How to Begin an IKEA Kitchen Remodeling ProjecT: PART 1

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Years ago, we had a Five Steps to an IKEA Kitchen page on our website. It got lost in the shuffle of web redesign but in the past few days I've talked to half a dozen homeowners who would really like to re-do their kitchens with IKEA cabinets and it seems that a basic, step-by-step guide would be really helpful to most.

It is hard not to get excited by the IKEA store displays, the great prices and elegant kitchens. Being able to get a comparable result without wasting money or ending up with half a kitchen for six months, takes some know-how.

As I am writing, a customer who is waiting on some missing parts emailed me to ask if she should paint now, or later. There is a correct (or best) sequence for each project that an experienced contractor can foresee. But without an experienced overview of their project, omeowner can feel uncertain, and thus unable to move forward on a much-desired remodel, for fear of making mistakes that could add cost and, worse, might result in mid-project delays.

As I try to do when a potential customer calls, I would like offer here a simple guideline, a sequence of steps. To be honest, once you've done a kitchen or two, you can guide your friends and family through a basic project, too. But if your project didn't require any electrical or plumbing or flooring, for example, you might want to direct your friend/relative to a contractor for advice on sequence. Or just have them call our office (if they are in the Los Angeles area) or email me (anywhere else) and I can offer some help. No charge!

So here you are, you have just left your local IKEA and you know that those cabinets are for you. You've got the money lined up, the time is right or soon will be, and, when you arrive home, you begin to see hazy shapes of pull-out pantries and six-burner cooktops forming where now exist only some 1950's painted cabinets. It's time to get started.

There are two "lines" that you need to move on. First, you need a kitchen layout plan. Second you need to consult a contractor. Some people overlook one or the other. It is a rare contractor that can help you with kitchen design.

Some of the big box stores, and even some local kitchen places, offer "free kitchen design" when you buy their cabinets (It's never really free). With IKEA cabinets, there is a do-it-yourself requirement that has more to do with IKEA employee efficiency than anything else. You can design your own kitchen. You should get a kitchen designer. Without a doubt.

Our company offers a $375.00 in-home consultation, including measuring service, and including kitchen planning by a professional kitchen designer. I will be frank. It is by far the best deal, the best service, we have found inthe greater Los Angeles area. My point is, however, that you should find and consult with both a designer and an IKEA kitchen-experienced contractor before you buy cabinets, appliances, or anything. I can hardly overstate the value of professional design help, and having a trusted, expert contractor on your team from the start.

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.


Would You Marry Your Contractor?

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There are many articles on this subject, "choosing a contractor." Obviously you want to ensure the person or company you trust with your investment in home improvement is qualified. And honest. In some ways, identifying a person/company of the type you want is about the same process as choosing someone to marry.

An honest, skilled, licensed remodeling contractor, who can provide good references and with whom who can communicate easily, is a better choice than "some guy the store recommended" or "my neighbor's cousin." Don't marry someone because Sears recommended them, or on your cousin's advice, either.

Though there are dishonest guys out there, it could be that the majority of all complaints against contractors (or even spouses) result from the consumer failing to use some very basic principles:

1) Don't even think about saving a little money by hiring someone unlicensed. If the guy is cheating the state, what are the chances he'll be honest with you? Think about it.

2) Meet the guy or at least talk to him on the phone long enough to figure out if he's a decent human being. Most of the time your sense of things will be correct. Occasionally you'll be fooled. That is life, the risk of getting out of bed in the morning. But read on, because there are ways to minimize the chances of being fooled.

3) See how quickly the guy or company responds, to calls, emails, quote requests, etc. If he keeps you waiting now, he'll probably keep you waiting while your kitchen is torn apart. This is perhaps the simplest and yet most important indicator of all: how quickly the guy or his office replies to your communications. Raise your hand if you like to be kept waiting.

4) Make sure you get a legal contract that lists everything the contractor is going to do for you, in precise detail, and the price of this. Don't hire someone who cannot or will not provide you with a legal contract. Check your state's contractor website to find out what the requirements for a legal contract are. It is not hard to figure this out and can help you understand your responsibilities and the contractor's, the best assurance there is that everything will go well.

5) Do all you can to avoid a "me versus the contractor" relationship. Remodeling is a team effort. If you don't trust your contractor, if you have ongoing conflicts, if you argue with his bid (although business-like negotiation is fine), if he doesn't show up when he says he will, you have a war, not a team.

Some people run their lives as a series of battles with others. Just as an insider secret, an honest, skilled contractor who genuinely wants to do a good job for you is on the lookout for these types of people and will often turn down work from them. Find someone decent and apply the Golden Rule.

How do you choose a contractor? You simply want a decent human being who operates legally, can communicate with you pleasantly, and has the skills needed to provide the services you need. The suggestions above can help you to identify this type of person or company.

You don't have to marry him/her, but if you find a good contractor, per these guidelines, consider it.

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.


Micro-manage Your Kitchen Project, PLEASE!

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Because we specialize in remodeling projects in which the homeowner is using IKEA cabinets, our projects tend to be mainly kitchens and bathrooms. We do a few closets with IKEA cabinets, some pantry or other storage areas too, occasionally. But our projects are fairly similar, one to the next, some more complex, some very unique as to design and cabinet modification, but all have the same elements of cabinet installation, and usually some electrical and/or lighting, minor plumbing, appliance install, sometimes flooring, and often some wall work or repair.

Despite the expertise and knowledge we've gained in doing hundreds of similar projects, we really know that each new project, each new customer who calls, has unique requirements we have not come across before. It is never the same. It is only similar. Exactly what the customer expects, needs, wants and will be happy with, is something we have to find out newly each time. Which means that, unless the customer speaks up, we move forward with their project with experienced and expert hands, but without the precise understanding that could result in a happier customer and sometimes in a better finished result.

Here is an example to clarify: Mrs. Jones (we've never actually done a job for a Jones family...) schedules our planning service and Robert (contractor) and Neil (designer) go out to her house one Sunday to inspect, measure and discuss her project with her. They are, to a great degree, trying to find out what Mrs. Jones needs and wants. The Jones' may want walls taken down to expand the space, they may want everything to stay the same but with new cabinets, or they may not know what they want yet, they need some pricing and ideas first (which is exactly what the planning service is meant to provide).

So here we are, a month later. The design was revised a few times until the Mrs. Jones was excited and ready to begin the project. They placed their cabinet order, purchased a few appliances, picked out floor tile. We provided detailed bid on each service they asked about that was optional (cabinet lights, for example) or necessary (demo out the old cabinets). By the time the cabinets are delivered, we have a signed agreement as to specs of the project that we are to execute for them.

We arrive one bright Monday morning to begin the project. Mrs. and Mr. Jones both work outside the home and after a 15 minute meeting with Robert, they drive off, saying they are going to get out of our way, leaving Robert and crew to work.

Our agreements (contracts) state that the final kitchen layout plan that the customer has ordered cabinets for must be posted on a wall and initialed by the customers as THE layout they have decided on. But lately, we've decided to also require the homeowner to remain onsite during the work and, if they cannot be there, to stipulate that they will be available by phone during the day.

Here is the point: you have to be 100% responsible for your project. Your contractor ALSO has to be 100% responsible (for his contracted specs). It is inviting trouble to leave a contractor do to work in your home, especially a project that will only last a few days. I am not saying that the contractor is untrustworthy, that he will lie, steal or cheat. I am saying that if you want things done a certain way, you have to run the show.

Even something as basic to an expert contractor as hanging cabinets can have options. A little higher or lower, to the left or to the right. These may be minor but 2 inches of space between a wall cabinet and the counter below it can make a difference in your comfort in using the kitchen. If you aren't there, the contractor is unlikely to call you. He'll decide and get the job done.

Tilesetting is another example. This is a big investment of yours, both the tile and the labor. You want to help even a skilled tilesetter to choose patterns and when there are choices, you want to make them, often enough. Or, if you don't care, let the tilesetter know and be prepared to live with his aesthetic sense.

The question is, if Mr. and Mrs. Jones come home at the end of a day and don't like some detail, unspecified earlier, in the tile work, or want the cabinets lower, should the contractor have to re-do his work?

It's best to be there, to micro-manage.

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.


The Team Theory of Remodeling

(Warning: if you are the type of person who believes that fighting is the only way to get what you want out of life, please do not read this article, as it could disrupt your entire way of life).

If you are embarking on a remodeling project, it's enough hassle to pull out your credit card twenty eight times in one week, to find unfamiliar, sweaty men smashing up your home (well, your old cabinets anyway) one bright morning, or to discover that your brand new $6000 fridge, finally delivered four weeks late, is the wrong one. You don't also need a battle with a contractor. You need, instead, team spirit.

Let's imagine that you find a contractor who has the skills and willingness to execute the project you envision. Part of you would love the have the guy do everything, figure out everything, buy everything and you could go to Bali for a month and come home to a fabulous new kitchen that is exactly what you want. Of course, most of us don't have the kind of money this guy charges to do it all, and, more to the point, some of us like the idea of choosing stuff and deciding things.

The key to a successful, efficient, happy and minimal-stress remodeling project is to be the captain of your remodeling team, the most vital player and he/she who calls the shots, sets the plays, and gets carried on the shoulders...well, probably not, even though you will win with this approach.

We are expert remodelers. Robert alone has over 30 years of hands-on home building and remodeling experience. We've installed over 600 IKEA kitchens. And you'd be amazed how much you have to know to pass the California State contractors' licensing exams. But we still know that you, the customer, are the key player of the "game" of getting a new kitchen (or any remodeling project). Our expertise is for you, the homeowner, to use, to acquire knowledge from, to consult, and to count on to skillfully execute the plays that you call.

One purpose of our kitchen planning service is to start to build the team. For the homeowner, getting questions answered, getting professional design help and getting a contractor in to inspect and provide a bid are vital and we do these things thoroughly for them. But when we send our contractor and designer to meet with the homeowner, their primary purpose, beyond providing the initial knowledge and assistance the homeowner needs, is to find out what the homeowner actually needs and wants. We've done hundreds of projects, many of them a lot like the one we did the week before. But we never know what any individual homeowner actually needs and wants and requires. We have to find out each time.

And thus, communication is the elixir in all remodeling. Good and abundant (and always business-like and/or friendly) communication can keep your costs down significantly, can get your project completed weeks earlier than predicted, it can result in a much more beautiful result and it can, surely and definitely and every time, minimize stress, upsets and confusion, which can bring about extra expense, delays and dissatisfaction.

What is a team, after all? It's a group of people who coordinate. And who communicate. And who then communicate more. And thus coordinate better. And then, just because it proves vastly successful, they communicate even more.

You might be thinking that you could simply call your fantasy contractor, the one who is "doing it all," from Bali. If you called every fifteen minutes, that would be a lot of communication. Since this is clearly not going to work, there must be some other ingredient that, added to communication, ensures a win.

That ingredient is responsibility. It is the 100% responsibility you take for your project. This is not to say the members of your remodeling team are not responsible. To the contrary, each team member, contractor, designer, crew member, husband and wife, even IKEA or Pacific Sales or Home Depot, need to be 100% responsible also. But unlike you, the captain of the team, each of these players may not see the entire project, may not have the insight and commitment and vision that you have, in regard to your project.

IKEA is responsible for the quality of their product that they deliver to you, and for their service. But you don't expect them to call you if the salesperson thinks the brown doors would look better in your house. It's up to you.

If your wife, or husband, is only peripherally involved with the project, she/he still needs to know what it is going on, what it is going to cost and when and how long it is going to take. He/she must somehow align his/her own activities and intentions so as to help, and not hinder, the goal from being realized. Each person are 100% responsible for their home, even if it's your job to make the remodeling decisions.

And your contractor, is, always, 100% responsible for the quality of his work, for the meeting of deadlines, for prompt and friend customer service. He is responsible for ensuring you have the full benefit of his expertise and knowledge. He is even responsible for the image of his industry, contracting, that he projects and instills.

However, a contractor cannot read minds. He cannot see through walls. And though he may be utterly expert and well-intentioned, he is human and fallible and has other projects and, of course, his own life, on his mind. He is, no matter how charming, muscular (and aggressive) some of us may be, your EMPLOYEE, someone you have hired to help you. Tell him what to do, let him know your expectations, ask for his help and cooperation, and let him do his job without undue interruption or micro-management. But don't make the mistake of thinking that you are the employee, the junior party to this project, or that your contractor knows what you want before you tell him, and will do what you want without your instructions, your supervision, your explicit communication, and your feedback, day to day, hour to hour even.

Because our company offers customers a lot of help, and caring customer service, because we usually provide design help, cabinet ordering help, and ongoing assistance with cost and design issues, and, mainly because we communicate a lot and quickly, there is the liability in doing this of inadvertently leaving the customer with the sense that "it's all taken care of."

Here is (made-up) customer Joe. We meet with him and his wife, Mary, and design a great new kitchen for them. It's a medium size project, including tearing down two small walls to open the kitchen and dining room to the family room area. There is re-wiring, some venting work needed, flooring to install, some tilesetting. Our typical project, in other words.

Mary works full time and more, and Joe, who works at home (online investments), is going to be the primary person working on the project. Joe has a thick folder by the time we come for the planning meeting. He has appliance specs, pictures of kitchens from magazines, drawings he's done of his ideas, lists of stuff and competitive price lists for items he and Mary need to shop for (tile, new appliances, flooring, paint, handles, a sink and faucet).

As Robert (contractor) walks through the downstairs with him, Joe is taking notes. He hasn't thought of how many outlets he'll want, whether he wants a water line run under the house for a pot filler for his new sink, and that his existing venting is going to have to be adapted for the chimney hood vent he has already decided on. These are just examples of the issues that contractors bring to a homeowner's attention. They affect kitchen layout options, costs, and functionality and enjoyment of the kitchen-to-be.

After the meeting, Joe continues to look into each of the new aspects of the project Robert has brought to his attention. Joe is new to remodeling, but he's done all type of projects in his life and knows that attention to detail and control are key to getting the result.

During the project, as the old kitchen and walls are torn out, Joe is around the house most of the time. He works upstairs while the crew is downstairs, but he's there. He talks to Robert every morning and comes in each day as the guys are cleaning up and shows his excitement as things start to change, asks questions, and makes some decisions as new issues, mostly minor, come up.

Joe's project was a big success. He tells us his new kitchen looks better than his neighbor's $125,000 kitchen remodel. Joe spent $18,500 with all new, top of the line IKEA cabinets in kitchen and dining room, high quality appliances, amazing Silestone counters, elegant floor tile and backsplash, and new and much better and safer electrical and lighting through all the downstairs of the house.

Customer Alice (also made-up) was different. She's a very busy mom and after a flood from the upstairs condo unit, had to replace her kitchen. We came to do her planning and she was sure the kitchen footprint should stay the same (possibly an instance in which deferring to the experts would have been smarter). She ordered her cabinets via fax from the first layout draft, and on the first morning of the installation, gave Robert a key and a check and asked when he thought it would be done.

Now, usually, this type of project goes perfectly well. If something comes up, Robert will call the customer or I'll email the customer and we figure it out. In this (made-up) scenario, the only problem was that we started the installation on Thursday and Alice had thought that it would take two days. She had 26 cabinets and tile to set so this was not a good prediction. On Friday afternoon, she walked in and got upset upon learning that tile cement has to sit for 24 hours before grouting. The kitchen would not be done that day! Robert also told her that the plumbing lines behind the sink would have to be changed out, just too corroded. This is not something you can see until after the demo, but Alice got upset about this, too. We should have known, she said.

Now we got this job done on Monday after Alice got a plumber in to replace the rusted out pipes on Saturday morning. The kitchen was beautiful. But we didn't get a big thank you (or a hug...). I think what we did wrong, mostly, was that we forgot to help and guide Alice to take responsibility for her project.

To you, the reader, it's pretty obvious that those pipes are Alices's, not the contractor's. But in the middle of a project, under a time or money crunch, it sure can be easier to blame someone else. But that is usually only true for those who resort to fighting (or, in the same category, antagonism) to get what they want.

As contractors, we are 100% responsible for the results we get. But, when we walk out the door for the last time, leaving a beautiful new kitchen behind, the homeowner, from that point and rightfully, takes all the credit. A responsible, communicative homeowner, who knows he/she is the captain of the team, and who uses and controls his/her team members effectively, cheerfully and knowledgeably, really deserves the win.

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.


An Installer's Viewpoint:Who Needs Help with Ikea Kitchen Planning

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Having helped hundreds of homeowners install and finish new Ikea kitchens, we've identified the most basic, vital concerns a homeowner should address when planning a new kitchen. The issues are both technical (walls, floors, electrical, etc.), creative, and matters of kitchen functionality.
As a remodeling contractor (with a creative and experienced Ikea kitchen planner on our team), we make no claim to be interior designers. We've installed Ikea kitchens for interior designers and we respect the work of those designers. However, for the majority of homeowners, Ikea cabinets come with a promise of simplicity and affordability that rules out the relatively high fees for professional interior design.
This is not to say that homeowners cannot draft wonderful kitchen plans on their own. But many people need and ask for help with planning. Our experience with those who needed help has enabled us to learn what a thorough planning service needs to accomplish.
There are perhaps four main categories of homeowners who can benefit from expert help with planning:
  1. First, are homeowners who do not move forward on a vital or desired project because of uncertainties. Sometimes this is just a lack of measuring-expertise, sometimes it is confusion or difficulty with Ikea’s planning software, sometimes it is really an issue with the house itself, as in category #2, below. But whenever there is uncertainty, self-planning might not adequately assure that a major purchase of cabinets will fit, or that the result will be beautiful and optimally functional.
  2. A second category are those with older homes, where the condition of walls, plumbing, venting and electrical needs to be evaluated as a part of the planning phase. For this group especially, the type of planning service we offer can save a lot of time, money and stress. Know before you go.
  3. A third group would be those with small kitchens who need to get the most function out of every inch. Small kitchens are often the hardest to plan and most likely to have planning errors turn into problems during installation.
  4. A fourth category might be those who know exactly what they want to achieve, and want to minimize risks and maximize efficiency. Expert help with planning is suggested.
Our planning service is adapted to the needs of the individual customer. Some primarily need help with creative design. In this case, we send our planner to do an in-home consultation.
Other customers have wall, plumbing, or electrical issues that must be evaluated in the planning phase. In this case, we send our most experienced contractor for the in-home consultation and measuring. The plan is later drafted by our kitchen planner.
For customers who have already drafted their plans, we can do a plan check.
When we provide any level of planning service, having done an on-site inspection, we are able to give detailed bids on any remodeling that might be needed, along with an installation bid. Remodeling work has to be evaluated on-site and, if any is needed and if the plan is already done, a site inspection is the best service to request. (If the customer does not need planning help, we still can provide an accurate bid for cabinet installation based on existing plans and Ikea purchase list).
The fourfold result we are going for with our planning service:
  1. Customer has a professional kitchen plan he/she is excited about. Plan is uploaded and accessible at Ikea
  2. Customer has had questions answered and feels confident to move forward
  3. Customer has a line-item bid on installation or remodeling services and knows their cost (labor)
  4. Customer has a shopping list of Ikea materials to purchase and knows their cost (materials)
Kitchen planning is both a technical and creative endeavor. We try to cover all bases with our planning service to make it truly helpful.

If you live in the greater Los Angeles area, just give a call to discuss your project or to make an appointment for kitchen planning or installation, 626-203-1480.

The Top Ten Question People Ask Us About IKEA Kitchens

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1) Where do I start?
2) How much will it cost?
3) How do IKEA cabinets compare to other kinds?
4) What is the sequence of steps I need to take to get the project done?
5) How long will it take?
6) How can I avoid unexpected expenses?
7) What about permits?
8) How do I get rid of my old kitchen cabinets?
9) Can I do this with a very limited budget?
10) When do I install my new floor?

1) Where do I start?
You’ve probably already done the first step: you’ve gone to IKEA or looked at IKEA kitchen cabinets, and decided you want to remodel your kitchen using these cabinets. That’s the first step: a decision!
(Actually, all the steps are simply decisions. Any time there is a “maybe,” your project is likely to take longer and cost more).
If you are still shopping, carry on. IKEA cabinets are a great solution for many homeowners but if you want the unlimited possibilities of custom cabinetry, if you require wood frames (the boxes), or if you really want a “turn-key” remodel that you can turn over to an architect or interior design firm from start to finish, IKEA cabinets are probably not for you.
If you’ve decided, if you’re ready to get started, you will now need to know:
2) How much will it cost?
Make yourself a checklist or use this one:
  1. Cabinets
  2. Countertop
  3. Demolition
  4. Cabinet installation
  5. Flooring
  6. Appliances
  7. Lighting
  8. Electrical
  9. Plumbing
  10. Wall work or repair
  11. Planning
This is pretty complete list of the main items in any kitchen remodel project. Cost out each item as best as you can. Separate labor and materials.
Of course, if you know your plumbing or electrical was installed in 1911, or if you have an electric stove and now want gas, or if your floor is at an 18 degree tilt, your costs are going to include remedying these.
The only way to get a reasonably firm cost for the LABOR for your project is to have your contractor inspect your kitchen and provide you with a bid. Your part is to know what you want as much as possible.
Getting your materials cost is pretty straightforward in regard to new appliances or lights or flooring materials. But to get the cost of your new cabinets, you’ll need a kitchen PLAN. You can download the IKEA kitchen planner software, measure your kitchen and draft a layout in the planner. This generates an IKEA “shopping list” that is a reasonably good estimate of the cost of your cabinets.
Over the years, our company has evolved a planning service to enable our customers to know their labor AND materials cost ahead of time, as well as to get their questions about the remodel, about plumbing, electrical, walls, etc. answered so that they can confidently move ahead.
1. Inspect the kitchen
2. Consult with the customer. Find out what is needed and wanted, the customer’s ideas.
3. Measure
4. Draft the layout plan
5. Provide a detailed bid on the project
If your project is straightforward and you find the planning software reasonably simple to use, and if you only need a contractor to install the cabinets, try planning the kitchen yourself to save on a planning fee. If a customer emails or faxes their completed plan to us we can provide a bid on the installation and schedule it without a home visit. We also use a “pre-installation survey” to clarify what the customer needs and wants so as to avoid surprise costs in the middle of the project. It works. See number six below for more information.
3. How do IKEA cabinets compare to other kinds?
In our experience over the past five years and hundreds of projects, IKEA cabinets are probably the best product on the market in their price range. Other brands of “European-look” cabinets typically cost two to four times the price and can take six to twelve weeks to be delivered. Chain store offerings, almost all traditional styling, can have the advantage of wood drawers or frames, but can cost twice the price, take weeks or months to be delivered.
Ikea cabinets can support just about any type of countertop, including granite and cement, come with a good warrantee, and can even be customized to some extent. The main disadvantages we’ve encountered are the limited range of sizes, and the occasional irregularity in door engineering that results in small gaps. You will probably be very satisfied with Ikea cabinets unless you expect the result to be comparable to custom built cabinetry.
4) What is the sequence of steps I need to take to get the project done?
The first step is the decision. The second is setting a budget. Next is the time to plan the layout, with your own skills or with the help of your contractor or kitchen planner. The next is probably shopping for cabinet styles and appliances, and possibly flooring and lighting materials. You can order your cabinets (and other materials) and once you have a delivery date, schedule the project with your contractor. If you don’t have a garage or somewhere to temporarily store the cabinets and appliances, it is best to find out when your contractor is available before placing the order.
Once you have your materials, if you are only replacing cabinets and perhaps flooring and lights, and not moving or opening walls, the demolition of the old cabinets and counters is the first installation step. You can install new flooring before or after the cabinets go in but if you are leaving the cabinet feet exposed (no toekick) you need to have the flooring cover the entire kitchen. Otherwise, you can save on flooring material by installing flooring after the cabinets go in. You can paint before the cabinets go in, or after.
If you’ve ordered granite or other hard counters (as compared to lower priced butcherblock or laminates), schedule your countertop supplier for the day your base cabinets are in and level. The countertop company can then come and make a template.
If you want to add cabinet lights or other counter height electrical, this is done before the cabinets go up. It can be done after but it takes longer and adds cost.
Once your cabinets are built, hung, leveled and “dressed out” which means the insides, doors and drawer fronts are installed, you are nearly done.
Your contractor can install your appliances or you can do this yourself. We always suggest having your contractor install the dishwasher in particular because this requires cutting through cabinets. If you won’t have countertop for a few days or weeks, you can still install the dishwasher and hook it up later, once the sink is installed. The plumbing for the sink, dishwasher and a garbage disposal is usually all under the sink.
Finally, your flooring, cabinet lights (wiring done earlier) and any custom touches can be done.
If you are opening walls, a common aspect of kitchen remodels, demolition of the old wall and patching of the newly exposed surfaces is done along with the cabinet demolition.
5) How long will it take?
The fastest project we ever did: the customer called for the first time on a Friday. We schedule a planning service appointment for the next day, Saturday. We delivered the plan Sunday morning. After a few plan adjustments, the customer ordered the cabinets on Monday evening. The cabinets were delivered on Tuesday. We started the installation (13 cabinets) on Wednesday and completed the installation with butcherblock countertop and appliances on Friday.
More realistically, give planning a week, shopping and ordering a weekend or two, delivery another week, demolition of the old cabinets one day, installation three days, countertop one day (but sometimes you have to wait for counters to be fabricated), appliances one day. If you need electrical or plumbing or wall work, these add days, but not necessarily weeks. You can get most projects done easily in one month, from your decision to do it, to completion. Others take two months or longer. But some take less.
6) How can I avoid unexpected expenses?
It is nearly impossible to predict every single aspect of your project but establishing a relationship with your contractor from the start, meeting with him at the project location, and getting a detailed bid on all aspects of the project you are considering is your best means of prediction. The IKEA kitchen software provides a “shopping list” so if your kitchen is planned correctly, you should have a ballpark estimate of your cabinet cost. You can price and shop online for appliances, lighting and flooring even if you make your final purchases in a local store.
Keep in mind that the condition of walls behind cabinets or the condition of your floor beneath existing coverings can be poor but unknown until the demolition is complete. Likewise, your plumbing or electrical can need replacement. Plan a margin in your budget and ask your contractor to inspect as closely as possible. Keep in mind that your contractor can not see everything ahead of time although he should want to provide the best possible advance data because that is his job.
7) What about permits?
Permit laws and codes vary in every municipality. For this reason, on most small to medium sized remodeling projects, it is almost always the homeowner’s responsibility to get any permits. It is not hard to do. Simply contact your town or city hall. The City of Los Angeles has an excellent website, enabling you to learn the requirements and pay for your permits online.
8) How do I get rid of my old kitchen cabinets?
Demolition of old cabinets and counters is part of most projects. You can do this yourself but keep in mind that it is not just smashing stuff up. Some cabinets have been in place for many years and require quite a bit of work to take out. Some counters are very heavy. Get some muscle to help you if you plan to do this yourself. The cost of demolition services is usually well worth it.
Our company does not provide haul off of the old materials. We require the homeowner to provide a bin. Usually a 3 yard bin is sufficient for an average kitchen. If walls are coming out, a larger bin will be needed. Call your trash removal company or your city/town hall to find a bin supplier. Cost is about $100-$200 depending on the area. Some condo associations have large bins that you can use. Some homeowners have us stack up decent old cabinets and place them on the curb. They are usually gone within a few hours. Sometimes you can stack the flat parts and put them in your regular trash over the course of a few weeks.
9) Can I do this with a very limited budget?
Every project requires some investment of both time and money. Sometimes it is better to wait until you have some margin in your budget so that you can have what you want and afford the service you would like. Here are some ways to keep your costs down:
1) Do the demolition yourself. Get some friends to help if possible. It takes muscle.
2) During planning, use one wide cabinet instead of two narrower cabinets where possible.
3) Install flooring after the cabinets go in
4) Assemble your own cabinets and have your contractor install them at a lower rate
5) Install your own handles
10) When do I install my new floor?
This has been covered already but one more thing to keep in mind is that if you install the floor before you install the cabinets, make sure you protect the new floor with at least one layer (two is better) of cardboard (flatten the boxes your cabinets come in for this) during the rest of the project.

Ikea Kitchen Installation: Why We Chose to be Independent

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We’ve been doing remodeling projects that include the installation of IKEA kitchen cabinets for five years now, with hundreds of projects completed successfully. We still love these cabinets for their great price, European look and the all the creative ways they can be used. There are limitations, of course. But overall, an IKEA kitchen remodel is a smart choice for many homeowners.
Our company has coordinated with the Los Angeles IKEA stores on various projects. We installed kitchen displays in the Carson store last summer, and shortly after that, at the request of Corporate IKEA, we became a certified IKEA installer for that store. “Certified” in this context simply means we agreed to certain terms that IKEA sets forth. The store, in turn, referred their kitchen cabinet customers to us directly.
Our experience in this relationship quickly proved to us that our company’s standards could not be met while in a direct relationship with IKEA. This is not to cast aspersions on IKEA. We simply found that we could not work with a small handful of local IKEA employees, particularly those who have long functioned as liaisons to outside service providers. Their ways and means were intolerable to us.
You could say that we chose to give up an easy life, a constant stream of customer referrals from the stores. We chose instead to be independent, to be able to offer a level of customer service and professional care that we felt we could not provide under the “certified” label. Sometimes things just work out this way. We have not regretted our decision to abide by our professional code.
It is entirely understandable that a homeowner could consider the “certified” installer referred by the store to be some protection or guarantee that their cabinets will be installed correctly. We consider that it comes at a hidden price but, more important, the guarantee we offer is enhanced by the fact that we genuinely care about doing a good job, being honest, and gaining a happy customer who will refer us.
If respectful customer service, good communication, and professional standards in all service channels appeal to you, give us a call to discuss your project and your needs when considering a kitchen, or other type of home improvement project.