The ultimate resource for help assembling flat pack funriture in the UK.


Tips and tricks

Below is a set of tips n tricks you may wish to refer to to help you get through your assembly.


For smaller items all you really need it the Allen key that is usually packaged with the product, a screw driver and possibly a hammer, however refer to the suggested tools which should be sufficient to deal with virtually all flat pack furniture assemblies.

Before you start

I would recommend in most circumstances following these basic tips:

  • Always assemble furniture in the room where it will be used. It may be difficult to move it from one room to another when assembled, especially in modern houses where space is at a premium.
  • If you are assembling many items, start with the largest first. The exception being beds, always do these last!
  • Clear a decent space to work in, around 60cm (2 ft) in each direction is enough.
    • If your biggest item is 2m x 1m you'll need 2.6m x 1.6m to work in easily.
    • If your biggest item is 6ft x 3ft, then 8ft x 5ft is required.
  • Open the largest box first, remove the contents and flatten the box as your work mat:
    • This protects you flooring from glues spills and other assembly debris.
    • The cardboard will cushion your knees and the furniture, especially when you are working on a hard floor.
    • Many items are repositioned, stood up laid down etc throughout assembly, again the cardboard helps cushion the item.
    • You have a plain coloured flat surface and so it is easy to see items you have dropped!
  • Double check your measurements if the space is tight, it is very easy to hold the measure with a sag in it, or diagonally and elude yourself that the space is bigger than it is. Also consider any features which might make positioning the item after assembly difficult, such as a radiator, skirting board, window sill, picture rail, door etc. Start considering them now, because you may well think up the solution during assembly!
  • (Say over 2.2m in height) Before assembling a tall wardrobe, take the largest side panel and try to stand it up diagonally. If it does not clear the ceiling you may not build the wardrobe lying down. If it is close, check this in several places, as ceilings and floors are not level!

Basic Assembly Tips

  • Always put the back on an item before lifting it!
    • Pay attention to the strength of joints see my lifting guide below. You would not believe how many people make a mess of this simple task and ruin their wardrobe.
  • If you are using an electric screwdriver, set the torque to an appropriate level so that the clutch clicks in when the screw is fully in. I cannot stress how easy it is to over screw with one of these and it leads to the following problems:
    • The screw goes through the would, rendering the joint useless
    • The screwthread over tightens and spins in its position, again rendering the joint useless.
    • The head of the screw starts to burr and is impossible to screw in our out (see below, regarding what happens, what to do and how to avoid!).
  • When nailing on the hardboard back, ensure that your pins are nailed in straight and lined up properly. Many suppliers (Ikea included) supply and guide to help get this right. All is not lost if you do split the laminate see Correction Tips below.
  • When hanging doors, place all hinges, screws etc in the middle most position and prop up one corner to level the doors once hung. This is by far the easiest way, see below for an explanation. If you adjust the hinges, you will end up in all sorts of trouble! NB: make sure the hinges are tightly screwed/clipped on and that the door will not clip off!
  • When connecting multiple wardrobes together, level with a spirit level and connect them, before adding the doors.
  • PVA glue takes around 24 hours to dry. If your most of the strength on a joint is provided by glue do not use the item for 24 hours once it is complete!!! This is especially true for some suppliers drawers. If you use them before the glue has dried they may come apart or dry mis-shapen so they won't close properly.
  • Drawers on a chest then look uneven?
    • Pull the drawer out a little and apply a small amount of weight to one side, to bend the runner a little this can often resolve the problem.
  • Drawers are falling off runners.
    • Sometimes the chest is slightly warped and one or two drawers may slip between the runners. This is generally a matter of 2-3mm!
    • Get some small washers (or folded paper) and place these between the runners on the drawers and the drawers sides to build up the effective width of the drawer.
  • Hanging Hinged Doors & Connecting Multiple Wardrobes Together
    • Most wardrobes and cupboard are basically a box, without a front. The back panel provides stability. Without the back panel the item would probably collapse. If for the sake of argument a front panel was added, the item would on most floors rock. Why? This is because the item would be a solid square box and almost every floor is not perfectly flat.
    • Since there is not a panel on the front and almost all the weight is placed on the vertical side panels, your cupboard/wardrobe will twist ever so slightly to accommodate the shape of the floor. As a result your doors do not look like they are hanging straight. You can use a spirit level to confirm this!
    • The simplest solution is to pull one side of the wardrobe towards you or push one side away until the doors are level. You should be able to feel the most comfortable option and determine where to provide additional support under one of the side panels. Some suppliers include chocks for this purpose, but a thin piece of wood or cardboard is usually sufficient and is easily hidden from view.
    • The above is very easy with a two door wardrobe, however with multiple units fitted together (such as Ikea Pax, MFI etc), it is imperative you level the wardrobes before adding the doors and internal fittings such as drawers.
      • The wardrobes are lighter and can be repositioned more easily.
    • Uneven floors are often exaggerated by carpets, as carpet grips are usually right up against the skirting board thus creating a more uneven surface when an item is pushed into a corner.

