It’s official, flat pack assembly is more popular than ever in the UK! The convenience of instant availability, range of choice, fashion and keen pricing have assured flat pack a place in our hearts and spurred the continued growth of flat pack assembly furniture giants such as IKEA.

The thought of flat pack assembly strikes fear in the heart of many an otherwise sane and professional person. We’re here to provide comfort and assurance that provided you follow some simple guidelines and steps you too can become a flat pack aficionado!

All artists need space to create!

Create some clear space to work. You’ll need a decent amount of space in which to lay out the parts during assembly, upright the finished piece and manoeuvre it into its final resting place. Don’t be tempted to start a project in a cramped space with inadequate circulation space – you’ll live to regret it!

Where possible, aim to assemble the item in the room where it will be placed when finished. Larger pieces can prove testing and hazardous to move once assembled. Movement should always be minimised post assembly to avoid compromising the newly tightened joints.

At the start of the assembly process it’s normal for the 2 side pieces (where applicable) to be laid flat next to each other. To be safe and for convenience, you’ll ideally need at least 50cm circulation space around this area during assembly.

The surface should ideally be firm, flat and slip free. Avoid assembly on deep pile carpets and rugs. Whilst being luxurious under foot these can prove a pain in the wotsit as pieces slide around; you can also find yourself on an unwelcomed treasure hunt if a fixing goes astray!

Make use of the cardboard packing as this can provide a handy protective work surface or alternatively use a felt sheet. We are firm believers in prevention over cure. The outer surfaces of the flat pack furniture can easily be scratched and dented if not adequately protected during assembly.

Only fools rush in!

Most packaging comes with a warning about opening with a sharp object. Please don’t be tempted to ignore this warning! We have seen many finished pieces with enthusiastic but undesirable knife scores across the outer surfaces. Oopsie!

Yeap, we know it’s a boring way to start the journey but it’s essential to check the contents for damages and omissions. Accidents happen during storage and transportation and manufacturers do sometimes fall short in the packaging process. It’s better to identify any issues at the outset before you’ve sprawled half assembled furniture across the living room floor! Imagine driving all the way to the coast and realising you’ve forgotten the picnic basket when you arrive!

To make life easier, use a tray to empty the fixings into for checking off and to keep them organised, visible and safe during assembly. An empty ice-cream container or similar works a treat!

Read and re-read the instructions where necessary. We fully appreciate that some instructions leave much to the imagination and it can be a bit like playing dot to dots! This is where patience, experience and sometimes good old fashioned common sense and even a pinch of luck will get you through!

Get tooled up!

Some flat pack assembly furniture comes with a few basic tools provided. These can be ok but ordinarily we recommend a few extras to make the process glide with ease, and the outcome more satisfactory.

  • Screwdrivers – selection of cross head and/or flat head as necessary
  • Allen keys (usually provided)
  • Wood glue (usually provided with a modest sachet/tube which typically is annoyingly inadequate)
  • Hammer
  • Power drill / driver
  • Measuring tape
  • Non-marking mallet / block of wood

A small word of caution. Be mindful of the torque setting on your power screwdriver; if it’s too high you can easily damage the screw head and/or furniture.  We suggest you play it safe and set the torque to the lowest setting that drives the screws home flush with the surface.

And finally, be careful not to rest your tools on the furniture pieces during assembly as these could easily damage the surface.

Nuts and bolts time!

Ok folks, so it’s time to kick-off. If you’ve followed the above tips then you’re in a great place and should find the next bit of your flat pack assembly a breeze!

The one overriding bit of advice at this stage is read twice, screw once!

Lay out the pieces as described in the instructions taking note to match the hole placement, the finished edges and any slotted grooves.

When dowels are required to be used, ensure you’ve pushed them fully home as directed. If they protrude further than the depth of the material, then you run the risk of damaging the adjoining piece.

Also, be conscious of using the correct screws when there are a selection of lengths available. We’ve witnessed many disastrous builds where the wrong screw has been used. This has resulted in damage to the surface as the long fixing has popped through. In this instance, even 1mm can have a huge difference!

Fixings should be secure but not over tightened. Over tightening can weaken the joint and spoil the finish if the fixing cannot be concealed properly with caps supplied.

When you reach back board time (where applicable) check the diagonal measurements of the unit at the rear before you nail/screw the board down. The measurements should be equal. This is a crucial step as it will ensure the unit sits square when upright. This is especially important where a door/s are to be fitted as there may be no/minimal adjustment to compensate for out of square units.

Work methodically in the order directed and you’ll be fine.

Final thoughts..

Give yourself plenty of time to complete your flat pack assembly.

Enlist an additional pair of hands for larger and heavier units. Typically, units are required to be manoeuvred during assembly which can place stress on the limited fixings. 2 pairs of hands are better than one in these instances.

Gluing joints can provide a stronger, permanent fixing. Be a little cautious of using glue for larger units that may have to be moved in the future. Often it makes sense not to glue these larger units that cannot be moved easily and safely when fully assembled.

Use a damp cloth to clean off any excess glue before it dries.

Once assembled and in situ, use wall brackets to secure the unit to a wall where applicable. This is especially crucial for taller units or ones where drawers can create instability when opened, especially in children’s rooms. If the flat pack doesn’t come with a wall bracket – don’t skip this step. You can pick up suitable angle brackets from most DIY superstores.

That’s all folks! We hope you find this article helpful in your flat pack assembly adventure.


The Help Business are your local Professional Handyman Company operating across West Essex and East Herts. We’re on hand to help you create, enhance and cherish your beautiful home.

If you’d like any help with similar projects around your home, we’d be happy to discuss your requirements and provide a free estimate.

The Help Business, your Handyman Professionals.

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