Ready to Assemble Furniture has vastly expanded the possibilities for how consumers can furnish their homes. Packages are shipped flat, and cost less than fully assembled furniture. It's appealing on many levels, but occasionally a customer can become frustrated that the fruit of their labors is crooked, wobbly, unstable, and the cabinet is otherwise a poor comparison to how it appeared online.
It may surprise you to know that in most cases, these issues are not related to the components. Every panel and piece of hardware can be present, damage-free, and perfectly drilled, yet there is still an important hurdle to overcome: assembly. While every step is necessary and should be carefully followed, far and away, the most important piece of instruction is for attaching the back panel. In this article, we will take a look at one cabinet's journey from crooked to correct.
While the parts and assembly for each cabinet is somewhat unique, nearly all have a thin MDF or HDC back panel to attach. For this exercise, we will fast-forward to the portion of assembly where top, bottom, sides and fixed shelf are installed, but not the back panel. Because of this, the cabinet has a significant amount of "wiggle room." Here, the assembly instructions outline how to measure diagonal corners and affix the back panel. A push to any corner can shift the unit significantly at this stage, and it is important to measure and remeasure.
Assembled "worst case scenario," The cabinet exhibits every complaint. The below video shows the results when the diagonal measurements are 73-1/4" vs. 75". That's nearly a two-inch difference!
By gently laying the unit down on a soft surface, we can remove the back panel and try again. Some backs are attached with screws while others are attached with nails; if a new back or hardware is needed for this repair, please contact customer service.
Our second attempt is much more realistic. With the assistance of a second set of hands, I've compared my measurements and they are close: 74" vs. 74-1/4".
Our second try corrects many of the difficulties found in the first video. Visually, the cabinet looks fine. Even the bubble within the level was more or less centered. At the rear, the unevenness of the back panel is hardly noticeable. A quarter of an inch difference between the measurements is very close. The door still rubs though, making opening and closing the door a bit of a chore, when it shouldn't be.
The third attempt requires careful measurement and remeasurement. The goal is that measurements be within 1/16" of an inch, and this is particularly important on tall cabinets. Mathematically, 74 1/4+74 and 73 1/4+75 both equal 148 1/4; if you divide the total in half, you can find the optimal measurement specific to your model. For our example, I needed both measurements to be 74 1/8".
Once you are satisfied with the measurements, lightly attach the back panel. Connect once on each side at the centers and remeasure. This allows you to make further adjustments if necessary.
Attach the remainder of the screws or nails and verify that the cabinet is functioning properly. If spacing is still uneven, some adjustments can be made to the hinges. Engineering allows for a 1/8" gap around the edges of all doors and drawers.