(IKEA Closet Hack) How To Add Custom Backs To IKEA Pax Wardrobes

Planning an IKEA closet hack? Learn how to replace the famous white IKEA particle board backing (with the ugly seam down the middle) with plywood!

We’re finally moving along with our IKEA Pax closet hack!

The IKEA Pax system itself is actually really nice. If you plan on keeping it white (or whatever color you’re getting from IKEA), then I wouldn’t replace any of the backs.

The #1 reason we’re doing this IKEA closet hack it because we plan on trimming out IKEA’s wardrobes and then painting the entire thing.

Having that white seam down the center of the IKEA wardrobe’s back would make it impossible to paint and look nice. We did try to fill in the seam, because we could paint over that, but it didn’t hold since the particle board backing is so flimsy.

P.S. This post contains affiliate links. Making Joy and Pretty Things earns a small commission if you purchase at no additional cost to you. Please see my disclosure policy for more details.

IKEA Closet Hack: Custom Plywood Back Supplies

IKEA Pax Closet Custom Plywood Back Process:

First, we actually put all the regular IKEA-provided white backs on. DON’T DO THIS. We had to pop each of them out and remove alllllll the nails. Such a waste of time.

Instead, use the regular IKEA backs as guides to make the custom plywood back!

Remember there are 3 different width options for the IKEA Pax Closet System.

(I got over in much more detail the different types of IKEA Pax Wardrobe units in this post)

So, depending on how you designed your IKEA closet system, you may have 3 different sizes to measure out.

You can assemble the rest of each Pax unit. In fact, adding the backing is the last step in every IKEA product we’ve built. Just keep in mind that the units are extremely flimsy without the back.

If we were doing this again, I would probably remove the white backs from the boxes that the units came in and make the custom plywood backs FIRST, before I put anything else together.

This would allow you to build your IKEA Pax wardrobes with the custom plywood backs straight from the start, making it a lot easier to maneuver your units into place as soon as they’re assembled.

[Step 1] Lay out underlayment plywood

As you can see in the first photo if you look closely, our garage is a disaster. That’s beside the main point, which is this: I have lined up 3 sheets of 1/4″ underlayment on top of each other on my horses to cut all at once.

I did this because 1/4″ underlayment is flimsy, and because getting three usable pieces in the same time it would’ve taken to get one usable piece is a tremendous efficiency boost and felt like a no-brainer.

I did do one piece at a time at first to make sure the process I had was going to work, including fitting the first piece I cut on the back of one of the Pax units to make sure it fit. Spoiler alert: it fit like a glove, hence the three pieces you see below to speed up the process.

IKEA Hack time because who doesn’t love IKEA hacks?! Sharing the beginning of our IKEA closet hack using the IKEA closet system. The IKEA Pax system comes with flimsy white backing. Today, we’re sharing the ultimate IKEA hack - how to add plywood backs to IKEA Pax units. This can be used for other IKEA products too like IKEA dressers! It’s absolutely essential if you plan on painting IKEA furniture #ikeahacks #ikeahack #paxwardrobe #ikeapax

CUSTOM IKEA PLYWOOD BACK TIP: We tested the process and found that you can have 3 pieces of plywood on top of each other. That means you can make 3 custom plywood backs at the same time and speed up the process!

Side note: we did this over a weekend. On the Monday after that weekend I was researching Kreg’s rip-cut and Advanced Cutting System for making projects like this easier in the future and saw, repeatedly, that people will use 4×8, 1 inch thick foam insulation pieces (like this) to stabilize and support their plywood when they’re making cuts. The circular saw blade is set just deep enough to cut through the wood and a little into the foam. I definitely plan to try this out in the future, and I’d recommend you consider it if you attempt this yourself. The flimsy plywood underlayment really is annoying to work with.

[Step 2] Align white backing with plywood

Once you have your plywood on the horses, lay the white backing piece that came with the IKEA Pax unit on top of your underlayment.

Line it up with the factory edges of the plywood.

PLYWOOD TIP: Make sure the “good” side of your underlayment is facing down. A circular saw will make a cleaner cut on the bottom of the piece you’re cutting than on the top.

