Finding a Contractor for an IKEA Kitchen Project

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I've written several posts about finding and hiring contractors but since I've gotten a few inquiries recently about this, I wanted to write a bit more.

Homeowners often save up for years to do a kitchen remodel. Since the beautiful model kitchens in IKEA stores seem to cost $5000 or less, one gets the idea that this is the actual cost of a kitchen remodel.

It's true that you can do a small kitchen for under $5000 if you do it yourself. Obviously the cabinets can cost half that or less so if you supply your own labor, it's possible. This means you do your own demo, have a way to haul off the trash generated (a bin rental can cost $500 or more in some cities), know how to do electrical, plumbing, appliance installation. You also have to know some carpentry to do a good job installing IKEA cabinets. It's simple, but the finish details of trim and molding make a big difference in the finished look, and these take skill.

However, the typical IKEA kitchen remodel costs $10,000 to $15,000. The materials for a full remodel, meaning cabinets, countertop, appliances and miscellaneous (tile, light fixtures, sink/faucet, flooring etc.) cost half. And labor accounts for the rest.

It is important to know that your labor costs are likely to be as much as, or more, than your materials costs if you want a licensed contractor with the skills and crew to do your project quickly, professionally, and with insurance and permits. If you haven't got the budget for this, it's better to wait until you do.

It's always a good idea to get more than one bid. The cheapest is rarely the best one to choose. Note that a good contractor can sense "price shoppers" on the phone. He can tell if someone is looking for the lowest price more than quality of work or good service and reputation. Consider that a good contractor doesn't want to drive to your house, spend time inspecting and talking with you, and then preparing an intelligent and comprehensive bid, all for free, if he considers that you won't accept his bid because you are really just looking for the lowest price.

The contractor you want is the one with experience, confidence, and know-how. You want a legal, licensed, bonded and insured person, who is polite, cheerful, helpful and trustworthy. Be willing to pay him a fair price for his work so that he can make a living and remain cheerful.

Rather than looking for the cheapest labor, one way to save money on labor is to do your research and understand the laws and rules for remodeling and permits in your local area. Once you have this knowledge, you can be more causative in choosing a contractor.

Compile a list of the services you know you'll need done (demo, trash removal, wall repair, adding outlets, appliance installation, etc.) and make sure your kitchen design is correct and complete. A remodeling contract that is comprehensive, that includes all that will be done, will cost less than a project with multiple change orders. No one can predict  with 100% accuracy, but the more you know, the more data you have before the project starts, the more control you have over costs.

I wrote an eBook a few years ago to help homeowners estimate labor costs. It's on Amazon for a buck, but click here to download a free copy. I hope it is helpful. Write me if you have questions or want to know about our expert IKEA kitchen design services. Expert design, by the way, will also save you money.

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IKEA Kitchen Projects During the Winter

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Winter can be a surprisingly good time to remodel a kitchen, in cold climates even. People get so busy with the holidays that the resources for kitchen remodeling become more readily available, and you have negotiating power with both contractors and materials suppliers that you don't have during their busier seasons.

January and February can be slow seasons for contractors so some of the best ones are available for smaller kitchen projects. Likewise, for those who love finding bargains, major appliances can go on sale and there can be really nice floor models to be found, as well.

Tile stores are other quiet spots in winter. Look for discounts. Sometimes you can hire an artisan tile setter through a tile store for very reasonable rates in slower seasons. Backsplash tile can add so much to an IKEA kitchen remodel that if you can find quality tile and have it installed by skilled hands, your finished kitchen can really be over the top, as they say.

Come March, there is usually another IKEA kitchen sale. If you plan your project in January, contract the project in February, you can order your cabinets as soon as the sale starts and have a finished kitchen by the time many other homeowners who waited for the spring sale even get started on planning.

The sales at IKEA are only worth waiting for under certain circumstances. Often, time is more valuable than the few hundred bucks you save. Scheduling the project for an optimal time can be a much greater advantage. Also, if you have a small kitchen, or will be buying appliances and countertop elsewhere, or if you are buying custom doors for IKEA frames, the total you spend at IKEA might be too low to earn any sale discount (there is a minimum purchase, typically $3500).

Anyway, consider a winter project. What else do you have on your calendar in January-February?


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METOD: More data

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For people planning a kitchen remodel with IKEA cabinets, the subject of METOD is a hot one. This new line of IKEA kitchen cabinets has been introduced in some European countries this past year, and is due to arrive in the UK in spring 2014 and the US, probably, in fall 2014. It is unlikely that we'll see METOD in the US this spring so if you are planning a remodel for the coming months, you can move forward.

Many people with IKEA kitchens will wonder about the 25 year warranty on their cabinets. If the frame system AKURUM, is being replaced with METOD, how will IKEA replace cabinets? The data I have is that AKURUM system components will continue to be available for two years after the METOD system is released. However, METOD and AKURUM parts will not work together: different sizes and structural components. In any case, I have seen 15 year old IKEA kitchens in perfect condition (interiors) so there's not a lot to worry about in any case. It's like a warranty on a new car. It just doesn't break for the first few years.

Having looked over European, and having worked on many hundreds of of IKEA kitchens, I don't think the METOD system is hugely better, aesthetically, than the AKURUM system. I think it's probably a better system for IKEA in some way, although I can see how the smaller cabinets can give us more flexibility, especially in small or angled spaces.

For US customers planning a remodel this spring, it's worth a call or trip to your local IKEA to ask IKEA kitchen personnel directly about the release of the METOD system.

Here are some photos of METOD kitchens, all from IKEA Europe.

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IKEA Kitchen Sale Ends Soon.....Tips to Use

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Chances are good that if you've been considering an IKEA kitchen, and you are in the US (sale dates are different in other countries), you know the current fall sale ends December 1. If you are reading this, you might wonder how to get an order for cabinets placed and save the 15-20% before the sale end. It's entirely doable!

The key, of course, is to design the layout optimally and correctly. Once you have that done, the next step is to create an order list of the components you need to buy. The online IKEA planner seems to do this, but the list it generates is woefully incomplete. The online planner is also not a design tool and should only be used (optionally) to sketch out a general layout to help you communicate with your designer.

The key to a short design/order phase is enlisting the help of professionals. My company provides design and order support. Your contractor, if he's IKEA-cabinet-savvy, might also be able to help. Doing it yourself with the minimal support IKEA sales personnel provide is another option, but not the best. The less time you have, the more important it is to use the experience and skill of professionals.

One great thing about IKEA is that they don't run out of stock. You can place your order on December 1st, and although you might wait a few more days for delivery compared to someone who placed an order at the beginning of the sale in October, you'll still get all your stuff. One exception might be a backordered door or drawer front. This can happen at any point, sale or no sale, and does not hang up installation. You'll get everything you need to install your kitchen (if you ordered correctly) although you might be missing a front piece for a week or two. No biggie.

If you do order as the sale draws to a close, be prepared to spend half a day or more at IKEA. It's busy, the kitchen department staff are often harried. Make sure you go prepared, especially with a complete and correct order list. Note that things like drawer inserts or cabinet lights are not delivered with your kitchen cabinets. You take these smaller items home with you. You can always get them another time, or even order them online. Make the order of your cabinets, and countertop and appliances if you are also buying those, your target for the day.

I often recommend, in my motherly way, that clients eat a good breakfast, take some B vitamins, and bring water, when they go to IKEA to order. Getting a good night's sleep beforehand is also really helpful.

I hope I didn't make it seem like a battle to order an IKEA kitchen towards the end of a sale. It's not that hard.

Call or write me if you need some help, 1-877-550-1753 or


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Difficult Kitchens

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Some kitchens are easy to design for a remodel. You could love the footprint and layout of your existing kitchen and you simply need a bit of help to create a similar layout with IKEA cabinets.

But let's say your kitchen is woefully inadequate insofar as counter space or storage. Maybe you are removing a wall or changing the space in some other way but maybe you can't do either of these things and you simply need to create a better kitchen with the same kitchen dimensions.

