Ikea SEKTION Cabinet Install: Day 1

Over the long weekend we capped off the leaky pipes in the kitchen, nailed down the OSB flooring, and finished painting one of the upstairs bedrooms. Now all we need to be able to sleep there is a bed!

I'll iron/hem the curtains next time we're down.

I’ll iron/hem the curtains next time we’re down there

On Sunday Chris and Jen started assembling the cabinets for the kitchen while I tried to make sense of the installation instructions. It’s not easy. There are multiple sets of instructions you have to cross reference and some of them are very vague. While Ikea says “you can install it yourself” it’s clear they don’t think anyone is actually going to.

There are 3 basic components to hanging the cabinets: the rail that mounts on the wall, the cabinet box itself, and then the cabinet feet on the lower cabinets. Each of these is sold/packaged separately.

There’s the general install guide, which gives measurements but is pretty vague about how to hang the rails that go on the wall. Then the rail instructions which make sense until you go to install them, at which point you realize there are a number of steps glossed over (more on that in a sec). This plus the fact that I did not have a hacksaw to cut the rails led me to call it quits in frustration early Sunday afternoon.

Normally you can find an endless number of Ikea assembly / installation tips online. But because the kitchen system, SEKTION, is all new as of February there isn’t much available. The system is nearly identical to the European METOD system, so I was able to watch those videos in order to understand the general process. After a lazy Monday morning I went back to give it another shot.

The first step is to hang the lower rails used to align the cabinets. The general process starts like this:

  • Mark 32 3/16″ from the floor all along the wall where your cabinets are going
  • Realize your floor is not even a little bit level
  • Find the highest mark
  • Use a 4′ level to create a new, more level line based from the point where the floor is the highest

You have to go from the highest point because that’s the shortest the cabinet legs can be. If your floor is lower elsewhere that’s fine, the legs can be expanded to fit.

Next you have to hang the actual rail using a combination of drywall anchors and screws. I tried to line up as many studs as possible, but due to the spacing of the holes on the rail (which I think is still metric based) I was lucky if I managed to get two. You need to secure the rail every foot.

One lower rail, with shims because the wall is not flat

One lower rail, with shims because the wall is not flat

General process I used for installing rail:

  • Hold rail so that bottom of the rail is on your line, lining up the holes with as many studs as possible
  • Place 4′ level on top of rail and adjust until it is level
  • Have a friend use a pencil to mark the holes you want to use
  • Put down rail
  • Push drywall anchors into wall anywhere you need one (but don’t tighten them yet). Unscrew screws so they’re about 1/2″ out of the wall (but leave anchors flush)
  • Place screws in spots where studs are, but leave them 1/2″ or so out of the wall
  • Hang rail over screws, observe how ridiculously warped your walls are

The instructions tell you to shim any spots that are significantly recessed. This was a little more of a logistical challenge than I expected due to the drywall anchors. We ended up doing the following for shims over drywall anchors:

  • Remove the screw in the spot to be shimmed
  • Have one person hold the rail in place while the other places a shim behind where the screw will go
  • Mark the center of the hole on the shim
  • Mark where the top of the rail hits the shim
  • Remove the shim, drill a hole where the screw will go and cut off the excess from the top
  • Drill screw about 1/2″ into the shim so that it just pokes out the back
  • Remove rail from wall and place the screw/shim combo into the drywall anchors
  • Place rail back on wall over screws
  • Add weird rectangular washer things that came with the rail
  • Tighten everything to the wall, using the 4′ level to make sure everything ends up nice and straight and level

We figured out this strategy through trial and error. One thing that is very different than the old AKURUM line of cabinets is how they mount to the rail. The old ones had a nut like thing that slid into the rail, and then the cabinets lined up with it and were screwed in place. The new ones have a bracket on the back and basically just hang there, with some fasteners to keep them in place. I put one on just to see how it all worked. That cabinet is actually for the island, we haven’t assembled the bottom wall cabinets yet.

The real life bottom cabinets will have feet

The real life bottom cabinets will have feet

The Ikea instructions tell you to measure / mark out the whole room first, but this doesn’t make sense to me. It’s MUCH MUCH easier to measure for the upper cabinets once you have your lower rails installed and level. I added 1/2″ to my measurements for the upper cabinets because I need a slightly taller backsplash. The backsplash tile we have is 3″ tall, and Ikea’s cabinet spacing is designed for 18.5″ vertically. To avoid having to cut the tile lengthwise I’m adding a little extra space to make room for the grout (which will be 1/8″ spacing between each tile and the counter/cabinets).

We called it a day after getting all the lower rails installed. The upper rails will be a little more annoying, because they’re up high and they’re much longer. We could do it with two people but I think it would be easier with three.

Cabinet construction zone

Cabinet construction zone

We’re ever so slowly inching towards being able to get the appliances out of the living room!

Want more Ikea cabinet hanging goodness? Check out day 2 of Ikea cabinet installation, or  check out the whole DIY Ikea Kitchen Installation process..

Filed under: 1970s Shore Home, New Construction Townhome

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23 thoughts on “Ikea SEKTION Cabinet Install: Day 1

  1. Me says:

    What’s the price difference between installing your own and having someone install them for you?

    1. Kelly says:

      The rough estimate is $120-140 per cabinet for professional installation. We have 13 cabinets in our roughly 12×12 kitchen. Installing it ourselves is more or less free, the installation hardware and shims came to about $20. The hacksaw I had to buy was $10, and while I’m borrowing my dad’s level for free those run about $20 if you have to buy one new.

