When I was planning out my kitchen remodel and decided on Ikea (Sektion) cabinets, I didn’t even consider hiring an installer. “It’s Ikea,” I thought to myself. “How hard can it be?”
When the cabinets actually arrived (a month later…) and I started researching how to install them, I realized how foolish that thought was. There were 81 unorganized boxes invading my living room and despite all of my internet research, I had no idea where to actually start.
Eventually, though, I figured it out, and a week and a half later the cabinets are officially installed.
I, a 20-something, not super strong female, installed the cabinets almost entirely by myself. I would love to tell you that this is proof anyone can do it. It’s not. But, if you have some basic tools and are at least a little bit handy, you can probably manage. Read on to find out exactly what you’ll need.
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1) Physical Tools
You know you’ve left typical Ikea-world when installation requires real power tools. I used a corded drill to drill pilot holes in the cabinets the few times Ikea did not have a pre-drilled hole, a cordless drill/driver pretty much every time a screw appeared, and a jigsaw to cut holes for plumbing fixtures into my sink cabinets.
You could go out and purchase these tools if you don’t already have them, but consider this: the installation of Ikea cabinets is time-consuming and intricate, and therefore probably not the best project to learn how to use a new tool on.
If you don’t already have these tools available, you’re probably better off hiring a pro. That being said, I go out and buy new tools for complex projects all the time, so I’m a bit of a hypocrite for giving that advice.
2) Handiness Skill
If you’re going to be installing more than two cabinets, be prepared for things to go wrong.
Some of the things I encountered: I couldn’t find the studs in the wall, the studs I could find were too far apart, the walls were wavy, the cabinet frames didn’t line up after being placed on the rail, I put a dowel rod in the wrong spot… the list goes on.
Nothing was unfixable, but I had to have the experience and skill to know what to do when I encountered these difficulties. If you’ve never done a DIY project before, this probably isn’t the place to start.
3) An Occasional Helper
On the very first page of every cabinet’s instructions, Ikea, in their pictorial language, says to assemble and install the cabinet with at least two people.
I somewhat agree: I could not have installed these cabinets completely by myself. Hanging the larger wall cabinets on the rail would have been impossible for me to do alone.
Luckily, my 71 year-old mother was visiting. If you are imaging a mobile and spry elder as my mother, change your mental picture. My mother is one of those 71 year-olds who carries a fold-able emergency cane in her purse, and orders a wheelchair when she goes to the airport.
Despite this, together we were able to heft the larger wall cabinets onto the rail.
This was the only time I needed to involve my mother. Everything else I was able to do myself. So while you will need a helper at some point during the process, it’s not a requirement for the entire duration of installation.
Here we are, at the airport!
If you’re thinking this is going to be a weekend project, think again. Maybe, if you have two people, and the demolition (taking out the old cabinets) is already done, and you work fourteen hour days, maybe you could get this done in a weekend. Maybe. But it took me ten eight-hour days to get all of the cabinets fully installed.
Yes, that’s right. Ten days. That is ten days without a kitchen, ten days of constant physical labor, ten days of waking up knowing I’m going to spend the day installing more cabinets. Ten days.
Basically, each step took two days: Two days of assembling cabinets, two days of hanging/securing the rails, two days of hanging/leveling wall cabinets, two days of hanging/leveling base cabinets, two days of shelves/doors/drawer installation.
If you have two people, some of these steps might go significantly faster (hanging and leveling anything, really), but it will still be a significant time commitment.