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IKEA Furniture Assembly | Is It Really That Hard?

IKEA furniture appeals to many people because of its cheaper price and stylish minimalist design. One of the reasons for the lower prices is also the reason for much frustration for buyers; most items come unassembled. 

What makes IKEA assembly easy for some and difficult for others? Below we’ll detail the background knowledge, learning styles, item complexity, and other factors that all influence the experience of assembling IKEA furniture. 

IKEA furniture requires assembly and only comes with pictographic instructions. Thus, some people find it hard to build. The difficulty of each project depends on the person (skill level, use of instructions, ability to understand the instructions, patience) and the item (complexity, size, number of pieces).

Some Items Are Difficult to Assemble

Certain items, like shelves or side tables (amazon link), are inherently easier to assemble because they have fewer parts. Others are much more complex and involve hundreds of pieces. Besides the large pieces like wooden planks, there are also tiny screws and dowels to consider. 

Frustrated Woman Putting Together Self Assembly Furniture

Items that require multiple connecting parts, such as couches, wardrobes and dressers, beds, and entertainment centers, are the most time-consuming and technical.

The Liatorp entertainment center has been nicknamed the “divorce maker” because it causes a lot of arguments between couples. This item is a good example of a difficult assembly because there are more than 150 screws and over 30 pages of instructions! 

To know how difficult an item might be, it’s helpful to look at the instructions ahead of time. You can find this information online before you purchase by going to the product details of an item, scrolling to “Assembly & documents” and viewing the instructions in PDF format. 

People Have Different Skill Levels

Someone with a background in woodworking or DIY projects will find IKEA furniture assembly easier than someone who has never used a power or hand tool in their life. 

While IKEA provides simple tools like screwdrivers and wrenches when needed, it’s usually better (and sometimes required) to have extra tools (such as a power drill or power screwdriver). 

Less experienced people will find the task more time-consuming and difficult than someone who owns and knows how to operate power tools. In addition, they might skip or repeat steps or accidentally damage the pieces during connection since they’re unfamiliar with the technique. 

For those in this category, working on simpler items first, recruiting help, or having an expert assemble the piece for them may be more time-efficient than taking on a more complicated item alone. 

More experienced customers will know how to interpret instructions and use tools to assemble IKEA items. They’re also less likely to mix up pieces or skip steps.

There may still be challenges for experienced assemblers when there’s an occasional complex piece, but they’ll have the experience to troubleshoot in these situations. 

Concentrated young man reading the instructions to assemble furniture in the kitchen at home.

Peoples’ Minds Work Differently

IKEA’s instructions only provide visual cues for assembling their furniture. These pictographic instructions are in black and white and can use confusing directional arrows to imply how pieces should move together. 

These instructions can be difficult to understand for auditory or kinesthetic learners. Even visual learners may have difficulty without words to help them along. 

Pictographic instructions require the ability to visualize the 3D pieces in front of you in the configuration shown in the 2D instructions. If you find it difficult to visualize things presented to you in 2D, manipulating the pieces into the correct positions will be much more difficult. 

In addition, some people have more patience for problem-solving than others. If you enjoy solving puzzles and don’t easily get frustrated if something doesn’t work the first time, IKEA furniture assembly won’t prove as difficult a task as for others without that mindset. 

Many People Don’t Use the Instructions

Because of IKEA’s minimalistic design, some may assume that assembly will be easy (simply connect the pieces, right?) and forgo looking at the instructions at all. This technique may even work for some, to an extent.

However, once a mistake is made, identifying the point at which things went wrong will be difficult, making it hard to get on the correct path. 

Due to the aforementioned difficulty with picture instructions, people may also skip reading them out of pure confusion.

Luckily there are videos online (by IKEA and others), which can help by adding text, audio, and/or follow-along instruction by real-live people. For example, here’s an IKEA video showing how to assemble an EKTORP Sofa and Chaise:

Pieces Must Be Counted Before Starting

Always count and sort pieces before assembly because it’s not uncommon for IKEA to have extra or missing pieces. It’s also easy to lose small pieces (such as screws) during the process. 

In addition to counting, organizing all the components by spreading out the large pieces and placing small pieces in cups will help simplify the process and shorten the time you would spend locating pieces.

If you skip this step, you may complicate the process for yourself by wasting time figuring out where extra pieces go or trying to connect pieces that don’t go together. With already confusing instructions, it’s best to set yourself up for success by keeping track of all the pieces throughout the assembly.

If you’re a frequent customer at IKEA, investing in an IKEA Screw and Plug Set (amazon link) can be helpful to fill in any gaps if you lose pieces or for sets with missing pieces.

Assembly Often Designed as Two-Person Job

IKEA instructions often state or show an image signifying that two people are needed to assemble the furniture. However, some people may ignore this, making the assembly process much more difficult (although still possible) than if they’d followed the recommendation. 

This is because larger furniture requires two people to better maneuver pieces that are heavy or awkwardly shaped. Assembling IKEA furniture can become very time-consuming and more physically strenuous if you take on the two-person job alone. 

Besides the physical aspect of working with the furniture pieces, the old saying “two brains are better than one” often rings true. This way, two different perspectives can be viewing the instructions and checking for mistakes. 

Even one-person instructions may sometimes necessitate calling in a friend or professional for this reason.

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