Finish your DIY Ikea kitchen with custom trim that connects the Sektion cabinets to your walls and ceiling for a truly built-in kitchen look.

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Ikea kitchens are well-designed and work in almost any kitchen layout. Their Forbattra trim, however, does not. At least not if you follow their instructions. Ikea Forbattra trim is made to go on top of cabinets that don’t reach all the way to the ceiling. The hardware that comes with the pieces and the instructions only work if you can access the top of your cabinets once the trim is on them. Since our kitchen has a simple design, with cabinets that go all the way to the ceiling and the side walls, we had to figure out how to add the trim in a different way. 

I have to admit that we lived with a beautiful, well-functioning kitchen that didn’t have any trim for at least 2 years until we got around to installing the trim. The trim finishes the kitchen and makes it look “built it”, but it’s not actually necessary. And I’ve read about other Ikea kitchens where other bloggers used boards from a lumber store to make their trim instead of Ikea’s Forbattra. It’s mostly a matter of preference. Here’s how we added our trim:

How to add trim to an Ikea kitchen

Measure the Gap

When you build a kitchen, the cabinets cannot go all way to the wall or the doors won’t open. If you have an Ikea associate help you with your kitchen design, they will make sure that each wall has at least a 2-3 inch space between the wall and the cabinet. The gap shown in the photo below is 2 1/4 inches. Each gap will be different, so don’t assume your measurements for one wall will be the same for another wall or the ceiling.

the gap between the cabinet box and the kitchen wall

I cut 5-inch long pieces of wood to fit exactly in the gap. They should fit snuggly. I cut three for each trim board. You could cut one long piece of wood the same length as the space where you want the trim to go, but it’s a matter of preference and wood is expensive. These pieces of wood will only be seen a tiny bit and only when the cabinet door is open. I ended up painting the wood white so that it blends into the cabinets.

a spacer board between the kitchen cabinets and the side wall

Cut the Trim to the Correct Size

First, cut the Forbattra trim boards to the length of the cabinet. Don’t just assume that you know the size of each cabinet and figure out the length from that. Pull out a measuring tape and find the actual length. This needs to be precise.

cutting the forbattra trim boards to fit the space between the cabinet and the wall

Next, Ikea trim boards are made so one side of the board has a square-ish edge and one side has a more rounded curve. The curve doesn’t make sense on trim that is connecting to a wall or ceiling, so we cut off the curve side. Cut the board so the trim piece (with the square edge) is the same measurement as your gap minus 1/4 of an inch. If you make it the same exact width as the gap, it won’t fit and your cabinet door won’t be able to open. So the trim needs to be slightly more narrow than the width of the gap.

Pre-drill Holes

On the back of the Forbattra trim boards, there is a groove carved the length of the board. Your screws will need to go through this groove exactly. (That was a frustrating lesson to learn the hard way!) Measure how far the groove is from the cut edge of the trim, not the finished edge. Mark that measurement line on the boards that fit in the gap. Then drill two holes in the gap boards through that measurement line. Where on the line doesn’t matter as much as making sure the holes are drilled at a perfect right angle. If the screw goes through the wood at an angle, it won’t end up in the groove on the trim and it will push the whole trim out of whack.

drill holes in the board that fits on the back of the kitchen trim

Attach the Forbattra Trim to the Wood

Clamp the gap-size wood pieces to your trim board face down. Line up the screw holes with the groove and the edge of the wood with the cut edge of the trim. Remember, the trim will not be at wide as the board by 1/4 of an inch. Be sure it’s the finished, squared edge of the trim side that has a little extra wood sticking out. That’s the side that will be next to the cabinet door and needs room for the door to open.

attach the gap board to the trim with screws

Screw the two pieces together, the trim and the gap wood piece. You can use the screws that came with the trim or buy your own, just make sure the screws are long enough to go through the piece of wood, but not too long that they will come through the front of your trim. (Another very frustrating mistake!)

Mount the Kitchen Trim

With the gap wood attached to the back of the trim board, you are ready to put up the trim! Push the gap boards into the gap between the wall and the cabinets until the trim board is flush, or even, with the front of the cabinet door (or drawer, if it’s a base cabinet). Since it’s a snug fit, it should stay in place by itself.

