Tools you should use

All Ikea furniture includes the tools you will need, right? Not really. If needed the will include an Allen key and in some cases a flat steel wrench. In some cases that may actually be all you need, but using the tools below will save you hours, sore hands and make assembly a breeze.

Cordless drill
Start with a good cordless drill. All drills now has plenty of torque and can move slow enough to act as a screwdriver and that’s what you will be using it as the majority of time. Watch out for sales. The better brands are Milwaukee, Dewalt and Nikita, but you really can’t go wrong here if you go with a lithium battery driven version of any brand. Just don’t get cheap bits.

Bits.
Buy the brand listed above for trouble free operation. You can mix and match brands as you like. Quick release bits look appealing, but tend to wobble more. I don’t recommend using them. Instead buy a set of good drill bits (10 or more in set). Then buy a box of Phillips screw driver bits (all same size). They are cheap and wear out fast. You will not need flathead bits. But find a kit that contains Allen key bits. These are huge time savers over the key included by IKEA.

Screwdrivers.
I’ve found a good large flathead screw driver invaluable for locking down some of the tightening screws used in cabinets. Or simply to pry things apart.
A wretching screwdriver also is useful where you can use the electrical tool. Don’t buy the cheapest, but find one storing extra bits inside and a handle size that fits your hand.

Tape measure.
Get a good, easy to read steel tape measure without any unnecessary features (such as centering measurements).

Level.
Use at least one good level. I use 3! A 12″, a 24″ and a four feet level. You get what you pay for here and cheap ones may be off level. I recently received a very nice 24″ aluminum level with a built in laser pointer. What I deemed a toy turned out to be the best thing ever for any kind of hanging. Suddenly aligning 6 kitchen cabinets became a 5 minute task. Awesome.

level. Test it in the store before buying. Not all levels are in level (you get what you pay for

Pick and hammer
Any hammer will do. Don’t ever use it for anything else than hammering in nails -typically to attach back panels. Every where else what seemed like a good idea for extra force typically ends up breaking something (including your fingers)

Other stuff to get that will save you many (head)aches

When building your own cabinets, you will be moving them around your workspace – a lot. And a few cheap tools will help make this a breeze and stretch your first aid kit another year.

A set of good work gloves will protect your hands from cuts and scrapes when lifting and unpacking. They start at $1.95, but get some in the right size for around $10 and wear them whenever you are opening boxes, moving shelves and frames to and from, and during assembly. Sharp edges are everywhere and large paper cuts is common.

If you can afford it, wear steel toe work boots when lifting, moving and assembling furniture. Sneakers provide great grip, but they are no match for 100 lbs of cabinetry dropped on your toes. And you will be surprised how often pushing, lifting and steering with your feet helps.

Another cheap and absolutely amazing product are push feet that you place under items and you can now push them around with little effort. I have seen hard floor only models, and combination versions that has a hard floor model inside a carpet version – some including a clever lever to use when sliding the feet under the item to be moved. With these a 50 lbs child can easily move a 300 lbs glass table.

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This is one of those “As seen on TV” items that really works. At less than $20, they belong in every home. Get them before you need them.

Kitchens

Ikea kitchens offer amazing value, great design, 25 years warranty and looks as good as any $50,000 kitchen. What is there not to like?

Before answering my own question, let me sweeten the deal even more adding a few facts you might not know:

  • The IKEA hardware, i.e. hinges, drawer gliders, drawer components etc. is made by Blum, the very SAME Austrian company as used by many of the major designer kitchens, like Snaidero and Poggenpohl
  • The high gloss kitchen doors are made by the same Italian manufacturer as all the designer brands

Now you probably wonder where the catch is. It’s all in the sizes. Ikea kitchen components come only in certain sizes – if they don’t fit, you are out of luck. You should never expect an IKEA kitchen door to fit on a Snaidero cabinet or vice versa. And while IKEA will happily sell you and 80″ tall kitchen cabinet, they won’t sell you a matching 80″ inch tall kitchen door.

The size scheme, by the way, is also how IKEA gets away with charging much more for their kitchens than for their wardrobes. The pieces from one product line simply don’t fit the other. But we are smarter than that. Elsewhere on this blog you will find a model showing which cabinets fits the best in your space. Who says you can’t use a kitchen cabinet in your bedroom if your available space is 24″.

