Are IKEA Services Right for Your Project?

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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.


ADDENDUM to this POST:

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. 

-Susan

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