The Four Types of Contractors to Look Out For

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There are only four kinds of remodeling contractors for your IKEA kitchen project. If you have or know one, you will recognize that he fits into one of these categories. If you are looking for a contractor, find and hire ONLY the last kind.

1) The Bad Contractor
A bad contractor is one who takes a deposit from you and disappears. Or one who schedules a start date, so you arrange your family and life and depend on him to show up, and he doesn't. Or he stops in the middle and causes you huge problems, financial, legal and personal.

2) The Disappointing Contractor
This guy takes a deposit, does the project, demands final payment. The job has taken 3 times longer than he said it would. His crew left garbage all over your home and yard. There are uneven wall cabinets and gaps between base cabinets. There is damage to your new appliances he said he didn't do. He does not clean up and he is covertly rude to you and your family during the entire project. The job gets done but it is disappointing. You can sue him, and you should, but that takes time, aggravation and money, too.

3) The OK Contractor
This is the contractor who makes an effort. He shows up, works fairly efficiently, runs just a day or two over schedule, and gets the specs you have contracted with him to do, done. It looks nice. You pay him and he leaves. Nothing is really wrong. You are glad the crew is finally gone.

4) The Great Contractor is the guy who provided you with real help when he came out to do a bid. He made knowledgeable suggestions, answered all your questions, didin't rush you, and as he was leaving, gave you a Remodeling Guidebook with his company info in it, as well as a nice pen with his logo on it. You genuinely like him as a person.

His bid is clear, detailed and helps you figure out the project and costs. He sends an easy-to-understand contract you sign confidently. He pulls all required permits for you. He has a checklist to ensure you are ready for the start of the job (trash bin onsite, cabinets emptied, etc.).

His crew works neatly and quickly, treats your family with respect, cleans up throughout the day. He starts and finished at times that are best for you.

When an under-the-house pipe is discovered to need replacement, something not on the contract, he discusses it with you so you can understand the issue and get it handled. When you decide during the demo to remove an additional wall, he does it for free.

Your appliances are delivered late and he has to make a special trip back to your home to install them, but he doesn't complain or charge you to do this. He is gracious, does a wonderful job, and you feel little stress about the entire project in his hands. You are very happy to refer him so he gets more jobs.

Look for indicators like a dirty truck or messy appearance, body odor, rudeness, slowness, or if, after talking to a contractor, you feel stressed. People feel better after talking to an honest, genuinely able person.

There are all four types in every area. There are all four types advertising themselves as IKEA kitchen contractors.

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.


Problem Kitchens

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Some kitchens can be redesigned in a straightforward manner. There's the sink under the window, let's keep it there. This is where the fridge should be, there is room for pantry cabinets around it and a stock  size IKEA fridge cabinet above. No need to alter or customize cabinets. Move the oven into a double oven cabinet with microwave, ensure adequate drawer space, clearances, position an island or peninsula that uses the kitchen "real estate" best, and voila, a lovely kitchen layout.

This is not to say that it's easy to do. Bluntly and with all my vested interest as owner of a kitchen design company right on the table (pun), it takes a kitchen designer to design an optimal kitchen. Even when it is straightforward. Every day of the week I receive draft designs done in the IKEA kitchen planner by hard-working homeowners. Some of them are OK. Most are not nearly as well designed as they could and should be.

The planner tool is a large part of the problem. If you've worked with it you know what I mean. It simply does not allow for many design features that can make a truly elegant and functional kitchen layout come together. It only allows you to line up some cabinets along walls. It is really not an adequate design tool for the majority of kitchen projects.

But what if you have a "problem kitchen." This could extend from the limitations of a really tight budget to the frustrations of aligning rectangular cabinets to odd angles; or perhaps you have very low or very high ceilings, or other architectural anomalies. You might want your sink under the windows but it simply doesn't seem to fit. You need a lot more storage in a small kitchen. You have always wanted an island but there seems to be no possible way. You could have wood flooring you love but that is far off level. You could have a load bearing wall that you would like to take out but given the cost of that (permits, structural engineer, labor), wonder if there is a way to make the kitchen bigger without taking out the whole wall (yes, there is). Problem kitchens, we call them. The lifeblood of a creative kitchen design.

