Avoid the Most Common Ikea Assembly Mistakes

I truly have a passion for the assembly of furniture–especially Ikea assembly.  I appreciate the design and engineering of the items, and I think their instructions are very expressive: all with no words so they are multilingual.  I do realize, however, that I am not necessarily in the majority, so I am going to attempt to share some of the more meaningful tips for successful Ikea assembly.

A couple of days ago I was contacted to assemble a Brimnes bed.  After providing my quote the customer felt it necessary to tell me the following:  “full disclosure– I’m sorting out a terrible experience with a contractor from XXXX.com who misrepresented his ability to assemble Ikea. Bed is about 20% assembled with some minor mistakes (spacers left out of the drawer rails). No apparent damage done.”

Ikea Brimnes bed after nine hours of effort from a competitor

The customer offered to pay me extra, but I assured them that I would sort it out and take care of it for the quoted, firm price.  When I showed up to do the assembly, the owner’s mother informed me that the original contractor had quoted three hours to put the bed together, and had given up after nine hours with it not even being close (or right). This is one reason I quote a firm price—not an hourly rate.  Any problems are on my time and my price structure is in line with Ikea’s, at a lower price point.

I took time to assess where the job was, but I should have skipped this step and just taken it all apart—which is what I did in the end.  My assessment determined that NOTHING was put together correctly, except one drawer.  In the end the bed was put together correctly and safely (total of 2.5 hours to disassemble and reassemble.)

I doubt this particular contractor will attempt Ikea assembly in the future, but I recommend everyone that is going to hire someone to do this for them find out what their experience is and ask for pictures of completed furniture.  My website has a gallery with a wide range of projects.

But if you are going to attempt assembly yourself, here are some tips to make things easier:

Assembly Tip One

Mamakea Tool of the Trade: Sorting Box for Assembly Hardware

First step for any furniture assembly—sort and inventory the hardware.  Through all of my assemblies I have only come up short once from Ikea—and they were very gracious in replacing it—but it helps to know before you start instead of in the middle of the job.  Several times I have counted okay in the beginning and been missing something later, but I know it is there somewhere and I just need to look.  Furniture brands other than Ikea usually have a set of spare hardware, but it is still easier to build when the hardware is sorted.  Especially when it is sorted on a tray of some sort—a muffin tin can work well if you don’t have this great tray.

Assembly Tip Two

Second solid tip:  If it isn’t fitting together, then you aren’t trying to put the right pieces together the right way.  All designers include dowels and the cam screws in a pattern that allows the items to go together in only one way.  If these aren’t lining up, then the two pieces don’t go together the way you are trying to make them.  It is not a good idea to remove enough dowels/screws to make them go together.  Things won’t fit later and even if they do, nothing will be secure with missing pieces.

Assembly Tip Three

ikea hardware
Ikea Assembly Instructions–be sure to pick the designated hardware

The third tip to keep from making rookie mistakes is be sure you are using the correct hardware at the right time.  Ikea will provide a “blow up” of the part to be used and compared to similar hardware pieces but crossed out, so you know which one is correct. You need to be careful here, because the wrong one might work now, but later when you only have the wrong thing left it might not fit.  If the screws/bolts/nuts were interchangeable they wouldn’t have included both kinds.  Take the time to figure out the right hardware in advance.

Assembly Tip Four

roller hardware marking
During drawer assembly look for the label on each piece of the drawer rollers and in the corresponding instructions.
drawer wheel
Note the location of the roller AND which hole is used to screw it to the furniture during assembly.

The last common mistake to watch out for is picking the right piece of drawer roller hardware for the right place.  The tracks come packaged in sets of four—two that go on the drawer and two for inside the furniture.  Hints to keep in mind:  the flat frame pieces will go in the furniture, the two pieces with the right angle go on the edge of the drawer.  In the case of Ikea sets, they mark each piece with letters indicating left/right and drawer/cabinet.  So DR is the right drawer piece, CL is the left cabinet piece.  If all else fails, look at the picture!  Pay attention to the location of the roller: is it in the front or back and on the top or bottom of the rail?  One last hint—there are multiple holes on these rails to accommodate all of the different furniture designs.  Different pieces use different holes to position them correctly for each piece of furniture.  Again, the picture will show this.

I hope this is helpful, but of course, my best advice is call Mamakea before you frustrate yourself!