The answer is, you need a kitchen designer. Here's where the skill and experience ad kitchen designer brings to your project can make a huge difference.

In any given kitchen, there are always several, if not many, ways to arrange components. Even if you can't move the appliances, if venting is fixed, if the space involved is so small it seems impossible to do anything creative, leave the problem to a talented kitchen designer and you'll be amazed.

Experienced kitchen designers have seen, and created, hundreds, if not thousands, of kitchens. IKEA kitchen designers (like the ones who work for my clients) also, also, also,  really know IKEA products and how to use their kitchen components to solve any spatial problem, any storage issue, any requirement your kitchen presents.

Kitchen designers are also good when the homeowners themselves have disparate views. Wife wants one thing, husband another. Even different views on the actual budget can come into play. A kitchen designer can sort out the issues, present a stable, expert viewpoint, and can synthesize solutions from disparate viewpoints.

One of the best ways a kitchen designer could help you is to provide you with more than one initial design to consider. This can sometimes break through a stuck point. For example, let's say there is a wall that you are considering removing. But whether or not it's load bearing, or whether the cost of removing it is warranted, hangs up your progress with the project. Having a designer join your remodeling team can be an enormous help because he/she can provide you with design options for both scenarios--if you remove the wall or if you don't. This can sometimes save you thousands of dollars because it could be that you like the design WITH the wall more than the other. That's right, it can happen when you have a good designer who really is on your team.


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Custom Kitchens with IKEA Cabinets

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One of the more fun aspects of working with expert IKEA kitchen designers is seeing how they create custom solutions using IKEA stock cabinets. I am always impressed by the creative use of IKEA kitchen cabinets and accessories to create truly wonderful kitchens.

As a heavy user of my kitchen (I'm a vegan cook which means cutting, chopping, water sauteing, mashing, etc., at least once or twice every day), I always want more storage (for new gadgets, admittedly) and more counter space (to use those gadgets!). Maybe not everyone needs to store 25lb boxes of raw cashews, or needs a place for two blenders and two food processors (I use them, I swear) but every kitchen, every kitchen-user, has unique requirements. If you are wondering if you can create the storage or function you really want with IKEA cabinets, the answer is almost always, yes.

The trick is to know how to customize cabinets, to research and find add-on products, and, fundamentally, to have expertise with both IKEA cabinetry and kitchen design, in general. I do talk with homeowners who plan their kitchen for a year or even several years. They eventually find or figure out custom solutions, sometimes. But for the majority of working people, having the help of a kitchen designer is key. Even a basic layout in a modest kitchen can be made exceptional in the hands of a skilled kitchen designer who knows IKEA cabinets.

Keep in mind that an IKEA kitchen designer, or any kitchen designer, needs to know what you want, your ideas, concerns, even your dreams. I always recommend that clients write down all they would really like in their new kitchen, disregarding for a moment whether or not they have the money or space. We let the designer understand what is wanted and we let the designer come up with solutions. The homeowner chooses what seems to him or her the best solution, and then comes the fine-tuning. It's a fun and a creative process. Yes, there is a limit to budget and space, but with a good designer, all sorts creative things can come about.

Anyway, you can use IKEA cabinets for a low cost remodel, certainly. But you can also use them for an affordable, major change with customized cabinets and incorporating other brands of products. It takes skill and experience, but I've seen it done beautifully hundreds of times.


P.S. That online planner is going to be your worst enemy if you want to customize cabinets or design a custom sort of kitchen. It just won't do these things. It's not a good tool for kitchen design, in general. For custom or creative design, it's impossible to use.

IKEA Countertop: Tip

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IKEA sells laminate and butcher block that are IKEA products. They also sell, store by store, more costly solid surface countertop, name brands that a third party company provides and installs on behalf of IKEA. In planning out your project. it is important to know how these materials are delivered and installed.

Laminates and butcher block are purchased in stock-sizes slabs, as much as will be needed for your kitchen layout. IKEA personnel can determine this at the time of ordering. These materials are delivered with the rest of your cabinets and other IKEA materials. Once the base cabinets are installed, the counter pieces are cut to fit, including a sink cut-out, and installed. You would want to stain/finish the butcher block yourself.

The amount of counter top you need is estimated when you order your cabinets from a layout that you provide. You pay for this with your cabinets. Installation is included in the price (at IKEA).

It is important to know that there are two steps to solid surface counter top installation, in most cases. First, once your base cabinets are in place (and leveled), the  counter top company will come to your home and make a TEMPLATE. A week or two later, they will return to your home to install the now-fabricated counter tops.

You have to make an APPOINTMENT for this template-making. Since you are likely to have a contractor or installer in your home at a fairly predictable time, it is often best to schedule this template appointment as soon as you pay for your materials.

In many places, there is a wait for a template appointment AND, often, you will have to wait one to two weeks AFTER the template is made for the counter top to be installed.

This takes some planning. You don't want to wait two weeks with nothing happening. Work it out with your installer/contractor so that you have the minimum down time.

The key is to know that:

1) you have to make an appointment for the template to be made, a step which cannot be done until the base cabinets are in place and leveled.

2) you will typically wait one to two weeks after the template is made for countertop installation

There are a few companies we've worked with who will template and fabricate and install solid surface counter top all in one day. They bring their cutting machines to your home. You have to have a space (front yard?) where they can cut. However, no IKEA store we have ever come across offers this type of service.

The price on solid surface countertop at IKEA, especially during a sale, can rarely be beat. But you do need to coordinate the template and installation of it with other aspects of your project.

Kitchen remodeling takes a week or 10 days only in the rarest of circumstances. Typical is 3-6 weeks, start to finish. Some projects take months to complete, but this is rare, too. Try to ensure the start date and time frame are noted on your contract with your installer/contractor.

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IKEA Kitchen Sale Begins!

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The Fall 2013 IKEA kitchen sale starts tomorrow, October 4, 2013. Here's the window of opportunity to save on IKEA kitchen cabinets, countertops and appliances. The sale runs until December 1. It is always better to order earlier in the sale than towards the end.

Here is IKEA's discount structure for this sale, same as the summer 2013 sale

● Spend $3500 or more on your new kitchen and save 10% on your entire kitchen purchase.
● Spend $4500 or more on your new kitchen and save 20% on your entire kitchen purchase.

Many of my blog posts cover how to plan an IKEA kitchen project, find a contractor, design the layout, order your IKEA materials and other materials, and how the process works, overall. I've done hundreds of IKEA kitchens and worked on thousands of IKEA kitchen designs, so I'm pretty good.

The key really is having a correct, elegantly designed layout. Even if you have a small kitchen, even if your budget is tight, even if you are keeping the same footprint, it is vital to have an expert help you create the optimal layout. The cost of professional design help will pay you back many times over. 

A lot of people ask me about timeframes. I recommend taking a minimum of two weeks to work with your kitchen designer (at least, if you use my company's services). We can get you through the design process in two DAYS (with our Elite service) but it's really good to review our initial design work, and have time to shop, consider options, revise and adjust the plan until it is truly perfect for you. We want you to order confidently, knowledgeably and excitedly, too!

During the design process you want to be looking at IKEA materials online or in the store, to best consider the designer's recommendations and the design itself. The design process is really a communication process, and the more you know, the more precise the layout and design choices will be. 

Once you have the design work, you'll also have a schematic showing cabinet placements and measurements (again, if you work with us, not all designers might provide this). This makes it easier to get contractor bids because you can show the contractor the specs of the finished kitchen. For example, knowing the final cabinet layout, the contractor can correctly estimate electrical, plumbing, wallboard, and many other items on the bid. Without a correct layout, with the finished requirements unknown, the contractor always bids higher. I was a contractor, I know this. 

In any case, planning can take a month. This includes, design, finding a contractor, choosing appliances, tile flooring, etc. Some projects have a week or two or more of prep work, such are removing walls, before cabinets can be installed. Once they are installed, countertop, sink, faucet and finish work can take a few days or week, to a month or more. Always insist that a timeframe is specified in your labor services (contractor) contract. You can deduct a specified charge for each day over that specified finish date if you and the contractor have agreed to this in the contract.

