Build-it-yourself furniture is popular for its versatility and low price tag, but it does come with one big drawback: You have to put it together yourself. Even putting the feet on a couch can seem overwhelming if you’re not good with tools or not used to working with your hands.
But you can still succeed at assembling your new furniture, even if you’re not very handy. All you need to do is have a plan, avoid common pitfalls, have some help, make safety a priority and know when to put down the tool belt and call in the pros.
1) Plan Carefully
There’s one sure-fire way to avoid the frustration that often comes with assembling flat-pack furniture, and that’s to go into it with a plan. Make sure you measure the space where you’re going to put the piece before you head out to your local big-box store. Clear the space where you’ll assemble the piece ahead of time — and for the love of Pete, assemble the furniture as close to its final location as possible! It might seem like a good idea to put together that new crib in the living room where there’s a lot of floor space, but not if you then have to carry it, fully assembled, up the stairs.
Most ready-to-assemble (RTA) furniture comes with some tools, like an Allen key and a small monkey wrench. But you’ll probably need a screwdriver, a hammer, a rubber mallet and maybe some other tools to get the job done. Get out the instructions and look them through ahead of time. This will give you an idea of what you’re in for, including what tools you’ll need and what kind of help you’ll need to enlist. Open the box carefully, following any instructions on the exterior. Examine for missing or damaged components before you get started.
2) Avoid Common Mistakes
If you’ve ever put together a piece of RTA furniture, you’ve probably made some classic mistakes. Just like splitting a piece of particle board while driving in a nail or ending up with gaps where there shouldn’t be any. Use masking tape to keep wood intact while you’re driving nails into it, and then peel it off once the nails are in place. Rub a bar of soap over pre-drilled screw holes to help the screw slide in more easily. Clamps can give you extra hands when you’re assembling a piece by yourself. Use a rubber mallet to hammer easily-damaged surfaces or to pound in dowels. Perhaps most importantly, don’t tighten screws as you go; get all the pieces together first, then start tightening screws.
3) Get Some Help
Lots of pieces require two people to put together. First scrutinize the instructions and enlist the help of a friend, neighbor or family member if necessary. You could end up damaging the piece if it’s one that requires two sets of hands and you tackle it alone. Worse, you could hurt yourself. Even a smaller piece will be easier to put together with help.
4) Know Your Limitations
In furniture assembly as in life, it’s important to know when walking away. Some items may require actual skill to assemble, while others may be too tedious for an amateur – do you really want to assemble all 300 pieces of that huge, six-drawer dresser? There’s no shame in calling a professional, and furniture assembly services can be found in most major metro areas from Los Angeles to New York.
5) Put Safety First
You may not be using power tools to assemble your flat-pack furniture, but that doesn’t mean you can’t hurt yourself doing it. Assemble furniture on a flat, firm surface in a well-lighted room. Use pliers to hold nails, so you don’t smash your fingers when you inevitably miss with the hammer. Lift carefully, engaging your core and using your legs, not your back, to bear the weight.
You don’t need to be a master carpenter to assemble flat-pack furniture, but it’s easier if you know what you’re doing. Use these tips to make assembling your furniture a breeze, so you can start using your new pieces and move on with your (newly furnished) life.