northstory + co

Installing your IKEA SEKTION kitchen – Tips and Tricks!

Before I dive into the theatrical performance that is installing your IKEA SEKTION kitchen, I wanted to dedicate this post to all of you who have survived putting together a piece of IKEA furniture. 

Hell this post is dedicated to those of you brave enough to go to to IKEA on a weekend and if you went to the kitchen section to actually plan your kitchen, how are you even reading this post? You should be at a bar. If you took your kids, you already know you need a vacation.

Want to test your marriage? Go to IKEA together.

Because truly, IKEA on a weekend is like a testing ground for whether or not a couples marriage will end in divorce by the time they leave the store. It’s like weekends at Costco, minus the giant grocery carts.

Except you trade those in for flat bed carts and a choreographed routine to ensure your car is in a furniture delivery parking spot by the time one of you pays for the ‘ready to be assembled’ products of your home decor dreams. 

Then, just when you think the store trip is over, you realize it’s just the beginning. Because what awaits you at home is the fresh hell that I like to call IKEA assembly instructions.


Forget your allen (hex) key for this one. IKEA’s Kitchen Installation Guide comes complete with a cartoon character blob person, that reminds me of a cartoon I used to watch as a child called La Linea.

This friendly guy below.

IKEA Kitchen Installation Guide Page 1

He looks super happy to be installing his IKEA kitchen doesn’t he? 

But they also have real life drawings of actual people too. In the drawing below, you’re the happy couple, enjoying a coffee break in the kitchen that has yet to be installed.

The children that are crying in the background because they came home with the stomach flu the first day you demolished your kitchen, they’re not in there. Neither is the photo of your living room where everything else is placed while your kitchen is being finished.

True story.

PS – For the full IKEA SEKTION Kitchen Installation guide, click here.

Set your Suspension Rail


Now before you think I am about to tear into their updated railing system, I will say it is actually a very good thing that they’ve done. The rail system makes it a lot easier to perfectly place your cabinets exactly where you want them to be.

For example, if you make a mistake or change your mind (like we did) about whether or not to use a side panel around the refrigerator, you won’t have to physically unscrew your cabinets from the wall and move them over. You can just gently slide them over an inch. Win/Win!

The problem lies with the holes in the railings. It is assumed that the holes and where you want to place your cabinets in your kitchen will magically line up with your wall studs and you’ll be able to drill them securely into the stud through one of the holes.

That’s not always the case. Exhibit A below.

We had to drill through the railing itself to line up where the screw had to go into the stud. If you’re wondering why we couldn’t just move it over, it’s because the cabinets needed to be exactly in those spots in the kitchen, based on our measurements and placements of where everything had to go. Including our appliances.

So the railing had to go where it had to go.

Hanging your IKEA SEKTION railing (2)

Hanging your IKEA SEKTION railing (3)

The cabinets are then hung onto the railings using brackets that you attach to the inside of the cabinet, as seen in the photos below.

Hanging your IKEA SEKTION railing (13)

Left side.

Hanging your IKEA SEKTION railing (6)

Left side, top view.

Hanging your IKEA SEKTION railing (1)

Right side.

Hanging your IKEA SEKTION railing (7)

Right side, top view.

Hanging your IKEA SEKTION railing (8)

You can attach the brackets to the railing first and then drill the cabinets to them if you prefer. Whatever works for you.

But the “best part” of the railing system, is the little metal fastener bracket thing that goes into between the railing and your screw. It’s right here on the bar that we had to drill through. I can’t even remember what they’re for at this point (everything becomes a blur).

NOTE: Again, your screw will most likely be going into one of those empty holes in the rail. I explained above why we had to ours like this.

Hanging your IKEA SEKTION railing (2)

If look at IKEA’s first instruction drawing again (below) in the Set your Suspension Rail, it shows one hand drilling in the railing, easy as pie.

Set your Suspension Rail

Lol. No.

This is a two person job that involves a level and your patience.

What we wound up doing, is screwing holes into the wall first, with screws strong enough to loosely hang the railing off of.  Then we gently hung the railing over the screws. (I reiterate, the screws are not fully screwed into the wall at this point).

Afterwards we put the metal fastener bracket thing IKEA included over the screws and checked to make sure the railings were level. Finally, we screwed them into tight to attached the railing to the wall.

Could you do this by yourself?

While your situation may not be this difficult (maybe your railing length will be smaller for your cabinet, your walls will be flatter or you’re just savvier), in our circumstances it was two person job.

Maybe. But I wanted to write about this just in you case you’re struggling and are losing your marbles, get a friend to help ahead of time.

ONE MORE TIME – For the full IKEA Suspension Rail Assembly Instructions, click here

The IKEA cartoon man that appears one more time with the “?” bubble above his head and that may or may not resemble your behavior during this process. 

Suddenly I miss allen keys.

