I ordered a new HDTV recently (see HD 2.0) and since its so sleek and shiny I didn’t just want to sit it on a stand.
I always loved the look of wall mounted TV’s, maybe it was time go there. The wiring however, especially after new insulation, might have presented a few challenges though. Christy also was nervous about drilling any big holes in the wall that might be necessary for a wall-mount to work. There must be another way.
In our many trips to IKEA we often took note of their cool media cabinet configurations. We then thought that maybe the best solution is to get a new cabinet system with wall paneling – then just mount the new television to that. That’d be a lot easier than drilling holes, routing electrical wires, and attaching a recessed box for a wall-mount, right?
Actually, this project was probably one of the biggest things we’ve underestimated. We should have been tipped off when a random IKEA customer commented on our car-loads full of IKEA boxes with, “It took me two weeks to assemble some of their closets. Good luck!”
A prophet he was, as what we thought would be a weekend project turned into about 3-4 weeks of daily tweaks and finagling.
We should have first realized this when just figuring out what to buy (what would fit in the room) required a Google Sketchup of the place. *OK, maybe it didn’t require a Google Sketchup but it sure did help visualize our thoughts.
Yes, because I’m a huge nerd and found the IKEA Besta Configurator to be lacking, I made sketches of each cabinet and configuration IKEA sold to see what arrangement would look best. It was a fun learning experience and in the end this is what we settled on…
Download my IKEA Besta Configurator Sketchup file to see what items will fit in your space.
With all the executive decisions made, we then printed out a sheet of what we needed, and loaded up two cars to IKEA.
That whole process took about 3 hours (and we knew what we wanted already!). But we did finally make it home, and get everything unloaded…
We took a little break, got dinner, and then decided we’d start with building a couple cabinets…
That part went through pretty painlessly. So much so, I think one of us commented that maybe we’d finish it up by the weekend (OMG!)
We then started putting the wall panels together, and mounting them to the cabinets…
About that time, I realized we’d need a template for the TV (It’s not here yet, remember). So I downloaded a spec sheet online and made a cardboard template (using the old IKEA boxes) complete with precise measurements for mounting holes, etc…
This project was really coming together. So we started putting some things in place and seeing how they were going to work together.
That’s when the trouble started – as we soon realized this whole media cabinet solution from IKEA was not designed with electrical wiring in mind…at all!
There were no pre-drilled holes in the the wall panels, the aluminum framing, or even the backs of the cabinets for routing cables.
Apparently, nobody at IKEA asked the question, “How is someone going to get wires from the front of a wall panel to the inside of the cabinet”
We had to ask those questions and the answer was “Fire up the drill.”
Make holes in cabinets for routing cables between components….DONE. (Top hole for power, and bottom hole for signals BTW.)
We also had to move the speaker wire box down because the cabinet pushed against the wall and would hit the box where we had originally installed it. The wires were moved down and the top hole was covered by a plate. Oh yeah…DONE.
Make holes in shelves for extra cabling to tuck in when cabinets are flush against wall…DONE.
Make holes in metal framing with a just-wide-enough hole saw bit…DONE.
Now onto the next issue…making a drawer out of a door. Those zany big wigs who make the decisions at IKEA decided that people would only want little drawers, not tall ones the same size of the cabinet.
So to get the look we desired, a wee bit of hacking was involved. How’d we do it? We bought a small drawer door (to return later) and used it as a template on a full size door.
We drilled holes in the same spots and to the same depths. The depth was determined by using a clever masking tape indicator – we inserted the appropriate drill bit into our drill, then saw how deep it would go in the pre-drilled small drawer door. We then put masking tape on the drillbit at the point where it touched down on the door. Now all we would have to do is drill that same depth in the larger door – stopping was the masking tape touched the door again.
After the holes were drilled to match that of the small drawer we tried matching it up to the sliding drawer mechanism. Voila! It worked!
With the bottom part of the cabinet mostly in place, we then started mounting the top cabinets on the cabinet rails and flush against the wall. This was a little tricky to measure just right, but I had Christy eyeing the level while I hung the cabinets to make things easier. It would have been easier if our house wasn’t 30+ years old and slightly uneven everywhere. We measured enough room to have a 1/2″ gap between the bottom of the cabinets and the top of the wall panels, which turned out to be barely enough.
It turned out that the last one didn’t line up, so we had to take them all down, bang everything into place, take them down, and ended up giving up for a while. It was always the last one, no matter which one, that wouldn’t align. Talk about frustrating.
We also got some spotlights to attach underneath the top row of cabinets, for added drama. Once we started to route and wire the lights we came across another issue – the included wire wasn’t long enough to span across the cabinets. To get by this one we went to Radio Shack and bought another roll of electrical wire of the same gauge. We spliced that new wire to the original cabling. We made sure we did this in a spot that would be tucked away behind the wall panels, so our handy-work was out of sight.
Next task, mounting the speakers. This was relatively easy as I had a template for my speaker mounts. I just measured them equal distance from the display template and drilled through the wall panels. We made sure to fasten anchors on the other side of the panels for extra support since the speakers are quite heavy at 10lbs each.
The only thing left now, is to mount that baby to the wall for extra support.
There was about a 1″ gap from the back of the panel to the wall because of the baseboard trim running along the floor. To address that we got some plywood of that same thickness and sawed it into blocks. We then held those blocks against the wall and drilled the whole wall panel first through those plywood blocks and then through the wall. Make sure you get screws long enough to do this. Secured.
With the cabinet and panels now mounted to the wall and all wires in place we now just needed to re-hang the top cabinets and put on the doors. Our attention-starved cat thought otherwise, and we called it a night.
While I was out golfing the next day, Christy (to my surprise) put the finishing touches (and by touches I mean hung the cabinets, attached the lights, affixed the top doors, etc.) on everything and the Besta cabinet project was officially complete.
It really looked cool walking in from the garage…
What a relief. Our 3-4 week labor of love, finally complete, and everything looked fantastic.
If you’re looking to do something similar, click here for our shopping list. Good luck, stay the course, and you’ll get there (eventually).
The hard part definitely isn’t assembling each individual piece, but doing all the little tweaks and hacks to get the cabinet to be functional and look super-clean.
Now, when is that new TV shipping out?