IKEA Hack time because who doesn’t love IKEA hacks?! Sharing the beginning of our IKEA closet hack using the IKEA closet system. The IKEA Pax system comes with flimsy white backing. Today, we’re sharing the ultimate IKEA hack - how to add plywood backs to IKEA Pax units. This can be used for other IKEA products too like IKEA dressers! It’s absolutely essential if you plan on painting IKEA furniture #ikeahacks #ikeahack #paxwardrobe #ikeapax

[Step 3] Trace outline

Use a pencil to mark the edges of your backing piece.

You don’t have to completely trace the whole thing, but you do need to know where the edges are going to be so you can line up your straight edge/saw guide later.

IKEA Hack time because who doesn’t love IKEA hacks?! Sharing the beginning of our IKEA closet hack using the IKEA closet system. The IKEA Pax system comes with flimsy white backing. Today, we’re sharing the ultimate IKEA hack - how to add plywood backs to IKEA Pax units. This can be used for other IKEA products too like IKEA dressers! It’s absolutely essential if you plan on painting IKEA furniture #ikeahacks #ikeahack #paxwardrobe #ikeapax

Don’t forget to mark the location of the little holes at the top of the backing. These line up with the metal brackets at the top-back of the IKEA Pax unit that are how you anchor the units to the wall you’re installing them against.

IKEA Hack time because who doesn’t love IKEA hacks?! Sharing the beginning of our IKEA closet hack using the IKEA closet system. The IKEA Pax system comes with flimsy white backing. Today, we’re sharing the ultimate IKEA hack - how to add plywood backs to IKEA Pax units. This can be used for other IKEA products too like IKEA dressers! It’s absolutely essential if you plan on painting IKEA furniture #ikeahacks #ikeahack #paxwardrobe #ikeapax

Just trace the circle with a pencil so you can drill it out with the 1″ spade bit later.

IKEA Hack time because who doesn’t love IKEA hacks?! Sharing the beginning of our IKEA closet hack using the IKEA closet system. The IKEA Pax system comes with flimsy white backing. Today, we’re sharing the ultimate IKEA hack - how to add plywood backs to IKEA Pax units. This can be used for other IKEA products too like IKEA dressers! It’s absolutely essential if you plan on painting IKEA furniture #ikeahacks #ikeahack #paxwardrobe #ikeapax

This is what you’re left with:

IKEA Hack time because who doesn’t love IKEA hacks?! Sharing the beginning of our IKEA closet hack using the IKEA closet system. The IKEA Pax system comes with flimsy white backing. Today, we’re sharing the ultimate IKEA hack - how to add plywood backs to IKEA Pax units. This can be used for other IKEA products too like IKEA dressers! It’s absolutely essential if you plan on painting IKEA furniture #ikeahacks #ikeahack #paxwardrobe #ikeapax

[Step 4] Line up cutting guide

Now it’s time to line up your level or cutting guide (depending on which dimension you’re cutting first) to help keep your circular saw cutting straight.

I know that the circular saw I use cuts exactly 1″ from the left side of the base plate. For this reason, I use my speed square to line my straight-edge (in this case a 4′ level) 1″ away from my cut line.

IKEA Hack time because who doesn’t love IKEA hacks?! Sharing the beginning of our IKEA closet hack using the IKEA closet system. The IKEA Pax system comes with flimsy white backing. Today, we’re sharing the ultimate IKEA hack - how to add plywood backs to IKEA Pax units. This can be used for other IKEA products too like IKEA dressers! It’s absolutely essential if you plan on painting IKEA furniture #ikeahacks #ikeahack #paxwardrobe #ikeapax

After I have that done, I clamp the straight-edge to the material to be cut, being sure to position the clamps so they’re not in the way of the movement of the saw.

Depending on your setup, it is possible to have the clamp be clear of the blade but not the body of the saw, so be careful there.

[Step 5] Make the cuts!

IKEA Hack time because who doesn’t love IKEA hacks?!  Sharing the beginning of our IKEA closet hack using the IKEA closet system.  The IKEA Pax system comes with flimsy white backing.  Today, we’re sharing the ultimate IKEA hack - how to add plywood backs to IKEA Pax units.  This can be used for other IKEA products too like IKEA dressers! It’s absolutely essential if you plan on painting IKEA furniture #ikeahacks #ikeahack #paxwardrobe #ikeapax

Repeat this process for both cuts you need to make per backing piece.

