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PANYL's IKEA SEKTION Kitchen Part II: Design and Construction

In our last post we provided a review of the new IKEA SEKTION kitchen, which is about to replace the AKURUM line after a 20 year run. We collected this information last month, while installing the international version of the SEKTION kitchen (called METOD). Our customer was in a hurry to update a vacant rental apartment, and didn't want to wait for the SEKTION to become available.

And after many years of experience building AKURUM kitchens, we were quite curious to see what if anything had changed about how the IKEA SEKTION was assembled. We were led in the install by Ron Youmans of The Kitchen Couple from Bedford Corners, NY, who was also eager to test drive the IKEA SEKTION before it launched. In this post we'll provide a play-by-play of the process experience.

Before

The location was a rental apartment in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, which was between occupants. The landlord felt that a redesigned kitchen would significantly improve his ability to find a new tenant.

The kitchen had hardly any storage or counter space, the cabinets were old and grimy, and the refrigerator loomed over the room like a stainless steel elephant. 

Meanwhile, a nook directly opposite the sink sat empty.

Designing for the SEKTION

We planned to install new base cabinets in a U-shape, with an L-shaped run of upper cabinets above the stove and sink. The goal was to deliver function, while getting as creative as we could with SEKTION. The result was the geometric mash-up of TUTEMO and HÖRDA open cabinets above the sink (with a back-up option of closing it in with doors if the open storage proved impractical to use).

Opposite the stove would be a peninsula with additional storage on one side...

And a breakfast bar on the other, framed in on three sides by extended counter panels, and finished with a large trim panel to hide the backs of the cabinets.

The refrigerator would be moved to the nook opposite the sink, and boxed in with trim panels and cabinetry. You may notice that the design shows what appear to be 9 skinny drawers on some of the base cabinets. The rendering mistakenly included a non-functional drawer-front just below the counter. And don't forget, the maximum number of shallow drawers in SEKTION is six, 5" drawers, but our international version has eight, 4" drawers.

Base Cabinet Construction

IKEA SEKTION flat-pack assembly will be familiar to anyone skilled in the IKEA arts. Although many small changes have been made, notably to the design of the plastic legs and the suspension rail system, the basic assembly is comparable to AKURUM.

After cutting an opening in the back panel for plumbing, Ron and his team installed the first SEKTION corner cabinet. [next two images]

The floors were quite warped, so it took some tinkering to level the corner cabinet with the legs.

There is a noticeable, but not too significant change, in how the tops of most of the base frames are engineered. Instead of using MDF beams to stabilize the open, top portion of the frame (see the corner cabinets, above), SEKTION uses metal cross-braces. These are lighter, faster to install, and more sturdy (if you've ever inadvertently leaned on one the old MDF cross-pieces during assembly, you probably had to resort to duct-tape and glue, since getting a replacement wood section is not nearly as manageable as requesting extra hardware pieces). 

There is also a newly-designed suspension rail system for aligning cabinets and securing them to the wall. The new design allows you to slide the mounting brackets onto the rail first, and then pass them through large rectangular cutouts in the back of the cabinet. This is an improvement over the prior method, in which you had to peer through a tiny hole in the back panel to locate and thread a bolt though a small nut. [next three images]

Once each cabinet was level, Ron tightened a threaded plastic peg to immobilize the connecting bracket on the suspension rail.

After joining the DÖMSJO sink cabinet to the first corner cabinet, we left a space for the dishwasher. The run continued with another SEKTION corner cabinet, a waste-sorting cabinet and a multi-drawer MAXIMERA base cabinet. Ron used a sawzall to remove the baseboard molding between the wall and the adjacent cabinets. The entire base cabinet run was then pushed flush against the wall. [next three images]

The last step was to rip a piece of AKURUM PERFEKT trim panel to cover the back side of the peninsula cabinets.

Wall Cabinet Construction

The brackets can be slid onto the rails first and then inserted through the openings in the cabinets, or they can be attached to the cabinets first before sliding them onto the rail. Once the cabinet is in place, the plastic peg is rotated a quarter turn to prevent the brackets from moving along the rail.

We assembled most of the cabinet frames before Ron arrived, allowing him to make quick work of the upper cabinet run. [next four images]

As we move on to the fridge box-in, it's worth mentioning that the SEKTION cabinets and panel components for built-in appliances are designed to be used with IKEA's new line of appliances. We've been told this is especially so with IKEA's refrigerators and refrigerator cabinets. We did not fully investigate this because we knew we would be working around the existing fridge.

The box-in of the refrigerator was another place where Ron's deep experience paid off. Again we used AKURUM PERFEKT trim panels which Ron cut to size and braced to the floor and wall. [next two images]

The existing refrigerator was significantly wider than what the IKEA over-fridge cabinets were designed for, so we executed our first SEKTION mini-hack: We fastened two 30" wide SEKTION microwave cabinets together one over the other, and turned the connected unit 90-degress on it's side. That is why shelf peg holes and cabling slots are visible on the upper, inside surfaces in the image below.

Ron sandwiched this assembly between the two trim panels before fixing them to the wall with a suspension rail. The suspension rail brackets in the back of the cabinets are covered by IKEA's standard plastic snap-on covers. (Something that has not been upgraded, unfortunately). [next two images]

Installing the MAXIMERA drawer slides was straightforward. However, there were quite a bunch of them! [next two images]

The first completed MAXIMERA base cabinet!

We hope you'll continue to the next installment to see the end result... 

Part III: PANYL Reveals Brooklyn's First IKEA SEKTION Kitchen