Tilting Wardrobes and Anti Tilt Devices.

  • Many older properties have very uneven floors and there is sometimes a risk that a wardrobe could topple on top of you when opening it. Sometimes the ceiling clearance will prevent this, other times it may be prudent to fit the anti tilt strap often included.
  • Small children often climb on furniture and can cause unstable wardrobes to topple over under their own weight. At best they will be trapped inside, at worst they could be seriously hurt.
  • The centre of gravity of a wardrobe is usually nearer the front, as the doors are more heavy than the back, and if the unit tips close to this, clothes hanging inside will pivot towards you and the momentum can cause the unit to tip. It is strongly advised the stability is checked and a strap fitted if required. Whilst this may mark the wall (more of an issue in rented property) it is easy to correct with a spot of filler and paint, when you remove the wardrobe and this should not be a reason for not fitting a strap.
  • Alternatively you could try chocking up the wardrobe at the front, so that it tilts back slightly, to improve the stability of the wardrobe.

Modifying an Item to Fit a space

  • Generally this means cutting an item. The main point here is that if you modify it, you invariably invalidate the warranty on the product.
    • This is especially important on flat pack furniture as you will be tempted to cut it near a corner to fit a space. Your cut may significantly weaken the unit's strength with a risk of it collapsing during use.
  • That said you can cut an item if this is the case, but be prepared to compensate for the weakening you cause by replacing the strength via brackets and connecting blocks etc.

Check Ceiling Height

  • Most specifications provide approximate dimensions of an item. It is very easy too if you want a specific item to just hope it will fit.
  • If it is going to be close, then take the largest panel (usually a vertical side panel) and stand it up on its diagonal to see if you can stand it up after assembling it lying down.
    • It is generally easier to assemble an item lying down, as less stress is applied to the joints and nailing the back on is a lot easier.

Assembling Ikea Pax Standing Up.

(This is difficult to explain and I will right a detailed guide to better get the point across.)

  • Most units can be assembled standing up, but if you do this please refer to my guide, the process is similar to assembling a Harveys wardrobe, and can be done on your own. However for the less experienced assembler two people may be required.

Electric Drivers & Head Burring

  • Set the torque to an appropriate level if using an electric driver.
  • Use quick short bursts of power, this allows the tip to re-align if it is starting to slip.
  • If the screw is having difficulty, unscrew it and re-screw it in, momentum can carry it further each time, thus avoiding the screw head from slipping.
  • Always use the correct screw tip for the screw head. Posidrive and Phillips are not the same, the head differs slightly.
  • Use a longer length driver (or attachment on electric drivers), this allows you to position the screw tip more truly in the screw head.
    • You can buy flexible attachments for drivers if you are screwing in confined spaces.
  • Once it has started to burr, get the screw out rather than forcing it in. You may be able to use another screw successfully and use this one elsewhere. You can often manually screw a damaged head in more easily.
  • If all else fails you can drill the head of a screw, separate the panels and use pliers to get the remainder of the screw out.

  • Lifting Items During Assembly

    • The easiest way to connect panels are with one lying down and then to place the next on it at 90 degrees. As you build an item like this al the panels can slot in under their own weight before you finally add the top piece (usually the opposite side to the first piece you started with.
    • By now the item is heavy and also would probably collapse under its own weight if you try to stand it up as it has no lateral strength.
      • It is also difficult to pin on the back panel with provides important rigidity.
    • The best way is to then lie it on its front or back.
      • If you need to pin on a back panel, lie it on its front, being careful that the area is clear of items that could damage the finish.
      • Then pin on the back, again being careful not to pierce the inside with a misdirected pin.
    • With or without the back, from its position on its front you can lift it up.
      • If you haven't attached the back for whatever reason, you may find the structure wobbles and a single diagonal bracket may provide all the rigidity required.

    Correction Tips

    • Nail / screw holes splitting laminate
      • Firstly slowly remove the nail or screw
      • Use a large flat metal object and gently but firmly try to push the laminate back into place. In many cases this is sufficient to turn an eye catching problem into one that is barely noticeable.
    • Cover up sticks, Tippex and felt tip pens.
      • Most minor scratches and nicks run deeper than the laminate finish and expose the interior MDF or chipboard. The change in colour is often eye catching, but can usually be easily covered up by a felt tip pen (or a dot of Tippex if white). Use this very sparingly as over use, may result in a more eye catching spot.
      • Deeper scratches and damage can be covered up using wax cover up sticks, available to match most wood finishes. These harden over time covering up the area affected.