NOT SHOWN: drill out the holes you marked earlier with your 1″ spade bit (the holes you drill will be slightly larger at 1″ than the holes you marked, but it’ll be okay)

[Step 6] Install plywood backs

To install, we used the 18 gauge brad nailer loaded with 1″ brad nails as opposed to hammering in 20+ individual panel nails per Pax unit. This saved us a TON of time, but there are a few considerations to make.

Because the brad nails do not have heads as large as the panel nails, you want to make sure you don’t place your nails too close to the edge of the underlayment or too deep into it.

Take it slow on your first few nails and pay attention to the depth, adjusting it as necessary. Also, you may want to ever-so-slightly angle your nailer toward the outside of the Pax unit so you don’t accidentally shoot a nail through the inside of the unti where it will be visible.

Once you have your depth set and get a good feel for where to align the nailer, you can really fly. I’d say we were attaching the backs in about 1.5 to 2 minutes once we really got a feel for it.

IKEA Hack time because who doesn’t love IKEA hacks?! Sharing the beginning of our IKEA closet hack using the IKEA closet system. The IKEA Pax system comes with flimsy white backing. Today, we’re sharing the ultimate IKEA hack - how to add plywood backs to IKEA Pax units. This can be used for other IKEA products too like IKEA dressers! It’s absolutely essential if you plan on painting IKEA furniture #ikeahacks #ikeahack #paxwardrobe #ikeapax

Here’s what the closet looks like now:

IKEA Hack time because who doesn’t love IKEA hacks?!  Sharing the beginning of our IKEA closet hack using the IKEA closet system.  The IKEA Pax system comes with flimsy white backing.  Today, we’re sharing the ultimate IKEA hack - how to add plywood backs to IKEA Pax units.  This can be used for other IKEA products too like IKEA dressers! It’s absolutely essential if you plan on painting IKEA furniture #ikeahacks #ikeahack #paxwardrobe #ikeapax
IKEA Hack time because who doesn’t love IKEA hacks?!  Sharing the beginning of our IKEA closet hack using the IKEA closet system.  The IKEA Pax system comes with flimsy white backing.  Today, we’re sharing the ultimate IKEA hack - how to add plywood backs to IKEA Pax units.  This can be used for other IKEA products too like IKEA dressers! It’s absolutely essential if you plan on painting IKEA furniture #ikeahacks #ikeahack #paxwardrobe #ikeapax

The plywood backs look SO much better than the white, IKEA-provided particle board.

IKEA Hack time because who doesn’t love IKEA hacks?!  Sharing the beginning of our IKEA closet hack using the IKEA closet system.  The IKEA Pax system comes with flimsy white backing.  Today, we’re sharing the ultimate IKEA hack - how to add plywood backs to IKEA Pax units.  This can be used for other IKEA products too like IKEA dressers! It’s absolutely essential if you plan on painting IKEA furniture #ikeahacks #ikeahack #paxwardrobe #ikeapax

You can see below that we will need to caulk the seams before we paint. And that was expected.

IKEA Hack time because who doesn’t love IKEA hacks?!  Sharing the beginning of our IKEA closet hack using the IKEA closet system.  The IKEA Pax system comes with flimsy white backing.  Today, we’re sharing the ultimate IKEA hack - how to add plywood backs to IKEA Pax units.  This can be used for other IKEA products too like IKEA dressers! It’s absolutely essential if you plan on painting IKEA furniture #ikeahacks #ikeahack #paxwardrobe #ikeapax
IKEA Hack time because who doesn’t love IKEA hacks?!  Sharing the beginning of our IKEA closet hack using the IKEA closet system.  The IKEA Pax system comes with flimsy white backing.  Today, we’re sharing the ultimate IKEA hack - how to add plywood backs to IKEA Pax units.  This can be used for other IKEA products too like IKEA dressers! It’s absolutely essential if you plan on painting IKEA furniture #ikeahacks #ikeahack #paxwardrobe #ikeapax

Next steps for the closet are moving a light switch, anchoring them to the wall and then BRING ON THE TRIM! Excited that it’s finally moving along.

Remember, you can follow me over on Instagram for more behind the scenes of the master closet renovation!

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.