Wednesday, June 25, 2014

my first TRUE IKEA Hack - #001

Chapter 1 - my first TRUE IKEA Hack #001

I did it! I did it! My first TRUE IKEA hack! It's a big deal for me, because from now on I am officially offering that service - TRU-Hack.  

TRU-Hack is a lower price point option from my original IKEA hacking system - however - it is not always applicable. Sometimes it does not work for the space - either the geometry of the design OR structural issues [like stacking]. 

I have largely resisted doing on-site hacks because they bring their own set of challenges:

A] No mods to the cabinetry - BILLYs in this instance - the original IKEA cabinetry still gets reinforced.

I always use screws in assembly - rigid. The backs get screwed on as well. The client saves money because they assemble the product themselves - according to IKEA instructions. 

The two extra plywood cleats - added at the back - keep the box rigid and square - they eliminate the need for a typically required fixed middle shelf - all BILLYs have one fixed shelf.  They also ensure that the back hooks will install properly and stay there despite years of use. 

This very much felt like an improv-design. Andrea wanted to have nice beadboard for the backs - which in turn required shortening of the shelves - to make it all fit. She also wanted to have an option of installing additional hook - higher up - the kids are only getting taller, and their jackets longer. 

We did all that. 

We used a modified crown moulding - modified because it was cut down for the proper dimension and nice fitting profile - to create a 'picture frame' design. I used a laser level to set all the hooks - it was good quality hardware, I could tell. 

To cover the gaps  between gables [sides] Andrea suggested to use nice, small, symmetric profile, solid wood moulding - I thought that was a great idea! It was good problem solving all around! 

Andrea experimented with the heights of the shelving to create the desired look - REMEMBER, it's all adjustable, change as often as you like! - and presto! 

This was a one long IKEA hacking day..... that final picture was shot at 10PM on a Friday night!* 

Anyhow, I think it turned out very nice. All that needs to be done is to do some painting. 

So how expensive is a project like this? Me and Andrea did some math and we have number - curious? e-mail me. But, I will tell you one thing - it's way cheaper than doing it using my original IKEA Hacking system. Major savings come out of the fact that you assemble the product yourself - I just strengthen it. And you are completely stuck with stock dimensions - that's the other thing you have to think of. My other system offers greater flexibility in sizing. But rest assured I always do my best to make it look like a million bucks! 

It's like it was always there!


*'What were you doing on Firday night?' 'Oh...I was IKEA Hacking.'

Thursday, May 8, 2014

How to install an IKEA kitchen island. Properly. PART 2


Hey! Home and Garden Television likes me!

                 'HGTV Kosnik'

Chapter 1

As someone who used to fabricate commercial millwork, I consider the plastic legs on IKEA kitchen cabinets to be - in my opinion -  a major weakness. Well, not a weakness - more of a compromise. 

Remember, the IKEA AKURUM [their kitchens] is a universal system that was designed to work around the globe - anywhere where IKEA sells. That means it has to work on floors that are concrete, plywood, tiles, linoleum, stone and on anything else that the potential client might have in their home. And IKEA does a good job 'compromising' on their design for the kitchen cabinet legs. 

Personally, as a designer, I consider the system quite brilliant for what it manages to accomplish - sell identical kitchen, thousands of units, around the world. 

[The next may seem a little technical, but bear with me, dear reader]

Kitchen cabinetry experiences loads and stress in many ways - I wrote about that in my previous post. There are static loads [things that don't move - like stacked plates and cups and pots and pans, blenders,  juicers and whole bunch of other things that our kitchen industry managed to create - useful or useless, you be the judge, I know I made some questionable purchases of kitchen products that were supposed to 'revolutionize' the way I cook...]. These are, what I call, direct loads that transfer from the shelves [or bottoms] onto the gables [cabinetmaker term for the sides of cabinets] and down onto the AKURUM legs and into the floor. An IKEA kitchen cabinet that has the AKURUM legs properly installed and is FIXED [like completely static] to the wall will take the load very well. I believe the load limit on those legs is around 1000 lbs - that is 300 kg of plates - that is a really big number, LOTS of fine china. 

