Review of Ikea Kitchen Cabinets

Review of Ikea Kitchen Cabinets


Read about my experience purchasing Ikea kitchen cabinets and getting them installed.


Executive Summary:  Ikea kitchen cabinets are modern, attractive and stylish…and cheaper than many of the other options. Read about the ups and downs of my experience from start to finish to help you decide if Ikea is the right option for your next kitchen.

Recently we decided it was time to update our kitchen cabinets. We were on a budget, but wanted something that would look modern and nice. We considered cabinet refacing but decided that ours weren’t in good condition at all and just needed to be replaced.  So, we measured our kitchen and the cabinets, took photographs of each one for reference and then went shopping.

Our first stop was Home Depot. We selected the cabinet style we wanted from the samples and then we were ready to setup our kitchen with one of Home Depot’s kitchen consultants. The friendly rep sat down with us and entered the measurements of our cabinets and seemed to have an impressive knowledge of kitchen. She did a great job of figuring out where there would be differences between our current cabinets and the new ones and made changes and suggestions to get everything to work to it’s optimum level. The cabinets we selected weren’t top of the line, but we thought it was a nice layout and would have purchased them. The total cost without installation was about $2,800.

Ikea Kitchen Planning and Kitchen
Measurement Service

Next we began looking into IKEA cabinets. Ikea has great looking kitchens that are modern and have lots of clever innovations. We weren’t put off by the fact that you must assemble the cabinets, although the idea of messing one up did cause me some angst. The good news is that they generally try to stock cabinets at the local Ikeas, so if something did go wrong, you could just go and buy a new one…it probably wouldn’t be a long wait for an order to come in.

There are many kitchen models in the Ikea store to give you an idea of what is possible. Since the cabinets are modular, there are many configurations. There are just tons of options, including for handles and hardware. Be prepared to spend some time shopping!

Another thing that worried me was that unless you pay for a consultant from Ikea (I think this service was about $200), you basically have to utilize their online CAD software to setup your own kitchen design. That was worrisome and challenging for me, but luckily my wife took on the task and did a great job of setting up the cabinets in the online system. If you’re wondering if you’re up for the challenge, go ahead and give it a try…the people at the store will be glad to go through the basics with you, and there are some helpful videos around as well. Again, if you can’t or if you don’t want to do this, you can just use their service (click the image to the right to see what you get with each level of service). Remember, there is some risk here–if you mismeasure your kitchen or forget some key aspect in your design, you could at least waste lots of time, and at worst have problems like a temporarily unusable kitchen while you resolve the problem and get additional parts.

Once the cabinets were in the software, I took the next step–a visit to the kitchen department in the Ikea store. I’d like to say it was a wonderful experience, and parts of it were, but really it wasn’t that great. When I arrived at the store on a Monday night, there were several people “in line” ahead of me. It was an hour and a half before the consultant saw me. She was very knowledgeable and went over the design my wife created and added some changes to make things work better for installation. We were still working on the finalizing the design when the store closed at 9pm, and that made us rush, which led to our first big issue-we ordered the wrong color counter tops. Let me explain more:

Ikea kitchen cabinet store demo unitsThe Ikea design software will pick certain defaults which are easy to forget about. Near the end of finalizing the order, I mentioned the counter-top color to the consultant. I then went over to the samples and showed her the black colored counters that we wanted. She said that was what we selected and quickly moved on since the store was closing. It turns out that wasn’t true, the counters we were about to purchase were brown, not black. I am not sure what caused the confusion, but it really turned into a huge amount of wasted time. More on that later.

Once I had agreed that all of the cabinets and counters were correct, the consultant continued the process. She basically transferred what we created into another system that calculated all the necessary parts and the pricing. I was happy that the cost was $700 cheaper than Home Depot–all told, uninstalled about $2,150… I placed the order by paying with a credit card. Unfortunately, many of the parts weren’t available from the local Ikea in College Park, Maryland, so they had to be shipped down from New Jersey. This detail further complicated the counter-top issue. I selected a day a couple weeks in the future for the truck to deliver my cabinets and left the store by 9:30pm.

I should explain that like other Ikea furniture, it is meant to be kept in stock in their warehouse. The thing you need to know is that they don’t let you just go pick it up like other furniture. You have to always deal with their consultants for kitchen-related materials. They put in the order for you, then it is picked for you and you have to wait to get it, or you can have it delivered. The point is you can’t just go into the warehouse and get it yourself. This is a layer of complication, especially given the fact that to talk to the consultants you have to walk across the store and then wait in line.