Hanging your IKEA SEKTION railing (4)

Hanging your IKEA SEKTION railing (5)

Once you get the railing sorted out, the rest is actually pretty simple. It’s put together your cabinets and attach them to your railing. Or so says the person that did not put together the cabinets (*waves*).

This will take you well into the night and then some.

Hanging your IKEA SEKTION railing (9)

Hanging your IKEA SEKTION railing (10)

Hanging your IKEA SEKTION railing (11)

Hanging your IKEA SEKTION railing (12)

In the following days came the Butcher Block Countertop installation

We had to return one of the original pieces of it that we purchased because it was warped. I strongly suggest before you leave IKEA, to check inside the box and make sure the wood on your soon to be butcher block counter top is flat. It will save you gas, time and shipping costs. Yes shipping costs.


Turns out it took us having to return it to realize one long panel of IKEA Butcher Block countertops, can indeed fit into the back of our truck.

Installing IKEA Butcher Block countertops (1)

My BIL (that’s Brother In Law for those of you who aren’t into abbreviations online) notched out some holes in what was to be the underside of the counter tops and this is how they were fastened together under.

Installing IKEA Butcher Block countertops (3)

Installing IKEA Butcher Block countertops (2)

Installing the IKEA butcher block countertops (3)

Before you send me hate mail or ask what happened with the notches in the wood, there were some issues with the notches being cut out due to a variety of reasons. So please don’t be like, I could do that in my sleep. 

This was the underside and no one sees this part.

I am showing it to you because you know what? Sometimes DIY’ing in real life, crap happens. You make the best of what you can and get on with it. We very much appreciated his help for this entire renovation and will always be grateful.

Installing the IKEA butcher block countertops (4)


We used the IKEA BREDSKÄR Single Bowl Sink. I need to write a post called “In Defense of One Bowl Sinks.” I am never ever, ever, ever, ever going back to a dual bowl sink. This has changed how I use and see sinks.

And here is a big hint on how to make a template to cut out your hole for your sink be it in Butcher Block or the countertops of your choice.

I alas do not have any photos of this as we threw out the package in the process, but what my BIL did was, he used the actual cardboard box that the sink came in, because the cardboard is cut out to match the exact measurements/shape of the top of the sink.

Therefore it makes the perfect stencil. Brilliant!

All you have to do is trace that onto the wood. My BIL did a test template with it in some plywood first to make sure it was indeed the right fit and it worked perfectly.

So save the cardboard box the sink comes in!!!

Installing the IKEA butcher block countertops (6)

Installing the IKEA butcher block countertops (5)

Installing the IKEA butcher block countertops (2)

Installing the IKEA butcher block countertops (1)

And bit by bit, it came together. We survived installing an IKEA SEKTION kitchen! Yaaay!

Then we had to wait to about 3 months for back ordered drawer fronts from IKEA. But I’ll save that for a Lessons in Renovating your Kitchen wrap up post. It’ll be a good one because there were so many lessons we learned.

Want to read about the whole process and see the Before and After?

1 – The Kitchen Reno story: The Beginning

2 – The Kitchen Reno story: You just read it! 

3 – The Kitchen Reno story: Adventures in Staining Butcher Block 

4 – The Kitchen Reno story: Before and After

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  • Reply
    August 27, 2015 at 7:31 pm

    looking good!

    • Reply
      August 29, 2015 at 9:16 am

      Thanks Virginia!

  • Reply
    Jennifer Flores (@ramblingreno)
    August 27, 2015 at 9:25 pm

    Yay for handy hubbys and BILs. Your kitchen looks great.

    • Reply
      August 29, 2015 at 9:17 am

      Thanks Jen! Can’t wait to show the finished piece. Because it’s finally done!

  • Reply
    Alex - The Interior DIYer
    August 29, 2015 at 2:27 am

    Oh, it looks so good Alex. I cannot wait to see MOAR! And I actually really like how the cabinets look with the bulk head – I know that’s not something most normal people would point out. Sorry. But I can’t help myself.


    • Reply
      August 29, 2015 at 9:23 am

      I’m going to do a Before and After next. Mainly because I can’t talk about anything in the kitchen without showing the whole thing.

      LOL oh I know the bulk head issue. If we were staying in this house, there are a lot of different things that we would have done with the kitchen and invested in moving things over (like the vent hood to allow for more storage room next to the sink area in that corner by the window). But it’s one of those things where if we HAD invested the money, we never would have seen a return on it in this home model. It’s a small home and it’s meant for people getting into the market or downsizing for short periods of time. The next house (which I’ll get to in a post come Sept) that’s going to be the 15+ year home and did I mention every room in the house needs a reno? GAH!!!

  • Reply
    August 12, 2017 at 7:44 pm

    should of used biscuits and glue / filler to hold the joints together. Not bad for a diy but looks a little unfinished

  • Reply
    September 20, 2017 at 12:23 am

    Just wondering if you know why the cupboard above the fridge has a hole in the back and what is the metal rack thing for?

