beautiful oak drawer fronts custom made for an ikea kitchen cabinet base

You’ve done it! You have finally bit the bullet to remodel your kitchen, or maybe you’re building from scratch. You’ve visited Ikea and you, “ooed” and “awed” over all the amazing organization they provide. You loved the soft close doors and drawers were amazed by the integrated lighting. You couldn’t believe the amazing prices. You could build an entire kitchen for 1/3 the cost of what your cabinet guy quoted you…except…you have to do it yourself. Aaaand they don’t have those fancy narrow 6″ spice cabinets that your cabinet guy does. Let’s hack this Ikea kitchen cabinet! (jump to the tutorial here)

ikea kitchen cabinet resize hack showing the components that were changed in the cabinet in order to resize it.
Ironically I had to resize my Ikea cabinet to a standard size they make, but was out of stock. The process is still the same though.

Somehow, by a twist of fate you landed here. Maybe you searched for making an Ikea cabinet bigger or maybe narrower or how to change the size of a cabinet. Perhaps, you haven’t bought the cabinets yet because you want to make sure it is even possible to adjust the sizes or add in one of those spice racks you see next to everyone’s ranges. Well, I’m here to tell you it is possible and it is much easier than you think.

Table of contents:

  1. Supplies and tools you will need
  2. How to determine the exact size you need
  3. Modifying the back panel of the Ikea cabinet
  4. Replacing the top metal brackets
  5. Joining the cabinet sides together
  6. Attaching the back panel
  7. Additional tips

Parts of an IKEA Sektion kitchen cabinet

What are the components of an IKEA Sektion kitchen cabinet? There is a solid base, two solid sides, a thin back panel that slides into the sides via a dado, and two metal bars across the top. Just a simple cabinet. If you still plan to install doors the sides are the most important part of the cabinets. They have predrilled holes are where the doors will attach and will keep everything lined up. The rest is changeable.

The cabinet solid “wood” parts are made out of particle board covered with a thick melamine and edge banded. I’ve worked with particle board a lot. The material in the Ikea cabinets seems denser and more substantial than usual particle board.

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the ikea kitchen cabinet hack showing the cabinet without the back, but with the new top and bottom attached.
You can see how I ditched my metal brackets and stock base here, I didn’t have an exposed base, but you may need a solid piece of 3/4″ plywood

Supplies you will need to hack the Ikea cabinet:

  1. The narrowest Ikea cabinet they make: 12″ wide
  2. Kreg jig or other pocket joinery system
  3. 1 1/4″ pocket screws (coarse screws for plywood and particle board)
  4. 3/4″ plywood cut in 2 strips 1 1/2″ – 3″ wide and at least the length of how wide you want your cabinet to be; and a piece the width you want your cabinet to be and 24″ long.
  5. 3/4″ wood screws (pan or oval head)
  6. Masonite or tempered hardboard panel (Optional – only for enlarging)

Tools you will use:

a beautiful image of the rev-a-shelf fill in spice rack pull out and instructions on how to make an ikea cabinet for this to fit in.
Source: Rev-a-Shelf
  1. Table saw
  2. Miter saw
  3. Drill
  4. Glue (Optional)

Step 1: What size cabinet do you need to build?

Determine the width you need. In my case it was 30″ (I know that’s a standard size, but they were out of stock).

If you’re making a cabinet for a pull out spice rack like the one above. You will need to make a cabinet that is wide enough for the rack to clear the frame. The minimum Rev-a-Shelf pullout is 3″ but they also make 5 1/2″ -12″ in sizes going up in 1/2″ increments. The most common size filler space is 6″. That means if you use the 5 1/2″ pull out, you will need 5 1/2″ of interior space between the two sides of the cabinet.

How to adapt and plan an Ikea cabinet modification

Ikea cabinet sides are 3/4″ thick – exactly. No more, no less. If you need 5 1/2″ of space, your total cabinet width will be 5 1/2″ + 3/4″ + 3/4″ or 7″. If you use the 3″ filler you’d need a cabinet 4 1/2″ wide.

The only parts of the Ikea cabinet you need to modify are the back and bases.

You need to cut the back panel

Using your table saw, cut the back to the width of the interior cabinet that you need, but add 1/2″ for the dado the back of the cabinet sits in.Example: if you need 3″ rip the back panel to 3 1/2″; 5 1/2″ rip it to 6″

Using your table saw, rip the bottom so that it is the exact interior width you need. Example: 3″ wide.