  2. Ian says:

    What drywall anchors did you use?

    1. Kelly says:

      For the lower rails I just used some 50 pound hollow wall anchors (aka molly bolts) from the local hardware store. I figured that since the lower cabinets have feet I didn’t need to go quite so crazy. They were something like $6 for a box of 15.

      For the upper rails I purchased a box of 100-pound toggle bolts from Lowes, but ended up not needing them because there’s a beam running along the top of the wall. Those cost more like $25 for a box of 20.

  3. Ian says:

    Okay, thanks!

  4. Winnie says:

    Did you need to turn the slotted metal rail washers 45deg, compared to the IKEA instructions which show them horizontal, to keep the bottom of the rail the correct height from the floor?

    1. Kelly says:

      It wasn’t really a “need” so much as they tend to hang that way and I couldn’t see any reason to spend energy making them horizontal.

  5. Amy says:

    What length did you cut your rail? The instructions that come with the rail show exact width of the cabinets. I did a lot of perusing IKEA cabinet installs last night and remember somewhere reading cabinet width minus 1/4″ so you have 1/8″ on either side.

    1. Kelly says:

      I cut mine to the exact length of the cabinets. You could cut off that 1/4″ if you’re worried, but I have end panels on each cabinet end so you can’t see the rails at all anyway.

  6. James says:

    Great write up! Do you have a cabinet end piece on any of your lower cabinets? I ask because some install drawings make it look like it should go from the underside of the counter right down to the floor (hiding the cabinet legs), but others show from underside of counter down to the bottom of the cabinet (so you will need a toe-kick on the side to hide the legs).

    The end pieces they sold me are only 32.5″ tall, so not tall enough to go right to the floor, but it makes more sense to me that they WOULD go right to the floor.

    Which did you do? Thanks!

    1. Kelly says:

      I have an end piece on one end of the lower cabinets, and it covers just the cabinet. I’ll indeed be putting a toe-kick on that side to hide the legs.

      The lower cabinet end panels I was able to use as-is but for the upper cabinets I had to trim them to fit. I actually still have to decide what I’m doing for trim under the upper cabinets (whether I’m gonna use Ikea trim or just get some trim from Home Depot).

  7. Peggy says:

    Thanks I need to know all this information.

  8. Jeannie says:

    Wow. Kelly, this is badly needed info. I’ve been feeling baffled and worried at the start of our Ikea kitchen instal. And I gotta say that big fat corporate Ikea should be paying bloggers like you for doing their job.

    Despite the millions Ikea makes selling kitchen cabinets, I can’t find official youtubes or videos to help us install these no-longer-new Sektion cabinets. Like we can all afford to hire Ikea installers — or even have them available working in our small and distant towns.

    So I’ll change companies next time. But thanks so much for helping us make this last big Ikea purchase work.

  9. anneB says:

    Thank you for this! We are starting the installation of the cabinets this week. Ikea local assembly and installation price was $140 each cabinet (x17). A so-so contractor price gave a $2,000 estimate and 3 days work (not including the back splash) I mean… seriously??? I have to hands and one working brain. I have a strong smart boyfriend. And we have tons of good information, like this blog, on line. I won’t be paying $2,000!!!! I’m calling a knowledgeable helper tonite, paid by the hour, only to help us find the studs (as my apt is a 1925 it has plaster and wire mesh lath make it impossible to find the studs in any of the traditional ways) and mark where the water pipe is located so we are on the safe side.

  10. Myles Huble says:

    The rails, so far, are an amazing headache. I would love to see an IKEA engineer attempt to put up this rail system without swearing once. And IKEA if you’re calling for drywall anchors for this stupid rail system, how about selling them in your super ginormous store? Thanks for giving me a super specific spot to spew!

  11. A.J. says:

    Thanks for this very useful blog… getting ready to install our cabinets (building ’em this weekend). Glad to have this resource!

    One thing I’m not clear on, despite all my research:

    Can we attach the Sektion upper wall cabinets so they’re *flush* to the ceiling (assuming ceiling is level/straight)? Or does Sektion’s new “hanging” rail system require that there is some space above the upper cabs (in order to drop the cab onto the rail when hanging)?

    If space above upper cabs is required, do you know what the minimum required space above is? We’re looking for a very minimalist look — so no crown molding. We are using the cover panels on the sides though.

    Aj

    1. michelle mcknight says:

      We are installing less then an inch from the ceiling, not so much fun when the original ceiling was not flat we had to take it down and redrywall with shims to make it work.

  12. Kim says:

    I assume the suspension rails came with the cabinets as NO WHERE do they say you have to purchase these separately and yours is the first of many blogs etc. that says as much. Aargh and I had scheduled someone to come and help install this weekend.

  13. Dave Stenhouse says:

    Mark your studs and location of the upper and lower rails, as in the Ikea Sektion installation guide. Before you cut your rails to length, line up the existing rail holes with your studs and be prepared to cut BOTH ends of your rail to line up the studs to the holes in the length of rail required. Self-levelling laser certainly helps. Take your time to get the rails right and level and also to level base cabinets with the plastic legs attached.

  14. Blaine Kehl says:

    Pro tip: install your upper cabinets first so you don’t have to reach over the lower ones all the time.

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  16. Barb says:

    Thank you so much for all this information. I am so totally confused and ready to quit. Will start fresh tomorrow. I am so glad I’m a dedicated DIYer or I would be totally overwhelmed. Right now on a scale of 1-10 I’m an 8!!!

  17. Frian Foster says:

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