Learn how to install Ikea cabinets with this in-depth photo and video tutorial. Ikea Sektion cabinets are a breeze to install in your kitchen, and a DIY job will save you hundreds!
Two years ago, I installed my first Ikea kitchen. I remember getting all the boxes delivered, and being completely overwhelmed.
There were so many boxes, but somehow, I made it through. Two years later, I’m feeling brave enough to try again.
Except this time, instead of doing a kitchen, I’m installing cabinets in my basement woodshop.
Luckily, things are always easier the 2nd time around.
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Planning Your Ikea Cabinet Installation
If you’re doing a traditional kitchen remodel, I highly recommend having Ikea measure and plan your kitchen for/with you. The measurement service is $99, and is deducted from your total cost once you purchase the cabinets.
You’ll have the peace of mind that everything will fit, and you’ll have all the supplies you need to complete your kitchen. Really, if you know you’re going with Ikea, there’s no reason not to use this service.
If you’re doing something else, like my basement cabinet project, then sketching the layout out on graph paper is useful. Remember to think about outlets, HVAC vents, and windows to make sure you don’t overlook anything.
Also, if you’re installing in a strange place (like a basement,) take a moment to confirm your walls have studs. This sounds dumb, but as I’ll talk about a little later, I learned mid-project that my walls did not.
How to Hang the Ikea Sektion Rails
Honestly, the rails are one of the best parts of the Ikea cabinet system, and if you’re thinking about skipping them, don’t. They make it really easy to attach your cabinets to studs, as well as simplify the leveling process.
Even your base cabinets should hang on rails.
Rail Installation Materials
- Stud Finder – I love this one. It’s simple, inexpensive, and works like a charm.
- Wall Anchors – You’ll probably have a few places where you want to secure the rails where there’s not a stud. Wall anchors allow that.
- Long Level
- Shims – If your house is old and your walls are wavy, you might need these so the rails don’t bend to match the wall. I used them liberally in my 1910 era house, but they probably won’t be necessary if your house is a more recent build.
- Screws – The length of screw needed depends on the situation, so I don’t want to give an exact length. For example, if you have a layer of plaster and a layer of drywall (this has happened to me), you might need a screw 3″ long. Generally, though, a 1 1/2″ – 2″ long screw is appropriate.
Step 1: Find the Studs
Use your stud finder to find where the nails are in the drywall. This is a good indication of a stud. In the following picture, I marked (at 32 3/16″ off the ground, as indicated by Ikea) where I thought the stud locations were based on the nails I found:
Then grab your drill driver and a small drill bit, and drill into the wall at the points. You should hit wood.
Note: If you’re not sure what that feels like, drill into the wall somewhere where you don’t think there’s a stud. It should feel obviously hollow there, giving you an idea of what you’re NOT looking for.
If you hit wood, awesome! Put a little “Y” over that hole, indicating you know there’s a stud there
If you don’t hit wood, write “N” over the hole, and move over to the left or right and try again until you find the stud.
Hopefully you’ve found a stud. If you’ve drilled 10-ish holes, and still haven’t found anything, ask yourself if there’s something weird about this wall. Is there any possibility there aren’t studs? This is really rare, so try not to jump to this conclusion.
Really Rare, But… My exterior basement wall is made of concrete blocks. Turns out, the drywall was attached to the concrete blocks with horizontal furring strips, therefore, no studs for me. If you’re working in a basement, this could be a possibility.
Step 2: Add Screws and Drywall Anchors
Hold your rail up to the wall (this is a great time to recruit a friend,) and make sure it’s level and at the right height. Mark an “x” in all the holes that align with a stud. Sometimes it helps to move the rail a little to the left or right to get more holes on studs.
Then mark one hole in the middle of each pair of studs. This will be where your drywall anchors will go. Most US houses have studs either 16″ or 24″ apart, while Ikea recommends that the screws holding the rail be 12″ apart, so you’ll need drywall anchors in between stud locations.
Put the rail down, and drive screws half of the way into the wall in the places you marked, making sure you hit studs at those locations. Don’t put the screw all the way in yet; we’ll hang the rail from the screws and make sure it’s level before finishing driving them in.
Add drywall anchors at the places you marked that don’t have studs. Each drywall anchor types is different; some are self-driving, some require a pilot hole, so read the directions on how to install these.
Step 3: Secure Rail
Place the rail and the weird shaped washers Ikea provides onto the screws. Make sure the rail is level, then drive the screws into the wall.
If the rail bends into the wall when you drive the screw, remove the screw and add a shim behind it. Then re-drive the screw into the wall.
I wasn’t able to hang the rails in my current project, but here’s a picture of my rail with shims from my kitchen two years ago:
Once all the screws going into studs are added, grab your drywall anchor screws, add the weird washers provided by Ikea, and drive them into the anchors.
Important Note: The drywall anchors are there to provide extra support, but you should have gotten at least half of your screws into studs. Don’t over-rely on the drywall anchors. They’re not strong enough to hold up your cabinet on their own.
