IKEA furniture is affordable and doesn’t look half bad. However, I’m sure we all know the painful truth that when it comes to many household items, you pay a price for long-lasting quality.
Self-assembled IKEA furniture is popular in furnishing first homes, dorm rooms, etc., where you sort of know that it’s not your forever-furniture, but you still want it to last you a good few years until you are ready to move on. So, let’s take a look at how long you might expect your items to last and what you can do to extend their lifespan.
IKEA furniture generally lasts 4-8 years. This differs according to material, use, care, and construction. Solid wood is more durable than particleboard and might last 20-30 years with proper care. However, IKEA furniture is not meant to be as long-lasting as other furniture.
Average Lifespan of Standard IKEA Furniture
The average lifespan of IKEA furniture is between 4 and 8 years. Much of the life expectancy of IKEA furniture is determined by the standard materials that are used. Aside from materials, the item’s lifespan also depends on where it is used, how it is used, and how well you maintain it.
Some products are known to expire faster, so remember to check product reviews. For example, sofas from IKEA generally cap at 5 years, and that’s if you are lucky. This is a problem if you buy the sofa without realizing that it won’t be around for long.
If you are looking for IKEA items that will last longer than the rest, your best bet is sticking to solid woods and metal. The furniture made from these materials shouldn’t break down on you the way the particleboard will.
You Get What You Pay For
IKEA caters to a consumer base that needs affordable furniture. Unfortunately, the affordability does limit the quality of the products. You can’t get a wardrobe to take you to another world from IKEA.
However, you can find some IKEA items that are of better quality than others. These items are going to cost you more. The cheaper the item, the less likely it is to last. This is also heavily determined by what you are buying as some items will experience more wear than others. For example, an IKEA mirror will probably fair better than a sofa.
Solid Wood Products Last Longer
IKEA furniture is mostly made using particleboard: a mixture of glue, wood shavings, wood chips, and sawdust and covered in a thin wooden veneer. Unfortunately, this is not designed to last for decades and doesn’t hold up well in the assembly process.
Items manufactured from solid wood are a higher quality product that is more durable. The solid wooden options in IKEA are mainly made from the cheapest wood possible to maintain low prices: pine.
IKEA’s choice of pine wood is cost-effective, its light coloring makes it easier to customize, it is stiff enough to provide durability, it is shock-resistant, and resistant to swelling and shrinking. Pine is also more environmentally friendly, which is part of IKEA’s green claims.
However, there is a reason why pine is cheaper than hardwood furniture and why it won’t last as long. It’s stiff but not strong as hardwoods, it’s prone to denting and scratching, and it needs more maintenance.
While pine has its pros and cons, it is solid wood, so any pine IKEA product should last longer than the particleboard alternatives. Your great-grandchildren probably won’t be inheriting it like they might an oak dresser, but it should have a long life.
IKEA Furniture Will Not Become an Heirloom
I would not expect any IKEA furniture to become a family heirloom. I don’t think that young adults will be finding even the pine furniture in antique stores 70 years after you bought it. The furniture is simply not made to span generations.
Some pieces of IKEA furniture can last up to 30 years, which sounds like a long time until you compare it to furniture in antique stores that is over 100 years old and is still going strong.
IKEA furniture is not marketed as furniture for a lifetime; it is intended to be the items you purchase to explore design styles and to furnish your first homes.
If you are looking to leave a furniture legacy, I would suggest hardwood. Oak sourcing has quite an impact on the environment due to how long the trees take to grow, but there are great alternative hardwoods, like mango wood.
Factors Influencing Lifespan
How Well Was It Assembled?
How well the furniture is assembled will impact how long it lasts. Read the assembly instructions for directions on how best to build it and for information on how much to tighten screws and bolts. Having two pairs of hands is also recommended, although it is possible to successfully assemble it alone.
There are also methods of reinforcing self-assembled furniture, such as using glue and steel plates/braces during assembly to make the item sturdier and more durable. This is helpful but note that this would likely classify as modification and can prevent a refund if you return it.
How Often Is It Used?
The furniture that is in frequent or daily use will expire quicker than items that experience less traffic. Dining tables and sofas are some items that fall into the former category. You will likely only get approximately 4 years out of these products.
How Much Weight Will It Be Expected to Hold?
The weight that the item will be subject to will impact how long the furniture lasts. If you are trying to extend the longevity of your purchase, an excellent place to start is not overloading the piece. This ranges from bookcases to drawers.
Part of not overburdening the furniture is to stick to the intended use as far as possible and to follow any anchoring instructions.
Will It Be Outside or in Direct Sunlight?
Furniture that is outdoors or exposed to direct sunlight is not going to last long and is why maintenance is essential.
Outside furniture is exposed to wind, rain, snow, and uncontrolled heat and cold, which causes wear.
Photodegradation from sunlight exposure causes fading and bleaching on your materials and can result in heat damage in wood as it dries out, which can lead to splitting and warping.
While not a structural issue, direct sunlight or even filtered light through a window can cause white IKEA furniture to turn yellow. It’s still functional, but you may not like how it looks.
Will You Be Moving It?
Self-assembled items are not as sturdy as those built with fewer attaching parts, which means that frequently moving the item might shorten its lifespan.
Lifting, dragging, and pushing put pressure on the joins and materials. This can cause loosening in the item, leading to it wobbling and even coming apart. Ensure you move the furniture gently and carefully, or you might find your table and sofa legs detaching.
Consider what pieces you are choosing for different purposes and places when shopping at IKEA. For example, my friend always buys furniture on legs that allow for cleaning underneath the item without moving it, which you might want to try.
Will You Disassemble and Reassemble It?
Ultimately, you should build your flatpack particleboard furniture once and be done. If you need to disassemble the furniture, try to limit the number of times.
Each time you take the furniture apart, you are risking widening the holes for screws and making the item wobbly. The best thing to do would be to transport the assembled unit intact whenever possible.
Particleboard is almost impossible to repair properly because there is nothing substantial to work with. So, it is important to maintain the items as best as you can, which includes how you clean them.
Start by reading through the care instructions that come with your specific item. You can combine this with the general IKEA care instructions for wooden and outside furniture.
How to Properly Maintain IKEA Furniture
(This information is sourced from IKEA itself to ensure that you are following their instructions which helps with returns, refunds, and warranties.)
Caring for Wooden IKEA Furniture
- Dust it every day if possible or at least once weekly. Avoid furniture polish, though.
- Dust with a soft cloth going with the grain of the wood to prevent scratching.
- Avoid ammonia, which degrades the wood and finish.
- Most wooden items require a dry duster or cloth. Specific pieces may have other care tricks.
- Avoid direct sunlight exposure where possible.
- Protect untreated items from moisture.
- Apply outdoor-use varnish to outside furniture to protect and maintain the surface.
There are also specific instructions on the IKEA website for particular wood types.
Maintaining Outdoor Furniture
- Choose low-maintenance materials such as steel, plastic, aluminum, and plastic rattan. Recommended woods are solid woods such as eucalyptus and acacia.
- Clean these materials with a mild soapy mixture.
- Store these in a cool and dry place for winter or cover them.
- Re-stain woods to extend their life and prevent cracking. Re-touch painted items with appropriate outdoor paint.
- Cushions and padding should be cleaned frequently and stored inside or in a protected storage unit when not in use.
- Fold parasols and store them in a cool and dry place when not in use. Be sure to clean them once yearly according to instructions.
- Remove gazebo roofs when raining heavily or windy. Clean the roof and curtains thoroughly and regularly according to the label; the frame just needs a bit of soapy water. Store it in a cool and dry area.