Wednesday, April 4, 2018

IKEA Hacker's definite guide to HACKING PAX!


[picture shows the back of a PAX wardrobe that has been glued, nailed and screwed ensuring that it will never come off - this is the BEST PAX HACK that you can do to ensure the integrity and longevity of your new closets - want to know why? IKEA backs are fairly thin - a little over 1/8" - not to mention that they are usually split into 2 pieces taped together on larger boxes. Originally, they are only nailed in - that's the trouble! Imagine that over the course of your closets lifetime - which in my opinion should be at least 20 years! - you will bump and push things against that back; you will open and close your drawers; you will slam your doors. All that motion is a 'dynamic, repetitive strain' on those backs AND it causes the nails to get loose - essentially pulling themselves out of the gables. When that happens the box loses it's rigidity - the BACKS ARE A MAJOR STRUCTURAL ELEMENT of any cabinetry! That 'flimsiness' amplifies the wear on all the components of the closet, eventually causing it to fail - your PAX ends up in the dump prematurely.

Chapter 1 - PAX Hacks and 'Peak Furnishings'.

If you have been to IKEA then like me you likely have a slight fetish for well organized and functional closets - PAX. I will not be writing about the DESIGN aspect of those closets - you know exactly what you like and how you want things to look.

The PAX system, in my opinion, is a great example of the phenomenon of 'peak furnishings' - meaning there exists a closet, which when properly designed, installed and hacked [hacked, well, because it is an IKEA product] will produce satisfactory results in 99% of the cases. AND it will last well beyond the 10 years that IKEA provides warranty for. I have been installing PAX the traditional way - free standing - or more popular, building them in, for I say 10 years, including calls to 'fix, adjust, and re-install'. And over the course of those ten years I have noticed similar challenges coming up. Two important points to remember - the PAX system is designed to be manufactured in centralized location [the efficiency reduces the cost] and then distributed; it is meant to be assembled by the end user [the actual design of the box has to be accessible to average DIY-selfer].

Why would you want to go through the process that I will outline below? I see two reasons:

A] You want to extend the life of the PAX - traditionally installed PAX [as per IKEA instructions] will last you about 10 years. Beyond that, the use of it will become cumbersome and challenging - it may start bothering you when the doors will rub against each other; the pull out drawer/tray/hanger mechanism may become annoying; shelves will sag and back may become loose OR worse come off completely; the entire box may lose its rigidity and feel 'wobbly' [that's how my customers describe the well worn out PAX box]. You may end up thinking, 'Hey! I did everything right, I followed the instructions, this is the end and I need to replace my closets.' And this point I want to stop you and say 'Wait! Before you discard that PAX, if you follow my instructions, you can breathe another 10 YEARS OF USE into that box! SAVINGS!

B] You want to build-in that box  to make it look fancy.  PAX boxes are fairly plain - they have a great selection of affordable styles of doors - both hinged and sliding - BUT that box is just SO PLAIN! As a conscious shopper, seeking good value for your hard earned dollar you want to take advantage of the affordable functionality and skip the 'custom closet route', which I assure you, is very expensive! You want to give your closets personality and flair - you want some side panels, you want some bottom trim to cover that little kick, you want a crown moulding that matches your house decor. SO, if you are going to go through all the trouble of fabricating all the custom pieces you might as well make it last. MORE - another important point to remember is the fact that when you built-in things [at least when I do] - they become PERMANENT. That is precisely the reason why I go through all hacking of the PAX that I work on - that closet is built-in and DONE. You will not be able to pull that box off the wall to fix a loose back; if that top is sagging and pulling in the doors [so they rub against each other] - there will not be an easy fix to straighten it out. The FIRST STEP in building in the PAX, is addressing all the issues/challenges that will arise during the lifespan of the closet - once those are addressed, your closet will function well YEARS beyond that 10 year mark.

Chapter 3 - Are you ready? Boring technical stuff... that you need to know.

PAX gables are super light. That is not a sign of any deficiency - opposite, that is a sign of high-end design. That vertical is a high-end sandwich - torsion box - designed to be light weight and perform as intended - the joinery on the box is strong, it will resist bending and twisting AND it will allow for great many hardware changeovers that you may desire over the lifespan of the closet. There are no benefits of using a solid core panels....unless you want you closet to be heavier.... but that never really enters into the closet equation. I've never heard anyone brag about 'how heavy their closets' are, BUT, I did hear people bragging about how functional their closets were! 

I do use non-IKEA screws in my IKEA installs all the time, but the key to remember about driving screws into IKEA panels is that they need to go into the right places. A screw driven into the portion of the panel composed of skin/honeycomb will not hold at all - that should be immediately obvious when you notice that the screw you are driving is not 'sinking' properly - the head tends to stick up above the surface OR it is simply free spinnig without 'biting' into the panel. A properly sunk screw will 'bite down hard' and pull the head just slightly below the surface - that is precisely what you want to achieve. And you know what? - PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT - I never think about it but I drive my screws with a brushless, 20V DeWalt cordless impact driver on the highest speed with a precision of 'within a 1/4 turn'. I never really thought about it until I hired someone to help me out and they just BLEW THE SCREWS through the panels because they lacked what I call 'fine touch' - driving screws when you are framing 2x4's is different when you are trying to hang up a lacquered panel. 




There are two things that I want you to remember about screws:
A] use coarse thread screws
B] always pre-drill! [ALWAYS!!! and I usually set the depth about 1/4" deeper than the actual screw - NOT SHOWN ON THE PIC, I just grabbed a random screw for illustration purposes; also, do not use those 'tapering bits', that's just BS. 

I am going to take a wild guess and say that you can probably save some cash on manufacturing of screws when you make the thread of a woodworking screw shallow - MISTAKE. When you are driving screws into low density panels, such as IKEA horizontal PAX piece, you want to make sure that the thread is as COARSE as you can get. The screw pictured above is a 'bulk screw' that I buy by weight at my local lumber yard. These are not premium screws in any way - they are actually cheaper than anything that I can buy at those BIG BOX reno stores, but they are superior. The most annoying that can happen is when you drive a screw in - regardless weather is PAX or SEKTION - and it start spinning in place without grabbbing - OH IT HAPPENS!.


Chapter 2 - The BOX

To be continued...