Ikea kitchens require careful planning — and a lot of assembly

  • By Elizabeth Mayhew Special to the Washington Post
  • Wednesday, April 30, 2014 2:10pm
  • Life

Ikea has enough door styles, countertop materials and hardware designs for a homeowner to create affordable looks from modern to country.

But the low price means you’re on your own for assembly and installation.

Ikea cabinets are like much of the store’s furniture: You have to assemble each and every piece, which can make even a well-trained woodworker wary.

Furniture maker Scott Shaeffer recounts the ups and downs of his experience in an entertaining and very honest three-part video series, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting Ikea” on his San Juan Carpentry YouTube channel.

His advice to the novice: “Take your time, have patience and expect several return trips to the store to exchange or purchase additional items.

Be forewarned that professional Ikea installers travel within a limited distance from the stores.

The Kitchen Couple (www.thekitchencouple.com), a duo who not only install but also design Ikea kitchens, offer some original ideas to consider:

Turn a drawer front on its side (vertically) and hinge it to create a narrow tray storage cabinet next to the oven.

Create wine racks in a leftover six-inch space next to a refrigerator by manipulating cabinet parts.

So how do you accomplish the “wow” factor of an expensive kitchen on your own? Start by upgrading your appliances, the Kitchen Couple says.

A stainless-steel restaurant-style stove and a quiet, top-control-panel dishwasher will make the entire kitchen look more expensive, but the appliance that will make the biggest impact is the refrigerator.

A cabinet-depth model, which will sit flush with your cabinet fronts, gives it a built-in look without a built-in price.

Upgrading cabinet hardware will also improve the look of your cabinets, but may need time-consuming adjustments, making installation substantially more labor-intensive, the Kitchen Couple warns.

Another design trick is double-stacking crown molding at the top of the cabinets for a richer, more traditional look.

Finish the cabinets with soffits that connect them to the ceiling.

No matter which direction you take — DIY or hiring a professional installer — keep in mind that Ikea is a box store, where you will need some guidance to make the right decisions.

Ask for help. A poorly made quick decision will only cost you more money.

Buying tips

Take your time: Do proper planning. Jumping right in is tempting when Ikea is having one of its sales.

Be meticulous: Do your research. Take exact measurements. Design the layout. Decide on flooring, appliances and countertops, and make sure you check lead times on all materials.

Make your mess first: Demolish the existing kitchen, then update the electrical and the plumbing.

Finish the ceiling and floor before installing cabinets. Ikea cabinets sit on adjustable legs, with toe boards that clip on so they are easily removable. This means that moisture can find its way under the cabinets; exposed subflooring will only lead to problems down the road.

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