Kitchen Renovation: DIY Installation: IKEA Adel Cabinets

ikea akurum adel cabinet bases installation diy

After running into a rogue vent, having some odd city inspections and a handful of other road blocks, we finally have our drywall and tile in and are installing cabinet frames. This is when the kitchen starts to look like a kitchen and not a tool shed. When we were bidding the project with our contractor, he said multiple times, “if you run into trouble with the cabinet installation, give me a call.” This was the major line item we decided to DIY and his faith in our ability to do a decent job was slim. I don’t blame him: these cabinets are not a simple DIY. They require some serious planning. 80% of our effort was spent on planning. Experience in assembling IKEA furniture really won’t help you on this project. What will help you is research… and a good tape measure… and a great drill, some extra screws… a laser level, etc. etc. etc.

Mr. Los Angeles has one of the best brains I’ve ever seen and the only contribution I provided was an extra set of hands and some basic suggestions. Even after paying someone from IKEA to come and measure our kitchen, he double-checked that every cabinet would fit and every door would have the right clearance to open. He also took into account that there’s not single wall that’s straight in this joint and we’d have to buy enough shims to build a tree house for The Brady Bunch. And in the true spirit of a remodeling project, there would be problems that need solving.

This process might seem obvious to any/all of you who’ve done this before, but I thought I’d include them anyways since we wouldn’t have known to do some of these things without researching it first. The way I see it, you can go about installing your IKEA kitchen in two ways:

  1. Get the cabinets and follow the directions while installing them. Done and done.
  2. Research the ins and outs of IKEA cabinets. Search YouTube for installation suggestions. Get the proper tools. Measure measure measure. Add all of the end panels, toe kicks, plinth pieces and details that finish off the kitchen.

We went with option two and, at times, it was difficult. I’d say about 60% of our knowledge base wasn’t contained within the IKEA directions but found in online forums and videos. Our contractor offered us a few tips we didn’t find elsewhere and that saved us big time. And it’s not that the IKEA directions are really lacking. In fact, it’s amazing how they’ve organized the whole process.

Before I launch into this, I’d like to recommend a few tools, some of which are specified in the directions and some that aren’t. It’s worth suggesting at this point that if buying all these tools and spending all this time installing the cabinets will outweigh the cost of having someone install them for you, then you might want to rethink a DIY installation:

List of recommended supplies:

allen_wrench

Optional (required for any/all custom work):

Step 1: Install the upper cabinets first. Have you ever tried to hold thirty pounds with straight arms directly in front of you? This is what you’ll have to do if you don’t install the uppers first. Unlike other “framed” cabinets, the IKEA cabinets are what installers refer to as “frameless” which means that instead of the upper cabinets being in one big frame, they’re individual units installed on a mounting bar like this:

backofcabinet

The IKEA mounting system in action. Mr. Los Angeles has the bar moved off to the side so you can see the hole that the bolt goes through and then mounts to the bar. The small holes at the top of the bar are for mounting the rail to the wall, which you do first. They give you some wider holes in case you have to use a molly.

 

This is great not only because you can mount the cabinets one at a time, but you can also slide them along the bar and make sure everything is level before you secure them in place. Unless you live in the most perfectly built home, chances are your ceilings aren’t 100% straight. Find the lowest point in your ceiling. That is where the top of your cabinet will be. This can be accomplished with a laser level. We ended up purchasing one because we couldn’t find anyone who would rent them.

laserlevel

This thing is THE BEST. We have a small kitchen so we didn’t need a 360 degree level, but I can see how you’d need one for a larger kitchen. We have a U-shaped kitchen so the laser level reflected onto the three walls we needed. Had we not had this tool, leveling everything out would have been much more difficult.

laser_level_story_stick

We used the “story stick” method to determine the height of our cabinets (since our floor was uneven). It worked very well.

