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How to fit a desk top (without pre-drilled holes) to a desk frame

Our Ikea compatible solid wood desk tops (namely: Skarsta, Bekant, Idasen and Rodulf) come with pre-drilled holes, and when required, plastic inserts. This means the top will fit to the frame as described in the manual, all the needed bolts etc are supplied with the frame.

All other desk tops (i.e. tops for Flexispot, Fully, E:lift, Conset, Flytta etc) do not come with pre-drilled holes.

Read our related post: Do you need to drill pilot holes when attaching a solid wood table top to a desk frame with wood screws?

Why do some desk frame manufactures not use pre-drilled holes?

As long as the top is made of something relatively solid (i.e. not honeycomb cardboard) then the trusty self tapping wood screw is the best, most stable way to fix your top to the frame. The design of the wood screw offers much more purchase than a metal bolt/machine screw against a plastic insert can. Even if the bolt is threaded into a metal insert, the insert still has to attach to the desk top some how, which can create a weak point, especially if the top is not made of strong material.

Another reason is the adjustable cross beam design of many desk frames. This allows the legs to be positioned as far apart as your top/space will allow. Having lots of overhang either side of the legs could cramp the space available under the desk. If the legs of the frame can be in a variable position, then it is not possible to pre-drill holes.

For these reasons, many desk frame manufacturers do not pre-drill holes in the MDF table tops they supply. So how do you fit a desk top to a desk frame with wood screws?

How to attach a solid wood table top to a desk frame

What you will need

  • An electric screwdriver: You will really, really struggle to do it with a manual screw driver. The electric drill need not be heavy duty or expensive.
  • Wood screws: We use ‘Goldscrews’ in the workshop when making furniture, but any good quality screw will do. They do not need to be brass, some desk frame manufacturers supply screws. Make sure the length of the screw makes as much use of the thickness of the top as possible, but does not exceed it. The screw head should be larger than the opening in the frame, if the opening in the frame is very big, you can use a washer.

The process

  1. Make sure you have plenty of space, and a second person available to help.
  2. Place your solid wood top facedown on the floor. The chamfer can help you identify which side is the top, or the grommet hole location if you specified it to be on the left/right.
  3. Centre the frame upside down onto the solid wood top. Most frames are assembled upside down, so you likely just have to move it into position at this point. Note: a small amount of frames do not centre the frame to the top, this will be very clear in the manual.
  4. Optional: using a drill attachment with a diameter much smaller than your screw, pre-drill a small pilot hole in the centre of each available opening to remove some material. Consider using screws with a small diameter to negate the need to drill pilot holes. Tip: mark your drill bit to ensure you do not go all the way through the top.
  5. One by one loosely screw the self tapping screws into all the required openings. As the screws are inserted, frequently check the frame is in the correct position; when they are all in place, gradually and evenly tighten each screw. Note: not all openings in the frame require screws, consult the instructions.

Which desk frames cannot be attached by means of wood screws?

The vast majority of frames, even ones not referenced on our website directly (Yo-Yo, Furna, Friska, Autonomous, HADO, Vonhaus, the myriad of Amazon frames etc) can all use the above method. Even Ikea frames can be attached with wood screws and washers, but we have come across the odd frame here and there that cannot be attached by means of wood screws. I.e. some models of Herman-Miller frames require specialist metal inserts. In these cases we have sacrificed the existing MDF top, removing the metal inserts and embedded them into the solid wood top. Please get it touch with some photos of the underside of the desk to see if we can do a similar thing for your project.

What about non-sit/stand desks?

If you are using industrial legs or Ikea legs, these fit with wood screws by default. If you are wanting a replacement top for an existing frame, it might be best to get in touch with some pictures so we can best advise how to proceed, generally wood screws can do the job!

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