The IKEA drawer boxes [made by Austrian BLUM - they are the standard in the industry - in Austria]  present a different load - a dynamic load - a moving force. Again, it will work - if the AKURUM box is FIXED to a wall. Larger BLUM drawers - like the ones used for pots and pans - feature heavier duty slides - thicker gauge steel, heavier duty runners - the details are there if you know what you are looking for. 

Kitchen islands though are DIFFERENT - they experience different stress - torsion and shear [hey! I know that those are terms used in physics, but don't fret dear reader, I got a 'C minus minus' in my university physics class...I was just a mediocre physics student, 'sad face emoticon' - the truth was that there were people who were much better at it than I was; they probably went onto build like....rocket ships to explore Mars or maybe the moon....I chose to design and build cabinets...]. 

Torsion refers to the force of twisting - in the industry we say that 'there is a twist'; used to reference cabinets, solid lumber etc. - likely to occur during install, or perhaps when somebody overloads a corner of a cabinet. 

The other force is shear - that is when there are two forces within an object that act in opposite direction - example being someone pushing or a leaning against a kitchen cabinet. Shear - in my opinion - is the bigger issue for an IKEA kitchen island. Shear - or someone leaning, or pushing on or introducing repetitive motion to the cabinetry causes the AKURUM legs to 'tip off' [I am working on proper illustrations....will update the entry later] and - when not fixed properly to the floor - the cabinets to go tumbling down. This could be accelerated with heavy loads - like a granite/marble countertops. And if doesn't topple over, than it will have a 'wobbly feel' - I read it all over the web - people's AKURUM islands having a 'wobbly feel'. 

My AKURUM islands are rock solid. 

I have a 'almost teenager' son - his friends are already 'texting and dating'. One night we were watching a movie - totally appropriate - and these two 'older teenagers got it going on', on the kitchen island [just kissy kissy...]  He kind of blushed and looked at me uneasy, to which I answered, 'Son, you see there? That is a sturdy, well installed kitchen island. And two, these things you are witnessing right now, they don't happen in real life - only in movies.' I think he bought it, for now.....


To be continued....

PS. DO NOT USE 2x4's for building anything that will even stand close to cabinetry [other than walls or blocking that will be drywalled]. 2x4's are dimensional lumber that twists and warps and cups and checks and splits [all woodworking terms for defects in wood; just look at a pile of 2x4s at Home Depot ]. Think about this - if a lumber mill can't make a log into nice clean pine/spruce boards that can be used for millwork on paneling or anything else that is 'nice' - they will make a 2x4 or a 2x3 out of it....yea - and that is NOT acceptable in cabinetry - I say, I got rigorous standards. The craftsman that I learned commercial millwork from - Peter, a Chinese-Canadian, who studied woodworking technology in Hong Kong 30 years ago!- taught me like this - the acceptable error on the cabinetry that you build should be less than 1/16''. Once I completed a project he would come over, take out his measuring tape and measure. And if it was OVER a 1/16" he would give me 'a look'. The cabinetry still went out, but the reason he did this was that he wanted to instil a philosophy of 'accuracy'. 

In a construction/renovation scenario, cabinetmaking is the most accurate trade.

Wanna know a curious fact? 

Framers work to within what I call  a 'strong 1/4"' - that's precisely because dimensional lumber like 2x4 or 2x8 or 2x12 are never straight - they always warp or bow - it's perfectly acceptable - solid lumber is a living product that reacts to the environment. There are woodworking practices that have been developed to counter and actually harness that wood movement for a good purpose. 

Carpenters work to within an 1/8" - you still need to be as accurate as possible, but once you start doing trim and you need to install a tall baseboard against a wonky wall you will immediately realize the challenge. Again, techniques have been developed to deal with on-site challenges, and professionals make it look effortless - years of experience. 