Typical projects of 18-23 cabinets should take one to three weeks from demo to completion. You would want to order your cabinets 1-2 weeks before the demo of the old kitchen begins. Backtracking, start the design process two weeks to a month before ordering. Our designers can get your design done in a day, but you really want time to enjoy the creative process and the knowledge you will gain from working with a professional kitchen designer. 


P.S. Visit our website to find out about expert IKEA Kitchen Design Services

Coming Soon to the US. An Entirely New IKEA Kitchen System

Just a quick note.

No worries if you need a kitchen this year, the Rationell-Akurum system all of us in the US know as "IKEA kitchen cabinets" are wonderful, quality cabinets.  But, already introduced in some European countries, a new IKEA system, called METOD, should be arriving to the US within a year or so.

From what I have seen, the new system has much more flexibility, and a more modern, European look.

Here is a short video ad for the new system.

How to Find a Contractor for Your IKEA Kitchen Project

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Quite a few people write me asking for help finding a contractor in their area. I can sometimes find a past design client who is nearby and who will share their contractor info. But, given how many cities, even countries, we provide design services for, it's hard to cover every area.

Still, we try, so write me and I'll try to help. If you are in the Southern California area, I have many clients and excellent contractor referrals for you.

What to do if there doesn't seem to be an IKEA installer or a general contractor who knows IKEA products in your area? Should you use the IKEA store-provided services? Two good questions.

First, insofar s IKEA store services, which I've written about earlier in this blog, I would never recommend them as a first choice. Most important is to know that each store has it's own local service companies, or perhaps several stores in an area use the same service company. But always those companies are fairly small, local contractors who have managed to secure some sort of relationship with IKEA. There is no guarantee that they will provide good service at a good price, and IKEA does stand behind their work. You have to hire and contract with these providers just as you would any other contractor. These IKEA-referred providers do have pricing set by IKEA for installation of IKEA products, but for other work, like electrical and plumbing or wall repair, flooring, etc., these companies will often subcontract the work and the prices may be higher than average since they have you hooked, if you get my drift. 

It's always worth making a few calls to find an independent, licensed general contractor that has good references and whose license data you can check on your state' contractor board website. ALWAYS do this. It is not difficult, and it is completely socially acceptable, to do a thorough check into a person you are hiring to come into your home, tear it apart in ways they determine, and who you expect to pay thousands of dollars. 

Personally, I don't give much credence to online reviews, Angie's list, and those sort of things. This is because there is always a profit motive behind them. I much prefer to make calls, talk to real people, and see how they respond. Do they answer calls or emails quickly? Do they seem sane and honest? I feel that my own perceptions are trustworthy and I recommend you trust yours. The only other resource you need is knowledge of local contractor and home repair laws and rules. 


IKEA's SPRING 2014 Sale

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The spring sale has been announced. If you plan to order your cabinets during this sale, it's time to get planning and design underway. I always hope I've written enough blog posts to steer homeowners in the right direction. I always want to offer my company's professional design services, but also my offer of a free 30-minute phone consultation. I've worked on over 500 IKEA kitchen installations, and thousands of IKEA kitchen design cycles, so I can usually answer a few questions, at least.

Also, make sure to request my free eBook, How to Budget for an IKEA kitchen remodel. Or buy it on Amazon for a buck, either way.


Modern Family Kitchens-Expert IKEA Kitchen Design Services

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IKEA Kitchen Sale is Coming!

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It's late befruary and we've placed our bets that a Spring 2014 IKEA kitchen sale will be announced shortly. If you're waiting for the sale to order cabinets, here are some tips:

1) Get started with your research: Read up on appliances, tile, countertops, permits issues, local contractors, your city or state contractor laws, etc. My blog is a good place to start because I've written posts on all these subjects as they relate to IKEA kitchen projects.

2) Get your design work under way NOW. Don't wait for the sale to start. Even if you later decide to hold off on your project, you'll have the design work done and it can be inspiring and helpful to know how your finished kitchen will look. A finished design will help you get good bids on the contractor services. Contact Modern Family Kitchens for the best, most elegant and professional IKEA kitchen design in the world. Oh, humble-est also.

3) Work out your budget. Request my free IKEA kitchen budgeting eBook. There are sample bid sheets, and lots of data about the real costs of an IKEA kitchen project that comes from my experience with over 500 installations and the design of many hundreds more.

4) Window shop. Go look at appliances, tile, flooring, lighting. By the way, you don't need to buy IKEA appliances. Any brand will work with IKEA kitchen cabinets. Same with countertop. But note that the sale discounts sometimes depend on either the total purchase or how many IKEA appliances you buy. Also note that IKEA appliances are actually the Whirlpool Gold line.

5) Magazine shop. Treat yourself to print and web magazine reading time. Look on Pinterest and Apartment Therapy. There are some fabulous IKEA kitchen ideas out there. With a good designer and a skilled installer, you can do many types of customizations that the IKEA online planner will not even being to allow.

6) That's worth a special note. Don't settle for the layout design that the IKEA online planner limits you with. Invest a few hundred bucks in professional design. It is SO worth it.

7) Start asking your friends, relatives, neighbors for recommendations to trustworthy contractors. Try to interview and get bids from three, at least. The comparison will help you. Don't get one bid, and don't choose the cheapest just because it's the cheapest. If you are tempted, write me and I'll put you in touch with design clients who did this and were sorry they did. Let's just say it will cost you more to go with the cheapest bid.

8) Dream. Envision your dream kitchen. Write down what is essential, what is wanted, what is just something you'd like to have but isn't necessary. Align these ideas with your budget but ask your designer to work out a way to have your dream kitchen within your budget. That's what designers do.

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. 


Terrible Kitchen Designs with the IKEA Planner

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There are many things about the online IKEA kitchen planner that people complain about. It's slow running, difficult to move cabinets precisely, lacks a "select all" function so that you can change ALL the doors or ALL the handles to another style (a MAJOR software flaw), and is, overall, not a fun or easy tool to use for a creative process.

Working with professional kitchen designers for many years has made me even more antipathetic to that online planner. It's not just it's clumsiness or lack of fine tuning features. It's not just the poor quality visuals it offers. You could say that my basic protest is that it is there at all.

I am a budget-minded person by nature. If I have $10,000 for a project, I am going to research and plan out each material purchase and get competitive bids for labor. I want the best bang for the buck. Thus, when a potential design client calls me, I naturally want the same for them, even though I know not everyone has the same viewpoint I do.

My point is that when someone is going to spend $8,000 or $15,000 or more on a kitchen remodel, basing the entire project on a layout plan they created with the IKEA online planner is, almost always, a sadly wasteful mistake. That planner just isn't a tool you can use to get that best possible result within your budget.

First, the planner will not allow you to do many things that can be done with IKEA kitchen cabinets. There are ways to mix and match cabinet component, for example. There are ways to use certain cabinets to create bench seating, islands and peninsulas of the correct size and position, custom stacked cabinets, or crown solutions, and much more.

Sometimes a simple alteration to a cabinet can save you hundreds, even thousands, of dollars on labor costs, but how would you know or show this as you create a layout upon which your cabinet order and installation is going to be based?

Just yesterday and nice man called me to ask about an installation issue. He had not yet ordered his cabinets but he was thinking ahead since he planned to install them himself. I can't really answer technical installation issues on the phone, first because I can't see the cabinet or panel or wall or window or pipe in question,  and second because kitchens have safety issues, code issues, different in each home and each city.

Anyway, the man sent me a link to his IKEA plan. He told me the staff at his local IKEA had helped him design it. Honestly, I was shocked to hear this. It's a truly terrible plan. Not just lacking aesthetic, but unworkable and actually dangerous.

Because the man had an accent and we might have had some difficulty understanding one another, I don't know if I'll be able to explain to him the problems with the layout he has. But I will try.

