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:
- Get the cabinets and follow the directions while installing them. Done and done.
- 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:
- power drill (we have two, so one was for piloting holes and one was for driving screws and this worked out well)
- screw drivers (a ratchet-style screw driver will change your life)
- hammer (smaller is better since you’ll be using it to hammer the finishing nails on the back of the cabinets)
- 4 ft. level
- Stud finder We have a fancy one but this one works great and has a small level built into it.
- torpedo level for detail work/drawers
- tape measure
- Cabinet Maker’s ruler, about 18 inches.
- hack saw (for cutting the metal rails on which the upper cabinets rest)
- circular saw
- combination square
- crescent wrench (needed for securing the bolts to the metal rail)
- pack of assorted screws (the IKEA Fixa screw set is a good value)
- clamps. These will be your extra hands!
- razor/box cutter
- a few packs of wood shims
- an allen wrench tool. Just in case. We have this one and it works great and is much easier to use.
Optional (required for any/all custom work):
- table saw for cutting the end panels
- compound miter saw (will also do the job of a chop saw)
- laser level
- tripod on which to rest the laser level
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.