Wednesday, October 31, 2012

IKEA Kitchens: The Permit Issue

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

Here's something you might not know. If your house is 50 years old, or older, the chances of being able to remodel the kitchen without handling your electrical panel, and maybe house wiring, is low.

Most houses built in the 1960s or earlier have 100 amp electrical panels. That's the total load available. In 1960 we used a lot less electricity per house, right?

If your house was built in the 70s, you might have a larger panel. In the 80s, even more likely.

If you have a 100 amp panel, remodeling your kitchen is almost always going to require that you upgrade to a 200 amp panel. Among other electrical needs, the new kitchen is almost inevitably going to require additional outlets. Each city has it's own codes but almost every city requires a permit for a kitchen remodel and codes specify how many outlets are required.

The problem is that one goes into IKEA to see those beautiful display kitchens and the prices seem to be utterly affordable, $5000 or even $8000, and you see the kitchen that is like your kitchen and it seems doable. But IKEA is selling cabinets. Appliances. Countertop. It sells products. It is not in the remodeling business and there is no benefit to IKEA to help you understand about remodeling, the process or the costs.

Recently, IKEA fired all their many local installers and hired one national company to provide kitchen installation services. As with the local installers they had before, there is a huge, glaring oversight. The locals, and the national company, DO NOT PULL PERMITS. This is, if you really look at it, unbelievable. If you get a bid from their installer, anywhere in the US, read the fine print: that company is not responsible for permits. You, the homeowner, are responsible for permits.

How much does a typical homeowner know about permits? Can a homeowner pull his/her own permits? Will there be other issues if you pull permits? How much will it cost? Will the work be inspected? Will the added room over your garage put in by the former owners create a problem for you if you get a permit for a kitchen remodel?

Scary as this may start to sound, it is really not such a big deal. The issue is that an IKEA kitchen is not a matter of buying some cabinets. It is a remodeling project in which you are using a particular brand of cabinets. And knowing about remodeling, which includes permits and electrical and so forth, is the job of a licensed, insured remodeling contractor. The IKEA installer is not, not really, this. Don't be fooled. And don't do your project without permits.

Here are just a few reasons you want to include the cost of permits, and whatever prep work may need to be done to satisfy the safety/permit requirements, as you plan your project:

1) It is illegal to do a project without a permit, where permits are required. Why be paranoid for the rest of your life to save a few hundred bucks?

2) Permits ensure safety. They ensure the work is done right. The permit fee you pay will provide you with a city inspection of your contractor's work. Totally worth it!

3) Your city's permit and zoning rules keep your neighbors from opening a 24/7 liquor store in their home. Support the system.

4) If you do work without permits, that work is not recorded by the city. It was never done according to any bank or lending agency so if you go to sell or refinance someday, you've got a less valuable property.

5) In some cases, non-permitted work has to be torn out when you try to sell. Or if it is discovered by the city. Or if your neighbors don't like it.

6) Penalties for non-permitted work can be high, added to the cost of having to get the permits retroactively. There are construction companies that make a living bringing homes up to code. They are not cheap.

Include permit fees and a contractor who can pull them for you, if needed, in your budget planning. Read the fine print in contracts from an IKEA installer (who I advise against as you will likely end up paying more that it seems at first, and getting much less customer service, compared to a good, legal, local contractor).

Do it right the first 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.


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.