    • Reply
      September 21, 2017 at 12:17 pm

      That is a very good question and one we couldn’t figure out either. Definitely ask IKEA next time you’re in. We just left it and went with it.

      • Reply
        December 19, 2017 at 11:38 am

        I have 2 thoughts (since I am in the process of my own install and noticed the same thing), first this could serve double duty as a microwave cabinet with a vent. Second thought is that they have provided a vent access point for people who tuck their fridge into a tight recess. There needs to be an exhaust location for heat or the fridge will overheat. In your case you raised the cabinet well above the fridge so no worries.

        Thanks so much for this blog. Very very helpful for someone getting ready to hang the rails. I’ve scratched my head for a couple hours already. Cabinet assembly was a snap for any handy person. Big finish is next week after Christmas!

        • Reply
          December 20, 2017 at 3:26 pm

          The rails were a dark comedy. In our current house, we used IKEA cabinets as well for the kitchen and our installer worked with IKEA cabinets for over a decade and this time, they didn’t even use the rails (we only have lowers so far) and everything is fine. They had to keep the cabinets in certain spots as we used a lot of filler panels just to create a more built in look. Good luck on your reno! Hope it goes well!

  • Reply
    March 20, 2018 at 2:48 pm

    Hi, we are going to be installing a sektion kitchen. Great info! What did you use for filler panels in the base corner? We are going to have a blank space needing 3-6” trim on both sides in our corner too. Thanks!

    • Reply
      March 29, 2018 at 4:20 pm

      I am SO sorry for the late reply. We just used IKEA filler panels. They’re amazing to work with. In our new home, our contractor used them to build a custom bench out of the kitchen cabinets.

  • Reply
    September 17, 2018 at 10:51 am

    How did you do an under mount sink with ikea butcher block?! Everyone says it can’t be done bc the raw edges would be exposed to water and damaged in no time.

  • Reply
    January 19, 2019 at 7:42 pm

    If you have one single top cabinet on the rail, where and how do you secure the cabinet from sliding off the rail?

    • Reply
      January 21, 2019 at 10:30 am

      If you scroll down my blog to the cabinet photos, I show the top view and front views of the insides of the cabinets after they are hung on the railing (these are the lowers as I could take better photos from this angle). They have the openings on the backs of each cabinet on the right and left sides and that’s where you use the metal clips to secure them (you can see them on the photos) to the railing and the inside of the cabinets themselves.

      If you are asking if there’s a way to prevent the cabinets from sliding on the rail from left to right and vice versa, that we never figured out BUT usually once you have them in place hanging, they won’t budge unless you’re actually pushing on them. This is actually a pretty clever system and I wasn’t a fan at first, but you realize one of the biggest benefits of being able to slide the cabinets left or right, is if you make measuring mistake and realize you need to move over the cabinet by an inch to accommodate say your fridge. Rather than unscrewing the cabinet from the wall and moving it over, you literally just nudge it over on the railing. I realize IKEA’s instructions are a source of frustration which seems to be on par with putting together just about every piece of furniture from them.

      We have since moved and redid our next home’s kitchen using IKEA SEKTION as well and this time, we hired a contractor who worked for IKEA for 10 years and they didn’t even use the railing for the bottom cabinets. They just secured them into the wall because they just knew how everything fit. The top ones are not done yet.

      • Reply
        Alan Biocca
        December 2, 2019 at 11:36 pm

        There is a plastic piece that installs when the cabinet is located that friction locks the cabinet to the rail. This should keep them from sliding easily.

  • Reply
    Dermot Trellis
    April 11, 2019 at 9:24 am

    Any reason not to use round-head wood screws to fasten the suspension rail? Great article, by the way. Very helpful!

    • Reply
      April 11, 2019 at 11:31 am

      From what we can remember (as this was our first IKEA kitchen reno at our previous house) my husband is pretty sure it had something to do with the hardware used to hang the cabinets. IKEA had a plastic spacer that went between the metal cabinet bracket and the rail. Using rounded head screws would’ve impeded the ability to slide the cabinets along the rail.

      At our new home we have an IKEA kitchen as well and for the lowers we didn’t even use the rail this time. Just attached the cabinets directly to the wall.

  • Reply
    Bertrand Guillaud
    August 1, 2019 at 1:55 pm

    thank’s from france very usefull

  • Reply
    January 1, 2020 at 10:27 am

    For the upper corner cabinet do you install each rail right to the corner, butting them up together ? Or do you start one in the corner at the other with a gap to allow for space or??? Does it matter as long as the rail is I. Studs before the corner? Thanks ????

  • Reply
    ted elkins
    January 10, 2020 at 11:18 am

    Thanks Alex! Pretty darned good info. Pictures are excellent and revealing. We have totally rebuilt this house ourselves, so we have confidence in the IKEA rail system. And when each day’s work is over [sounds like ‘Children’s Hour’ by Longfellow] a good Bourbon to sip and enjoy the progress. I believe I’ll video most of this process so future ‘doers’ can laugh at my errors and toast the victories.

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