The first problem

When I got home and went over the order with my wife, we realized the counter tops were the wrong color.   I went back a few days later hoping it would be a simple matter to have them ship a different color counter-top. No, no it was not a simple matter. First of all, once again, I had to go wait in line to talk to one of the in-store consultants, this time it was about 30 minutes. They could not change the color and their remedy was to have me order a second set of counter tops and simply refuse the first set when they arrived–we would be given a refund automatically. That was well and good but unfortunately, there was a mix-up and we didn’t refuse the extra set of counter tops on the delivery date. So now I had to find a way to return 3 boxes of heavy 10 foot counter tops to the Ikea store.. Luckily my neighbor helped me take care of it–unfortunately, the line for the returns was quite long that day and it took over an hour of waiting in line to get it done. Even more unfortunately, this wasn’t my only trip returning counter-tops…

Selecting an Installer

If you won’t be installing the cabinets yourself, the easiest option is to use Traemand, Ikea’s house installer. Traemand seems to be a network of subcontractors around the country, but I am not 100% sure this is so. The people who sent me my estimate used the Traemand name but also a different name.  When you place your order for the cabinets, they can send the plans to the installers who will email you an installation estimate with options. This is convenient and possibly even a wise way to go, since all they do is install Ikea cabinets all the time. This is so because Ikea cabinets are a bit different that other brands, and not just because you have to put them together. In hindsight, I think it is very important that the installer has Ikea cabinet experience.

At any rate, the most important difference is that Ikea cabinets are hung on a rail that’s attached your wall.  This is so that they can easily be removed–in Europe when people move, they take their kitchen cabinets with them. There are other nuances too, like the fact that the handles need to be installed, holes aren’t pre-drilled though. We elected to use someone who was experienced installing kitchens but had no experience installing Ikea kitchens, and that led to a few problems. Make sure you find someone who can substantiate that they’ve recently installed Ikea kitchens. BTW, Ikea’s installers would be happy to put the cabinets together for you, but that will cost you…in our case it was something like $55/each.

Traemand sent two estimates. The first didn’t include tilework, plumbing or electric.  The second one, that came in at about $4000 and included putting the cabinets together did.  In the end we went with a contractor that did the installation for about $2000, but did not include plumbing and we didn’t really need any electrical work done.

The boxes arrived

When the cabinets arrived, there were quite a few boxes. We had ordered 9 cabinets, and the accompanying cabinet doors, fillers, handles, drawers, kickboards and rails. Putting the cabinets together wasn’t actually very difficult. Once the first one was done, the rest were just routine. As always, Ikea furniture is alot more fragile when it’s in pieces than when it’s put together. The cabinets were no exception. I think the hardest part was assembling the drawers, and it wasn’t really very difficult either. The main thing is having space to work and then a place to keep the cabinets until they’re installed.

One complaint I had is that the feet for the base cabinets are very poorly made and don’t stay attached to the cabinets when you’re moving them around. Ours kept falling off as we were moving them into place…it’s very frustrating to put them back on only to have them fall off again. Once the cabinets are secured in place, they do seem to stay put and can support weight.

Another warning is to be very careful not to ding your cabinets. We had several dings by the time they were installed and were disappointed to find out that there is no touch up paint available. Realize that these cabinets are made of particle board, not solid wood. Although this is a concern, you will find that the other cabinets that are available in this price range are also made from this material and in fact, Ikea will tell you that theirs are thicker than their competitors such as

The Installation

On installation day, the crew arrived and it was quickly apparent that they hadn’t installed Ikea cabinets before. They did a pretty good job after all was said and done but things would have gone more smoothly if they had done them before.  One thing that put a wrench in the day was the realization that since Ikea’s counters had no back-splash built into them, we would be better off getting some custom made which had them instead. Ikea’s counter tops are flat, and our previous counters did have three inches of back-splash.

The reason this was an issue is that we were not planning to redo our tile on the wall behind the counter…without the back-splash, the areas which had no tile would be exposed and there was nothing to cover them. Since our house was built in 1985 there was little hope of finding matching tiles to fix the problem, so it was just easier to get different counter tops…the laminate counter tops I had made were about $500 more expensive than Ikea’s and I also now had to return another set of counter tops to Ikea. The custom counter tops took about a week to get, so that meant a longer period of time without a usable kitchen. Quite a pain.

The Returns

Ikea is pretty good about returns overall. As long as you return stuff within 90 days, they’ll take it back. I made several return runs, and had varying levels of satisfaction with it. The main issue was wait times. One time I waited well over an hour to return counter-tops because there was only one person taking returns on a Saturday night. On the other hand one of the return visits there was no line at all.