Attach the forbattra time to the kitchen cabinet with screws
screw through the inside of the cabinet to attach the trim

On the inside of the cabinet, add screws that go through the cabinet side and into the gap board. I did 2 screws for each 5-inch long gap board. This will hold the trim securely in place.

Trim Around Cabinet Corners

On the wall with our stove, our top cabinets are 12 inches deep, like standard top cabinets are. But we also have a pantry cabinet at the end of that wall that is 24 inches deep, so the trim needed to go across the top cabinet, along the side of the pantry, and then along the front of the pantry to the wall. Which means there is an inside and an outside corner.

Kitchen trim needs to go around the corners of the cabinets
mitre the ends of the forbattra trim to make a corner

I made mitered corners, where each board is cut at a 45-degree angle, because a mitered corner looks clean. To measure for a corner, use the measurement of the length of the cabinet in front of the doors and mark that on the front of the trim.

For the inside corner, cut the trim so the finished side of the trim is shorter than the back. When both trim boards come together, it will make a 90-degree inside corner.

For the outside corner, cut the trim so that the front side is longer than the back. This is what is shown the in photo.

Once the trim boards are cut, glue the 45-degree edges together with wood glue and clamp both sides onto a T-square to keep it at a 90 angle while it dries. Once the outside corner is finished, attach the gap boards to the trim and put it into place.

For the inside corner, I waited to glue until after both trim boards were already up on the cabinets. I figured it would be too hard to put a whole wall’s trim up all connected together. 

Creating corners on the top trim above the kitchen cabinets

Don’t Forget Under the Top Cabinets

Kitchen trim makes the front of kitchen cabinets and drawers look finished, but don’t forget that you can sometimes see the underside of the top cabinets and there will be a noticeable gap between the cabinet and the wall. There are a few ways to address that. One is to add trim to the entire bottom of the cabinets. This is especially useful if you are going to install under-cabinet lights.

Continue the trim under the top cabinets for a finished look

To keep our kitchen more simple, we did not add trim on the bottom. Instead, we continued the trim from the side to underneath the cabinet. So, just like with the pantry, we connected two trim boards at a 90-degree angle and made a corner that fit on the front and bottom of the wall-side of the cabinet.

When the Forbattra Trim Board Isn’t Long Enough

Our pantry goes from floor to ceiling so it is almost 8 feet tall. The Forbattra boards, at 87 inches, are not long enough to make one solid side trim. To make a long enough piece of trim, cut a second trim board just with a regular 90-degree cut. Glue the two trim boards together with wood glue and clamp them so they are perfectly flush on all sides. The trim should now be the length of the cabinet.

Use wood glue to connect two pieces of forbattra trim

When I attached the gap board, I put it right across the glued connection, with a screw in each board. This held the boards securely together and it was easy to put them on the cabinets.

Apply Caulking

After all the trim is mounted and attached to the cabinets, the kitchen is almost finished. There is a very tiny gap between the wall, or ceiling, and the trim boards. Caulk seals up that gap and finishes the kitchen so that it looks truly built in.

First, place painter’s tape on the trim board less than 1/4 inch from the wall. The tape will make a perfectly straight edge to the caulk. Then apply paintable caulk, smoothing it out and removing the tape as you go. 

Use painters tape to create a clean caulk line that will be easier to paint

When the caulk is completely cured (dry), paint the caulk the same color as the kitchen wall and the caulk will blend in with the walls.

paint caulking to match the kitchen walls

Another confession, it took us months after getting all the trim up before we added the caulking. Without caulk, the kitchen looks and functions perfectly. The caulking just adds a little, almost unnoticeable detail that makes the kitchen look professionally finished.

Our Ikea Kitchen Remodel

Installing our Ikea kitchen has been a lot of work, and time, but I’m so glad we did. It was fun to build our own kitchen and I love that it is exactly the kitchen I wanted and that our family needs. I created a webpage that has all the projects we did to build the kitchen with lots of “how-tos” for the Ikea Sektion kitchen. Go check it out!

A black and white Ikea kitchen remodel