Unless I am successful and this man allows us to design for him, not only will he have a very tough time installing, but whoever is going to be using this kitchen is going to have an equally tough time. There's not nearly enough storage, the work areas are very limited, and it would be impossible to have two people in the kitchen at same time, comfortable doing separate tasks. The fridge door is going to bump into the adjacent pantry cabinet and someone is going to have to walk clear across the kitchen to take dishes and glasses from the dishwasher and put them way. Worse, any child who walks past the counter where he's placed a stove, is endangered.

Worse still, when this home goes on the market someday, the loss of tens of thousands of dollars is highly likely. Great kitchens sell homes.

I really hope you, my readers, understand that the IKEA online planner is to a great degree a disservice. If you were buying a few bookshelves you could use a layout program like this perhaps. But a kitchen remodel is a costly, complex and major project that requires, in almost every case, professional knowledge, experience and skill, to do well.

I hope you don't settle, no matter your budget or size of your kitchen. Base your project on a beautiful and correct design. If you'd like to discuss this with me, I can offer you a free, 30-minute phone consultation. Here's my calendar, just pick a time that works for you.


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Waiting for an IKEA Kitchen Sale

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In my experience, a lot of people who buy IKEA kitchen cabinets are smart and thrifty shoppers. With even cursory research, it's hard to miss the value, and many people spend months, even years, planning their projects, and researching products.

One factor in the thoughtful investment in an IKEA kitchen can be timing. This can relate to your family or work schedule. Some people want to remodel in summer. Others wait till they have vacation time. Some projects are dictated by finance, such as a rental remodel where you want to get the work done and the unit filled as soon as possible.

Overall, timing is as personal as a choice of colors. The one exception could be buying your IKEA materials (cabinets, countertop, and/or appliances) during one of their kitchen sales. I've written about this on several occasions but, given that the summer sale is over, and a fall sale likely to burst upon the scene in just a month or so, I wanted to mention some sale strategy.

First, waiting for a sale is not always worthwhile. There are different types of discounts offered during different sales. One structure is a discount based on total purchase, such as a 15% discount if you spend $3500, or a 20% discount if you spend $4500. Another structure could be based on how many appliances you buy, one gets you a 10% discount, two appliances earn you a 15% discount, or three a 20% discount. Sometimes using an IKEA card gets you a big rebate.

In other words, there are different offers. The recent summer 13 sale was based on the $3500/$4500 structure. A 20% discount on a $5000 purchase for a small kitchen, including solid surface countertop, is $1000 off. That's pretty worthwhile!

On the other hand, if, for example, you plan to order custom doors and to buy only frames/hardware from IKEA. You might only spend $1500 for your entire kitchen, in which case the sale just ended would be irrelevant.

Although IKEA does not announce sales weeks or months in advance, you can still assume there will be a fall sale mid-October to late November, a spring sale March through April, and probably a summer sale starting in July.

When you are planning out your project, try to wait for a sale to order, but consider this data and don't make the sale the top priority. A $1500 savings is very significant, but if ordering during a sale will make your life and project more stressful, wait a bit.

Note that in most cities, once you place the order (unless you are buying in-stock cabinets and taking them home with you in a truck), your delivery is likely to be within 2 weeks. That's another factor to consider. If you have a dry, indoor space to store the pallet or two of flat packed, heavy boxes, you can order any time. But IKEA won't hold your order very long and you don't want to risk getting your new components wet by storing them outdoors.

As with most aspects of IKEA kitchen projects, working with pros makes all the difference. When you have a correct and elegant layout professionally rendered, and a complete order list, down to the smallest components, ordering and receiving your materials is a lot more predictable. If you live far from an IKEA store, insofar as ordering, not to mention good design, this expert help is absolutely vital.

Write or call if you have questions. If you'd like to discuss this with me, I can offer you a free, 30-minute phone consultation. Here's my calendar, just pick a time that works for you.


Click here to request my free IKEA kitchen budgeting eBook

Sleek, Modern Kitchen Options

Get our FREE ebook, "How to Budget for an IKEA Kitchen Remodel"

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

(The photo was taken of a recent modern kitchen our company did in Pasadena. Cabinets are IKEA Abstrakt)

A significant percentage of our customers want a modern look for their new kitchens. A similar percentage, when they first call, are unsure of the quality of IKEA cabinets. Most really need an estimate, a true idea of what the project will cost.

The issue of quality is best addressed through one’s own research. Don’t be fooled by what only looks similar, that is to say, be careful not to compare apples with organges. We recently planned a new kitchen for a customer who ended up going to Lowes for Martha Stewart brand cabinets when she could not find an IKEA door style she really liked. The price was about 1.5 times the cost of IKEA cabinets for the same layout, so it was not too bad, money-wise. But the quality was shockingly worse. Make sure you really look, really compare specs, materials and warranties of components.

I’ve written earlier that those big box stores are going to offer free planning, free this, free that. It can seem like a good way to go until you get a real idea of costs. In my experience, comparable cabinets, i.e., same thickness of frames, same quality of hardware, same warranty, are going to cost about 3 times the price of cabinets at IKEA. And installation is often much more costly as well. The store will sell you everything, from dishwasher to floor tile, their employees will install your cabinets, your appliances, your tile. it can seem to be almost a turnkey remodel, but you’ll pay for every bit.

Roughly, you can expect to spend $15,000-$20,000 for a nice, medium-size kitchen remodel, including materials and labor, with all but the most costly IKEA cabinets and/or counter top. You can certainly do it for less with lower end door styles, laminate or butcher block counter top, and some do-it-yourself labor. But for a full remodel, with permits, some electrical and plumbing upgrades (which are almost always needed), flooring, tile backsplash, cleanup and demo costs included, this is a realistic estimate.

What would a same-size kitchen cost with other brands? With those lesser quality, more expensive Martha Steward cabinets, the project went to $32,000 and is still not finished. With many of the major brands you’ll find at cabinet warehouses, Costco, etc. you’re likely to be looking at $50,000 and up.

Keep in mind that when dealing with cabinet stores, or big box stores, you are dealing with employees who often work on commission. It is infinitely better to have a final layout, knowing exactly what cabinets you need to order as well as the cost of those cabinets, BEFORE you go to buy them. This is why we offer a kitchen planning service, to provide this very thing to our customers.

Last but not least is the subject of modern kitchen cabinets. For some reason, in the U.S., there are very few sources of such cabinets. If you have $100,000, you can order your cabinets from Italy. There are importers locally, of course. But you’re looking at 5 or 6 times the cost of an IKEA remodel.

There are a few American made modern door styles, KraftMade Venicia for one. We get calls regularly from homeowners who have gotten quotes for a remodel with these cabinets and, on average, the cabinets alone were about $30,000. Certainly these are nice cabinets, high quality, sleek and modern. The only problem is that they cost almost 4 times as much as IKEA cabinets. We’re happy to help any customer interested in a quote for a Venicia (or any brand) of cabinets. We’re not biased, be simply want the real costs right in view for each customer from the start.

For do-it-yourself homeowners, there are a few other options for modern doors. Online you can find anything for sale, from candied eels to human body parts-- modern cabinet doors are no exception. In theory, to do a modern kitchen at the lowest possible cost, you can buy IKEA frames and order custom doors for them. Whether the final cost would justify the inherent risks and problems with mail-order remodeling is something I don’t yet know. From my research, these mail-order doors are not cheap. IKEA doors win hands-down in terms of cost, reliability, speed.

Despite quite of bit of effort to find alternates to IKEA cabinets, for the best price we think you’ll ultimately find that for a modern kitchen, or really any moderate kitchen remodel, IKEA cabinets will be your best bet. We don’t work for IKEA, we wish there were other options to offer that cost the same and have the same quality. We just haven’t found any.

So take a look at photos of two modern kitchen remodels we did recently with IKEA cabinets. You are looking at IKEA’s Abstrakt line of cabinet doors, as well as expert design and very precise and expert installation, both factors that make all the difference in the world when it comes to IKEA cabinets (as compared to custom or semi-custom that cost much, much more).

Feel free to give us a call to discuss your ideas, your thoughts, your dream kitchen. 818-273-4583.

