Creative Use of IKEA Cabinets

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I thought it might help to explain why it is that, although we are remodeling contractors, we offer an IKEA kitchen design/planning service. We offer this service to ensure that our (potential) remodeling customers have a truly optimal layout. The service also ensures that the remodeling requirements and costs to achieve the finished result the customer wants can be planned out knowledgeably. It's a really worthwhile service I recommend without reservation.

Why do I "sell" this service to people who call? It's simply because we know, after hundreds of IKEA kitchen projects, that having a expert installation contractor AND a pro designer on your team. will get you a much better kitchen. One key is their ability to use IKEA cabinets creatively.

The IKEA software enables you to place cabinets along the walls of a kitchen. A 30 inch cabinet fits in 30 inches of space. It has 3 drawers or two shelves, etc., all the standard IKEA cabinets, as seen in their catalog.

A kitchen designer who is expert with IKEA cabinets, knows how to use these cabinets in many more ways than the software allows you to do. He knows how to avoid installation problems, such as when six feet of cabinets in six feet of space creates a problem (e.g., the oven door won't open) that holds up your installation for days while you re-design and exchange cabinets or appliances. An expert IKEA designer knows how to mix and match component parts and can customize cabinets to elegantly solve design issues in a particular kitchen.

I could not overstate how many more options you have with IKEA cabinets than you might realize, using only the standard cabinet sizes and configurations, and the IKEA planner software or their catalog's cardboard design kit.

Using these cabinets creatively, alterations to cabinets or to the kitchen itself can be proposed. Have a contractor who has years of experience with IKEA kitchen cabinets provides you with the immediate knowledge of what the alterations involve. If you think it'll cost a lot to move your sink to the other side of the kitchen, you may not even consider it. If your designer proposes this and at the same time, an expert installation contractor gives you a price of $200 to run the plumbing lines, well, your dream kitchen may start to come into view. And this is a real-life example.

Here are two more quick examples of recent projects in which the creative design of IKEA cabinets and expert planning service resulted in a much better kitchen remodel than the customer ever expected to achieve:

1) Lovely smaller home in Altadena. Customer wanted kitchen remodel. Designer and contractor went out for planning service appointment. Upon inspection and based on customer budget and their "dream kitchen" ideas, it was worked out that removing a small wall between kitchen and laundry area and moving the kitchen to current dining room location and dining room to kitchen location would result in a much larger and lighter living space that would serve the homeowners needs much more than the small, closed-in rooms they had. The cost of wall removal, electrical and plumbing, new lighting and even moving a large picture window from dining room (view of neighbor's house) to kitchen (backyard view), was well within the customer's $15,000 budget.

2) A customer in Brentwood had gotten a quote of $36,000 to remodel three small bathrooms. Customer wanted a European look. Our designer drafted layouts with IKEA refrigerator cabinets altered to fit into narrow bathroom spaces, and customized with drawers. Minor plumbing alterations were needed. We completed the three bathrooms for under $9,000. Fabulous, European-style bathrooms.

Bottom line: spend a bit on professional design and include an expert installer/contractor on your planning team.

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.


Our company, Modern Family Kitchens, offers an IKEA kitchen design service. We can provide this service locally, or remotely. We think you'll spend the least and get the best results when you invest in expert design. Call or write us to discuss your project. 877-550-1753.

Hiring and Handling a Remodeling Contractor

...and visit our website to find out about expert IKEA Kitchen Design Services

Perhaps the most important decision you are going to make in regards to your kitchen remodel is not be which cabinets or which flooring or which color of paint. It may not be a “what” but a “who”. Your choice of contractor, the guy or team that is going to prepare your kitchen and then remodel it with those beautiful new IKEA cabinets, can make a very big difference. Although IKEA seems to suggest that any Swedish teenager can whip together a new IKEA kitchen, getting a nice result requires expertise. Getting a great result, requires thorough planning, knowledge (foresight is better and cheaper than hindsight) and a careful search of the contractors in your area to find the right one for your project.

Here are some basic tips:

1) NEVER hire an unlicensed “handyman”. Do it yourself or hire someone who has a license.

In California and other states, a “handyman” may do remodeling or repair work that costs, in total, up to $500. Over that and he is violating the law. If the guy is doing this, he’s probably not paying taxes also. Do you pay taxes? Do you trust someone who considers the only way to make a living is to operate illegally?

The licensing requirements in any state are for YOU. They project you against the unqualified and the irresponsible. As a note, a licensed contractor MUST provide you with a written contract that lists all the specifications of the project and the price. They must provide a warranty on their work. If you hire someone without a license and something goes wrong, you have little if any recourse.

2) Get permits.

We certainly understand wanting to avoid this added expense. But NOT having a permit can be MUCH more expensive. It is EASY to get a permit for most kitchen projects. Swapping out cabinets usually does require a permit, as does plumbing or electrical work. But in many cases you can get your permit online (LA County, Santa Monica), or with a quick trip the your city offices (Pasadena). You pay a couple hundred bucks. You may need to get an inspection. Don’t worry about it. If you’ve got a licensed contractor, he’ll cooperate with the inspections and, remember, this is your city making sure your contractor did the work correctly and safely. It’s a bargain.

Some remodeling companies will get permits for you. Owners can get permits themselves for most kitchen projects so just do your homework, call your city office. Our company pulls permits but we also encourage homeowners to look into getting their own if they have the time to do so. It's a kind of self-empowerment. Whether or not your contractor pulls permits for you, it is, by law, the responsibility of the property owner to have necessary permits.

If you go to sell a property that has been remodeled without permits you may either not be allowed to include the upgrades in your assessed value or, worse, you will be required to pay penalties AND permit fees or, worse still, you‘ll have to tear out all the upgrades in order to sell the property. So get required permits. It’s easier than you think.

3) Get a contract, read it carefully, and honor it.

A contract is a written agreement, a handshake firmed with ink. It is your contractor telling you the rules by which he works, what he expects of you, what you can expect from him. To a great degree, the language of the contract is determined by the legal requirements for contractors in your state. But your contractor can add any statements he feels will clarify the terms of the job.

A contract is legally binding. This means that if you signed a contract for a company to install 20 cabinets and 45 sq feet of countertop for $5000, you have to carry through and allow them to do the job and then pay them for it. You can’t change your mind halfway through. Or two days before the job starts. Well, you can change your mind, but you remain liable for the $5000.

Here is an example of how NOT to operate:

You sign a contract with ABC Remodeling to install 20 cabinets and 45 square feet of countertop. The contract states the job will start on June 15. ABC crew shows up on the 15th.

1) You forgot to call ABC to say your flooring company is running late and the kitchen isn't ready on the 15th for cabinets. ABC has scheduled your job. They have every right to bill you for lost time. The contract says this but you just thought they’d be nice about it. But the delay costs ABC money, including but not limited to wages for their crew!

2) ABC installs 10 of your cabinets. Your brother-in-law comes to town and tells you he could do the rest for you for free. You call ABC that night and tell them you don’t like their work and are firing them.

You can’t fire someone with whom you have a contract. They are not employees. Even if they botched the job, you are required by law to allow them to fix the problems and only if they won’t do you have a legal foot to stand on. If you just fire them, you are legally obligated to pay the entire contract balance. That’s right. Even if they botched the job. You MUST let them fix it. You can’t be upset and angry and refuse. You stand to lose $5000 so keep it friendly and communicate in a business-like fashion always.

3) If things get nasty anyway, settle. Expect to pay for work that was done. Even if you have to hire someone else to finish the job, you have to offer to pay a fair amount for what was already done. Propose a solution. And before you pay whatever you are going to pay, request a Release. This will legally dissolve your legal obligations, and ABC’s. A proper release is often conditional on a payment being made. Once the check clears, the release becomes unconditional. This is the only way to get out of a contract without a lot of stress. In California, a contractor who does work for you and isn’t paid has the right to file a lien against your property (and it is easy for him to do this) and sue you for the entire contract balance.

This is not meant to scare you. Just require a contract, read it carefully, and if you sign it, be prepared to honor the agreement that it is. And require your contractor to do the same. If his work is bad, make him fix it. If he won’t, then and only then should you consider breaching the contract. But always keep communicating and do it in a business-like fashion. Chance are good your contractor wants to correct anything you are not happy with. Treat him with respect and assume he has good intentions.

The last point I want to make may be the first one to consider. Let’s say you request a bid from a remodeling contractor for your IKEA cabinet installation. He takes the time to prepare a helpful, detailed cost list for you. Don’t call him up and tell him his prices are too high. Don’t try to argue him down. Of course you can tell him you are only willing to pay $100, and not the $130 he is asking (for some service). But don’t tell him his price is high because you would not like someone to tell you that your salary or your prices are too high. They are what they are. This contractor may be a lot better in many ways than the guy who charges $100. It may be impossible to get the $100 guy on the phone. Impossible to get him to adjust the handles which go crooked every week. You get the idea. Operate on the Golden Rule. Life is short.

Thanks for listening. 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.

Our company, Modern Family Kitchens, offers an IKEA kitchen design service. We can provide this service locally, or remotely. We think you'll spend the least and get the best results when you invest in expert design. Call or write us to discuss your project. 877-550-1753.

About IKEA Cabinet Quality

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...and visit our website to find out about expert IKEA Kitchen Design Services

Almost every potential customer that calls our office asks us about the quality of IKEA cabinets. We're in an interesting position in that we don't SELL these cabinets (we don't sell anything for that matter, we only provide service), and we yet promote them in an indirect way.

It could be construed that we promote them because we install them. In other words, you might think that we encourage people to use IKEA kitchen cabinets for their remodels in order to create more business (designing and installing).

I keep this in mind when I recommend that a customer who is undecided at least makes a trip to an IKEA to look at their cabinets. Our purpose never has been to promote any particular product. What we sell are skilled remodeling services performed with integrity. So why do we narrow our focus to IKEA cabinetry?

It's really simple and probably obvious. Over the course of 30 years of remodeling work, and seven years installing kitchen cabinets. we've had to conclude that, for the majority of homeowners on a moderate kitchen remodeling budget (say under $20,000, although half that is common), IKEA cabinets are simply the best choice.

In terms of quality, a hands-on comparison would prove to most homeowners that IKEA cabinets meet or beat cabinets costing 2 to 3 times as much, the big box store offerings. The same is true, as far as we've seen with over 600 projects, with durability.

This is not to say there are no other great cabinets on the market. I love Venicia, Kraftmaid's European-look line. with sizes and options you can't get from IKEA. But the price tag on a kitchen layout priced with Venicia can be three or even four times the cost of IKEA cabinets. Is it better? In terms of quality, we don't think so. Does it look better? Maybe a bit if you're a dedicated student of line and form, but not enough, for a majority of homeowners, to justify spending $28,000 on cabinets when $7,500 would buy the same layout from IKEA.

I don't know how the IKEA corporation manages to sell this quality cabinet at the price they do. I just know that the completed kitchens we've designed and installed look amazing and the homeowners, one for one, are utterly pleased. I know of none who feel they compromised with their choice of IKEA cabinets.

This said, starting with these beautiful, high quality and affordable cabinets, the secret to a beautiful remodeled IKEA kitchen, is to enlist the help of a professional designer to work out the optimal layout, and a professional, expert contractor for installation. These can make all the difference. Those displays at IKEA were designed by pros and installed by pros. It's not just the cabinets.

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.

Hope this helps you,


IKEA Cabinets for Bathrooms

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...and visit our website to find out about expert IKEA Kitchen Design Services

I wanted to mention bathrooms. We spend a lot of time on kitchen design and installation using IKEA cabinets, and might forget to discuss IKEA cabinets for bathrooms.

We've installed quite a few cabinets, kitchen cabinets that is, in bathrooms. These cabinets are mostly 24 inches deep (although there is a 12 inch deep option for some). For many bathrooms, this is just too deep, the room is too narrow or small. So the key is to design with knowledge of cabinet alterations. A skilled installer can cut back the depth of the cabinet while keeping it structurally sound. A skilled installer can make cutout for plumbing, and can even make alterations to the drawers so that they work with plumbing fixtures.

With this know-how, you can use the many styles of kitchen cabinets for a bathroom. One of the most elegant we've done utilized refrigerator cabinets for bathroom sinks. These were hung on the wall (no legs). The look was really amazing but it did take a team of designer and contractor to work it out. In Los Angeles, we can do this for you with IKEA cabinets. You can have a European style bathroom at a fraction the cost you'd pay for European style cabinets.

There are also designated IKEA bathroom cabinets. Their quality is similar to the quality of their kitchen cabinets but engineered differently. You have many fewer choices but it's easy to plan with them because of this. Just get the bathroom cabinet 3-page foldout that shows the cabinet styles and sizes and options.

Just wanted to mention bathrooms. Add some tile trim, some nice lighting, and you can have a beautiful bathroom to come home.

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.



Best Green Kitchen Investment

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Along with the many creative choices a homeowner has while kitchen remodeling, there are a few choices that can result in better health for you, for your family and for our planet.

My top suggestion, whether or not you are remodeling your kitchen, is to invest in an under-sink water filtration system. The plastic canister types are also good (Brita, etc,) but not as convenient. A high quality under-sink filter can cost as little as $75 (check out what Sears has to offer). Installation costs vary but expect to pay about $250. Reverse osmosis systems cost upwards of $300 plus installation. Do the research and pick a product that suits your needs.

Here are some benefits:

1) you can use tap water for cooking and drinking again!
2) your water tastes better
3) your coffee tastes better
4) you don't have to carry home plastic water bottles
5) you avoid the health risks associated with plastic water bottles
6) you don't contribute to the problem of plastic water bottles that take 1000 years to begin to decompose. In 2006, 38 billion plastic water bottles ended up in U.S. landfills.
7) you save money. Bottled water costs between $1 and $4 per gallon, (90 percent of the cost is in the bottle, lid and label)

Thanks for reading. We're happy to give you a big discount on filter installation.

A Bit about Remodeling Permits

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...and visit our website to find out about expert IKEA Kitchen Design Services

Many homeowners who embark upon a remodeling project worry unnecessarily about the subject of permits. The cost of permits and an uncertainty about procedures and inspections may drive even the most honest and civic-minded to consider remodeling without permits. We don't advise it.

While every city has different requirements, for most kitchen or bathroom remodeling projects, the process is straightforward, the cost reasonable, the inspections timely and in the best interests of the homeowner. Getting permits for your projects is a much better alternative to avoiding this step in your project planning. Remodeling or demolition should not start prior to obtaining required permits.

1) Why you need a permit
The permit and inspection process gives you, your neighbors, and your City assurance that specific standards are met when expanding, altering, or repairing your property. State codes, local codes and zoning requirements are all standards based on well-established health, safety, and environmental considerations intended to protect the integrity of your home, the safety of its inhabitants, and the welfare of the public. The permit and inspection process ensures that your contractor is doing the work correctly and safely. The city is really on your side.

Projects not completed according to code can affect your home’s insurability and potential sale. In most cases City building records are public, available upon request. Anyone involved in a future sale of your home, including municipal agencies, can use these records to see if permits were obtained and if compliance was achieved for specific projects. In some areas, a lack of permits will hold up the sale while the non-permitted work is corrected or torn out.

2) When is a permit required?
Permits are required prior to removing and/or installing most remodeling or construction materials on your property. Samples of required permits for interior remodeling include the
installation of new cabinets, and modification, installation, or replacement of electrical, plumbing, or heating devices.

3) Who is Responsible for Obtaining a Permit?
The property owner is responsible for ensuring that a permit is obtained prior to work being started. Contractors can also apply and obtain permits on behalf of the property owner but expect to pay for this service. Time spent at the permit office is often billed at the same rate as the remodeling work itself. There are also permit-assistance companies that can help you.

In most cases, when a typical kitchen remodel, the simplest and most affordable route is for the homeowner (who is hiring a licensed contractor to do the work) to get their own permits. Your contractor must often supply a license number and evidence of worker's comp insurance. If you are doing the work yourself and simply hiring laborers to assist, you will need a worker's comp policy as well.

4) How Much Does the Permit Cost?
With few exceptions, permit fees are based on the fair market value of the work being done, including the cost of materials.

5) How Do I Get a Permit
In Los Angeles, express permits can be gotten online for many types of projects. In other cities, a call to your city's building and safety office will enable you to discuss your project and find out the requirements. In most cases, two submissions will be required, in addition to fees:

1) A detailed, written description of the proposed work
2) A dimensioned floor plan detailing tthe areas of change

For many kitchen remodeling projects, inspections will be required. Any electrical, plumbing or wall removal or building will require inspection. Your contractor will help you schedule so that there are no delays. Inspections can often be scheduled a mere 24 hours in advance.

This article is only a brief summary of some things I have learned about permits. I hope it provides enough gentle encouragement so that you will include the cost of permits in your budget, and the process of obtaining permits in your remodeling learning curve. It's far easier than you may think.

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.



Are IKEA Cabinets Perfect?

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A rhetorical question, of course.

We have been looking for years for any other cabinet brand that matches or exceeds IKEA’s kitchen cabinet line. We’re not tied to IKEA although it may seem as though we’re promoters of their cabinets. We just have not been able to find any other product that is as affordable, durable, and, when laid out and installed correctly, as beautiful.

And yet a nagging feeling remains since nothing is 100% absolutely perfect, and mass-produced IKEA cabinets must have shortcomings. To provide a balanced view of a wonderful product, here are the three things (only three) that we consider imperfections. They hardly warrant an article, but it might be good to know these things before you run into them.

1) They come in only a few standard widths and heights. If you could pay a cabinet maker to build cabinets for your kitchen, the sizes would be specific to your kitchen’s requirements. With any purchased cabinets, you have to design the layout with the standard sizes the manufacturer provides. With IKEA cabinets, you have somewhat fewer standard sizes than some other brands. Is this a problem or serious limitation? If you are designing the kitchen yourself using IKEA’s design tools, “yes” comes to mind. You are stuck with standard sizes and if they don’t quite work you are looking at wasted kitchen space.

On the other hand, if you have an expert kitchen designer to work with (like ours), the sizing limitations just require creative, customized use of standard cabinets. I am endlessly amazed at the customizations our designer comes up with. I’ve learned first hand that the standard sizes are merely a palette from which you can design. You do have to work with the fact that cabinet doors can rarely be resized, and that wall cabinets come in only 30 and 39 inch heights. But with those few unchangeable factors, you can, I have seen, do many, many things.

2) The interiors are birch or white only. Sometimes, if you are using a dark wood door (such as IKEA’s Liljestad) the edges of the cabinet frames can be slightly visible when the doors are closed. If you use white frames (boxes) and white doors, not a problem, or birch and birch. But if you have the dark doors and light interiors, you may find that the finished kitchen, even perfectly installed, has a few areas where the doors are slightly, maybe 1/64th of an inch, smaller than the frame, leaving a small line of frame visible.

Installers run into the problem of having the customer think this is an installation issue. It is not. It is simplyh that a mass produced door is not going to be perfect. We’ve had customers return a slightly-smaller door to IKEA only to find the replacement door slightly too big, or otherwise perfect also.

The best solution if you can’t live with a tiny sliver of lighter wood showing, is to have your contractor put some dark veneer tape around the front face of the cabinets whose doors are not perfectly matched. This handles the problem completely.

3) Delivery. This is not a problem with the cabinets, per se. But the experience of remodeling with IKEA cabinets is going to include the issue of ordering and getting a delivery of a few hundred boxes. It’s not really possible to inventory the delivery while the delivery guys are still there. The only workable way, given the high likelihood that there is some missing, broken or incorrect part(s), is to simply install the kitchen and, as it goes in, to make note of missing/broken/incorrect parts and make a trip to the store to request replacements.
You may have forgotten to order something, you may have ordered the wrong thing, or the delivery may simply be incorrect in some minor way. Some people worry about this, but I can assure you it is not a problem. Just know that you may have to swap a few parts during the project. It is easy to do, IKEA’s aftersales department is very helpful and they will deliver to you at no charge any part they forgot to send the first time. They accept returns of broken parts easily, and as long as you have your order receipts, will do any exchanges needed.

These three factors, and only these three, have annoyed us at times, over the course of hundreds of IKEA kitchen remodels that we’ve done, and we run into them regularly. Should you concern yourself with there things? Should you look to another brand of cabinets because of them?

Not at all.

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.