely not stapled. I am skilled at cabinetmaking and also would have made new boxes using a router jig to make dove tail boxes and reused the cabinet faces but without the tools to do that what you did will work. This does, however, bring up a larger issue of continued decline in build quality in our coaches. What year is your rig? -Paul R. Haller-
My Providence is a 2005. It upsets me that my DP came with stapled drawers when a same year 5er was built with dovetail. As you stated, you are skilled at this and own the proper tools. I do not, which is why I chose not to make a difficult job even worse.

Gimme your address and I'll show up with my stapled boxes!

Craig
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Old 01-28-2014, 07:19 PM   #7
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All I will say is this: Fleetwood is not the only company to use cheep )@#($@Q)# Staples instead of screws or quality nails......

Fleetwood very likely bought the drawers that way from a cabinet maker that supplies most of the RV industry.. and if that's not bad enough.. Take a look at modern HOME cabinetry as well... Yup, same way.

I have had to rebuild several drawers here and in my S&B before I dumped it.
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Old 02-20-2014, 03:16 PM   #8
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Thumbs up Update

I initially hadn’t planned to, but for the heck of it I removed all of the factory drawer travel catches to see if the soft closing mechanisms would keep the drawers closed on their own, while traveling. We just returned from a 600 mile trip, where we encountered some rough washboard roads. I’m happy to report that the soft close drawer slides kept all of the drawers from opening while underway. This mod was a lot of work, but I’m happy with the results.

Craig
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Old 02-20-2014, 08:46 PM   #9
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Thanks for the update Craig. Good to hear.
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