From May 2015

Layout the Island

This is where we start to veer off into the customization part of the Ikea build.  We wanted a large custom island with overhang for seating and raised panels for a more custom look.    We started by building a wall around the island.


I just nailed down 2x4s and pulled the electricians island outlet run through the 2×4.  We placed the island cabinets inside so make sure the dimensions were correct and leveled them.  Next I framed out the walls using pretty standard framing techniques.  You can use screws 3″ screws or a framing nailer to put walls like these together.


After that I skinned the island with 3×4 birch plywood and maple to create a solid surface.


You can see here that the island walls are just 3/4 plywood.  The kitchen side of the island has simple shaker legs that were put together using a miter saw and a Porter Cable Quick Jig.  The Quick jig is the ultimate fast joinery tool.  A leg like that can be assembled in 5 minutes. with pocket holes at 90 degrees.  I’ll add photos to show how its done.

The leg on the front of the island is getting started and you can see that it has a raised panel.  These are also pretty easy to put together with the quick jig and i’ll draw out how i did that using varying thicknesses of plywood.

Its probably worth noting that the island cabinets are attached at the sides using pocket hole screws as well as the back in order to stabilize them.  The approach ikea recommends where the entire island is floating on 4 legs per cabinet seems pretty unstable to me so i’m not sure how it would work out otherwise.

Here is a bit more finished.


Eventually there will be plywood triangle shelves in that akward section above where there are two almost “legs” at a right angle.

Raised panel legs

The front legs are 9″ wide raised panels using the quick jig.  They are raised panels on three sides to give a more custom look.  Everything else will be skinned in flat 3/4 plywood then built up using trim to create the raised panel look there.island_with_plywood

Finally, I just nailed varying thickness trim onto the island to create raised panels for the backs and sides.  I usually do a 3×4 baseboard  and half inch vertical pieces so that  there is always a nice way to terminate a piece into the side of the baseboard.

Panels Done

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Finish the corner upper cabinets and start the lower cabinets

When you first hang the corner upper cabinet you have to cut the rails to the length of the two nearest runs of cabinets.  I filled in those cabinets by sliding the hanging hardware until they were touching.



From here you have to be careful about mounting some through bolts to attach the second cabinet to the corner cabinet.  These through bolts do a great job of aligning the cabinets permanently though if you use a couple of clamps as suggested by the Ikea instructions.  Next I added the last corner cabinet and started to work on the lower cabinets that wouldn’t conflict with hanging more uppers.


There are a couple of things worth noting in the picture above.  I mounted 2x4s to the wall instead of the ikea supplied mouting boards to give the cabinet something more substantial to sit on.  Second, be careful about your wiring height. Notice how i had to interrupt the 2×4 several times.  It would have probably been easier to have the electrician raise the height of these outlets to somewhere inside the cabinet itself.  Third, you can’t spend enough time leveling that first cabinet in every direction possible using the adjustable feet supplied by Ikea.  This cabinet dictates the rest of your run so its quite important.  Fourth, a stud finder pays huge dividends as you need to mount the steel brackets in the upper back of the lower cabinets to studs or use really good anchors.  I used toggle bolts as they are generally the strongest (below).


I stopped for the day after putting up a few more of those lower runs:


A Couple of comments here are:

(1) notice the two padded clamps used to clamp cabinets together.  These are hugely useful before drilling holes.

(2) notice the two drills. Its nice to not be changing between 3/8 drill bit and driver for attaching the cabinets. Saves lots of time.

Lastly, take lots of pictures…. just reviewing this I realized where the outlet is for my garbage disposal that I haven’t hooked up yet.  Right below that window divider.  Not sure how I missed that when mounting the sink cabinet.

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Next Step: Clear out and hang the upper cabinets

The first step that Ikea recommends is hanging the upper corner cabinets. But first… we had to clear the space:


The upper cabinets hang off of a slotted metal track. I brought our trusty Harbor Freight to the site and used it to cut the metal tracks to length. I used a 2×4 to support one end and cut it on the back of my pickup. Accuracy is not paramount here as the tracks don’t need to extend to the edge of the cabinet run. You can be short be at least an inch.


Once the tracks are cut you insert the hardware so that when the tracks are mounted on the wall you just need to hang your cabinets off the bolts. I found it much easier to add the hardware on the ground before screwing the tracks into the studs with 2.5″ screws:


Finally, you mount the track on the wall. I used the Ikea recommended height for the track (can’t remember what that is plus about 2″ because we wanted more under cabinet space. In the interest of full disclosure… I used a rotary laser used for surveying to mark the entire run of cabinets. I realize not everyone will have one of these but a level should work just as well:

Rotary Laser

Next I put the first two tracks on the wall. This is necessary as you are supposed to start with the corner cabinet according to Ikea. I should point out that Ikea recommends two people for this job. The cabinet is not super light so its probably advisable although its possible with one person obviously.


After all that… we now have a cabinet on the wall. You basically lift the cabinet onto the bolts. It will teeter there for a second so make sure you have the square washer and nuts in your pocket to secure the cabinet. I had to adjust the bolt location several times by sliding it in the track to get this first cabinet up. After that it was a breeze to measure bolt locations and add more cabinets. The last thing I want to point out is that it makes sense to put your upper cabinets up before the lowers so that you have room to walk and lift the uppers. If I had to do it again I think the only step I would add is cutting some 2×4 supports to set the cabinet on to help me position them.


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Finally! Assemble the boxes

After all the planning and waiting for delivery, the fun of assembling the boxes was finally here. A crew of the most efficient people I know was critical: my wife, sister-in-law and mother-in-law. I offered Costco salad and wine as wages which seemed liked a pretty solid payback.

To pull together all of the parts we needed for each cabinet, we kept lists of our order (which includes all of the parts necessary for each cabinet by cabinet number) in the garage and would basically have one person pull together boxes while others assembled. Overall this was fairly easy as the parts became easier to identify after the 3rd or 4th box and the Ikea delivery guy seemed to actually do a good job of grouping parts at dropoff. It was definitely nice having the entire garage to lay out our parts:

garge full o cabinets

In order to increase efficiency we set up a large table and had several full sets of tools around the workstation so that we wouldn’t be bending over all day long. This included: pneumatic stapler, cordless power drill with hex bits, some mallets and lots of solid screw drivers. We were able to assemble all 14 boxes in a single morning with a quick break for lunch at the station below:
Boxes on the ground

Once the girls got going each box took about 15 minutes to assemble. You basically pull the tops and sides together with cam locks and then staple the back on. Additionally you attach some metal brackets to the sides for hanging the cabinets from the wall rails. After you have done one Ikea box you won’t need to read the instructions again except for maybe the corner cabinet which had a couple of extra steps. As you can see in the photo above we spent a little time positioning the cabinets on the floor to check the position and size vs our final dimensions. After all that planning I think we had at most .5″ of variance amongst the walls due to a miscalculation on my part relative to drywall thickness. Thus, I recommend measuring the actual site and not just relying on cad or plan dimensions.

We ran out of room quickly for working so we placed the remainder of the boxes in other rooms that we knew didn’t have much work going on during this phase of construction.

extra storage

Next time I’ll show how we attached the cabinets to the walls and started working on the island. Many thanks Holly, Wendy and Cheryl for their help during this stage!

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