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Sam Dobson Writes: Tips For Installing An Ikea Kitchen

Monday, July 7, 2014

Tips For Installing An Ikea Kitchen

Blake and I have been living in our new home for two weeks now. Yup, we finally turned that ugly, outdated condo into a fresh new home, well at least enough to move in. It's not a complete project just yet; there are still base boards to nail in, lights to install, and a few more finishing touches to top it all off. At least our kitchen is pretty much completed, except for that oven hood that we keep battling with, but that's another story. All our hard work, all our mistakes and do-overs, our sweat, blood, and tears, it has all finally paid off.

We knew building a kitchen from "scratch" wouldn't be easy and we weren't wrong. We bought our kitchen (minus the appliances) from Ikea and while it does come with instructions, it also comes in a million frickin' pieces. While choosing an Ikea kitchen is easier on your wallet, it's not so easy on your patience. The wordless instructions will leave you scratching your head and wracking your brain many times over. To aid you in this frustrating process, here are some tips from an Ikea kitchen survivor.

A million little pieces. 

After you design your dream kitchen on the Ikea kitchen designer website, it's time to head on over to your local Ikea and make the big purchase. Don't be disappointed when your kitchen comes wheeled out on a flatbed in a million little pieces...seriously. Almost every piece comes in its own separate packaging with its own special instructions. Don't worry though, with some patience you will find that the base every cabinet is pretty much assembled the same way. You'll be an Ikea pro by the end of it.

My mom accompanied me to Ikea to order my kitchen. 
Later that evening she texted me asking for pictures of my new kitchen...this video was my reply. 
video

No matter how hard you try to avoid it, you will have to make a follow trip to Ikea. 

It's up to the Ikea staff alone to pull every individual item of your order. Chances are they will miss one door hinge or a set of cabinet legs. Our truck load of pieces (literally) was missing one door handle and a few cabinet door dampers (they keep the doors from slamming shut). If by some miracle they get your complete order right the first time, chances are also pretty good that you will ruin at least one piece of your kitchen. For example, the drawers and cabinet doors don't come with pre-drilled holes for knobs and handles. This means that you have to measure, drill, and install the hardware for each door and drawer in the hopes that they match up. I drilled a hole in the wrong corner of a cabinet door...twice. Your bound to make a few mistakes; try not to punish yourself.

Tips for installing an Ikea kitchen.
My handsome hubby installing some cabinets. 

Mind your cabinet height. 

Your Ikea kitchen cabinets will require cheapy-looking black plastic legs. I seriously considered how in the world these rinky-dink legs would support my kitchen yet somehow they do. Anyways, these legs are adjustable. My husband is tall so of course he wanted our kitchen to be at a relatively tall height as far as kitchen cabinets go. Well...that can complicate things. The taller your base cabinets are, the taller your appliances will have to be or else it will look funky. Make sure you don't make your base cabinets too tall. When anchoring to the wall, you will also want to take into account the height of your counter tops.

Tips for installing an Ikea kitchen.
Next step, counter tops! 

"Filler" pieces do not exist. 

As I mentioned before, the first step to an Ikea kitchen is designing it online. When you are ready to take the plunge, you take that design to your local Ikea. As an employee in the kitchen department assisted me with placing my order she explained that our kitchen design required two filler pieces. She showed me where they needed to go and even gave me a rough estimate of size. I assumed these pieces would be included in the truck-load I had purchased. As Blake and I assembled our new kitchen, we got to a point in which we could no longer continue without our "filler" pieces. I searched through all the remaining packages to no avail. Tired and frustrated, I got in the car and headed up to Ikea on a Saturday afternoon in just enough traffic to cause annoyance. I bobbed and weaved through the masses shopping for cheap furniture and made my way to the kitchen department. I found the same employee who assisted me with my order and notified her that I had been shorted my filler pieces to which she replied "There are no 'filler' pieces". I'm sure you can imagine my confusion. She went on to explain that there are no such pieces, that I was expected to make these pieces by cutting excess material off of other panel pieces. WTF? My reply, "So, I am basically supposed to figure it out for myself?" to which she replied "pretty much". Fair warning people, filler pieces don't exist. It's up to you to create them.

Tips for installing an Ikea kitchen.
Now, it's starting to look like a kitchen. 

Tools not included. 

Unlike the Ikea bookshelf you bought and proudly assembled by yourself, your new kitchen will require more than a Ikea standard issued allen key. You will need much, much more than that to complete an Ikea kitchen. Many pieces come with the necessary bolts and screws, although not all of them do. Aside from some screws, you'll also need many tools that aren't so basic (at least not to me!). You will need clamps, an automatic drill, a long level and ruler, a skill saw, special drill bits, and more. This is something to consider when deciding to install the kitchen yourself, tools like these aren't cheap. 


Tips for installing an Ikea kitchen.

Don't forget plumbing and electric!

It should be no surprise that you will most likely need to hire professionals to do your plumbing and electric. We were able to complete the plumbing ourselves, but it was a lot of work. First we had to cut a hole in the counter to fit our sink. Then we had to install the sink and the faucet. Next was the actual plumbing which included the installation of a garbage disposal. Keep in mind that depending on where your plumbing is coming from, you may need to cut holes in your cabinets to feed the pipes through. Our skin was on cabinet away from where the plumping comes out of the wall, so we had to cut a few holes in the sides of our cabinets. Electric is another story. If you don't know what you are doing, you can potentially shock yourself or do faulty work which is a fire hazard. We did not attempt to install outlets into our cabinets by ourselves. Luckily, my father in law was an electrician in his past life. Otherwise, we would have just hired a professional. 

Tips for installing an Ikea kitchen.


Our overall experience building our Ikea kitchen was an interesting one. There were many times we got so frustrated that we ended up screaming at each other, but every time we saw some progress there was an immense feeling of accomplishment. If you can afford to hire professionals to install your kitchen, do it. If you can't, be prepared for a few bumps in the road. Don't worry though, if we can do it, so can you! 

Tips for installing an Ikea kitchen.

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