Cabinetmakers are like rocket scientists - nothing over 1/16" is acceptable. We have the tools and materials to make it so and there is no excuse for being sloppy. Or it could be that the fabricator was inexperienced - OR - in my opinion - the worst - when you have another trade trying to do the work of a cabinetmaker. I assure you, from practice - it never works out. 

It's like this one quote I did - a carpenter offered to build a row of upper kitchen cabinets - and he did not realize that plates come in size 'large' - the largest serving plates were too large in diameter for the doors to close completely. 'Wow', I said to myself, 'for a cabinetmaker that would have been an 'epic fail' -worthy of a YouTube short.

Hire the right person for the job - that's what I say. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

How to install an IKEA kitchen island. Properly.

Chapter 1 - How to install an IKEA kitchen island. PART 1.

[Make sure to to click the 'kitchen island' label found at the bottom of this entry to see all my 'IKEA kitchen island' entries! - enjoy!
EDIT: for detailed drawings click here!]


I had a chance to do a nice install recently. A center piece of which, in my opinion, is the island - 12 cabinets - a combination of lower units [at 24'' depth] back to back with a row of the shorter [12'' deep; 30 3/8'' tall] upper units - IKEA makes it possible to mix and match uppers and lowers. That's really good, smart, very flexible design.*

The client went with a very nicely done IKEA Lidingo Gray - solid grey gloss, 'frame-and-panel' MDF doors. This year, at the Toronto Interior Design Show - which is the most prestigious, non-commercial design show in Canada - IKEA did Lidingo Gray for their booth. I doubt that many of us have the 20' foot heights and the option of doing gold gilded ceiling - but it looked amazing. IKEA splurged [they got the money....] and had a custom made, really nicely detailed marble slab for a countertop and did some fancy trim carpentry. It ended up looking like 'a million bucks'!  

But it did not cost a million bucks

And the island ended up at a reasonable 2200 Canadian dollars + the cost of that nice marble slab. Here - 

That was a really nice kitchen island. 

IKEA instructs that the kitchen island be fixed to the floor and I agree. Kitchen islands are essentially free standing cabinetry. Think about all the the forces that will work against that cabinetry - people leaning on it, pushing on it, sitting on it, standing on it and whatever else. Add to that the weight of the stone slab and a large double sink full of water. You get the picture - it has to be rock solid. It also needs to be dead level - my standard is the rolling marble. 

My practice is to build a sturdy rigid base that is both - easy to fasten to the floor AND super easy to level. The tools required to build such a kick [that's what I will call it from here on] are the same tools that you will need to properly assemble a medium size IKEA kitchen - treat yourself [buy or rent] to a set of cordless drill/driver combo [get the one that will do hammerdrill option - just in case you have to go into concrete] - it will be silly of you to attempt to assemble any IKEA kitchen with a Philips screwdriver. A mitre saw is required to install many mouldings -  rent it at a local Home Depot [there, a plug for Home Depot]. I mention Home Depot, because they will also be able to rip [cut lengthwise] the plywood that you will be using for the base - very convenient. 

Chapter 1 - How to install an IKEA kitchen island. 

The advantage of going with this design is that there is flexibility in setting the height of the countertop surface. In most instances it does not matter if you set the height a 1/4" one way or another - but on this install it did - the client wanted to match the finished height of the stone countertop to a window sill - less than an 1/8" was the only acceptable tolerance. Having a self-leveling laser level is the handiest thing around - it is guaranteed to be off less than 1/8" over a 100 feet. 

I offer a service that I call a 'premium IKEA kitchen install' - I charge the same amount of money that IKEA kitchen installers do. I improve on the assembly of the cabinets and build my own kicks for all the lower units. The services really shines when you got an ambitious plan for your kitchen island. [to be continued...]