Assembling Flat-Pack Furniture – 5 essential tips

I’ll bet there’s at least one piece of flat-pack furniture in your home. Perhaps a bookcase or the TV stand? What about wardrobes or drawers or even your kitchen table?

Flat-Pack furniture is so called because it comes with all the various pieces packed flat for you to assemble yourself at home. This saves on production costs (where the company would have to build the furniture themselves) and transportation costs from the factory to the shop.

The flat-pack ‘experience’ can also mean a few hours of cursing and hunting for elusive tools before finally presenting a piece of furniture that looks like it was caught in a hurricane. Should it really lean to one side like that?

No fear – help is at hand with our 5 essential tips to putting together your flat-pack furniture purchase.

As an aside, I think a lot of the shops that sell flat-pack don’t so themselves or the product justice. On many occasions when I’ve looked, it’s obvious that the display unit has been poorly put together. The whole unit very often ‘rocks’ or has movement in the joints – no glue used! And the hinges etc are often not adjusted for that perfect lining up. Don’t be put off though. A little care using our tips below could probably get you a job on the spot. Anyway – on with the tips!

1) Choose a large flat area for the construction – with enough room to move around all sides of the finished piece. If it’s large, making it in the room or at least on the floor of your house it’s intended for will save a lot of heavy lifting. Please check it will fit through the doorway.

2) Unpack carefully and check you’ve got all the bits before you start – easily done when you’re keen but a few minutes unpacking and checking you’ve got all the bits and they’re in good condition will save hours if the worst happens. Getting to the final piece to discover it’s missing or badly scratched – I’ve got the badge to prove I was there! It’s worth mentioning that you should also identify the correct screws and fixings with the instructions. There’s nothing worse than using the wrong screw for half the construction until you run out or finding out the screw you thought was J was actually K and has gone right through and out the other side of your piece of furniture.

Try counting the fittings and screws out as there is very often different amounts of two similar fittings so you’ll have help in identifying the right one.

3) Familiarise yourself with the instructions – It’s all very well going Gung-Ho and starting where you think best. It’s only later when you discover a vital screw hole is covered by another piece you fitted out of order earlier (got the badge for that one too!). The manufacturer knows there’s a certain order to completing the furniture – that’s why you get instructions in the first place.

4) Make all joints tight – sounds silly but you’d be amazed how easy it is to forget to tighten one joint or another. Use the special fitting supplied – most work on a screw in spindle with a ‘cam’ lock on the other end you twist to tighten. Very easy. Top Tip – if the construction uses wooden dowels, use a dab of wood glue in each hole (sometimes it’s supplied) for really solid joints. Be careful if you think you might need to dismantle the furniture in the future though and wipe any excess away with a damp cloth immediately (or see glue’s instructions).

5) Check for squareness of corners – with bookcases, it’s usually the back board, fixed using panel pins, that determines the final shape so be careful and work methodically – corner to corner, half way to half way etc.

Finally, keep any special tools that came with your furniture – you may need them to periodically re-tighten joints.

And a word on safety – if it’s a tall item, many manufacturers will include a strap or bracket to fix your new furniture to the wall so it can’t topple over. It’s very important that you use these straps and fixings to secure such items so that they don’t topple over and fall on someone or something.

Once when moving house, I’d left a perfectly stable bookcase standing against a wall (temporarily of course). There was a loud crash and we discovered one of the cats had tried to climb up the bookcase causing it to topple…. through a window so yes, (sigh) I have that badge too.

If you’re thinking of a flat-pack kitchen, then think very carefully indeed. Putting the cupboard carcasses together may be easy enough – it’s only when it comes to getting the doors to all line up, including the appliances and of course, working around uneven walls, floors and those ever-present bits of beam or wall that would challenge even NASA boffins, that you begin to realise it would have been easier and cheaper to get a professional kitchen fitting company in the first place.

The best place to start is by getting a quote, which you can do online without any salesman ever calling, by using KitchenQuoter.

13 thoughts on “Assembling Flat-Pack Furniture – 5 essential tips”

  1. Thanks for your comments guys – Could you tell the tips were written from years of experience?

    I think I've made most mistakes myself in the past but it never ceases to amaze me the shoddy putting together you see in shops and outlets selling the stuff.

    It does help if you can make sense of the diagrams – different manufacturers have different ideas of what constitutes a

  2. On great tip i learn,make sure you get furniture that will suit the space at your home.Thanks for the informative article you have here.It's perfect as i am changing some furniture this season.

  3. Hi Plumber Training – thanks for stopping by.

    Bizarre I know but just last night my kitchen tap – the cold handle – twisted off it's spindle.

    I thought "new house, bound to be the usual flexible hosing and shut off points" – Oh no! Hard plumbed in with no shut offs at all.

    Oh well, nice to dream.

  4. Another important tip is to make sure you have plenty of spare time i.e. during the weekend or holiday when choosing to brave the waters. This takes some of the stress out of the process 😉

  5. Hi Wood & Beyond.

    Yes -Time is the key factor many overlook – been guilty of that myself (another badge for the collection).

    Nothing worse than waking up to a half completed piece of furniture – takes a while to recap where you've got to and that's when mistakes can happen.

    Mind you, staying up really late to complete is not a good idea – tiredness =

  6. Thanks Oak TV for stopping by.

    We're in the process of moving house which means dismantling lots of the flat pack beds etc.

    So one more tip to add would be to keep the assembly instructions so you know how it goes back together again.

    Top Tip – I've used my iphone to take pictures of critical points to refer back to when it comes to re-assembly.

  7. Great post. One other tip is to be very careful when opening flat pack furniture boxes, as if you run a craft knife or scalpel down the join you can scratch the surface of the pieces inside.

    Also, if you buy a lot of flat pack it may be worth labelling all those different tools you have left over so you know which goes with what furniture!

  8. Hi Leather Sofas and thanks for stopping by long enough to leave a comment – especially a helpful one.

    Must admit I am guilty of never labelling the various spanners and allen keys that come with so much flat pack furniture, however, I've discovered that most Ikea stuff takes the same spanner / allen key.

    You used to get a little black plastic 'handle' to slip

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