If you’re making your cabinet bigger you need a new back panel

For my cabinet I was making it bigger. If this is the case for you, you can’t reuse the bottom or back panels. Instead I used plywood strips for the top and bottom and 1/4″ plywood for the back. The 1/4″ was too thick to sit int he dado, tempered board would have been a better choice. . If you need a solid bottom because it is visible, or you are using a system like Rev-a_shelf that mounts along the base, you will want to make it out of 3/4″ plywood.

If you plan to install with the rail, use a jig saw and cut out the top two corners 1 1/2" in and 1 1/2" down - basically make it look like the old panel, just narrower. If you only rip one side, you only have to do this once.

Note: In this tutorial we are only customizing the width of the cabinet and not the depth

Step 2: What and how to replace the metal brackets for the Ikea cabinet

Now you need to recreate the metal brackets that go along the top and join the sides together.

Tip: You don’t want a solid piece of wood on top because that would make it hard to install the filler pull out later on.

Rip two plywood boards that are 1 1/2″ – 3″ wide – you just need the wide enough to place two pocket holes. Cut them to the interior width you need. The exact interior width. Example: 3″ if you need 3″, It was 28 1/2″ in my case.

Ikea kitchen cabinet customization with the back shown in the dado.
You can see the 1/4″ doesn’t fit in the dado, if you have masonite it would fit, in my case I made my plywood the exact interior width and stapled along my plywood strips that I added.

Step 3: How to join your cabinet sides together

Using your Kreg jig, or other. pocket hole joinery tool, make two pocket holes on the ends of all of your strips

Drill pocket holes along the bottom of the new cabinet base – just the sides that will join into the sides of the cabinet. 4 holes is a good amount. If you don’t have a pocket hole jig you can nail/screw from the sides into the strips, just make sure to use wood glue if you do.

If you are going to use the rail system, install those pieces onto your cabinet sides just as Ikea instructions show. You're going to want these in place before the next step. 

Step 4: Piecing together your cabinet

Paying careful attention to keeping everything flush, join the Ikea sides to your 3/4″ plywood base with pocket screws. Make sure to place the pocket holes facing down so that they can’t be seen from the inside of the cabinet. I love this clamp when I’m joining my boards like this.

Do the same to the top pieces, placing one at the front of the cabinet top and one at the back but do not put it over the dado. This time with the pocket holes facing up, but again so they will not be seen from the inside of the cabinet.

Tip: To keep everything square I always mark either side of where my boards should join and use my 90 Degree Kreg Clamp.

Back view of the staples used to install the new back for the changed ikea cabinet size
I like to staple my backs on with my battery operated staple gun. But Ikea provides nails if you don’t have a stapler

Step 5: Add the modified back panel to your cabinet

Slide your back panel in place. I like to add glue but it’s totally optional. Secure with the nails Ikea provides or use a staple gun like I do.

standard ikea cabinet feet or legs installed with the modified ikea kitchen cabinet base to make the cabinet a different size but still use the legs and rail system

Step 6: Attaching the Ikea feet to your modified Ikea cabinet

Using 3/4″ screws, screw your feet onto the base of the cabinet, through the plastic and into your plywood/Ikea bottom. You may have to cut off the little black tabs to help them sit flush depending on how you made your base.

upclose image of the standard ikea kitchen cabinet feet attached to the new cabinet base
Zooming in on those feet screws

That’s it. You’ve made a custom Ikea cabinet and your doors will attach in the same spots that they did on your standard cabinets from the store. If you are using the filler that Rev-a-Shelf makes, you will attach your door directly to the slide.

Check out these other helpful posts

If you are looking for a way to make a shaker cabinet door for your newly customized Ikea kitchen cabinet, I have it here.

My friend Erin was customizing her own Ikea kitchen cabinet the exact same time that I was rebuilding mine for the girls bathroom. She created a custom Ikea cabinet to house narrow items like a small ladder. You can still have custom features with an Ikea cabinet and if you are able to build an Ikea cabinet you can easily handle these hacks.

Go check out Erin’s tutorial. She has some really helpful tips and detailed pictures that may fill in any gaps I missed. She’s also a friend of mine and so helpful.

If you need some extra help feel free to comment or email.

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  1. The picture under the title is of a bathroom cabinet, which is what drew me to your site, but the tutorial is for a kitchen…..

  2. Thanks for all of these awesome tips! Question–on the bathroom door/drawer fronts….what kind of wood and finish did you use?

I promise to reply if you do!