I ordered a new television recently (see HD 2.0) and, of course, didn’t think I’d be satisfied with just sitting it on a stand.
I was thinking it’d be good to just mount it on the wall with a mounting frame, but wiring (especially after new insulation) might present a few challenges. And Christy didn’t want any big holes in the wall.
In our many trips to IKEA we took note of the cool media cabinet configurations they had, so we thought maybe we could just get a new stand and mount it 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 known when a guy at Ikea commented on our car-loads of Ikea boxes with, “It took me two weeks to assemble some of their closets. Good luck!”
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.
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. But 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 got 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!
I mean, 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.
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 we had to hack it like we want it. How? Buy a small drawer door (to return later) and use it as a template on the full size door.
So we drilled holes in the same spots and to the same depths (notice the masking tape indicator).
Then we tried matching it up to the sliding drawer mechanism and 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 effect. So we then started to route and wire those, when we ran into another issue. One light wire wasn’t long enough to span across the cabinets. So to get by this one we went to Radio Shack and bought another roll of electrical wire in same gauge, then spliced it to the original cabling. We made sure we did this in a spot that would be tucked away behind the wall panels, so our handiwork is out of sight.
Next task, mounting the speakers. This was relatively easy, I had a template for my speaker mounts so 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.
We took a step back, and for the first time got the sense that this whole project was really going to work, and was almost complete. Eva the cat, however, was not impressed…
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 baseboard trim running along the floor. We got some plywood of that thickness and sawed it into blocks to bridge the gap and secure everything together…
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. But our attention-starved cat thought otherwise…
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?