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Assembling flat-pack furniture can be a nightmare, but if you’re methodical and yes, you follow the instructions, you should be able to build your typical flat-pack furniture from IKEA and other stores without too much hassle.
If you’re able, especially if you’re putting together a large item such as a wardrobe, work in the room you’re going to be using the furniture.
Before you get going, make sure you have plenty of room to work in. It’s usually a good idea to find an assistant too. They serve two purposes – 1) They can help you make sense of nonsensical instructions and 2) They can hold stuff in place while you’re doing the legwork.
Open a window if the room is warm and dress comfortably – I always wear shorts in case I’m crawling around the floor or kneeling down a lot.
Now you’re ready to assemble your brand new flat pack furniture!
Start by carefully opening the box and unpacking your self-assembly unit. If you use scissors or a large knife to open the box, watch you don’t scratch or mark any of the pieces inside (these things are usually tightly packed with very little leeway).
Lay the cardboard packaging on the floor as it makes an ideal work surface, especially if the room has hard flooring, such as laminate (here’s a useful guide on how to lay laminate flooring) or floorboards. If you don’t want to use the packaging, use a bedsheet or another soft surface instead. Either way, you need something to protect your new furniture (even if you’re working on a carpeted floor).
You will usually have an assembly drawing and parts list with the unit. Spend a few minutes checking all the parts and fixings are present and correct. There is nothing worse than discovering a screw or two missing halfway through the process. The package should also contain some of the tools needed to put it together, such as an Allen key or star key (once done, put the tools in a safe place).
Put all the fixings and small parts to one side or in containers (like plastic Tupperware boxes) so they don’t get ‘lost’.
Before you start assembling the unit, check all pieces to make sure they’re in excellent condition as they sometimes pick up knocks during storage and delivery. If any of the pieces are marked, it’s your call on what action to take with regards to returning the piece or carrying on regardless.
Before you pick up any tools, have a good look at the instructions and read them from start to finish so you get an understanding of the process you’re going to follow.
Flat-pack furniture is precision-made, so it’s important you follow the instructions to the letter. Screws, bolts, dowels and other fixings may vary only slightly in size so it’s easy to get mixed up if you rush. Using the wrong piece at the wrong time shouldn’t be too much of a problem to fix, but getting it right the first time could save you a lot of hassle.
A battery drill/driver can help speed up the assembly of most units. Just make sure it is set on low speed with a low torque setting as screws can easily be driven through chipboard etc by mistake. I normally tighten up the last couple of turns of screws and bolts with a screwdriver or small spanner, as you can judge when they are ‘tight’ much better by hand.
Depending upon the size of the unit you’re making, it’s a good idea to separate the pieces into logical groups: doors, side units, legs etc.
When you are happy you have everything to hand and all the pieces you need are in place, it’s time to start building the unit.
All you have to do is follow the instructions. Don’t try jumping ahead, just go through each step methodically and make sure you use the right size fixings at the right time and in the right place (this is where many people go wrong).
If you do that and take your time, you’re on the road to success!
Tools you might need:
- Drill or drill driver (check out our drill buying guide)
- Utility knife
- Small hammer
- Adjustable spanner
- 1 or 2 small containers