Ikea Karlstad Couch Hack


Some years ago we purchased an Ikea Karlstad couch. At a certain point one of the arms started cracking and the couch began a slow collapse, not unlike the long decline of the Roman Empire. Kelly and I were concerned that, at some point, the couch would suffer a sudden breach and crush an unlucky cat in the process. To prevent this we took to putting a stack of our least favorite books underneath one end. While this was going on the cats, like marauding Visigoths, took to using both arms of the couch as a scratching posts.

It was time for an intervention, an “Ikea hack” that would save the couch from the hydraulic jaws of the bulky item pickup truck. I set as my goal to make new arms for the couch that would be sturdy and cat-friendly. The cats are going to want to scratch it anyways, so why not make the ends scratch-able? Permaculture applied to Ikea hacking!

But the path to Ikea hacking is not always kittens and rainbows. The first thing I tried to do was to cut some Ikea shelving in half to approximate the dimensions of the original couch arms. This proved foolish. Some, though not all, Ikea shelves are hollow and lined with flimsy cardboard. As my colleague John Zapf noted, I would have been better off just getting a sheet of plywood and making the arms from scratch, which is what I ended up doing.


To make the new plywood arms I put the project in Sketchup to figure out the dimensions. I’m a big believer in Sketchup. It has helped plan a lot of projects and prevented waste. It took just a few minutes to figure out the arm dimensions.

I don’t have a table saw, so I used my circular saw and some guides to cut up the plywood sheet. An afternoon of work putting the arms together and another day to coat the wood with polyurethane, the new arms were ready to bolt onto the couch. It worked perfectly and the couch is now much more sturdy.


The last step was to “catify” the arms. I cut some strips from an Ikea doormat to the exact dimensions of the front of the arms. Using some screws and washers I attached the door mat. One design refinement would be to wrap the doormat material around the corner of the arm. Cats like to have one paw on each side of the couch arm to scratch.

Next I’m considering pimping out the arms with some cup holders and built in speakers.

Leave a comment


  1. I don’t have the mad saw skills you do, but my sofa bought in 1967 was saved several times when one of the springs collapsed. A small ironing board under the cushions works. My daughter’s sofa had a spring collapse due to a large teen boy just flopping down instead of sitting down. A box under the spring kept her from buying a new sofa.

    My seven-foot sofa will be upholstered and repaired, never to go into a landfill.

    We are people who keep sofas! We are quite sure landfills have enough sofas already.

  2. that is brilliant!! I will see if I can download Sketchup onto my mac for our future projects, which are as numerous as the sands in the Sahara.

  3. If it is upright and cushy, cats will scratch it no matter how carefully I keep all 60 front nails clipped. My nice, new sofa has a scat mat atop which has dramatically reduced (but not eliminated) breaches of our no-cats-on-good-furniture policy.

    There’s no point in trying to keep them off the table, either. I’ve stopped fighting that battle.

  4. Hah, I love your couch fortifications. Did you also replace the foam cushion? I considered reupholstering my old 60’s sectional but given my cat’s strenuous scratching habits, I may sew a giant couch cover made of sisal instead.

  5. You did a wonderful job! The couch, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, throw it out is what I did with our 14 yr plus couch held up with phone books, duct tape, foam, towels, and boards. No it wasn’t mine. I inherited it from my new hubby. Your’s looks new now. Mine, I’ve resourced the good parts.

  6. I love absolutely everything this says about your and Kelly’s priorities, but the line about your “least favorite books” cracks me up.

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