Introduction: Installing IKEA Upper Kitchen Cabinets
A while back we had an unexpected forced kitchen remodel, a row of upper cabinets full fell off the wall one day nearly taking my wife out with it. Like most projects around the house replacing these cabinets sat on the back burner until IKEA started sending us fliers in the mail and we noticed how nice their cabinets looked and how affordable they can be. We went with the Akurum wall cabinets with the aluminum framed frosted glass doors and glass shelves, if they things fall it could be really bad so I have to make sure to get it right unlike the previous owners of our house.
A little background, our house is concrete block and the wall these cabinets are to be installed on is the inside of an exterior concrete wall covered with furring strips, two layers of sheet rock, and about 3/16" thick textured finish. It was obvious that hanging the cabinets with wood screw to the furring strips was not a great idea so my plan here is to anchor the cabinets into the concrete with tapcons, a whole lot of tapcons.
This project was easier than most because the old cabinets were already off the wall.
What tools and materials are needed, well here is my list, everything is not needed but since I have them I tend to use the best too for the job, like using a chisel to open a can of paint.
4' level (You MUST have a level and a big one)
Framing Square (the cabinet boxes MUST be square for the doors to line up)
Impact Driver (Cordless Drill or even screwdrivers and a socket set would work)
Hammer Drill (For concrete block you don't need the hammer drill but it makes life easy)
Drill Bits (You need to drill through for the bolts that pull the separate cabinets together)
Tapcons (I used 1/4" by 3 1/4" lags, you may need shorter ones if you don't have multiple layers of drywall)
Circular Saw with Metal Cut Off Blade (have to cut the steel rails that the cabinets hang on, anything that can cut steel will work here.)
Clamps (Small clamps are fine)
Nice to have tools:
rotary saw (I used this as a router for cabinets customization and in the wall exploration)
Step 1: Installing the Stinking Rail! Piece of Cake Right???
So IKEA sells a rail to hang the cabinets on, the rail has a million holes in it and a t channel to slide the attachment hardware into, this is a heavy double layer of gavanized 16 or 18 gauge steel. The rails are about 90" long and and I needed two pieces as I was installing 106" of cabinets. So this was going to be my easy step, make sure the existing electrical wire is below the rail and drill and screw about 40 tapcons to hold it up and be done, hour tops right. Remember I started the project at 9pm Friday night.
So I mark the end where the rail will start, you want is in about 1/4" from the end of the cabinet. I then put a few finishing nails into the wall to hold the rail in place so I can level it and drill the first hole. I put the first hole in and sink a tapcon nice and tight and then check for level again and move the next hole, on this hole I do not hit anything till the drill bit is about 4" into the wall..... Scratching my head I move to another hold and try again, same thing. It appears at the top of my wall there is a huge gap between the drywall and the block. Even if they made 5" long tapcons they would sag or break with that much unsupported shaft.
At this point I am a little frantic so I put a few holes lower in the wall and find good solid block behind the drywall, hmmm...... Frustrated I put the drill down and walk outside and sit down scratching my head. I put in a phone call to my dad who was a 30 year shop teacher and start talking to him about my options. Well he was a little stumped since he has lived in wood framed houses forever in North Florida, myself I would never live in another wood framed house after having my house burn down with me in it once but that is a story for another time. While talking to him I suggest that I could just use the new Dewalt rotary tool he gave me recently to cut out a strip of drywall to find out what is back there, he thinks that is a good idea so I get off the phone and start cutting. So...... with a strip cut out of the wall I take a metal skewer and start probing back there, sure enough the wall ends about 3" from the ceiling but I feel something about 2" back feels like wood, hmmm.... must be a top cap on the wall for the ceiling beams to attach to. A little note about the design of my house, I have a block home with a slightly sloped roof and no craw space just beams and a built up roof. So since this wall is on the inside of an upward slope the block will never reach the ceiling in here, makes sense now.
So now for the second attempt, everything is shifting down 3 inches. I use a cold chisel to make a grove in the drywall to lower the electric wire and start again. Drill and screw, drill and screw. As you guys may or may not know, drilling in concrete is hard work, a five pound drill and I was really leading into it while standing on a ladder with my head wedged into the ceiling for extra leverage I was a human leaf leaf spring. Once the first rail was installed I had to cut a 15.5" section of railing to complete so I went outside and cut it with a cutoff wheel mounted in the circular saw, you could also use a dremel or many other tools for this step, anything that cuts steel but that circular saw does a real good job!
The important thing to remember in this step is make sure that rail is LEVEL!!!! I was lucky in that my counter top only had about a 1/4" drop over a ten foot span so I was able to level the cabinets with gravity and not have to account for a badly skewed counter top. If you have badly out of whack lower cabinets you have some tough decisions to make about whether to level with gravity or try to match the counter top angle.
