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.