And while the fancy Italian doors may come from the same Italian manufacturer, the same definitely is not the case for the cabinets themselves (also known as frames.). IKEA’s cabinets are all made of particleboard. Except for the snob factor, this really is not a bad thing. Particle board doesn’t warp, it is easy to work with and actually has a smoother surface than solid wood. The downsides are few: It should never get wet, and screws attached to the end of the board don’t have much to hold on to.

IKEA recently started offering installation, and in the process got closer in price to the custom kitchen makers. But that doesn’t address some of the shortcomings of the Ikea standards. Good luck finding a sponge drawer (typically found in front of the kitchen sink) or a 6″ cabinet typically used for cutting boards and spice racks – and more importantly used to fill a narrow gap between other cabinets and the end wall. The biggest limitation probably is the absence of a 27″ full height cabinet. This is what you normally use for a built-in oven – so if you plan to reuse your old 27″ wall oven, be aware. Over the years, I have come across many “missing” sizes/components/features – and in the process found solutions – and they are all here for you.

IKEA is providing a great web-based tool for designing your kitchen. IKEA will tell you that you can design your dream kitchen and then send them the file and they will automatically create your shopping list. Unfortunately, that is not quite the case. The tool is very powerful, but it has it’s shortcomings – a big one is that the modules offered in the tool doesn’t match the combinations they actually sell. So the sales rep at IKEA will review what you sent, and match it up against what they sell. And in my experience, they WILL get something wrong – every time. I have spent much time waiting for the warehouse to call the kitchen department and ask them what they think they are doing – or worse – you don’t find out until your kitchen is delivered, that pieces are missing and that they delivered pieces in the wrong material – wrong size shelves, missing fronts, etc. etc. They will get it mostly right, but I don’t think you were dreaming about a mostly being able to build your kitchen without dealings with returns. In the section about measuring and designing, I’ll show you have to get this right – yourself. It isn’t that hard and if you insist on them using our list, your chance of getting all the right pieces is much bigger.

AKURUM Kitchen Cabinets – the missing sizes – under counter cabinets

    Kitchen cabinets, bottom
    This section looks at your options and limitations when it comes to under-counter cabinets, normally referred to as base cabinets. These are the workhorses of your kitchen – and the ones you have to customize the most. You’ll have to work around sinks and ranges (or stoves) and all the plumbing and wiring that comes with it. And this is where you have to think the most about your choices.
    IKEA really limits your options when it comes to consistency and appearance. This section will highlight what IKEA offers standard, and what you can do with a little creativity. I don’t think you should have to compromise your kitchen design just because your kitchen width doesn’t match IKEA the standard. But doing your prep work here can save you tremendous time and money.
    Let’s first look at the pieces as they come:
  • All base cabinets are 30 3/8″ tall and 24″ deep (without fronts). With legs, the under counter height ranges from 34 1/8″ to 38 7/8.
  • The 24″ deep base cabinets come in the following widths: 12″, 15″, 18″, 21″ 24″ 27″ 30″ and 36″.
    (The listed widths are all approximate – i.e. each cabinet really is 1/8″ narrower. It doesn’t make much difference for your planning, but it does make this article a lot easier to read (and write). Don’t worry – I’ll use the exact measures where it really matters.)
  • Since the wall cabinets also are 30 3/8 tall, but only 12″ deep (without doors), you can use them instead of full depth base cabinets. This is useful e.g. when you have to work around ducts or plumbing, but also means the inside space of the cabinet is cut in half.
  • All cabinets are made from 3/4″ thick particle board. All the cabinets by themselves are called frames by IKEA. A bottom cabinet frame consists of bottom, two sides, a plywood back panel and two particle board cross members on top connecting the sides, but leaving the top otherwise open (assuming you will be covering this with a counter top anyway). The back panel is attached with nails in an indent in the side/bottom panels (so the back is flush)

All fronts/doors are 7/8″ thick and you have the following standard options:

  • 30″ full height doors
  • 24″ high door(s) combined with 6″ high drawer(s) or 6″ open space (for waterfall sink or range front.
  • 3 drawers, 12″ + 11.5″ + 6″
  • 4 drawers, 11.5″ + 6″ + 6″ + 6″
    Picture of bottom cabinet here

If you are planning on using doors, cabinets from 12″ to 27″ use one door. The 30″ and 36″  cabinets require 2 doors – full height or combined with drawers as mentioned above. If you buy the 24″ doors for the 30″ wide cabinet, you have the option of buying 2 15″ wide drawers or a single 30″ wide drawer

But if you want drawers, unless you plan on using their 4 drawer  combosolution, you are out of luck. The 4 drawer solution has two wide, deep drawers at the bottom and two half size 6″ deep drawers next to each other at the top. The top drawers require a middle divider attached front and back holding up the drawer gliders. You cannot mount the divider under a cooktop, so a metal front bar is available to forego the drawers and just mount the two drawer fronts for looks. This doesn’t cost you anything extra as you cannot buy only the deep drawer fronts by themselves anyway. For consistency you might want to enhance the appearance of the dummy drawer fronts with drawer handles.
If you are installing a sink in the frame, you really have no choice but to install door fronts, as the sink and associated plumbing typically goes deep down into the frame and prevents you from installing drawers. Again IKEA suggests you combine doors (mostly) below the sink and install 6″ drawer fronts on the steel bar as explained above rather than full hight doorsThere are a couple of options here

  • If your cabinet is 30″, you can buy a 30″ drawer front and at least use instead of the 2 15″ pieces and you now have a nice consistently designed front
  • If your cabinet is 30″, and you have space below your cook top (i.e the cooktop only goes 1″ or 2″ below the countertop, which is pretty common) you can buy a 30″ drawer front and a 30″ drawer (only comes in deep). To make this work, you will have to cut the metal back panel of the drawer to fit. this is not for the faint at heart and requires a special tool, but well worth it as you will be rewarded with consistent looks and an awesome extra 30″ drawer for cooking utensils and/or spices

Things to get before you go to IKEA

Using the right tools will save you many hours of work, blisters, black finger (and toe) nails and save you from a sore back.

Some of these tools you need before you even start, some you probably already have and some you will easily be making yourself.

Before you start taking delivery of anything, yes – even before you go to IKEA the first time for your project, head to your local hardware (super)store and pick up a back brace and a dolly. IKEA makes you pack your own cart in the warehouse, and while a back brace may not be the latest fashion accessory, not wearing one may be the costliest mistake you will ever make. Save $20 somewhere else and go get one today. (And get one for your partner if you have one, as he/or she likely will be helping you)

back_support

The back brace does more to make sure you have the right posture when lifting than anything else, but that is exactly what you need.

Then head over and get your dolly. Again your back will thank you, but based on my personal experience, having the right dolly will allow you to easily perform many tasks that would otherwise require you to have somebody help you – and it will help you avoid breaking anything that you just put together. E.g. the plastic legs under the kitchen cabinets can hold hundreds of pounds of weight when under the cabinet, yet the weight of a 3-year old will snap them right off if applied sideways.

I prefer a convertible dolly, but if you already have a regular dolly, it may work for you. The convertible dolly helps you lug heavy items like a stack of shelves when converted, where a regular dolly will only hold as many as fit on the plate.

It is important that the dolly when laid down is more or less in level as you will be using it for final assembly of cabinets laying down (more about that later)

convertible_dolly

The dolly above is only $50, but prices go up from there based on construction, material and quality. It is more important you get it now than that you get one that will last for years.

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You will need it when you bring your first piece of furniture home. As a rule of thumb, you should NEVER carry anything more than 15 lbs – whether it is a clay pot for your carden or shelves for your cabinet. Use your dolly and learn how to tumble your items (yes, I know you probably haven't used the word “tumble” since kindergarten, but tumbling boxes instead of lifting them means you only carry between 10 and 50% of the weight compared to lifting). If you live in a condo, and wont have space for a dolly, just think about how you later will make somebody's day at the Salvation Army store.

Finally you will need some good blankets or leftover towels to prevent your new items from getting scratched (by the ground, or by each other) and to prevent marks on your floors and walls from your new purchases. Now you are equipped to shop at IKEA.

moving_blankets