Thanks for reading. 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.

The Next IKEA Kitchen Sale

Click here to request my free IKEA kitchen budgeting eBook

In case you just can't make the end of sale target to get your order in, I wanted to ensure you know that, not quite like death and taxes, another IKEA kitchen sale is almost inevitable. Come fall, we're almost certain to see another, perhaps shorter, period of discounted IKEA kitchen remodeling materials.

The fall sale typically ends around Thanksgiving, so if you want that beautiful new kitchen in time for that holiday, make sure you have all your planning and design done early in the sale period, or even before the sale starts. Line up some contractor bids in September and choose one and get a start date confirmed on the contract.

As I've written before, the more you know, the smoother it will go. Also, the more you know the better the result, and the less time and money you'll waste. If you plan to do your kitchen project this fall, start your research now. Other of my blog posts discuss what research is really vital. Also, request my free IKEA kitchen budgeting eBook. Make sure to check the appendices for sample contractor bid sheets for a typical IKEA kitchen project.

If you are, right now, wondering if you can order before THIS sale ends, August 25 in the US, my prediction is that you can. You simply need a completed, optimal design and order list. My company, Modern Family Kitchens, can help you with these. That's what we do: design awesome IKEA kitchens and help homeowners get the best possible result by providing expert guidance.

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

Thanks for reading!


Spring 2014 IKEA Kitchen Sale: READY, SET, GO!

 (Click here to request my free IKEA kitchen budgeting eBook)

The spring IKEA kitchen sale in the US starts soon. If you want that 20% discount, now is the time to get your layout done and contractor bids in.

Most of the wonderful people who call us, Modern Family Kitchens, that is, already know that IKEA cabinets are awesome: great value, high quality, sustainable materials, excellent warranty. But there is always some confusion that boils down to: HOW?

It's one thing to walk into IKEA and buy some salad bowls or a bookcase. It's something entire different to order the materials for a kitchen remodel. It's easy to think others must know something you don't know. Having worked on hundreds of IKEA kitchen projects as the owner of a remodeling company, I can tell you that it is a simple matter of walking into an IKEA and buy some "stuff."

Our design services are meant to handle a lot of the confusion. First, you must have a layout to order IKEA cabinets. Second, our design process itself will answer many of the questions homeowners have. Third, once you see the design proposal, so many of your concerns will melt away and be replaced by enthusiasm: "Wow, look at this new kitchen we're going to have!"

We offer a free 30-minute phone consultation. There's no obligation to use our design services, you can just have a chance to ask any questions you have, especially those that are hanging you up. Here are some common questions people ask:

1) How do I find a contractor (let's talk about this)
2) How do I order cabinets if I live 2 hours (or more) from an IKEA store (answer: we'll help you)
3) Do I have to buy IKEA appliances (answer: no)
4) Will you provide a list of what I need to buy at IKEA? (answer: of course!)

In any case, if you are going to order during the current sale, it's really time to get the design work underway. You want some time to review the designer's work, to look at cabinets and appliances again, now that you have a design in hand. You want time to revise and refine.

If you'd like to discuss this 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 Wain

IKEA Kitchen Cabinets for New Construction

(Click here to request my free IKEA kitchen budgeting eBook)

We've done many IKEA kitchens for clients who were building a new house. The design process is a bit different than the process when we're designing for a remodel of an existing kitchen.

Typically, with new construction there is more of a blank slate for the designer to work with. Utilities are not yet in place, windows, and often doors, can still be positioned. The primary and key difference however is concept.

A kitchen designer called upon to create a kitchen for new construction has to envision as well as design. They have to come up with a concept and then create a cabinet layout. This is when an expert, professional kitchen designer, well-trained and very experienced, is invaluable.

If you have a new construction kitchen project, make sure you work with a very good kitchen designer. We are happy to help you with concept, design and cabinet layout issues. In fact, our Elite service is about this exactly.

If you'd like to discuss this 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 Wain

Soffits in IKEA Kitchen Projects

(Click here to request my free IKEA kitchen budgeting eBook)

Many of the projects we design have soffit issues. A soffit in a kitchen is long "box" that can run around the periphery of the kitchen, above existing cabinets. Sometimes the soffit is merely an architectural or earlier design feature. Sometimes the soffit holds electrical wires, plumbing, or venting. Sometimes the soffit houses supporting beams.

Homeowners are often perplexed and sometimes hung up on soffit issues. Removal of the soffit is usually wanted, but the cost and complexity of doing so is usually unknown until you break into the soffit at more than one place and see what's in it.

With IKEA kitchen projects, the issue can come down to use of either 30 or 39 inch wall cabinets (and, likewise, 80 or 88 inch tall pantry cabinets). Those are the only two vertical wall cabinet heights IKEA offers. With the soffit in place, only 30s will fit, typically. Without the soffit, 39s can be used.

Sometimes, it's a non-issue, such as when the homeowners are not tall and really don't need the extra storage up high that the 39s give. Other times, when more storage is vital and every inch of real estate has to be used well, removal of a soffit is worthwhile.

Other, similar issues can come into play. For example, a dropped ceiling housing fluorescent fixtures is common in 70s kitchens. Removing the drop ceiling and adding some recessed lights can not only allow for 39s, but can transform the kitchen space into a much nicer, more comfortable one.

The cost to remove a soffit can be a significant percent of your total remodeling budget if it requires rewiring or new plumbing, so get some LINE ITEM bids from contractors so you can see the cost of soffit removal alone. Once the soffit is removed, even if no rewiring or plumbing is needed, the remaining walls have to be patched so there is always some cost in addition to the demo of the soffit.

Sometimes, you just have to move forward and see what's inside the soffit as it's being removed. Set aside a contractor-estimated amount and know that the finished kitchen is going to pay you back in how it looks, it's "airiness", and with additional storage.

Still, it isn't always necessary to remove a soffit to get a beautiful, optimal result. Here's a photo of one way to keep a soffit with beautiful results. You can buy extra 3 x 8 IKEA panels to match your cabinet doors to achieve a custom look like this.

Visit our website for data about our expert IKEA kitchen design services. If you'd like to discuss this with me, I can offer you a free, 30-minute phone consultation. Here's my calendar, just pick a time that works for you.


IKEA Kitchen Design Tips

(Click here to request my free IKEA kitchen budgeting eBook)

Although my very best tip is to invest a small part of your kitchen remodeling budget in professional design (you will never regret it, and the difference will be huge), I know some will persist with the online IKEA planner on their own.

With this in mind, I wanted to offer some basic tips that our team of professional IKEA kitchen designers compiled for me.

1) When you set up the file in the planner, you might want to create a space that is bigger than your existing kitchen. In other words, if you are opening a wall, or if your family room or dining room is next to your kitchen, include those rooms in the basic shape you create in the planner.

Even if you won't be putting any IKEA cabinets into those other rooms, the relative position of things and the spaces you have to work with, are easier to view, in that otherwise awkward layout tool, if you include more than just the kitchen walls.

2) Keep in mind that you can use cover panels, the large flat pieces that are the style and color of your cabinet doors, to build shelves, to cover custom built pieces, behind islands or peninsulas and in other ways that the planner might not allow you to do.

3) Visit an IKEA store to see the difference between 30 inch wall cabinets and 39s, the only two wall cabinet heights available. You might have enough ceiling height for 39s (which would also mean 88 inch pantry cabinets, not 80s) but they do take up eye space and the top shelves might be hard to access. Or, you might love the taller look. But this choice is key to the finished look of your kitchen.

4) Although it is possible to fill to the ceiling, it is not easy. There are codes and rules about the distance from countertop to bottom of wall cabinets, typically 17 to 21 inches. If the wall cabinets you choose leave you with 5 or more inches, you could use panels to fill to the ceiling for a built in look, but you need sharp carpentry skills to cut and install the panels. Another inexpensive and easy solution is to throw some rope lighting on top of the wall cabinets. Make sure your contractor provides an outlet for these, if you use them.

5) You can build bench seating with refrigerator cabinets.

