We moved into a fixer-upper almost 4 years ago. We put in a lot of sweat equity during the first year. Every surface on the first floor was touched – flooring, paint, trim, doors, electrical, plumbing, you name it – except for the kitchen. You’d walk in the front door, see the updated living and dining rooms, turn down the hall to the baths and bedrooms and see all the bright clean rooms. But on your way back, you’d peer past the dining room into the kitchen and oooh-eee! It was a 70’s dream come true, and unfortunately not in a fun, disco sort of way.
The original builder kitchen, full of soffits and dark wood cabinets, was functional, but begging for an update. Since we’d spent a huge chunk of money on the rest of the first floor, we were waiting until we couldn’t stand it any longer. Or until the cabinets fell apart. Whichever came first.
My husband, surprisingly, was the first to break. He suggested I start making a spreadsheet of everything we’d need to redo the kitchen to get an idea of pricing.
Make a spreadsheet? Yes, please.
I was almost done with it when he told me he was serious about starting soon and wanted to get going. I was elated, but nervous because of all of the pieces and parts. Trying to coordinate an electrician with a plumber, and trying to do all of the demo ourselves (while watching a very mobile infant) just wasn’t going to happen. My dad suggested getting a general contractor which was a great move. I hadn’t even thought about that, but it made a lot of sense to have one team doing the demo, tiling, plumbing, and electrical. (Unfortunately our guy ditched out on us the day before he was done, but that’s for another post.)
We had talked about doing IKEA cabinets since we moved in. I liked the look, we’re very familiar with their products, and we thought it would be a good cost savings. We looked briefly at other cabinet options at the kitchen centers at Lowe’s and Home Depot, but it was very overwhelming with the amount of choices so we decided to focus on IKEA.
IKEA has a few options for redoing your kitchen. You can:
- Hire someone to do everything for you, from measuring to planning to installation.
- Hire someone to do any number of parts of the process.
- Do everything yourself – measuring, planning, delivery, and installation.
We chose to have a professional:
- measure our kitchen and walk through the planning with me, though I already knew what I wanted. Since the IKEA kitchens are done piece by piece (hinges, drawer fronts, cabinet housing, etc.) I didn’t want to chance missing something simple that would hinder the installation.
- deliver the items.
- do the installation.
While we are familiar with IKEA products, this IS a kitchen and I wasn’t about to have this hinge on us if something went wrong. IKEA has contractors they partner with who are familiar with the installation process and the IKEA kitchen team in their local area, and are much faster than having your general contractor (or you!) try to put these things together because they do this frequently.
We were sold on the IKEA cabinets, but before going with a countertop from IKEA we looked at many different options – granite and quartz from different vendors – but because IKEA has a great kitchen sale once or twice a year, in order to get the deep discount we chose to go with their countertop selections as well.
We needed to spend over $4,500 to receive a 20% discount, so when we added in the counters, a sink, and a faucet, we were well over the minimum. With the discount, it brought our total bill down considerably.
There were some downsides to this entire remodel, though only some are IKEA-specific. I know had we done any remodel there would be some snags, so I try to keep that in mind.
THINGS I DIDN’T EXPECT:
- The number one thing I didn’t expect was to have to go back to IKEA SO MANY TIMES. I felt like I lived there for a few weeks. Just beware, you will become intimately familiar with your IKEA store. And if you’re like most people, it’s not a quick drive down the street to get to an IKEA.
- We had a problem with an IKEA employee when doing our in-store planning. As he was building our order, we learned there were some pieces on backorder, and when we asked him to walk us through everything (so we’d know what would be missing) he walked out on us and we had to continue with a manager. Because of this, we were given VIP access to the manager of kitchens and a dedicated customer service contact.
- Because our backordered items weren’t critical (only door fronts and side panels, not cabinet bases), we took delivery early and were able to plan installation around the rest of our kitchen remodel. Generally, if you don’t have all of your pieces they will not schedule an installation because either you will have to finish it or you will have to pay them to come back and finish. Because of our in-store “problem,” we were given free installation on the return trip. Having free installation saved us $250, and we got our kitchen done earlier than had we waited for every piece to come in.
- It’s up to you to check on your backordered items to see when they are in your store. If you’re not familiar with inventory, even if a store says they have one it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s available for sale. I worked with our customer service contact to be sure the pieces were there and paid for before I picked them up. She took my credit card number over the phone, emailed me a receipt, and I walked right in to the pickup area. (She also helped look for my backordered items as well, which was probably so she could get us off of her plate more quickly.)
- Although you may find the piece you need at another store, they might not ship it to you. I asked if we could get our cabinet fronts from stores in surrounding states, but she said because these pieces aren’t packed for individual transport she didn’t want to chance their getting damaged on their way to me. I was annoyed by this at the time, but I understood the potential for problems.
- Our kitchen designer did not include a critical piece in her design. Our dishwasher is right next to our fridge, so the countertop over the dishwasher would have nothing to rest on at the end. Sometimes you can put in a bracket (which in our case would attach to the floor-to-ceiling panel next to the fridge), but when I spoke with the countertop installer she insisted we have an end panel – a thin, color-matched piece that would go on the other side of the dishwasher for the counter to sit on. I had to go back to the store to get this piece.
- When our installer put our kitchen together, he used this piece on the end of our peninsula, not on the other side of the dishwasher. This wasn’t in our plans, so basically he went rogue. I called the installation manager to talk to him about this, and he said that yes, sometimes the installers have to “do what they need to do” during an installation. I explained to him that this piece was not meant to go there and it would impact our countertop installation, and that I then had to return to the store to get a new piece. I asked him to cover the cost of this second piece ($45) and eventually he conceded.
- It took almost an hour and a half to have our small countertop area measured by an IKEA third-party vendor. The guy was nice but it took so long.
- On a positive note, the countertop installers were the best part of the job! They were on time, quick, and did everything very well.
- That I would enjoy it so much once it was finished. Though our process wasn’t smooth (and from what I heard while waiting in line, no one else’s was either), almost a year later, my frustrations have died down and I’m able to simply enjoy my brand new kitchen. It looks beautiful, works like a charm, and we get so many compliments!
Here it is, in all its glory:
TIPS ON IKEA KITCHENS:
- Buy when they have their sale. The discount is worth the hassle.
- Buying during their sale means standard items can be out of stock quickly and for a long time. This will probably hold up your installation.
- And, this means longer lines.
- Be patient. Bring snacks or visit their cafeteria. You have to go into the store to purchase ANYTHING, so be prepared to wait.
- Try to get there first thing when they open. This will minimize your wait time.
- When you are ready to buy, you need to walk through your plan with a kitchen professional in the store which can take up to two hours or more, not including the wait time to get seen by someone.
- If you’re buying anything kitchen related it needs to be taken care of in the kitchen area (other than things like drawer inserts and handles). You need to wait in line to get a purchase order to then go wait in line again downstairs to pay. It’s definitely an opportunity for a more efficient process.
- Make sure you have every little piece before you leave, because if you need something else, it’s back to the store for you.
- If you have your pieces delivered, make sure you inventory the items on your purchase order as they’re pulling them out of the truck, otherwise you only have 24 hours to let them know they missed something. This may also prolong your installation.
- The professional measurer was worth the $200 because if she screwed something up it was on her, not us.
- Same with the installers.
- As with any kitchen, you must wait for your cabinets to be installed before your countertop will be measured, so this can add a few more weeks to your schedule.
- Enjoy the results! They will look great in the end.
What we expected to be quick and easy wasn’t exactly so, but just look at the pictures. Wasn’t it worth it?