Square Peg Syndrome

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It's been awhile since I've posted. We've probably installed another 100 IKEA kitchens in the interim. I like this work and these products more all the time. Did you know that the average kitchen remodeling project in the US costs $47,000? Did you know that the average kitchen remodeling project using IKEA cabinets costs under $10,000?

Anyway, here is some information that will help do-it-yourself-ers but should also relieve some of those who want expert installation of their new kitchens but feel they have a secret from their contractor: they know they don't have level floors and straight walls. I would like to relieve you of your guilty secret. We understand:

Installing Kitchen Cabinets: Square Peg Syndrome
As professional installers of kitchen cabinets, we have learned some basic installation concepts that homeowners can overlook, whether they do the installation themselves or hire an expert installer to do it.

When you measure your kitchen to begin planning, your old cabinets are usually in place. This makes it hard to take other vital measurements, called “LEVEL” and “PLUMB”. Floors are level or not so. Walls are plumb (at right angles to the floor) or not. Installations can become complex because square pegs do not fit into round holes: a rectangular cabinet will not fit squarely into a space that is not square because walls are not plumb or floors are not level.

If you live in an older house, or a house in an earthquake zone (which means all of southern California), just assume your walls are not plumb and your floors are not level. How much so is the question of the day. Even if your house is fairly new, you can still run into this problem.
The problem can show up as soon as you start hanging the cabinets, when you try leveling the cabinets, or when you are trying to align doors and drawers and discover they simply won’t align.

Say your floor is not level. You trim the legs of the cabinets as you install them (tricky but doable) and eventually get the cabinets more or less level. Then you start installing doors and drawers. You step back and notice that the space between drawer and door on a base cabinet is crooked. You make every adjustment you can think of but it’s still crooked and you start to think IKEA has bad cabinets.
The problem is that, having leveled the cabinet by trimming the legs, your cabinet is slightly tilted structurally. This is the nature of fitting prefabricated, “off the shelf” cabinets into non-level, non-plumb locations. Chances are you will not be able to get rid of that slightly crooked gap.

Homeowners who hire expert installers can assume the installer will have a magical solution to the non-level, non-plumb situation. True, we have shims, filler pieces and the ability to trim cabinet legs accurately. Your cabinets will go in and will look nice. But don’t expect your installer, or your self, to fit a square peg into a round hole without some consequence. In this case, the consequence might be some ever-so-slightly-crooked-hanging drawers or doors.
If you find these installation imperfections impossible to live with, and you don’t want to spend the time or money ensuring your floors are level and walls are plumb, IKEA or other prefab cabinets are not for you.

I hope those of you who have struggled with this issue get some relief here. I hope those of you who are about to embark on an installation are more knowledgeable and thus better prepared to do a good, if imperfect, job. 


If you'd like to discuss your project with me, I can offer you a free, 30-minute phone consultation. Here's my calendar, just pick a time that works for you.

Susan