Step 2: The lower cabinets are slightly easier. The toe kick pieces come with an additional piece of particle board that you mount (level) on the wall. The back bottom edge of the lower cabinet rests on this ledge. You can then use the adjustable legs to level the front part of the cabinet. If you decided not to purchase toe kicks, you can pick up some 1×4’s and do the same thing. The ones provided by IKEA are only 3/4″ and we had to double them up in several places, especially on the larger cabinets. Just make sure you screw these pieces into studs as they’ll be bearing quite a bit of weight.

Step 3: Have a corner unit? It’s best to get those out of the way. I think the lower half-moon corner unit needs to be installed before the countertops are installed.

ikea akurum cabinet lower

This lower unit is probably the most difficult to assemble aside from the tall pantry cabinets. I suggest installing this one first (after you install its upper companion).

Step 4: If you’re using end panels, check to see which holes the hinges and rails need before you start installing the end panels. We spent some time unscrewing and rescrewing these panels because we simply guessed as to where they should go. Luckily the filler strips don’t use the pre-drilled holes. The directions for installing the drawers and hinges indicate which holes to use, so I’d go through and mark which ones not to use and then screw in your end panels. Then you can install you shelves, hinges and drawer sliders.

ikea_cabinets_end_panels

These end panels can be used in many ways. They match the front of the cabinets a lot more than the “filler strips” they provide. Those strips are pretty close to the same color but nowhere near the same finish, so I’d use end panels. They’re much more difficult to cut but when you need to fill a larger, more visible gap, these will look much better. They come in different sizes so you don’t have to buy a monster one for this purpose.

Step 5: Assemble your drawers. The directions for these are particularly awful since they cover three different types of installations. For setting the drawers on the sliders, it’s literally an illustration of a person with an arrow pointed backwards and down. You really have to just sit there wiggling it until it clicks into place. The hinges are similar. They’re just supposed to snap on but a lot of people have a difficult time with this.

Step 6: Attach your drawer pulls and knobs to the cabinet/drawer fronts.

Step 7: Attached the doors to the cabinet/drawers

Step 8: Adjust the drawers and hinges so they’re level. There’s a tutorial on how to do this here.

Every kitchen will probably need a different customization for a fan cabinet. We used a jigsaw to cut the hole out for the fan duct. The outlet for the microwave and the transformer for the LED lighting will also be in this cabinet.

Every kitchen with an under-the-cabinet style vent fan will probably need a different customization for this cabinet. We used a jigsaw to cut the hole out for the fan duct. The outlet for the microwave and the transformer for the LED lighting will also be in this cabinet.

 

ikea_fan_cabinet_02

Another view of the fan cabinet. Not so pretty but it will be covered up.

ikea_cabinet_gap

The cabinets have a small channel between them on the upper cabinets. Had we known this, we could have planned the holes for the under cabinet lighting much more easily.

ikea_cabinet_gap02

Also, they don’t really sit flush with the wall. They’re slightly tilted backwards. Our awesome contractor warned us about this and sure enough they’re a little off.

 Have any questions or want some specific pictures? Let me know in the comments! I’d like to add to this post so it can be as helpful as possible.

Note: I posted product links via Amazon Affiliates. The products are simply suggestions, but all have good reviews. You can see a lot of the tools we used in action are in the images.

14 Comments on "Kitchen Renovation: DIY Installation: IKEA Adel Cabinets"

  1. diy cabinets says:

    OMG! I needed a tutorial like this so bad! now I know what my husband will be doing this weekend, thank you!

  2. Lately i am planning on renovating my kitchen too for some fung shui stuff cause some say it will bring luck to my home.Well good to see some installation of cabinet here cause this is one of my favorite type of cabinet in kitchen.

  3. Louise says:

    Great post and so thorough thank you. Gotta love Ikea :)

  4. Allison says:

    awesome step by step! thank you! these are great tips!

  5. Love frameless cabinets (easy access) and metal hanging rails.

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