6) Avoid using glass door cabinets above or near a cooking surface.

7) Try not to use too many door sizes. In other words, don't use a 15 (15 inch wide) next to a 12 next to a 30 next to an 18, next to a corner cabinet, next to a 36 next to a 9. Aim for balance and an aesthetic arrangement.

8) If no IKEA door style really thrills you, go with white and use backsplash tile and lighting to create the look you want.

There are a half a hundred major kitchen design principles that professional use for every kitchen. Years of experience with IKEA kitchen cabinets and components enables our designers to apply those principles to the IKEA kitchens they design. That's why it's worth it, in every case, to invest in professional design. But if you really can't, I hope these few tips will help you create a lovely kitchen on your own.

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


When Is the IKEA Kitchen Sale?

(Click here to request my free IKEA kitchen budgeting eBook)


Let's be logical. IKEA cabinets are high value, affordable, beautiful, cabinets and as sustainable a product as any other kitchen cabinet out there. If you are thrifty, you plan out your project (which should include, in almost every case, getting the help of a professional kitchen designer to optimize the layout of cabinets), and you await the next IKEA kitchen sale.

These happen predictably in fall and spring. These bi-annual sales last six weeks or more. You can pretty much plan your project around them. The discount structure can vary. It can be based on total purchase amount (e.g., if you buy over $3500 in kitchen merchandise you get a 15% discount on the total purchase). Or it can be based on the number of IKEA (Whirlpool Gold) appliances you buy (e.g., one appliance 10% discount, two appliances 15%, three appliances 20%). Use of an IKEA credit card can also, sometimes, get you a discount or other value.

But the summer sale is less predictable. As of this date, June 25, 2013, I have heard several reports of different summer sale start dates. It's frustrating but it's optimistic. There is likely to be a sale soon.

One store person told me that the sale will start when they mail their new 2013-2014 catalog, late July.

My suggestion if you are waiting for a sale, is to finalize your kitchen layout (we do expert, elegant IKEA kitchen design and provide project support), get labor bids and choose a contractor, shop around for lighting fixtures, sinks, faucets, flooring, tile, appliances and/or any other materials you won't be buying at IKEA. Read my IKEA kitchen project budgeting guide (Click here to request it: free IKEA kitchen budgeting eBook).

In other words, take the time to organize your project and your thoughts. Work out how you'll deal with a torn-apart kitchen for a few weeks. Work out how to keep remodeling dust out of other rooms. Make a space in your garage or living room for the cabinet delivery (several dozen very heavy flat boxes).

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

Much love,

Professional KItchen Design Versus IKEA Planning Services

(Click here to request my free IKEA kitchen budgeting eBook)

It's come up several times lately. Someone will call and say that their local IKEA is offering a planning service for $199 or $250. Or the client has called an installation service IKEA referred them to that offered a $500 design service for $200 IF they use that company's installation services. Oy.

I've been working on IKEA kitchen projects for 10 years now. Over 500 kitchens that my remodeling company installed, plus thousands of IKEA kitchen designs my design team has done. I know something about this subject. So let me comment on these IKEA services.

First, the design of your new kitchen layout is THE key to a successful project. Second, kitchen design IS a professional skill. PLEASE don't make the mistake of thinking it's just a matter of lining up some cabinets and appliances that fit in a row in the IKEA online planner.

The MOST money you will spend (lose) is if you poorly design the layout. The installation can cause you or your contractor problems that cost time and money. The functionality of this brand new kitchen can be much less than optimal. Your investment should pay off in a wonderful kitchen, not a so-so kitchen, or one more or less exactly like the one you have.

Worst of all, since kitchens sell homes, a future home buyer will instantly notice a mediocre (or worse) kitchen layout. Too little storage, too little counter space, awkward placement of appliances, an unbalanced, choppy look to the lines of the kitchen, can cost you tens of thousands of dollars in the home's price.

In any case, if you've already realized that a small fee of a few hundred dollars for professional kitchen design is utterly worthwhile (or vital), you now have to choose which design service.

IKEA services are never going to provide professional NKBA certified designers (like we do). IKEA services will often provide a one-time, two or three hour in-home consultation during which the design is done. This is FAR from the best way. You need to see the initial design proposal, take a day or a week to review it, without anyone waiting for you, do some online research or shopping to see how various items would work with this layout. Then you want to request revisions or get questions answer and then request revisions. This MUST be part of any professional design process.

I surely have a vested interest. Let's face it, I want you to hire my company to do your kitchen design. I earn my living this way. But it is ALSO true, and if you read my blog posts written over 8 years many of which I didn't have a design company, that I have a major interest, a purpose you could say, in making sure your kitchen remodel is a complete success, and that you don't have the stress, wasted time and money, that happen all to often in kitchen remodeling projects. And that your kitchen layout is truly wonderful.

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


Schedule a complimentary IKEA Kitchen Planning Consultation

Are IKEA Services Right for Your Project?

(Click here to request my free IKEA kitchen budgeting eBook)

Your local IKEA might offer (not all do) installation services and, possibly, design help. Sometimes the pricing of these services seems high, sometimes it seems fair. But the value of it, what you really get with these IKEA services is hard to find out. After all, IKEA is a retail store, not a remodeling company. Thus, I wanted to share my experience on this matter.

I've been working on IKEA kitchen projects for ten years. During those years the IKEA stores and IKEA policies and offerings have changed. Different door styles, new cabinet features, different sale discounts, different services. We've kept an eye on the installation services especially, if only because when we had  remodeling company, we had to compete. At one point, we became Certified IKEA Installers, under contract to IKEA to install their cabinets for their customers.

Thus, I've had quite a bit of experience with IKEA services. This is not to say that what is currently offered in your local IKEA is the same as what I observed and experiences, or that the services in your local IKEA are the same as those in another city. However, there are some common qualities that a homeowner about to embark on a remodel using IKEA cabinets really should consider.

First, the type of project you have ahead of you is a major factor to consider. A small project, let's say under $5000, usually does not include electrical or plumbing work. We consider a "kitchen remodel" to include these, but if you are really just swapping out cabinets OR, if you are installing cabinets in another room, one without plumbing/electrical to consider, any experienced IKEA cabinet installer will be fine, IKEA's or one you find online or through a referral. Expect to pay about $100 per cabinet for assembly, mounting, and trim.

If, on the other hand, you are remodeling your kitchen, if your budget is in the $10,000 to $20,000 range (or a bit less in some cases), IKEA services are not the best way to go. There are half a dozen reasons I cannot recommend them.

First, a kitchen remodel is almost inevitably going to require building permits, in almost any city. If you are bypassing this requirement, you should realize that a contractor who will do a job that requires permits but doesn't have them, is a risky contractor to hire. (I've written about this in other posts and I really recommend you research permits for kitchen projects). To the best of my knowledge, IKEA service providers do not pull permits. We have known some of their service providers to habitually do jobs without permits. Their contracts will state that the homeowner is getting permits. If you are pulling your own permits, this could be acceptable, but it's MUCH better to have a contractor willing and able to pull permits for you, even if you decide to get your own. Why? Because when your electrical is inspected, your contractor will be responsible.

The second reason I think you should think carefully before hiring an IKEA services company, is because in most cases, you will be dealing, in your home, with the employees of a contractor, not the responsible party, the contractor himself.

The third reason is that, in most cases, the IKEA services provider will only be installing cabinets. The plumbing and electrical work will be SUB-CONTRACTED. Make absolutely sure, if you have sub-contractors on your project, that you know the codes and laws in your state with regard to subcontractors. It is not a small matter. Did you know that if you pay your contractor, but your contractor does not in turn pay his subs, the subs can SUE YOU? That's right.

