• Read FHB on Your iPad
    Read FHB on Your iPad
  • Design Inspiration
    Design Inspiration
  • 9 Concrete Countertop Ideas
    9 Concrete Countertop Ideas
  • 7 Smart Kitchen Solutions
    7 Smart Kitchen Solutions
  • Magazine Departments
    Magazine Departments
  • Tips & Techniques for Painting
    Tips & Techniques for Painting
  • Basement Remodeling Tips
    Basement Remodeling Tips
  • Deck Design & Construction
    Deck Design & Construction
  • Remodeling Articles
    Remodeling Articles
  • Energy-Smart Details
    Energy-Smart Details
  • Master Carpenter Videos
    Master Carpenter Videos
  • Video Series: Tile a Bathroom
    Video Series: Tile a Bathroom
  • 7 Trim Carpentry Secrets
    7 Trim Carpentry Secrets
  • 7 Small Bathroom Layouts
    7 Small Bathroom Layouts
  • All about Roofing
    All about Roofing
  • Clever daily tip in your inbox
    Clever daily tip in your inbox
  • Install a Vinyl Privacy Fence
    Install a Vinyl Privacy Fence

12 Tips on Ordering and Installing IKEA Cabinets - Part 1

comments (4) March 29th, 2013 in Blogs
Olitch Mike Litchfield, Blogger, book author, one of the first FHB editors

These days, adventurous homeowners can assemble good-looking kitchen cabinets. Having a pro install them may be money well spent.
Design: Catherine Moncrieff, Jean Revere
Tilework: Bowmans Gate
Before installing cabinets--indeed, before ordering them--survey the room carefully. In addition to measuring room dimensions, survey walls and floors. Note out-of-level floor sections, out-of-plumb wall areas, whether corners are square, and low spots that may need to be shimmed. 
If your shipment is short a part, customer service areas of IKEA stores typically have bins of miscellaneous assembly hardware, free for the taking. 
Renovation 4th Edition contains lifetimes of experience: thousands of field-tested tips and techniques that master builders across North America shared with Mike Litchfield, a founding editor of Fine Homebuilding. 
These days, adventurous homeowners can assemble good-looking kitchen cabinets. Having a pro install them may be money well spent.
Design: Catherine Moncrieff, Jean Revere
Tilework: Bowmans GateClick To Enlarge

These days, adventurous homeowners can assemble good-looking kitchen cabinets. Having a pro install them may be money well spent.

Design: Catherine Moncrieff, Jean Revere

Tilework: Bowman's Gate

Photo: Mike Litchfield, Renovation 4th Edition

IKEA cabinets are modestly priced, smartly designed, reasonably durable and machined so exactly that the average Joe or Jane can put them together. In general, the customer service is good and there's a wide range of support materials to help people assemble and install cabinets. I'd advise homeowners to have a pro do the installation, however, especially if there are corner cabinets or if the kitchen has a lot of irregularities. (Some of the pivoting hardware in corner units is quite tricky.) Homeowners can still save by assembling the units.


Ordering and installing even DIY-friendly cabinets is complicated, so I have culled 12 tips from my installation, which I will cover in two blogs. This week's installment covers prelims and checking a shipment. Next week's blog will chronicle a professional builder's installation of owner-assembled cabinets and will include a 12-photo sequence. 



1. IKEA's kitchen design service is a good deal. For roughly $150 they will come to your house, measure the kitchen, recommend different cabinet configurations and work up a materials list and estimate. Some of that $150 fee will applied towards the purchase, if you decide to buy. The service also generates a set of detailed floor plans and elevations of the kitchen, which are invaluable if, say, you buy the countertop separately or hire a contractor to install the cabinets.


2. Speaking of which, IKEA will for a fee install the cabinets--but only if they assemble them, too. In other words, you can't save money by building the cabinets and having IKEA install them.


