Extending the life of cheap IKEA-style shelves

Simple living, extreme early retirement, being wealthy, ...
Post Reply
Lucky C
Posts: 665
Joined: Sat Apr 16, 2016 6:09 am

Extending the life of cheap IKEA-style shelves

Post by Lucky C »

We have a few cheap particle board shelving units from our pre-ERE/DIY lives, and although it would be nice to replace them with solid wood designs that would last indefinitely, I've done a few things to give them some new life using materials on hand, possibly lasting decades longer rather than throwing them away (probably nobody would have wanted them even for free in the condition they were in).

One set had two shelves that were extremely warped, drooping over an inch! I glued them back to back (there was no lamination on the bottom sides so it made for a good glue surface) using the remainder of a tube of construction adhesive I had lying around, clamped and put screws in the corners. Now it is a totally flat doubly thick shelf that could hold lots of heavy books without warping again.

The cheap back panel on that bookcase was damaged in some places and would have blocked an outlet where I wanted to put it. I took the panel off but the design uses it for stability, so I made a Z shape using 1x2 scrap wood to reinforce the back. I nailed in the two horizontal pieces first, lined up with the top and bottom shelves, which would help keep them from warping too. Then I used pocket screws to screw the diagonal scrap piece to the two horizontal scrap pieces. Now the unit has 3 sturdier shelves (reinforced top & bottom and doubled up middle) instead of 4 flimsier ones, with an open back for outlet access. If I wanted the 4th shelf back and didn't care if it matched, I could just cut a new one from (ply)wood.

Another bookcase was damaged where the back of the bottom shelf is attached (front bottom was still secure and held up with the kick plate). So the bottom shelf was tilting down in the back and the entire bookcase became less stable. I just took a scrap 2x4 and nailed it in along the back bottom with the damaged shelf resting on top of it, and another 2x4 piece along the front behind the kick plate for symmetry and stability. Now we could overload that bottom shelf and it would still be rock solid.

I've also noticed there is definitely a difference in quality between IKEA brand stuff and other big box store low-quality particle board bookshelves. IKEA brand bookcases, compared to our other shelves that probably came from Walmart or similar, have slightly thicker shelves with more secure mounting hardware, so they are less prone to warping and they look better in general. Cheap non-IKEA stuff might also lack lamination on the bottom of shelves and have back panels that can be seen from the side (IKEA bookcase backing slides into a dado).

Of course solid wood or plywood is better by far, but if you already have IKEA stuff and a little scrap wood & fasteners to reinforce it, I think it makes more sense to repair rather than replace.

chenda
Posts: 1610
Joined: Wed Jun 29, 2011 1:17 pm

Re: Extending the life of cheap IKEA-style shelves

Post by chenda »

Funny I was looking at my IKEA bookcase the morning and its visibilly lent over, like its top heavy. I'll give your method a go before it collapses.

Gilberto de Piento
Posts: 1564
Joined: Tue Nov 12, 2013 10:23 pm

Re: Extending the life of cheap IKEA-style shelves

Post by Gilberto de Piento »

Adding a wood strip along the front of a shelf is another way to add strength.

Experimenting with the numbers in a calculator like https://www.woodbin.com/calcs/sagulator/ can be informative.

User avatar
Sclass
Posts: 2099
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2012 5:15 pm
Location: Orange County, CA

Re: Extending the life of cheap IKEA-style shelves

Post by Sclass »

I use exclusively ikea shelving. One thing I noticed is making sure the fasteners are tight makes a big difference in longevity. If there is some wiggle in the joints it has a tendency to fatigue the shelf as it rocks back and forth while being loaded. Then eventually those funny socket nuts pop out as the particle board crumbles.

Another tip is use the hardware they include to bolt the shelf to the wall. This adds a lot of rigidity and cuts down on flexure.

My work surfaces are folding tables and I use L-brackets to bolt these to the wall studs as well. It makes flimsy folding tables into a sturdy work benches. Drawers are surplus file cabinets.

When I moved last time around I put all the Ikea shelving out on the curb for free. What wasn’t taken I cut up with my chainsaw and dumped.

I’d use cardboard furniture if I could get away with it. Particle board is good for now.
Last edited by Sclass on Sun Dec 13, 2020 9:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Alphaville
Posts: 2431
Joined: Thu Oct 03, 2019 10:50 am
Location: Quarantined

Re: Extending the life of cheap IKEA-style shelves

Post by Alphaville »

Sclass wrote:
Sun Dec 13, 2020 4:02 pm
I’d use cardboard furniture if I could get away with it.
me too! but i lack the space + tools to make right now

Image
Image
Image
Image

User avatar
Sclass
Posts: 2099
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2012 5:15 pm
Location: Orange County, CA

Re: Extending the life of cheap IKEA-style shelves

Post by Sclass »

I had a cardboard chair in grad school. It was a commercial product gifted to me. Notice the really thick cardboard. This isn’t Amazon box gauge. It’s a multi layer corrugated laminate. The one I had was made like origami and folded up. It was pinned together with chopsticks. My 200lb body eventually caved it in because it had a limited number of stress cycles before it fatigued.

Ahh, here it is. The beauty of search by image. See the crease on the seatback? It gets worse and worse till it finally buckles.

https://www.furniture-love.com/images/o ... 638_2.jpeg

7Wannabe5
Posts: 6831
Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:03 am

Re: Extending the life of cheap IKEA-style shelves

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

I wonder if wood hardener products meant for rotting wood could help with crumbling?

Toska2
Posts: 342
Joined: Fri Nov 20, 2015 8:51 pm

Re: Extending the life of cheap IKEA-style shelves

Post by Toska2 »

I use those metal racks with the cheap particle board shelves. Then I throw out the shelves and replace them with bamboo hardwood flooring (~37" cut down to 36"). The feet get the ol' pvc caps. Gives the place a clean modern industrial look.

The bamboo flooring tends to mold at the ends but its recessed and can't be seen. I also lived in a high humidity location.


I remember using shellac/polyurethane to strengthen those cheap balsa planes. Good for impact but not flexing.

Post Reply