So I have written an entire page on what should have been a paragraph but at this point the rail is up so lets move on to putting the cabinets together.
Step 2: Assembling the Boxes
So IKEA cabinets do not come assembled but they include a great pictorial that I have included on the first image here. Personally I hate pictures without words, I find it insulting to the end user and lazy on the producer. But this is what I have to work with. A bag of hardware some particleboard panels and a six pages of simple and utterly incomplete pictures.
So I recruit Trinity to help me, she is reliable and does not bark directions. Despite the poor "instructions" I manage to get these things together. A round peg here, a nail there, and a leap of faith in the middle. The thing to stress here is that once you have a the outer box assembled make sure it is as square and you can get it before nailing the back panel on, if you are not square the doors will show it.
One thing to note here is that one of the back panels was too long for the box and bulged out, it was only about 1/16" too long but there was no way to get it flat without cutting it. I thought about this a while which means I had a beer and watched a little TV. So after thinking I decide to clamp the panel to a straight edge and use a flush cut bit in the rotary tool. I put masking tap over the nice white side of the panel to help reduce chipping and keep the dirty clamp faces off the surface. It honestly looks like I have used one of these clamps to change my brake pads before..... But I would never do that......
So with all the boxes put together it is time to hang these things, or is it?
Step 3: Customizing the Cabinets for Wiring
So I have a live wire behind the cabinets so I am going to install outlets underneath the cabinets at each end. So out come Mr. rotary tool with a flush cut bit to dig a channel to run the wire out at the bottom of the cabinet. If you have not dealt with these cabinets before I will tell you, the top an bottom of the cabinets are about 1/2" deeper than the back and sides so there is space behind the cabinets to run wires, very nice design. While I am cutting holes I decide to cut a small hole in the back middle of each cabinet to route wires for future lights underneath the cabinets.
So first tape off and mark where the cutouts will be, notice I use the outlet box to get an idea of where the wire will run. Now route it out.
A little note, it was not obvious before hanging the cabinets but there is an area to pull wires out between each cabinet already built into the design so the holes I made in the middle of the box were not necessary.
Step 4: Hang Em High
So let's hang these things.
I wish I had taken more pictures here and I do apologize but I will describe as much as possible which is what the instructions are missing.
So the essential thing to know here is that the doors are the last thing to install. There is a block and bolt that slides into the t slot of the rail on the wall then you lift the cabinet box up and put the bolts through the brackets and tighten down the nut to hold the cabinet to the bracket. The instructions cover this nicely. The things missing from the instructions is before trying to lift the box measure the distance between the mounting holes on the cabinet and space out the bolts on the rail that same distance, that will help when lifting the box that you do not have to attempt adjusting that while you are trying to lift the cabinet box.
Once you have all the boxes up you will notice there may be gaps between them, this is a step completely missing from the instructions, guess they could not come up with a picture to describe this. There will be a couple of pieces of hardware left in the bag at this point, pull them out and you see each box came with two machine screws and two binding posts. What do you do with these and why did I say you needed a drill for this install, well here you go. The hinges mount into the row of holes for the shelf brackets, well I mounted these right below the top hinge and right above the bottom hinge through the front row of holes. So find a drill bit about the size of the binding post if not a fraction larger. drill through the hole in one cabinet into the other cabinet, be sure to manhandle the cabinets to make sure this is straight, if there is a large gap between them (remember squaring the cabinets, me neither) drill through one side then drill through the other side and push the binding post through and lift or pull the other cabinet to mate up to it and bolt together. This step is so essential I cannot believe they left it out.
So now and finally now we can get to the doors. As you can see from the pictures there are hinge mounts you put into the row of holes in the boxes, which holes, hold the doors up and check, this is a sure fire way to make it right. Push these in and screw it down. Once you have the hinge mounts in the doors simply snap onto these mounts, it is some of the easiest mounting hinges I have ever seen. Of course at this point you did everything perfect and the doors all align perfect, good for you, that was not the case for me. There are two adjustments in the hinges clearly explained in the manual believe it or not. In addition to that you can loosen the screws to the hinge mounts in the cabinets and there is about 3/16" up and down adjustment there too.
So the doors are on and you are done. I also added some outlets underneath the cabinets but I am not going into details on that and can only add "always hire a licensed electrician to do any electrical work in you home"
Step 5: Sit Back, Relax, and Admire Your Work
Well, at this point it is 1pm Saturday and me and Trinity are hot and exhausted from all this work so we kill the next hour in the pool while I fetch the tennis ball.