So the running joke when I was younger was “IKEA: We give you almost everything you need!”. I knew some people that were huge fans. While others thought it was the absolute worst. Say what you will though, IKEA is here to stay. And they are a definite powerhouse when it comes to the DIY Kitchen industry in particular. I’ve now had the pleasure of working on at least 7 separate Ikea projects. Five of my own, plus two designed for others. Projects ranging from kitchens to built in buffets, to bars and extra storage. Join me as I regale you of the joys of said experiences. We’ll talk through some tips and tricks and walk through a standard installation from purchase to completion in How to Install Ikea Cabinets 101.
Shopping for Ikea Cabinets
IKEA stores are not found everywhere. If you’re lucky enough to have one nearby, and you’ve ever been a young person filling up an apartment or a dorm room, then you likely are familiar with their inexpensive flat pack furniture. Beyond the basics though, Ikea has been manufacturing and selling kitchens for decades now. There are many folks out there who have designed and built them and absolutely love them – this author included.
A primary advantage is that Ikea offers you an almost completely custom kitchen at a fraction of the cost of other cabinet manufacturers. And trust me, I know. I actually worked for a company that was a dealer of Wellborn cabinetry when I did my last kitchen. To get anything approaching what I wanted, even with 40% off, was still going to cost me triple what Ikea costs.
Ikea Design Help – Designing the Dream
For design, you can head in store for assistance. Or if you’re a little design savvy, you can also hop on to the Ikea website. They have a great Kitchen Planner tool to design your own Ikea Cabinets.
Once you’ve got the layout in, you can customize each cabinet to your heart’s content. There are loads of various door and drawer options, amongst other accessories. Done? Save your design and head to Ikea. Print it out, make your order, and then hope and pray that they have the items you need in stock! Unfortunately, Ikea has been victim of the supply chain shortages that have plagued us since the start of the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Hopefully you’re not in any rush. At this point, if you’re lucky they’ll have what you need right away. If not, you may be waiting a few weeks or a few months, depending on what you need, but hopefully this is just a temporary thing. We all are hoping the supply chain woes get sorted out in 2022 or 2023 at the latest. Once you have everything, or at least your boxes, you’re ready to get things started.
Building Ikea Cabinet Boxes
So this is probably the least fun part of the experience, but each box comes in a flat pack. You need to open it up and assemble the Ikea cabinet box before you’re ready to install the boxes in your kitchen or other cabinet project. Pay close attention to the instructions for the first couple times you run through things. If you’re building a bunch of them, you’ll eventually be a pro at it, and each box will come together rather quickly.
I won’t offer step-by-step instructions here, the Swedes provide a pretty solid instruction manual, but here are a few pro-tips. You can use wood glue on the dowels, and even on the rear panel, to help hold everything together more solidly. It will be a mess, though, so make sure you have a rag (this was a tip from my cabinet making neighbor, who even had a few Ikea cabinets in his own home office). If you’re good with finessing your impact driver, use it but don’t overcrank. A screwdriver is probably safest for the lock bolts, but the other screws can be done with power tools. However, be careful not to overdo it…you are securing these screws in to particle boards, not solid plywood.
This might take a while, depending how many boxes you have, so I’ve typically assembled my boxes prior to the day of installation. It makes for a nice fresh start on cabinet hanging day.
Hanging Out with Ikea Kitchen Cabinets
So now that you’ve built your Ikea Cabinet boxes, you’re close to where you’d be if you purchased pre-manufactured boxes. Ikea has their own proprietary system for installation, and it’s a good one. First, locate your studs, then mark out the heights for the Ikea cabinet mounting rails. There’s some different heights depending on base or tall/wall cabinets, and different again depending on whether you’ve got 30 or 40” uppers. Ikea’s manual suggests you measure and sketch everything out on the wall. It’s really not a bad idea and helps keep from making any mistakes, especially if you have a lot of different cabinet sizes.
Once you have marked it out, mount the rails on the wall. Hopefully you’ll have several good studs to hit, but even if you do, I suggest the addition of some toggle or other anchor bolts (note I’m assuming standard wood stud construction – use appropriate anchors for alternate substrates) and securing the rail maybe every 12-16” at most. This rail will support 100% of the weight of your upper cabinets, so bear that in mind and make sure it’s properly secured.
For rails for the lower cabinets, or for Ikea Cabinet Pantry (Tall) boxes, you will also have plastic feet to help distribute the load. Keep in mind though, they are just plastic. While they can bear some weight, the better secured your rail is to the wall, the better secured and safer your installation will be as well. You can start your anchors in, get them close, then double check your lines/levels before tightening up.
Also – double check that the rail is on right side up before securing it – it does matter! (Ask me how I know.) All done? At this point, I think Ikea’s manual says to take a break – but I’m not tired yet, are you?
Hanging up your Ikea Cabinets
So, now your boxes are built and your rails are on the wall. We can’t quit yet because it hardly looks like we’ve accomplished anything. That just won’t do! The next step is easy and makes it look like you’ve done a lot of work in a short amount of time. Grab a friend and start hanging those cabinets up. If built properly, Ikea cabinets include a mounting bracket that hooks easily on to the rail. Side by side cabinets are secured to each other with included screws, through the existing holes (just make sure that hole won’t later be needed for a door hinge or drawer glide).
For ease of installation, start with your upper cabinets first. This allows you to get in and maneuver closer to the wall. Then do tall/pantry cabinets and finish up with the base cabinets below. Word of warning from: when installing base cabinets below upper cabinets, remember that the upper cabinets are there! I’m pretty sure there’s still a dent in my skull from standing up under the corner of a cabinet at my last home…even thinking about it hurts!
When dealing with various utilities, you’ll want to mark and modify your Ikea cabinets in advance. For Example, for water pipes, drain lines, etc. Selecting the correct cabinets will help, as they sell modified cabinets for installation of sinks, or to install above a refrigerator (ie: with a vent in the back to allow the fridge to vent).
All done with the hanging? Good, now it’s time for a little recess, and look! You’ve got a recognizable cabinetry installation!
Graduation – Ikea Cabinets 101
Congratulations class! You’ve all made it through How to Install Ikea Cabinets 101. We’ve gone from trekking through our Ikea superstore, to ordering and (hopefully) receiving our cabinets. We’ve built our boxes, set our railings and installed our boxes on the walls.
Next up we’ll walk through installing drawers, doors, hardware and counters to complement your Ikea kitchen. This is the fun stuff but you want to be fresh. Trust me, it’s no fun installing hardware in the wrong spot on all your doors because you’re a little too tired. So meet us back here for the next installment: How to Install Ikea Kitchen Cabinets 102.
If you’re interested in learning more about Ikea Cabinets you can visit their Kitchen Design Center here:
And find their Kitchen planner tool here: