How to Estimate Installation Costs for your IKEA Kitchen Project

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It is vital to know what your project will cost before you move forward. Those lovely displays at IKEA can sometimes give you a false idea. These are not good estimates of even the IKEA products you want to buy, because those kitchens are not your kitchen.

Keep in mind also that those displays were professionally designed, professionally installed, and there is no plumbing or electrical behind those "walls." Also, if you could use that charming display kitchen for a day or two, you might find that it is clumsy to use, and that you trip over the baby's high chair (not in the display) or your spouse's boots (not in display) constantly. As I've written elsewhere, IKEA's "design-it-yourself" concept could be a disservice to many.

There are several approaches to compiling enough trusted data to be able to have confidence that your project will not break your budget. Whether you trust the data or not requires good sense, and a willingness to look at things, at people, directly.

TEST: Do you believe that any breakfast product advertised on TV is better for a child than organic scrambled eggs or oatmeal? If you voted for eggs and oatmeal then you have what it takes to compile a good estimate for yourself so that you can control your project's finances and sleep restfully as it progresses.

Note that any experienced shopper can compile good estimates for materials (cabinets, sink, flooring, light fixtures, countertop, etc.) but the process for getting good labor estimates can be a bit more tricky.

If you know what you want, and you have the money to pay for it, yawn, stretch and call the best contractor in town to figure it all out for you. You will only need to choose colors and styles and make payments. Read my other posts instead, about how to choose a contractor.

For the rest of us with limited budgets and big ideas, some legwork and homework is the first step. Control is the reward for taking the time to work out cost estimates for both materials and labor before you begin. If all of this is hazy to you right now, just take it one step at a time. You can also call me, if my writing is just not enough.

So let's assume you got your design done, and your chosen cabinets cost $3,800.00. Countertop varies from laminates at $300 to sky's-the-limit marble, but let's say $3,000 for Corian in a modest-sized kitchen. So your major materials, most likely, cabinets and countertop, run $6,800.00.

IKEA appliances, Whirlpool all, can add $3000 more. Some people spend a lot more elsewhere on appliances. So now we have a nice even $10,000 number for basic materials. Note that flooring, light fixtures, tile, sink and faucet, are also needed, as are a dozen other miscellaneous items you might need, and your contractor may or may not supply, such as a dishwasher hose, garbage disposal, recessed light fixtures and switches, electrical materials, wallboard, flooring, plywood for under countertop, tile and adhesive, etc. Add $1000 to be safe, or more if you are doing tile. Tile also adds labor expense.

So, here's your materials estimate--on the high side $13,000 for a 12 x 12 kitchen. I am guessing you saw a display at IKEA which seemed to suggest $6,000. Sorry.

Rest assured though that it CAN be done for less than $13,000 in materials, even half that amount or less, especially if there is no flooring or tile and you already have code-approved electrical. But for $6,500 we're talking small kitchen, less costly IKEA door choice, laminate or butcherblock counters, lower end appliances. And very careful planning.

The issue is clarified by comparison to a quote you might get at, say, Home Depot or Lowes. That same kitchen we've imagined above, will cost $28,000 to $40,000. And go to a cabinet company with showroom and sales reps on the floor, and you're talking $75,000.

Can you do an IKEA kitchen, a small simple one for $5000? I get asked that often enough. My answer is no, unless you buy the least expensive cabinets, use laminate countertop and do the installation yourself, including demo, trash removal, electrical, appliance installation and plumbing work. Maybe, with no outside labor, (but with a permit, of course) you can do a simple project for $5000. But for the vast majority, it's twice that, and more.

We're talking about tearing out a major section of your home, repairing it, upgrading utilities (to code) and replacing everything with new stuff. If you are only replacing some cabinets, maybe you can do it for five thousand bucks. But there is always labor and there are always code requirements when you upgrade. (Read my other posts on why you really really want to get permits and upgrade to code--in short, because it's often much more expensive to not get permits).

So now let's look at labor. I am working on a project to identify qualified contractors near IKEA stores anywhere in the US. Someone has to do this! So many people write or call me to ask about this because they are unhappy with the corporate contractor IKEA sends them to. I would always recommend a local, well-known (has lots of references) general contractor, who is licensed, legal, insured, bonded, has a skilled crew, has worker's comp (ask for copies of certificates).

