Friday, March 29, 2013

IKEA IVAR Shelf Review

Ikea IVAR Shelf
You're in the market for a clean and simple shelf system with a natural look. Ask me what I would buy and I would say the Ikea GORM series. They are cheap at only $25 CAD for the 78x35x174 cm size and $39.99 for the deeper 55 cm version (website). Untreated solid pine and spruce (website), add-on shelves at $10 to $14 for a pair, what's not to like? I love GORM shelves and bought three way back when that are still used today for storage. They are clean but crude with rough coarsely sanded wood, cheap, modular, expandable, and somewhat easy to buy, in my experience, with a car -- just watch out for damaged product because the ones I've seen aren't packaged in cardboard or anything protective.

What if you want something "nicer"?

I'd still choose the GORM series to save some money, but there is also the IVAR series. Honestly, I wanted GORM shelves except they wouldn't fit in my car (bought the old set with a longer, beater car I didn't mind stuffing big things into) and I was too lazy to drive out to pick them up. Ikea started offering online shopping and shipping about a year or so ago in Canada. The only caveat is that a lot of the smaller, cheaper items are not available to be bought online -- GORM shelves being one of them.

My order, for two 179x83x30 cm IVAR shelves, came in 3 packages: 1 for the 4 frame legs, 1 for the 8 shelves, and 1 for the 2 cross-braces. It came by Fed Ex about a week after ordering, shipped from Montreal of all places.

Fed Ex Shipped Ikea IVAR Shelves
Starting at $83 CAD for shelves measuring at 179x89x30 cm, similar to the $25 GORM series, these are significantly more expensive. For the premium though, you get a better looking product with very smoothly sanded down wood. Everything except the joints and connections should be made with solid pine (website). Pieces appear to have been glued together and then sanded down -- seems this way from the changes in the grain of the wood used.

According to the website, the 83x30 cm shelves of the IVAR series have a weight capacity of "35 kg" -- same as the 77x31 cm GORM shelves. I wouldn't push it considering that these shelves are attached to the legs by short (1"-ish) steel push-in dowels (like those wood, screw-less dowels), which support plastic end pieces attached to the wood shelves (see grey brackets at ends of shelves in picture above).


Ikea IVAR 1 section with shelves: 179x89x30cm - $83.00

Overview of Single Ikea IVAR Shelf
Overview of Ikea IVAR Legs
Ikea IVAR Shelving Unit Assembly in 35 Seconds

Putting IVAR shelves together is a two-person job. I managed to do all 3 GORM shelves long ago by myself because the shelves were screwed in. Leaving them not completely tight allowed me to level the shelf out while the unit held itself together just enough. I didn't even need to put the cross-brace on initially.

Trying to do the same with the IVAR system, I got a very nice lesson in stability. Without the brace, a nudge from the side was enough to cause the entire frame to topple even if it stood up on its own for a while. I found it necessary to put on the cross-brace to hold everything together stably.

This process was all done on a level floor with one person used to hold the frame while I connected the four points of the brace. The shelves were attached using steel dowels that pushed into predrilled holes on the legs. I found the shelves and dowels relatively easy to remove without the use of any tools.


Compared to the GORM system, the IVAR system does not feel as stable as if you bump it, it will resonate and wobble. And I can't emphasize enough how important it is to put this thing together on a level floor and to check. I had to go back and re-adjust the brace because the frame was ever so slightly crooked from building it on a slanted floor. The level looked fine first run through.

An entire shelf system (179x89x30 cm) is pretty light, which is good for moving and somewhat bad for stability. Do be careful about toppling. As usual with tall furniture, but especially with slender ones, an anti-toppling device was provided to be used with the IVAR. I did something more creative, which isn't as safe.

Expandability / Customizability

Like many Ikea furniture series, IVAR is modular. You can buy all the parts separately, then mix and match. You can also get additional shelves if you need more space. They go for $12 a pop for the 83x30 cm version. Definitely more expensive than the GORM version, which is $10 for two shelves that are similar in size. I've actually done this already. Do watch out when buying shelves because they clip the metal dowels to the bottom of the shelves, which are stored in the warehouse area in singles. I had a few fall out inside the package during shipping. Chances are you can get some for free if they do go missing, but that's another trip back to Ikea.

The best part may be if you have the room to have more than 1 shelf side-by-side. Instead of buying two new legs, you may be able to just get one and attach it to the old one along with a new brace. In my case, it may be possible to expand either shelf this way and save $15 by not needing to buy a new leg.

Because most of the system is solid pine, it should be very easy to screw and hammer things to it -- no idea how it would affect the overall strength if done. Over at IkeaHacks, you can find quite a few people who turned their IVAR shelves into closed bookshelves. And the wood can supposedly be painted or stained if you prefer the look.

Close-up of Ikea IVAR Shelf Mounts and Supports
Everyday Use
I've had my IVARs for a few months now. One is in the kitchen holding pantry items and a microwave in the second shelf up. The other one is in a bedroom supporting a printer, books, clothes, and other random stuff. A while ago, I was thinking of replacing my VIKA side-desk that's used to store random things, hold up a receiver, and stand above a computer tower. The idea I had in mind was to use a 50 cm deep IVAR shelf to save some space and add some additional vertical storage space. Maybe I'll get to that someday.

As it stands, both shelves are working great. For books, I lined up one shelf with one of the middle crossbars, which acts as a bookend. No toppling accidents yet -- fingers crossed.


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Edsal UR185L-BLK Black Steel Heavy Duty 5-Shelf Shelving Unit, 4000lbs Capacity, 36" Width x 72" Height x 18" Depth