There is more to this. Take a close look at the subject of Workers Compensation. Your contractor, if he has employees has to have this insurance. However, if he hires subs, he is supposed to ensure that the sub has his own WC. I can tell you from lots of experience, that WC is expensive and contractors don't always have what they should. If an employee or sub gets injured on the job, and there's no worker's comp policy in place, they can sue YOU, the homeowner, for a lifetime of medical bills (plus, in a worst case scenario, for the support of their families!). Sorry to scare you but the point is, with IKEA services, you might get an installer who has WC, but make sure you find out who is a sub and if that sub has it. On the other hand, just don't hire IKEA services. Find and hire a reputable, licensed contractor who can do all the work you need done without subs and who can pull permits for you, if needed.

IKEA services in your area might also include design work. Some stores offer either referrals to IKEA-affiliated designers or, more recently, some stores offer "free" design if you use their IKEA services installers. Listen, dear reader, you get what you pay for.

In our ten years and hundreds of IKEA projects, we've never seen really good design come from any IKEA store personnel or IKEA services designers. Again, this could be ok, if your kitchen is small, the  layout simple. But if that's the case, do it yourself! If you are going to pay for design, hire a company that does IKEA kitchen design professionally (like Modern Family Kitchens) and is not obligated to IKEA. Our company is not obligated to use IKEA appliances, or any IKEA products. We design the best possible kitchen, within any budget, using creative design principles and years hands-on experience and skill with IKEA kitchen remodels.

Another factor, when it comes to hiring an IKEA services designer: If the designer is part of the IKEA services installation company, there is another problem. Although, as a remodeling contractor, we did design-build projects all the time, we learned over years that it is MUCH better for the client to have a designer who is independent of the cabinet supplier AND the installation contractor. I could write pages on why this is so, but what is important to know is that it IS this way. Hire a designer who has no connection to your installer or to IKEA. You will get a much better design, and almost inevitably, you will spend less on cabinets AND installation.

To wrap this up, if you have a small simple project and IKEA is the only service provider you can find, just make sure you understand what you are getting into with the service provider company. It's not IKEA, by the way, but only a local contractor who is under contract to IKEA in your area to provide service to IKEA customer. Do try to get competitive bids from at least one other contractor/installer. And make sure you read the contractors from any company you hire, and make sure the start and end dates, exact specifications, and total price are clearly marked on the contract.

If you have a bigger remodel ahead of you, in the $10,000 to $25,000 range, I recommend you research and find an honest, reputable, experienced and skilled local contractor to provide the best service and results. IKEA services will never be able to compete with a good local contractor. It might seem easy, or inexpensive. It might also seem trustworthy. I suggest you take a close look and decide what is really the best.


I mentioned in this post that my own remodeling company had, at one point, become a certified IKEA services provider. In other words, we had a contract with an IKEA store to provide kitchen cabinet installation services (and any other services we were able to provide) for their customers. We spent the better part of a year earning this contract and we thought it would be a boon to our remodeling business.

The boon turned to bust quickly. True, we got many referrals, many projects, mostly small cabinet installation contracts. Before this we had been a full-service licensed remodeling company and we were used to doing plumbing, electrical, wall changes, windows, tile, etc. Now we had dozens of small cabinet installation jobs.

This would have been ok if we hadn't noticed ourselves changing to suit IKEA requirements. We found that we were beholden to IKEA, we worked for them, instead of for our clients. In other words, we had to make sure IKEA was happy with our services, instead of working to ensure our clients got great service, and beautiful results.

The final straw was a customer who hired us to install 18 kitchen cabinets, 2 full days of work for a skilled crew of 3. Our crew installed the cabinets per the plan the customer had designed at the store, with the help of an IKEA co-worker. A few days later, the customer called us and said that we had to come and take down all the cabinets and return them to IKEA. Apparently, the guy had realized that IKEA had delivered the wrong cabinets, an incorrect door style, not the one he really wanted. It was odd that he didn't notice this during the delivery or installation, but that's what he claimed.

Note that when you hire IKEA service providers, you contract with the provider, not with IKEA. So we had fulfilled our contract with the customer. However, when he called IKEA and demanded that they replace the cabinets. IKEA called us and demanded that we remove the cabinets, pack them up and return them to the store. The store personnel also insisted that we do this AND that we install the second set of cabinets without charging the customer at all.

Remember, this was the IKEA's error, per the customer.

Anyway, we refused. And a month later we got "fired" from our contract with IKEA. We celebrated, crew and owners, that afternoon. Business picked up and we were happier, more prosperous, and less stressed ever after.

I just wanted to tell you my personal side of this issue. And to consider that the IKEA services line is far from the best you can have for your remodeling dollars.

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. 


Get my free IKEA kitchen budgeting eBook

After the IKEA Kitchen Sale

We helped quite a few clients from all over the US and Canada design and order their new kitchens during the Spring 2013  IKEA Kitchen Sale. One client called for the first time just four days before the sale ended. They had requested my free IKEA kitchen budgeting eBook and then called a few days later.

The couple had been working on their design using the online planner for over a year. They didn't think it would be possible for a designer to now understand their entire project and to sort out all the issues in just a few days. But they took a leap of faith in us.

Here's their thank you note:

We were able to catch the ikea sale today!  Thank you so much for helping us achieve what we thought would be impossible in such a short time frame. We really appreciate you working on this last minute project and being so responsive. guys provide a great service and we're so glad we stumbled across your blog. I'll be sure to recommend you to friends considering an ikea kitchen.

M & H S. 

It can be hard for a homeowner to realize how difficult it really is to design an elegant and optimal layout and order IKEA kitchen cabinets. Kitchen design is a professional skill. As I've written before, it is SO worthwhile to invest a small part of your budget in professional design service. The difference, in the finished result, is huge. 

If you didn't get to order during this current sale, fear not. Another IKEA kitchen sale is coming soon, likely this summer. The best time to start your design work is one to two months before ordering. 

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.


How to Buy IKEA Cabinets at the End of a Sale

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Let's say you just haven't had the time to get organized to buy your cabinets and now the sale is ending in 11 days.

1) You could give up. The savings of 15 or 20 percent is not that important. Only $1000 or so.

2) You could frantically spend your evenings working on a layout using the IKEA online planner.

In the back of your mind you know that the layout is only one step, that you need a contractor, flooring, lighting, tile, paint, appliances, and a new window. This makes working on the cabinet layout even more frantic. And how do you know the measurements are correct or that the cabinets will fit? And do you really like the way it looks?

3) You could ask friends or family members who have done it before to help you, or guide you. This is a good idea, if you have helpful, IKEA-kitchen-experienced friends.

4) You could pay a professional to design and guide you through the process.

This is the only way to reduce stress, not add stress. A reasonable fee for a professional IKEA kitchen designer will pay for itself in a much better kitchen, but also in helping you to order during the sale, and get the best kitchen AND the best discounts. 

These are the usual options. I just want to say that you CAN have it 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.


IKEA KITCHEN PROJECT: “i can’t seem to get started”

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

You need a new kitchen. You want a new kitchen (a lot). You see the display kitchens at IKEA or in their catalog and you know that's what you want. You even have the money, or you think you might have enough. But you can't seem to get started. What's the problem?

Usually when someone can't get a project they want to do underway it is simply a matter of "missing data." With an IKEA kitchen project, it's easy to think that IKEA has all the answers. After all, those displays look like finished kitchens.

Always remember that IKEA's purpose, not a bad one, is to sell you IKEA products. The store and its personnel are not in the service sector (not really) or the information business, nor are they remodeling professionals. IKEA sells great cabinets and I recommend them wholeheartedly. But if you can't get your project going, you might have the idea that IKEA will provide more help, adequate help, and vital help at that. When it is not forthcoming, you can get stalled. it could even be hard to spot what the problem is, but more often than not, it's just a lack of data.

People need an answer, first of all, to "how much will it cost?” they mean the whole project, not just the cabinets.

More than likely, you have seen the IKEA ads which show a part of a lovely kitchen and an advertised price of well under $3000. Although it surely gets your attention, it’s a bit deceptive. This price is merely the cost of the visible cabinets in that ad. It rarely includes appliances, countertop and other materials, like backsplash tile or light fixtures. You may have figured this out because who believes advertising anyway?

The problem is that you need to know, but don't know, or don't feel confident you know, how much your MATERIALS will cost (which means you need a comprehensive list of what those materials will be), AND you need to know how much LABOR will cost, to install all those materials.

