Flat pack furniture – a few tips for perfect putting together

Assembling flat-pack furniture – its man’s true favourite sport and I’ve noticed recently how more and more flat pack furniture seems to go together very easily indeed – far quicker than it used to.

Apart from the odd desk (which although small in size, had infinite parts and struts to its assembly), most pieces of flat pack furniture present little trouble to anyone with a few basic tools that’s able to follow a simple schematic.

But just because a piece of flat pack furniture is cheap, or doesn’t take long to assemble, doesn’t mean it can’t last a long time and give years of faithful service.

Here’s a few handy hints and tips to help you get the most from your new self-assembly furniture:

Before starting assembly:

Follow the instructions – Yes I know it’s obvious but when you see a blatant opportunity to get ahead and fit the feet or a handle etc and it’s not in the instructions then beware. I got caught out like this (a long time ago before I knew better) and fitted the feet of a wardrobe before I should have. The result, I’d covered up some important dowel holes. Luckily I hadn’t glued anything but it cost time all the same.

Protect the finished faces – It’s soul-destroying to complete a piece of furniture only to discover you’ve scratched a panel that shows outwards by leaning it on a screw or piece of whatever on the floor. A good tip is to use the cardboard box that the furniture came in, opened out of course. It should already be empty because you did check you’d got all the parts and inspected each piece for damage before you started assembly didn’t you?

Organise the fittings – Furniture assembly diagrams are getting better but there’s always going to be instances when you’re not sure if they’re referring to one screw or another etc. So I always get a few margarine tubs and sort out the fittings before I start. It sounds like you’re adding time but actually a few minutes spent sorting really speeds things up.

During assembly:

Wood Glue works wonders – If your not going to be taking the piece of furniture apart in the distant future, then a small tube of wood glue with a dab on each wooden dowel / dowel hole will work wonders for the long term stability of your furniture, when you’re assembling it. Be careful though to wipe any access off the face of furniture in accordance with the glue manufacturers instructions, straight away.

Make sure you’ve got the right piece – All those panels, they do look similar don’t they? A good tip is to compare the piece with the drawing / diagram even going so far as counting the holes. You’ll find that most instructions do give visual clues like showing which end is rebated or unfinished etc. Note the position of holes and blanks on the drawing (are they nearer to one edge than the other etc) and compare with the piece in front of you. Make sure finished edges all point in the same direction when assembled.

Parts left over isn’t always a tragedy – Granted you shouldn’t have any panels or struts left over but very often, you’ll find one or two extra fittings have been included. Double check each assembly stage before moving onto the next though. If necessary, count out all the fittings for that ‘stage’ and put them in a handy margarine tub or similar. That way you’ll know if you’ve missed any out. Don’t get caught out by the ‘fake piece’ which is really just a packing block and not included in the assembly / finished piece of furniture.

Pinning the backboards – Small nails and large hammers make for sore fingers. A craft hammer with a flat end makes a better option for tacking in panel nails etc. If you’re required to nail pins into middle pieces, a good tip is to mark the centre of the thickness/edge on the outside edge with a light pencil mark, so that when you lay the board on top, you can use a metal ruler to join the two marks up. There – you’ll have a perfectly centred line to follow when knocking the nails/pins home.

Finishing touches – Spend a few minutes getting doors to line up correctly by adjusting the multi adjustment hinges – it may be the whole piece of furniture just needs a foot adjusting to make it ‘square’. A wipe over with a soft cloth will remove any sawdust that stuck during transport.

Once assembly is complete:

Keep the tools – If your piece of furniture came with special allen keys or other tools, keep them and use them to periodically re-tighten the fittings.
This will reduce wear and tear caused by joints ‘rocking’ as the fittings work loose.

Uneven floors – If your piece of furniture is stood on an uneven floor, then use a small piece of folded card etc to level up furniture and stop it rocking. This will help avoid joints working loose and help safeguard against furniture toppling over.

Toppling risk – Especially for higher items like flat pack bookcases and wardrobes etc, most self-assembly units should come with a restraining strap or bracket which screws into the top/back of the furniture and the adjoining wall. Use the correct fixings for your type of wall. To help tall bookcases, I sometimes add a piece of folded card (from the packing box it came in is fine etc) under the front of each front leg to help the shelving ‘lean back’ against the wall, rather than leaning forward into the room.

Moving your furniture – It’s always best to assemble the piece of flat pack furniture in the room it’s going to be in. Some furniture can be extremely heavy when assembled so take care! Another very important tip is to always empty bookcases and wardrobes etc before you try moving them. Moving self assembled furniture with your contents still inside is a recipe for weakening joints or breaking panels and fittings. Oh and watch your feet too. Always wear strong footwear as you’ll know about it (and probably so will your casualty department) if you drop or set down a piece of flat pack furniture on you foot.

Recycling old flat-pack furniture:

Recycle – When a piece of furniture is no longer required or it’s simply broken, remember to recycle. Perfectly good furniture could be donated via a local charity that specialises in providing furniture for those suffering some hardship or perhaps victims of flooding etc where all belongings were lost. Do you need any shelving in your garage or shed? If a piece of flat pack furniture is broken (this includes kitchen units), then your local recycling waste centre will have special recycling skips for MDF and chipboard. Your local authority website will be able to give you the locations of recycling centres nearest to you. Some may even collect large items from your home.

There we are – a few tips that I hope will not only get a longer life from your beautiful new piece of self-assembly furniture, but will also help with the construction and eventual disposal of your flat pack furniture purchase.