In Ikea hell

I wasn’t planning on buying anything at Ikea. Their stuff is generally pretty low quality and doesn’t survive a move. Good design is in, but light particle board is not.

 But we happened to find a coffee table we really liked there. It’s a great design and *very* heavy. Like all other ikea products, it came in a flat, long box. I got it home and this is the bag of screws I found. Shit.


Ok, let’s get started. An hour later, I’m almost done. Things seem to be going pretty well, better than expected for sure. I have 2 things left to do and need 8 screws. I see a picture of the screw I need, and next to it an icon of another screw with an X through it. “Use these, not those” it wants to indicate.
So that’s when I realize there were two screws that look nearly identical but are slightly different sizes. And of the 8 I now need, I can only find 1. The other 7 are too big. Earlier I was able to use the small screws where I needed the large ones, but now I can’t use the large ones in place of the small. And disassembling is physically impossible.
I looked online and this is actually a very common problem. The solution? Leave the small screws where they are (they are good enough) and head to Ikea to get some more. What a waste of time. Luckily the half built coffee table looks great already.


  1. Happened to me too with our bed! The only difference is that the switched screws were one shorter, and the other longer. As I screwed unawares the longer one in from below the bed’s sideboard, it knocked through ruining the woodwork on the top! Ouch. I spent several years with a daily reminder of sorting the components first, looking more closely at the instructions, and only after that starting the assembly itself… 🙂

  2. Sorry to hear you had such a rough time, unfortunately it’s not an entirely unique experience :-(. I spent a long time building a new system for the instructions we host on so folks can contribute tips and warnings to help each other and try to avoid that sort of problem but sadly not many people see the warnings in time for it to avoid the problem. Plus it takes a LOT of work to setup instruction sets the new way so I’ve only got a couple hundred done so far. ::sigh::Ah well… Glad you found a coffee table you like! 🙂

  3. This may sound anal retentive but before I start putting pre fab furniture together- I separate out all (yes all) the crap in the hardware bag. I actually keep a spare egg carton under the sink for this. I separate the finishing nails from the screws, separate different size screws, separate those pegs things and the round thingies. That way, I can make sure I’m not using the wrong size screw or whatever.

  4. @James – is awesome! I found the site the other day when ikea forgot to include instructions in my box.@Sachin – sorry to hear about your experience. : Be sure to post the finished product!

  5. My cousin just moved to SF and he went to ikea and got the extra pieces for me (so I don’t have to dismantle what i’ve already built). I hope to finish the table this afternoon!

  6. I’m ashamed to admit it, but once I just couldn’t face the task of assembling an entire bedroom of kid’s furniture and hired someone to do it. It cost a fortune. But it was like buying a weekend and may have saved my marriage.

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