Tom Lohr is an avid home DIY enthusiast. He prefers to spend the money he saves on new tools and gardening supplies.
A Big Box Store You Can Love
IKEA is one of my happy places. It's clean, it's bright and full of Scandinavian style furniture that sports clean lines and simple designs. On top of that, their furniture is reasonably priced. Despite the wandering maze that you must navigate to find your way out, IKEA is one of the few places that offers a pleasant shopping experience.
It's a rite of passage for young couples to fill a new house or apartment full of furniture, or new parents that need to furnish a child's room, to browse and buy at the Swedish wonderland known as IKEA. Walking out of a furniture store without feeling fleeced is a rare experience, but IKEA makes you feel like you made a sound purchase and leaves a little money left in your wallet.
Unfortunately, for many, the joy of a thrifty yet stylish purchase fades quickly when they begin to put it together. IKEA furniture is notorious for being a complex to assemble. One wrong move and you have to tear the whole thing apart and start over. Somewhere in Sweden, a group of furniture designers are laughing their behinds off at the torment Americans experience putting their puzzle of parts together.
There is no easy way to escape the character building experience of putting an IKEA piece together, but there are ways to make is go smoother. The following tips won't make the experience pain free, but it will take some of the sting out of it.
1. Get Help to Carry the Boxes
IKEA flat packs nearly all of their furniture. For you, that means is it easy to load and transport. It also means that IKEA, in true European style, packs as much as they can in one box. That makes many of the boxes heavier than they look. You can probably push and shove the boxes into your car in the IKEA parking lot, but when you get home it's a different story. Not only are the boxes typically heavy, the smooth cardboard is slick making getting a firm grip a challenge. The odds of you getting your purchase from your car to the assembly area without a flurry of profanity are slim. Getting a partner to help you get the boxes from your car to your house will make unloading manageable.
2. Unpack Everything
Once you have the boxes in your house, unpack all of them. If you have to navigate a staircase, hauling the item up piece by piece will save your back and reduce the chance of injury. Once in the assembly area, leaning all of the large parts against a wall will keep you from digging through 20 pieces of wood to find the section you are looking for.
3. Gather All Tools
The are only a few tools you need to put IKEA brand stuff together, and sometimes a few of them are included with the parts. Midway through assembly is not the time to realize you need to make trip the the local big box home improvement store to pick up an adjustable wrench or screwdriver.
4. Identify and Lay Out Small Parts
Putting all of those big wooden parts together requires many smaller parts. There are screws, pegs and unique IKEA brand connectors that hold everything together. IKEA rarely makes the error of not including all of the parts, but they are terrible at identifying what they are. Typically, it takes at least three different sized screws to complete assembly. It is soul crushing to get near the end of assembly, only to find out the remaining screws are too short because you used the correct sized screws 27 steps ago. Get a towel so nothing rolls away, lay all like parts together in groups. IKEA identifies many small parts in size; metric size. Make sure you have a ruler or tape measure that has millimeter markings. One the parts are in groups, especially the screws, put a piece of paper with some symbol or letter that corresponds to that part as depicted in the instructions.
5. Study the Instructions
There are no words in the assembly instructions for IKEA furniture. It is a booklet consisting strictly of pictograms. This is brilliant on IKEA's part. There is no need for printing the instructions in multiple languages. There will be a few steps that area slightly confusing, but you will eventually figure it out. What you absolutely need to do is study each drawing in each step intensely. Often, a piece of the furniture has a nook or slot or hole in it that must be oriented in a specific direction or you will find out you put it together backwards....15 steps later. Many of the orienting features on the pieces are hard to discern. If the pictogram has a small slot on a piece, make sure the piece you are using has that slot in EXACTLY the same location
6. Use a Rubber Mallet
The specs on IKEA furniture can be tight. Pounding on the wood with a hammer to get a good fit will leave your piece dented and marred. Invest in a rubber mallet so you can help “persuade” the parts to fit when needed
7. Allow for More Time Than Expected
I have taken a look at many pieces of IKEA furniture and figured it to be about an hour or two to get it from box to useable furniture. Five hours later, I'm still trying to determine how to connect piece C to piece D. Plan for an entire afternoon or evening at the minimum. While IKEA brands things cost less in currency, they cost a lot more in time.
8. Prepare for Odd Connections
They do things a little different in Sweden, and they also use the metric system. IKEA has some unique style connectors that you have probably never seen before. And some of their items are not compatible when trying to merge them with American sold parts. Sink hoses are a good example of this. While you will figure most of the connectors out, if doing any plumbing, be ready for another trip to the big box home improvement store for an adapter.
Don't Step on My Blue Swede Shoes
IKEA, aside from being a pleasant place to shop, allows people to acquire decent quality furniture at a reasonable price. The trials and tribulations of assembly is something everyone should experience at least once. In the end, you can stand back and marvel at the modern creation you have made and the NASA engineering skills you mastered to make it happen. Just make sure you have a stiff drink on hand for when you finish...you'll need it.
Worth the Hassle?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Misbah from The Planet Earth on March 09, 2021:
Tom it is Helpful and interesting article
I once fitted a table and 2 chairs, which we bought from IKEA and I enjoyed doing it although it took me 3 hours to get the job done
Thanks for sharing