My Ikea furniture adventures

I asked my wife what she wanted for her birthday. She said she’d think about it. Then she asked if she went to Ikea and brought some stuff home, if I’d put it together. I said I would. So, how hard is it to put Ikea furniture together? What tools do you need to put together Ikea furniture? I learned all of that and more.

What tools do you need to put together Ikea furniture?

how long to put together Ikea furniture?
Ikea furniture generally goes together with simple tools, but it takes some time. I estimate the assembly time in minutes by counting the number of parts and multiplying by five.

Ikea furniture generally comes with rudimentary tools like wrenches and jigs that are sufficient to put it together. The only thing you’ll probably need that doesn’t come in the box is a screwdriver.

That said, I certainly recommend you have other tools. I like to have both a screwdriver and a powered screwdriver with a selection of bits. Don’t get macho and use an impact driver. Something like my little handheld 3.6-volt Black and Decker is what you want. If 3.6 volts isn’t enough to drive the screws in easily, they’re cross-threaded. Line everything up right, then drive them in.

One of the tables she bought used large hex-head bolts, and for that, I liked having a socket wrench. The little wrench that came in the box grew tiring after the first leg. My socket wrench made quick work of the other three though. A big hex driver on my screwdriver would have been fine too, but I didn’t have one of those that fit.

On their coffee tables and end tables that have shelves, you have to screw brackets into the legs at a set height. The legs don’t have holes because there’s no way to know what side they’ll need to be on. Ikea provides a jig that lets you put the holes in just the right place. They tell you to use a screw and a screwdriver to make your pilot holes. I used a drill and a 1/16 drill bit instead. It’s much faster and much easier to get it straight and square with a drill. Just don’t get too aggressive drilling the pilot hole. You only need to go in about a quarter inch.

A drill, socket set, and powered screwdriver are all optional, but very nice to have.

What about the Ikea tool kit?

Ikea sells a tool kit that includes a hammer, screwdriver, a selection of bits, lineman’s pliers, and a wrench. The tool kit isn’t necessary, especially if you have a decent collection of hand tools. I made the most use of the screw bits, as Ikea does use some unusual screw bits, such as Robertson and Pozidriv. That’s a good thing if you have the right bits, as it helps you keep from stripping screw heads. If you don’t have the right bits, it makes it more frustrating to put together.

Ikea also sells a powered screwdriver with a nice selection of bits at a reasonable price. The 3.6 volt is all you need.

How hard is it to put Ikea furniture together?

I’ve certainly bought a lot of assemble-yourself furniture that came in a box. Virtually everything in my bachelor apartment was in that category. Ikea furniture is harder to put together than the boxed furniture you might buy at Target or Office Depot. Not everything is pre-drilled for you, and the instructions aren’t as complete. Target furniture comes with a booklet that tells you how to put it together, step by step. Ikea furniture has illustrations and some very sparse notes.

I don’t find it overly difficult, but I’ve also built up furniture from lumber, doing all of the measuring and cutting and drilling myself. Ikea furniture is easier than that, because you don’t have to do any of the cutting or measuring, and they do most of the drilling for you. But in some ways it’s only a couple of steps behind that.

Putting together Ikea furniture will try your patience. Target furniture is designed to go together easily and hit a price point, and style and quality take a hit as a result. Ikea furniture is designed to deliver a bit more style and quality at a given price point, at the expense of being harder to assemble.

If you find Target furniture easy to put together, you can put together Ikea furniture. It may push you a bit, but you’ll be able to get it done. If you find Target furniture hard to put together, Ikea furniture may be too much for you.

Tips to make assembling Ikea furniture easier

Here are some tips that would have helped me. When screwing table legs on, turn the legs just as far as they’ll go. Don’t stop when it feels kind of tight and lines up. Screw the leg down as far as it will go, then back it out just enough to line it up. If you don’t tighten it down and then back it out, you end up with a gap.

When you go to put in a shelf, don’t tighten all the screws down as far as they’ll go. Leave just a little bit of play in them. That way, if the holes don’t line up quite right, you can slide things around so they do line up. Start at one corner, get your screws in, then go to the opposite corner, get those screws started, then do the same for the other two. Then come back around and tighten everything up.

On one of the tables my wife bought, there’s a decorative gap between the table and the frame. That gap doubled the length of time required to put the table together. If I’d had 2-3 wooden paint sticks to put between the frame and the top to hold it in place, screwing the legs on would have been much easier.

If you use your own tools, make sure you’re using the right bits. All of the furniture I’ve assembled used Pozidriv bits rather than Philips bits. A Philips driver will turn a Pozidriv screw, but a Pozidriv driver is much less likely to slip and strip the head.

How long does it take to put Ikea furniture together?

I put together an Ikea table in about 35-40 minutes. If I’d broken out my toolbox instead of trying to use the included tools at first, I probably could have put them together in around 30 minutes each. Items more complex than a table will probably take longer.

To estimate how long it would take to put together something more intricate than a table, I would count the number of parts, then estimate 5-7 minutes per piece. Some of the pieces won’t look like they should take five minutes to attach, but getting everything lined up so it all fits right will usually take longer than driving the screws.

Can you hire someone to put together Ikea furniture?

I’m sure almost any handyman should be perfectly capable of putting together Ikea furniture. But for that matter, any friend who’s good with tools and possesses above-average patience should be able to do it. It’s probably cheaper to ask a friend if they’ll come over and help if you order pizza and get a six-pack.

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