IKEA Kitchen Review – Remodel Cost, Cabinets Quality Kitchn

Most off-the-rack cabinet systems are also made of some grade of particle board. Any other cabinets we could afford (like the Kraftmaid cabinets or other lines sold at stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot) were also particle board. You can go a step up and get cabinet-grade plywood, but there is some debate over whether that is actually superior to particle board or MDF.

To go all the way to the top and buy custom-made, solid wood cabinet boxes — that just wasn’t feasible for us. Yes, custom-made cabinets can sometimes be cheaper than you expect if you find local resources, but even so, for us it would have cost tens of thousands of dollars — money we couldn’t justify even if we had wanted to. Our entire cabinet system cost much less than $10,000. (See my full price breakdown at the end.)

Before I tell you what we learned, I wanted to point out one more thing about our kitchen renovation that gave us confidence using IKEA cabinets. We were basically starting with a blank slate. We were building a kitchen addition onto our house, so we didn’t have to deal with odd corners or preexisting constraints. We had the luxury of a simple layout — basically an open galley with a long island and straight run of cabinets. There were no corner cabinets, and, for that matter, no upper cabinets either.

If, on the other hand, we had been renovating an existing kitchen without the ability to move walls and plumbing and with more challenges in fitting everything in, I would have been more likely to look into custom cabinets or at least get more help from a kitchen designer. But my "two straight lines" kitchen was kind of the ideal situation for IKEA’s process.

The IKEA planning software starts out with you drawing your room with the correct proportions, then populating it with cabinets to your specifications. You can add in different wall colors, flooring, and outside views to add a little more (virtual) verisimilitude. You can adjust countertop, door fronts, and appliances too. All of this is quite fun, and there is a magic moment when you switch into the 3-D rendered view and see your kitchen just as it will appear in real life! Bliss.

But it’s also a little crazy-making. Moving objects sometimes just breaks for no apparent reason. It’s tricky to change the size of a room — and sometimes the walls will suddenly move of their own accord. You have to save frequently; it doesn’t save your work automatically. There were times I literally wanted to pull my hair out, after I had done a lot of work and then my browser crashed, taking all that work with it.

So you will love their software and hate it at the same time. It lets you visualize your kitchen, painstaking bit by bit. It’s quite powerful, though, and it helps you budget by creating a shopping list with everything in the kitchen. Plan on playing with their software for a long time, building your kitchen virtually and checking out proportions there before actually buying your cabinets. I built scads of slightly different layouts, bringing them to our architect and contractor for their thoughts and, as I showed you before, then actually drawing them in real life at the playground and on the subfloor of our new kitchen.

This is pretty simple: We ordered our whole kitchen over the summer, during one of IKEA‘s big kitchen sales. Usually the way these work is that, if you spend a certain amount, you will get 10 percent off, and if you spend a little more, 20 percent. We also purchased our bathroom cabinetry during this sale (we used kitchen cabinets in our master bath) and a big pantry unit, as well as a kitchen island as a workbench for my husband in the basement. We loaded up! And it was all 20 percent off. Obviously this really makes a difference in the budget.

We thought we were super prepared and we breezed into the IKEA store, hoping to be out in a couple hours. Ha ha. No way. The ordering process for the cabinets is quite involved. You bring in your IKEA kitchen plan, and then log in to their computers and show it to a (probably harried) employee. The employee has to go through and order each piece on your list, bit by bit. This is the downside of such a modular system — you are essentially ordering hundreds of little boxes at once.

At the time, I was so overwhelmed with our renovation that I couldn’t deal with the stacks and stacks (our invoice was pages long). So I didn’t really go through the boxes until we began assembly. Then we discovered that we were missing various small parts, like some shelves, and that a couple of cabinets were the wrong size. IKEA was a dream to work with on this, though — I was actually a little shocked, given how DIY the shopping process is there. I called their post-purchase help desk, and they FedExed the missing pieces straight to our door. They did this even when I belatedly discovered a missing piece over four weeks later, during our final installation.