Ready To Assemble Furniture

Simple organization and tool-working techniques to make it easier to assemble the 'ready to assemble furniture'.

The purchase of packaged furniture can be an economic alternative to custom-made or premium assembled products. However, there is an additional investment you must be prepared to make. That investment is TIME. With a bit of planning, and a few tips that are outlined in this article, you can make the most of your experience, while assuring yourself that you have correctly assembled a piece of quality furniture that can be added to your home.

Before your purchase there are a few things that you need to do to ensure success:

First, make a careful assessment of the piece or pieces of furniture that you are about to purchase. Do you have a specific style for the decor of your home?

Second, be conservative if this is to be a functional piece, such as a shelf or chair. All too often people buy an item such as a bookshelf, only to realize later that it is far too small to hold the required number of books. Beware of impulse buying. No matter how simple it may seem, this is an addition to your home that has a purpose. Be certain it is able to serve that purpose.

Finally, ask yourself questions about your ability to complete the project. How many people will it take to carry the package? Will it fit in your vehicle or does it need to be delivered? Will it take more than one person to assemble the product? Will the advantages of purchasing a more costly pre-assembled piece be outweighed by the savings and the time you will invest in the project?

Once you have made a thorough assessment and have determined that a packaged furniture purchase is right for you, it is time to bring your product home and begin the assembly process. By the way, be sure to keep your receipt in case you need to make a return or exchange. Once you have your package home, move it to the location in which you plan to do the assembly work. It is recommended that, if space allows, you assemble the piece in the room where you intend to use it. This way you can avoid discovering at a later time that the fully assembled product will not fit around corners or through doors and passages that lead to another room where it is to be used.

Inspect the package from the outside before opening it (you probably did this once already at the store, but there are several reasons to do it again at this time). Look for any obvious damage from transportation that may have penetrated the box. At this time, you will also want to look for any labels on the package that indicate its recommended orientation. These labels will be marked as "THIS END UP", "OPEN THIS END ONLY", for example. Additionally, you will want to look for warning labels as well, such as "FRAGILE" or "DO NOT OPEN USING SHARP TOOLS". The product has been package in a certain manner to assure safe transport. This may mean that certain components near the opening of the carton may be in a position to be damaged if the package is not opened properly. When in doubt, always err on the side of caution.

Upon opening the package you will usually find some cover packing (styrofoam, bubble wrap, etc.) and some paperwork. Most manufacturers locate all of the paperwork close to the side or end where the package is intended to be opened. However, sometimes you will simply need to hunt for them. These papers may provide some additional unpacking instructions, however, in the absence of such documentation, you will need to proceed carefully to remove the contents of the package.

Now it is time to take inventory of all of the components. This is certainly not the most exciting part of the project, but it is one of the most necessary. While some stores do carry replacement items for a number of the products they sell, don't rely on them to be able to replace individual missing or damaged parts from your specific product. Many of these products are manufactured in foreign countries and you may need to contact a customer service representative directly in order to request specific parts. This documentation will also be included in the package. At this time you also will want to look at all of the documentation provided. Remember, if your product has a manufacturer's warranty, it will not become active until you register the product. Many companies allow you to do this on-line, however, you may need to fill out a form by hand and mail it in. There is usually a time limit for you to respond as well, so be sure to register your purchase promptly.



One of the documents in the package should contain an inventory list of all of the components of the product. This may be a separate sheet, or it may be included as one or more pages of the assembly manual. It is very important to note here that you should read the assembly manual before beginning assembly of the product. This will give you a clear understanding of what is required in the way of time, manpower, and tools. We shall examine this aspect of the assembly process in more detail shortly.

Probably the best way to conduct your component inventory is to remove all items from the package and group them by category. That is, all fasteners (screws, nails, tacks, pins, bolts, etc.), structural elements (legs, shelves, frames), and decorative items (trim, decals, etc.) in separate piles. Often fasteners and other smaller items are packaged together in small plastic bags. If this is the case, leave them in the bags unless you absolutely need to remove them to get an accurate count. This is usually not necessary because most manufacturers will provide you with a couple of extra small items, such as tacks, dowels, or washers. Some package inventory lists actually show pictures or drawings of each of the items grouped by category. However, some other inventory lists may not show pictures at all. Most of the main elements (shelves, ends, top, bottom, etc.) are usually labeled with a stamped or stick-on number or letter label. These will be referred to in the assembly instructions. Take time to complete your inventory thoroughly. There is nothing more frustrating (or embarrassing) than to find at the end of the project that you are missing a leg to a chair or a shelf bracket.

Once you are satisfied that all of the necessary components have been included in the package, you will want to verify the tools that you need for the project. Many products will include the recommendation that you not use power tools for assembly because they many actually lead to damage of the product. However, if you do find it necessary to use a power tool (perhaps a drill to help drive a stubborn screw) be sure to proceed with caution. Any damage you cause to the product is usually not covered under warranty. At this time you will also want to review the assembly procedure to look for any special instructions. Some elements may need to be glued and, therefore, will require a drying period. Other elements may be large, requiring two or more people for assembly. Make yourself aware of these special conditions, if they exist, before you begin the project in order to avoid getting yourself stuck in the middle of a procedure.

Now you can follow the assembly procedure as outlined in the manual. Here are a few additional hints to help your assembly go smoothly:

-Apply a small amount of dishwashing liquid to wood screws to help with their insertion

-Place a small strip of masking tape over wood products that require cutting along the line of the cut. Then, cut through the tape. This will reduce splintering.

-Have a small piece of sandpaper handy to remove burrs from wood and plastic components.

-Tap dowels lightly into place during assembly. Allow the dowels to seat themselves as the two elements are joined.

-Do not tighten screws or bolts completely when fitting components together. Return to tighten each one after all elements are in place.

-Do not place small elements on a carpeted surface during assembly. They can be lost, damaged, or pose a safety risk. Also, the carpet fibers can become entangled in fasteners making them more difficult

to use.

Assembling furniture yourself can be a rewarding experience, and can save you hundreds of dollars. By following the steps and guidelines outlined in this article you will be able to complete this task more efficiently and with added satisfaction.

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