3. If there is an IKEA outlet reasonably close, pick up the cabinets yourself. Shipping is expensive: A friend in Maine paid $127 for an Akurum cabinet…and an additional $124 to have it shipped. If you do pick up the cabinets, get a friend or two to help: Unassembled cabinets are heavy and their boxes, unwieldy.


4. Don't order cabinets till you're almost ready to install them. Even unassembled, cabinets take up a lot of room. Thoroughly vacuum the site before the shipment arrives, especially if you've been renovating and generating a lot of dust and debris. IKEA cabinets' melamine surface can be scratched or chipped by grit, stray nails and the like.


Checking the Shipment

5. When the IKEA shipment arrives, scrutinize the master shipping list to be sure everything's there. Because boxes are large and heavy, this is another two-person job. Contact IKEA immediately if anything's missing.


6. Open each box and check its contents against parts list enclosed--usually part of an unstapled set of instruction sheets with installation pictographs. In my delivery, everything was there. By the way, the customer service areas of IKEA stores typically have bins of miscellaneous assembly hardware, free for the taking, if you're short a part.


Lastly, assembling the cabinets goes much quicker if you invite friends and make a party of it. Invariably, one person will have an intuitive feel for (or a lot of experience with) the IKEA system. With four people, it took a long day to assemble the cabinet shells, drawers, slides, shelves, pulls and so on: Thanks to Catherine, Stu, and Jeannie.



This blog is adapted from Renovation 4th Edition, which contains thousands of field-tested tips and techniques. Brand new from Taunton Press, Renovation 4th Edition's 614 pages include 250+ technical drawings and 1,000 photos selected from the 40,000 that I have taken over the years. I hope you find it useful. -Mike


© Michael Litchfield 2013

posted in: Blogs, kitchen, cabinets

Comments (4)

EdwardJenkins EdwardJenkins writes: Very good Work ..
Posted: 4:02 am on July 31st

MarcioWilges MarcioWilges writes: I’m a big fan of getting the pros to do full room installs of things, especially when there's some moving around that needs to be done. With all the relocations going on, that's one thing that I won't need to worry about!
Posted: 12:06 am on December 3rd

Olitch Olitch writes: Excellent suggestions, Bob, thanks for writing. Before raising a stand of IKEA bookcases, I located studs in the wall behind and used a pair of angle braces to bolt the top of each bookcase to studs. The bookcases are, of course, free standing but I live in earthquake country and wanted a little insurance. As you correctly point out, bolting stiffens any unit and increases its utility.
Posted: 9:55 pm on April 2nd

Bob1998 Bob1998 writes: I concur with the idea of having Ikea measure the kitchen. Walls are rarely plumb and Ikea is responsible if a measuring mistake is made. I removed a pantry and added Merillat semi-custom cabinets. I did the demolition but hired a carpenter to install the cabinets, even he was challenged with the irregular walls in my 1925 condo. Plumb? What's that? If you have an old building, have a carpenter help with the installation.

Another tip, Ikea products are vastly stronger if wood glue is used between the parts. This requires some extra thought because the instructions don't say where to apply the glue and glue squeeze-out can be a problem.

A pair of book shelves I assembled appeared very solid in the store but when I put them together they were wobbly until I bolted them to the wall. The store and the on-line description didn't mention this required step. The instructions called the bolts a child tip prevention step but it's required to make the shelves stable. Now I can't move the book shelves given the bolts.

On the other hand, a TV stand I assembled and used glue appeared to be about 100% more rigid than non-glued Ikea furniture I've assembled. Something to consider for furniture that will hold heavy loads or you want to last a long time.

An separate problem, either the shelves were cut too small or the pins supporting them were too small so the shelves were close to collapsing until I add some screws to stop the shelves from moving. Ikea generally does a very good job designing it's products but sometimes additional supports are required. Watch out for any potential weaknesses on shelves that will hold books, canned goods, or heavy pots and pans. Some hidden angle irons can help.

Posted: 8:43 am on April 2nd

Log in or create a free account to post a comment.