11 Simple Tips to Help you Assemble Flat-pack Furniture without Losing your Sanity …

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It’s not always possible to buy furniture items fully assembled. Sometimes you fall in love with something that would look perfect in your home, you make your way excitedly to the counter, pay for your latest discovery only to find it’s flat-packed and you have to put it together yourself … aaaargh! Fear not … you don’t need an Engineering Degree to do the job (although sometimes it feels like you do) and a couple of simple tips will see your newly purchased item, assembled and put in place for you to enjoy and admire.


I recently bought a couple of sets of shelves to store our DVD collection that needed to be put together, so I thought I’d share a few simple tips for anyone tackling the assembly of flat-pack furniture:


  • Decide where you are going to put the item together. Think about the size of the item and where it’s going to live. For example, if it’s an item for the bedroom, put it together either in the bedroom or close by so that you don’t have to carry it too far … it could be large and/or heavy.


  • Make sure you have enough room to work. If your item is large, make sure you’re not cramped and have enough space to work in and spread out the pieces. If needed, lay down a large sheet or blanket to protect the floor underneath or you could also use the packaging to do the same thing.


  • Read the instructions. This may sound obvious but you would be amazed at the number of people who jump in and start screwing things together without reading the instructions and, before we go too much further, I have to admit to being guilty of doing this. So, take it from me, read the instructions from start to finish.


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  • Count and account for all the pieces. Usually the instructions will include a diagram showing the pieces you should have and how many of each piece there should be. It’s too late once your item is half-assembled to find out you’re missing some crucial piece. Use small bowls to hold each different sized screw, hinge, hook, etc. and place all similar sized and shaped pieces in separate piles. A word of warning: be sure to separate different sizes of the same item e.g. things like screws. Your flat-pack item may include short screws and long screws and it’s important to use the right size in the right spot to avoid damage to your item and to also ensure it’s stable. Accounting for all the pieces before you start also allows you to check the condition of each piece to make sure nothing’s broken or damaged before you even start.


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  • Gather the tools you need to do the job. Don’t wait until you’re balancing something and can’t let go before you realise you need a particular screwdriver that’s still in the garage or tool shed. Making sure you have everything you need will save time and get the job done quicker.


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  • Work methodically and put the pieces together in the order that’s intended. You don’t want to waste time undoing pieces because you’ve jumped ahead.


  • Make sure also that pieces fit perfectly and align properly before finally tightening all the screws and hinges. Be careful also to check the direction that each piece needs to be installed or connected in. There’s nothing worse than getting to the end of your project only to find that a single piece is either upside down or back the front and you have to dismantle the entire thing to correct that early mistake. When it comes time to insert screws or add hinges, don’t screw these firmly in the whole way until you’re certain the whole piece is going to go together nicely. Once you’re finished, go over your flat-pack item and tighten everything. Refraining from tightening everything until the last minute will allow you to check that doors hang straight and don’t need adjusting, that drawers work properly and slide well and that shelves are also straight. An electric drill can be helpful but make sure it’s used on a low speed. A lot of flat-pack furniture is made from chipboard, which is quite soft, and a drill used on high speed can push the screws in too far potentially damaging the item.


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  • If glue is needed, don’t be heavy-handed and make sure you use just enough to do the job. Also remember to allow time for the glue to dry before using the item.


  • Ask for help. If the instructions suggest that it’s a two-person job, don’t try to do it all by yourself, particularly if the item is large and heavy like a wardrobe or a couch. Two minds are generally better than one and you’re less likely to get frustrated and lose your sense of humour if you’ve got a friend helping … just choose the friend wisely!


  • Work safely and know you’re limits. Think about using things like gloves, safety goggles and closed in shoes in case you drop something on your foot. Make sure you’re wearing comfortable clothes so you can bend, stretch and kneel easily. Be very careful when lifting or moving the assembled item that it’s not too heavy. Test the load before you lift and, if you can, borrow a trolley with wheels, that’s even better.


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  • And if all else fails and you really don’t feel confident, call in the professionals. There are loads of businesses available that specialise in putting flat-pack furniture together and it could turn out to be the best money you’ve ever spent. Just check out your local Yellow Pages, local newspapers, Business Directories or a referral from a friend or the company you bought the item from.


Well, there you have it, some simple tips to help you get your flat-pack item assembled in minimal time and hopefully without a trip to the divorce courts.


So, please share your memory of putting together a flat-pack piece of furniture or other item. Was it a positive experience or did you pull your hair out in frustration?





  1. Oh dear! The curse of the flat-pack. I think flat-back furniture has been the source of a lot of grief, stress and anxiety in households. I’m fortunate in that I have a very handy husband who always deals with flat-packs for me – I go out for a coffee! xx

    • It is a curse but I definitely like your idea of heading out for coffee … haha … maybe I should add that as Tip Number 12! x