You might also have tried to design you cabinet layout with the IKEA planner tool online, which also leaves you uncertain. Will the cabinets really fit? Did I do it right? Is the list that is generated complete or do I need to buy other parts, and if so, how do I figure out which ones?

If any of this hits home, if you are stuck in an information vacuum in which the only thing you know for sure is that you like and want IKEA cabinets, you simply need to get more data.

My company's Professional Design Service is available to get you launched and where you want to go, so call if you want experts to talk to, at least to get unstuck.

Call a few local contractors and if any seem trustworthy, ask for a bid on your project. A bid, even early on, will give you at least an estimate of labor costs. Keep in mind that some contractors will advise against IKEA cabinets because they sell another brand or because they are not familiar with IKEA's line. Just say thank you, and carry on with your goal to complete a beautiful new IKEA kitchen.

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.


How To get IKEA Kitchen Sale Savings All Year

Get our FREE ebook, "How to Budget for an IKEA Kitchen Remodel"

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

Let's say you have 18 cabinets in your current kitchen, top and bottom. When you plan your remodel, your cabinet cost at IKEA might run, without sale discount and a mid-range door style like Adel, about $3500.

Let's add a solid surface countertop, like Caesarstone. Add $2800.

Also add in a cooktop, oven and hood, totaling $2300 for all three.

At this point your IKEA order comes to $9200.

Typical discounts offered during IKEA kitchen sales can vary but let's say you can get the maximum, 20%. That comes to $1,840 off your total!

Is it worth waiting for a sale to order? In most cases, yes, of course. But if your kitchen is small, or if you are not buying solid surface countertops or appliances at IKEA, the discount drops accordingly and sometimes time, or timing, is more important than money.

In every case, there is a way to save a significant amount of money on an IKEA kitchen remodel that is not dependent on their sales. In fact, this can be in addition to sale discounts.

The secret is in the cabinet layout. The IKEA planner tool you can use for free online is not the way to get the best kitchen for the lowest cost. There are half a hundred ways you can use IKEA cabinets that the planner tool will not allow you to do. The limitations are in the software itself, but a homeowner without kitchen design training and expertise is at a big disadvantage attempting to design their own layout even if more sophisticated software was available. The IKEA planner tool is offered to encourage you to buy IKEA cabinets. It does not ensure an optimal design or best kitchen for the buck.

The methods and means used by a professional kitchen designer using IKEA cabinetry go further, and better than anything you can do with the online tool. Correct placements, customized cabinets, creative solutions to odd angles or tight spaces, balance, alignment, flow, functionality, consideration of light sources, family size and age, and house size, all come into play.

A pro designer sees the future. He/she knows that someday your new kitchen will enthuse, or disappoint, a potential homebuyer, and ensures the former will occur.

A pro designer will surely keep you from making any major errors but also many small ones. The small errors, all together, make for a less than optimal, less elegant, and more costly result.

Why more costly? It's not that a professional design will necessarily reduce the number of cabinets, saving you money that way. It's that a kitchen cabinet layout, done right, will save you money (or even make you money):

1) on installation costs, because it will install correctly and you won't be paying your contractor's labor rates for adjustments.

2) on the time (= money) you spend ordering, fixing order errors, returning or shipping back incorrectly ordered parts.

3) on the value you get out of your remodeling investment.

4) on the resale or refinance value of your home (this is the best, or key reason to have your kitchen remodel professionally designed).

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 Stress of Kitchen Remodeling

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

Replacing the cabinets and appliances in a kitchen seems to be a fairly straightforward process. It's usually more complex than choosing and buying a car, even though, with IKEA kitchen projects, a car can cost considerably more. 

I speak with many homeowners who are really nervous about, even overwhelmed by, the prospect of remodeling their kitchens. I do all I can to help calm the waters by providing data, facts and knowledge, which is the best way I know to alleviate the worry of uncertainty. In fact, this is why I write this blog. 

With an IKEA kitchen project, you can do a great kitchen remodel for a very reasonable cost but the same factors come into play with any kitchen remodel. Your budget has to be sufficient, something you  have to work out in advance. You also need to decide on various materials such as cabinet styles, appliances, tile, flooring, lighting, and more. 

You also need to design the kitchen layout, which can be hugely stressful in itself, and why I recommend working with a professional. After all, the layout is going to determine most of the other factors. 

The best tips I can offer to avoid or minimize stress are these:

1) Do enough research well in advance of your project. Enough means you feel confident you know what you need to know. If you don't know, and can't find out with research, find a professional to help you.

2) Consider that IKEA is a cabinet warehouse, not a service provider. Your local store may offer referrals to designers or installers, but these are usually bare bones services and you'll have to run the show. 

3) Use the help and expertise of professionals. It is always worth it. Ask around and find a local, independent licensed contractor, or several, and meet them and get bids. Hire a professional IKEA kitchen designer, like my company. The difference is huge when you have reliable professionals. 

4) Don't ask for the opinions of too many others. Decide what you like and what you want and go ahead and get these things. Too many cooks spoil the soup, and back seat kitchen remodeling drivers can drive you crazy (what a mix of maxims!)

5) Stay well within your budget. Pay cash if you can. 

6) Keep it simple. There can be 100 factors in a kitchen remodel, or there can be 10. You control the complexity, not the other way around. 

7) Use my free eBook to sort out all the costs before you buy anything. Know before you go. 

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.


IKEA Kitchen Services: Are They Right for You?

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

It's not a bad thing that, in theory, you can walk into IKEA and get at least a start on all aspects of a kitchen remodel, not just cabinets. In most areas, IKEA now offers rudimentary planning and installation services. The question is, are these services right for you? Are they good enough for your project?

First, note that IKEA just began to offer these in-house services. For many years the most any store could offer was a referral to an installer and, in some areas, to a kitchen designer. These installers and designers had to be contracted with IKEA to receive their referrals. They have to follow IKEA rules and procedures and charge IKEA stipulated prices. 
IKEA Kitchen beautifully designed
A professionally designed kitchen. 
For a short time, while I owned a remodeling company in Southern California, we were one of these "certified IKEA kitchen installers." It took a long time to earn this title and it brought us loads of small installation projects. However, our crews were skilled with carpentry, plumbing and electrical, not just cabinet installation, and we found that many small cabinet installation projects were unsatisfying and, ultimately, not good for our clients. 

Here's the key. A kitchen remodel, to get the best result and value for your investment, requires professional design of the kitchen layout, expert cabinet installation, skilled plumbing and electrical work, and often several other skilled professions, to complete. Wall removal or repair, window or door installation, flooring, tile setting, are all professional skills. 

IKEA services are not licensed, insured and bonded general contractors, necessarily. They may not even be skilled professionals. They may do IKEA cabinet installation and then sub-contract the rest of the work needed for your remodel. This is ok, but it is not the best way to go. 

First, you are dealing with employees. Second you are dealing with a new program just being piloted by IKEA in 2013.

My point? It's better to deal with the owner of an established remodeling company that is not tied to IKEA and who can offer you a competitive bid, genuine customer service, and whose company does not subcontract most of your project. (in case you do end up with sub-contractors, before you sign anything, read your state's laws about remodeling contracts and sub-contracts. Did you know that sub-contractors can sue you if the contractor doesn't pay them? Did you know that you might not even realize there ARE subs on your project, although disclosure is required by law everywhere).

Not to go on about this too long, consider that IKEA is a great source for cabinets. It seems like a homey, friendly place. They have good PR and marketing. But it's a warehouse store nonetheless and the services they offer will be bare bones and not necessarily even cheaper than much more professional and reliable services you can get from a good local contractor. 

Finally, no matter how "vested interest" it sounds, I have to tell you this: the caliber of "kitchen planning" services IKEA offers do not come close to what my company provides to our clients. Apples and oranges. You see, IKEA offers kitchen planning, which is not the same as kitchen design. Don't settle here, either. A lot of your remodel depends on beautiful design.