Once your rails are hung, you can move on to the cabinet assembly!
How to Assemble Ikea Cabinets
Obviously, Ikea sells a number of different cabinet versions. For the purposes of this tutorial, I’m assembling a 24″ Ikea Sektion base cabinet. It’s pretty standard, and most cabinets will assemble similarly, but be sure to review your specific instructions for any small differences.
- Drill/Driver – I use a regular screwdriver for some of the screws, but there are a number of places where using a drill/driver makes things go a lot faster. Be careful not to over-tighten, and there shouldn’t be any issues.
- Phillips Head Screwdriver
- Plyers – Only necessary if you mess up.
Step 0: Preparation
When you open the box, you’ll find two 3/4″ pieces full of pegholes (the future sides of the cabinet,) one 3/4″ piece with a ridge on one side, and a bunch of holes on the other (the future bottom), a flimsy piece (the future back), a set of rails, and a box of screws.
You’ll start with the two pieces full of peg holes. Everything else can be set aside for now.
One more thing: be sure to assemble your Ikea cabinet on carpet or a blanket. These pieces can and will chip if the corners come in direct contact with a hard floor.
Step 1: Add Half Screws
Before you start, lay out your peg pieces like this:
Make sure the ridges are on opposite sides. This is really important, because ultimately the back flimsy piece slips into those ridges, and they have to line up!
Then add three half-screws to each bottom piece. These are the half-screws I’m talking about:
The holes are pre-drilled, so there’s really no messing up where they go. I recommend using a screwdriver (not a drill/driver) to put these screws in, since it’s really not that demanding.
Step 2: Attach Bottom to First Side
Grab 3 dowel rods, and insert them along the edge of the bottom piece. There are multiple holes to choose from, and Ikea does a poor job indicating which ones are the correct ones.
The key to this is realizing the dowels will never go in the holes that align with the bigger circle hole on the side of the cabinet piece. See picture below.
Once you’ve inserted the dowel rods, connect the bottom to the corresponding side piece. When I mean corresponding, I mean the side that allows the ridges to line up.
This is key. The ridges on the pieces must line up. See picture below.
Step 3: Tighten Screws
Grab three of these screw tightener things:
Insert them into the holes where you see the screws peeking through.
Note that it’s really important that the arrow on the screw tightener points toward the screw.
Then tighten the screws. Now the arrows should point the opposite direction.
Step 4/5: Repeat Steps 2/3 for the Other Cabinet Side
Repeat steps 2/3 for the other side of the cabinet.
Step 6: Prep Rail
Add the plastic clips to one of the rail pieces. Note that the two rail pieces provided are identical, so it doesn’t matter which one you use.
Also, if this cabinet is a special cabinet, it might need a different rail, even though it probably came with the normal rails. Be sure to use the special rail if that’s the case.
Step 7: Add Back
Slip the flimsy back piece into the ridges formed by the cabinet sides/bottom. Be extra careful that the white side faces the inside of the cabinet!
Then place the top rail on the cabinet. The white pieces should clip to the back piece.
You might need to wiggle things a bit, but the holes in the rail should line up with the pre-drilled holes on the edge of the side pieces. Drive a screw into each hole.
The screws you use here should have a flat top, not a rounded top. There are also rounded-top screws included in the assembly package, which is why I mention it.
Steps 8-12: Add Nails
Ikea gives very specific placements for the nails, and I tend to follow them, because what’s the harm? Either way, hammer the finish nails into the back of the cabinet to secure the back piece.
Try to stay as close to the dotted line as you can, otherwise you might end up poking your nail through the cabinet side (yes, I speak from experience here.)
You’ll also nail some white pieces to the bottom of the cabinet. This just bumps the cabinet out from the wall a bit (the same amount as the rails,) so that it mounts plumb/level.
Step 13: Add Front Rail
Screw the 2nd rail to the front of the cabinet, the same way you did the back rail in Step 7.
Step 14: Add Brackets
Finally, add the brackets to the back of the cabinet using three short, fat screws.
The holes are pre-drilled, which makes it pretty easy to do!
Once you’re brackets are on, add the feet to the bottom of the cabinet, and you’re ready for hanging!
Hanging Ikea Cabinets
The rails make hanging Ikea cabinets a cinch! Simply grab a friend to help you lift the cabinet onto the rails. Then secure in place with the plastic pieces provided, and place the white plastic cover over the bracket.
You’ll also need to secure the cabinets to each other. Clamp the cabinets together, then screw in four screws (one in each corner of the cabinet.
Installing an entire Ikea kitchen is a daunting prospect, but each individual cabinet really isn’t so bad. If you take it slowly, I do think it’s a doable project for the average homeowner.
If you found this post useful, be sure to save it to Pinterest so you can find it again later. And if you’re installing your own Ikea cabinets, be sure to check out my Youtube video detailing the process!