Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Are IKEA Cabinets Perfect?

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A rhetorical question, of course.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not at all.

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