This image was a problem kitchen we worked on awhile ago. It was a lovely home with the oddest kitchen wall structure. The owner planned to sell within 5 years and wanted to remodel the kitchen to enjoy till then and before going on the market, but had held off because she could not see how IKEA cabinets could work and yet did not want to spend the $36,000 she had been quoted for another brand. Did we solve it for her?

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 IKEA Cabinets Quality Issue

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IKEA cabinet frames (the box, not including the doors or drawer fronts) are made of medium-density fiberboard (MDF). This is an engineered wood product formed by breaking down hardwood or softwood residuals into wood fibers which are mixed with wax and a resin binder, and formed into panels by applying high temperature and pressure. Whew! Perhaps you just need to know if IKEA cabinets are good quality, or if you are going to have to spend a lot more for another brand? Read on.

Often homeowners consider wood to be the material of choice for cabinets. When they say they prefer wood cabinets, they mean plywood because that is what is used in contemporary “wood frame” cabinetry. Generally, only custom built cabinet frames, or a few very high end brands, are made of plywood.

 Let me now hint at a conclusion on this matter of plywood versus MDF:

Although plywood cabinets may seem more desirable than IKEA particle board frame cabinets, MDF is denser than plywood, plywood warps more easily over time and, finally, MDF, made from wood chips, is also a more eco-friendly, sustainable product.  

Sustainability relates to durability, too. IKEA cabinets come with an unbeatable 25 year warranty which suggests that they expect your new cabinets to last that long. Most kitchen cabinetry on the market, including custom and semi-custom, have 1/4" to 5/8" MDF frames. IKEA kitchen cabinets have 3/4" frames and are thus sturdier, and likely to last longer.

Most non-custom cabinet frames available today have similar MDF or particle board substrates covered by either melamine, laminate, or wood veneer.  In the US, only custom cabinet makers use solid plywood for their frames.  Cabinets imported from China may have wood boxes but the shipping cost and timeframes, labor practices and toxicity of glues and stains makes them a poor choice in most cases. 

IKEA cabinet frames come in either a white or beech-colored plastic laminate surface.  These interiors are not elegant, but you get the same type and quality in most kitchen cabinets, including much more expensive Kraft Maid frames.  Keep in mind that in a well-designed and installed IKEA kitchen, you don’t see the frames so their elegance is not an issue. Still, you will probably want to choose the white frames when using white or light colored doors, and the birch for darker exteriors. If you are using glass doors and/or inside cabinet lights, your decision about interiors is more vital.

Chemically sensitive homeowners might research the subject of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and formaldehyde, two common components of the glues and binders used in MDF. If you’ve bought new carpet or a mattress or a couch, you know that the odor of these new products can remain for months or years. This is called “off-gassing” and IKEA stands out from the pack when it comes to their standards.  Since 1986, IKEA has applied the German formaldehyde and VOC requirements, currently the strictest, even where no limit exists. They state that the German limit is such that even persons who are over sensitive to formaldehyde should not experience any problems. IKEA tests its products for off-gassing, according to this from IKEA Corporate Communications in the US:

Both the total product and every single part of a IKEA products has to fulfill the emission requirement (including different materials like melamine and both the inside and outside of a product). This involves limit values both for short term (after unpacking a product; measurements after 5, 24 and 48 hours) and long term (check point after 28 days).”

Sustainability relates to durability, too. IKEA cabinets come with an unbeatable 25 year warranty which suggests that they expect your new cabinets to last that long. 

The appearance and durability of a completed IKEA kitchen can vary with the skill and know-how of the installer. For the handy, an IKEA kitchen can be a do-it-yourself project, but carefully building the frames, and mounting the hardware correctly is a big factor in durability and appearance. 