The IKEA cabinet installer will not pull permits (which is one of the craziest facts about IKEA kitchens I've ever come across because, as I see it, indirectly this is IKEA suggesting that their customers do something illegal if the IKEA-affiliated contractor is see-no-evil, hear-no -evil, speak-no-evil when it comes to permits, read their contracts' fine print) and is almost guaranteed to sub-contract plumbing and electrical work. This is OK, to sub, but read up on the laws of your state in regard to homeowner liability with subcontractors. And about permits. Vital to do this. Vital to do this. (I wrote it twice, not a typo).

OK, back to costs. Sorry to veer off-topic, but I do care about you.

Let's discuss labor now. In the years when I ran a remodeling company, an average IKEA kitchen kitchen project would run about $7500 in labor. This was for demo, minor wall repair, minor electrical, plumbing, cabinet and appliance installation.  If the project included new lighting, flooring, tile, it could run $10,000. If you have an old electrical panel of 100 amps, you might find you can't add outlets and the cost of a new panel can add $1800 (labor and materials). Electrical work is often pricey, as is good plumbing work. General contractors often charge less for these than single licensed guys, if the work is part of a bigger contract.

Keep in mind that trying to save money by having someone you know do your electrical or plumbing can be a costly mistake. Contractors have to be bonded and licensed and should be insured for at least a million bucks. These insurances cost them money so their prices will be higher, rightfully, but the insurance protects you and they are utterly worth paying for. You have to have plumbing and electrical inspected when you get a permit, and so you want it done right. Right = safe.  Don't think about this too much, but what if you have to file a homeowner's insurance claim some time and the insurance company finds there's no permit or an unlicensed contractor did your electrical work? Oy.  Or if you go to sell or refi and the bank inspector sees a new kitchen but no permits on file. Another Oy. See what I mean? Do it right, do it legal.

Oops, off track again.

Let's say you call a contractor to find out how much he'll charge you for remodeling your kitchen with IKEA cabinets. You expect to get free quotes, right? This is something you can always get for free from a bad contractor who has nothing else to do but spend half a day at your house.  Consider that the contractor or estimator must drive to your house, spend an hour or two discussing and inspecting, and then two hours or more writing up a good bid. Do you know what a really good bid will do for you? It will ensure there are no change orders, or very few! A change order is labor/service ADDED to the original contract. It's work and expense you didn't plan on! That's what you often get for free, a lousy incomplete estimate.

Not to say a good contractor won't give you a good, thorough bid. But note the differences among offers of free quotes, free estimates, and a real bid, which is a service unto itself. Beware a contractor that comes to your house for half an hour and is really there to sell, not to inspect. Another TEST: does he look at your electrical panel, if it is accessible, or ask about it? If not, he's got no idea if the electrical price he's quoting is real.

Know this: a bid that is really a means for the contractor to SELL you on cheaper services than some other bid is NOT helpful. What you want is a relationship first, bid second. If the contractor thinks you are only trying to get a bunch of free quotes to compare, why should he spend half a day using his years of expertise and knowledge to provide you with comprehensive information?

So call all the contractors you care to or ask for referrals. But talk with them on the phone first. Tell the truth, if you want them to tell you the truth. Ask for a free quote if you want to, or ask for a detailed bid, two different things. Maybe the guy charges to do a comprehensive bid, which is probably worth it if he's got good references and otherwise seems good to you. If you are not yet sold on the project, be willing to pay a contractor for the service that carefully estimating/bidding your project really is. If you are not yet sold on IKEA cabinets, this process can be invaluable. Do you  know that sometimes, in some cases and places, for an extra $1000 you get get another brand of better quality, similar-looking cabinets? I know I've betrayed you with this statement, but to give you an idea of the value of a good bid from a good contractor, I had to do it.

In summary, a do-it-yourself remodel is estimated by cabinet costs plus countertop, appliances, plumbing and electrical parts, permit costs, and TIME you spend doing the work and living without a kitchen while you do it.

A typical remodel with IKEA cabinets, including contractor labor and materials, runs $12,000 to $18,000, a huge bargain over just about every other type of kitchen remodel, and beautiful results to boot. If you have less, just do more planning and shopping for good deals. Or wait awhile. The next sale is just a few months away. But don't skimp on permits, or on cheap labor, and pay a bit for professional design (definitely) or a detailed costs bid if you really want to know what the labor you need will cost.

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.