Our master bedroom contained a row of built-in wardrobe, rather crudely built from scratch by the previous owners a few decades ago. It was clear they had to go. The choice was either to remove the wardrobes, extend the plasterboard ceiling, replace the carpet, plaster the walls and ceiling, paint the whole room and then put in freestanding cabinets, or… take a cue from Andre and make my own PAX built-in wardrobe.
Unfortunately, the room is 234cm tall, so no chance to get in a 236cm wardrobe without some major alterations. I know, we’re on IKEAhackers.net, but it would have been close to impossible to assemble and put up the cabinets, even if I cut them to size. I had to settle for 201.
Our house is quite old (1921). The walls are not perfectly straight. The floor is not only warped and concave, but it also vibrates slightly as you walk up and down. To make matters worse, the washing machine is one floor up, right above the wardrobes. I had to build a perfectly level base for the cabinets and make sure the finishing would allow for some movement without the plaster or paint cracking.
IKEA items used:
- PAX cabinets 50×201/100×201
- BERGSBO doors
- VIKEDAL door
- ÖSTERNÄS door latches
- KOMPLEMENT drawers and shelves
Other materials and tools:
For the built-in wardrobe base:
- 20mm MDF board
- 39x109mm pine beams
- 12mm chipboard
- 5x50mm screws
- A few iron angles to fix the base to the wall
- Small strips cut from the MDF board used for precise leveling
For the frame around the cabinets:
- Metal stud profiles
- 16mm screws (to fix the profiles to the cabinets)
- 9mm plasterboard
- Plasterboard screws
- Board filler
- Silicone sealant (specific type that prevents paint from cracking)
- 14x120mm MDF plinth
- Interior wall paint (color Farrow & Ball London Clay; I had it mixed at my local DIY store based on their store brand paint)
- Wood paint (F&B Whimborne White)
- Self-leveling laser (picked up at the supermarket for 25 bucks, my new favourite tool)
- Cordless drill
- Compact cordless screwdriver with adjustable angled coupling for working in really tight corners
- Crowbar (useful for adjusting the base, getting it perfectly level)
- Circular saw with guide rail
- Sheet-metal shear
- Stanley knife
Hack instructions for PAX built-in wardrobe
First, I removed the old built-in wardrobe cabinets and stripped five layers of wallpaper off the walls.
Then I built the base, consisting of 12mm chipboard, three rows of 39x109mm pine beams and a top layer of 20mm MDF board. I screwed it together to make a heavy, solid box. I made the depth slightly less than the cabinets themselves, so the finishing plinth would recess just a millimeter or so backward.
When you look closely at the pictures, you can see the cabinets stick out over the plinth just a bit to hide the MDF base. Another option would have been to run the plinth all the way up to the underside of the doors, but that would have made it more complicated. The side panels stick out 2-3mm more than the panel in between, so that would leave an opening to be filled somehow.
I put some heavy weights on the base and took out the self-leveling laser. Using small strips of MDF, I made sure the base was perfectly straight and level from wall to wall and also back to front. I then assembled the cabinets, put them on top of the base and leveled again. Finally, I fixed the base to the wall at four points using 40mm angle irons.
Once the base was done, it was time to line up the cabinets. First I fixed them together and to the wall using the standard Ikea methods.
I then cut the metal stud profiles to size using metal shears, screwing the long sections into place and just gently pushed the cross joints between them. This is where the 90 degree angled screwdriver came in handy, as I could otherwise never reach between the ceiling and the top of the cabinets. The 16mm screws worked perfectly, never protruding on the other side.
I made sure the profiles were set back by the thickness of the plaster board plus 3mm, to allow for a line of silicone sealant.
I screwed the sections of plaster board onto the metal stud profiles, leaving at least a 2mm gap on all sides, to be filled with silicone sealant. I actually applied two layers of sealant. One to fill the gap and one to make a nice smooth finish before painting.
I filled the screw holes with plaster (twice) and the panel gaps with silicone sealant.
I painted the entire room in plain standard matte interior wall paint from the local DIY shop, mixed to match F&B London Clay.
From then on, it was just a matter of putting in the shelves, drawers and doors. The finishing touch was the ÖSTERNÄS leather door latches. Funny how a 15-minute job at the end of a 6-day project makes all the difference.
What would I do differently next time?
1m wide drawers behind double doors are just not practical. You have to open both doors before you can pull out the drawers.
Wood panels would probably work just as well as plaster board.
All in all, this built-in wardrobe project took me five days over a 3-week period from start to finish. Cost was roughly 800 euros for the IKEA components, 150 for the other items and 55 for the wall paint.
~ by Jonathan