IKEA kitchen cabinet hardware is surprisingly good quality. The drawer glides, hinges, dampers, and legs are all well-made and durable, comparable to hardware found on cabinets costing three or four times the price. IKEA handles and knobs are a great value as well. 

The doors and drawer fronts are the parts of the cabinet that you actually see and that create the look of the kitchen. Unlike the frames, many of the doors and drawers options are solid wood or good quality wood veneer.  IKEA offers a good variety and in many price points from inexpensive laminates to higher priced oak.  They also offer glass door options and lacquered doors in fashionable colors to use as accent pieces. 

Overall the variety and quality of IKEA components make them unbeatable for the price. 

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.

How Much Should a Kitchen Remodel Cost?

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According to my sources, the American Kitchen and Bath Association says that the average kitchen remodel in the U.S. costs $47,000...!

Are they using cabinets made of solid gold?

Our company regularly completes beautiful kitchen remodels that cost the homeowner $10,000. When a customer chooses a countertop material such as Corian or Caesarstone, their costs can go up to $20,000, including some extras such as cabinet lighting, tilework, flooring.

I really don't know where this $47,000 figure comes from. I cannot figure out how, using IKEA cabinets you could, if you wanted to, spend $47,000. Gold faucets? Marble counters shipped from Italy? A 2000 square foot kitchen?

Sad to say, we know that homeowners are spending MORE than $47,000 on kitchen remodels and never realizing that there are other ways, other materials, without compromising quality, durability, or beauty, that are available to them. Maybe it's a status thing?

We always hope to have a chance to point out the type of amazing results that can be attained for a much lower cost. Many customers have already decided on IKEA cabinets when they contact us. We provide professional design so that the kitchen, once installed, serves their needs and pleases them aesthetically, and is optimally laid out for function and enjoyment. This is truly a vital part of the process.

It may be that people assume IKEA cabinets will be comparable in quality to some of their other furnishings. This is understandable. It is not factual though. IKEA cabinets are, in fact, higher quality, and carry better warranties, than some brands that cost three times as much.

It is true that if you go to a "big box" store, you'll get design help on the spot. This can be comforting but it comes at a very big price. You will almost never have the option of European styling, and, more to the point, your final price is almost inevitably going to be at least twice what you would pay for IKEA cabinets plus installation. Those big box stores, once they've sold you on their cabinets, assume you will want their installers and you will probably feel they are most qualified. If you go this route, make sure you meet your installer before signing up for his service. Don't assume the big box store is guaranteeing his accountability.

Going the IKEA route, it initially seems that you have to do the design yourself, which makes most people nervous right from the start. Or you have to locate a designer. There are only a few people in the LA area, and likely in any area, truly qualified to design IKEA kitchens. It is a unique system, not like any other, and knowing the products is vital. A kitchen designer who has limited IKEA experience is not the best choice. If you are in LA, give me a call, 626-203-1480, and I can provide more on this point or schedule our $375 planning service for you. It's the best planning service I know of. We ensure you have a great layout, an expert contractor to consult with, and that you have labor and materials costs known before you get started. We've developed this service over years of experience and discovery of what homeowners really need help with in order to confidently move forward. We really want people to be thrilled with their new kitchens. If you have $3000 or $30,000 to spend, treat yourself to professional design. As they say, you'll be glad you did. It is certainly worth $375, no matter your budget. In fact, doing it right the first time is one of the best ways to save money.

This post is meant to simply confirm what most readers already know. IKEA cabinets are very high quality and cost much less than big box and name brands of other types. In any economy and no matter the reason, "Kabinet King"-type companies are NOT recommended. Call to discuss my view on these.

Installation, if the planning is done well, can be very affordable also. Your choices determine your costs to a very great extent.

The bottom line here is that you can spend $5000 and have a brand new, modest, small or condo kitchen. You can have a fabulous 10 x 15 kitchen completed for under $20,000. We do this all the time. 

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.