Are IKEA cabinets junk or a good buy?

JoshCTMay 15, 2010

I have received TOTALLY conflicting opinions of IKEA kitchen cabinets. An architect friend highly recommends them as an excellent value, my contractor (who does not sell cabinets)thinks they are "total junk." I am assuming the truth is somewhere in between. We were looking at higher priced options (brookhaven and a local custom cabinet guy) and the IKEA option is less than half the cost. I am leaning towards the local custom guy, who does beautiful work, but I would like to hear further opinions of IKEA.



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Most certainly not junk, although your perspective will depend on what your expectations are. These are not high-end, custom cabinets but they are also not going to fall apart in a few years (and they do carry a 25-year warranty). I was the editor of an architecture magazine for ten years and was always surprised at how many architects used IKEA cabinets in their own home kitchens.

We installed IKEA cabinets two years ago and are totally pleased with them, in terms of function, looks and cost.

My impression is that contractors are happiest with what they're used to and, for some of them, that is not IKEA. And if they build cabinets themselves they may really have an attitude about IKEA. That's what I got, not from our contractor, who had used IKEA on several kitchen projects and who recommended IKEA to us, but from the carpenters who actually built our kitchen. They talked trash about the cabinets until the project was done (I finally just stopped listening) and then they admitted the cabinets both looked good and performed well.

With IKEA you don't get plywood boxes but you do get high-quality Blum hardware: soft-close doors and drawers as well as full-extension drawers with no upgrade charge. We used one of IKEA's then-most-expensive doors, the Tidaholm, which has a solid oak frame with a veneer center (basically the same we could have gotten from KraftMaid for about $6,000 more). We used the money we saved to install soapstone counters and to buy more expensive tile for our backsplash. We couldn't be happier.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2010 at 1:28PM
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joshct, if you try the "search" function at the bottom of this forum's page and type in IKEA, you'll see the many threads of discussions about IKEA cabinets. You'll see that most responders have positive comments. Enjoy your search.


    Bookmark   May 15, 2010 at 1:55PM
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And....if you want to see some GW finished IKEA kitchens, check out the Finished Kitchens Blog (FKB)!

Go to the FKB Categories page (link is in the navigation panel on the right side of the FKB pages) and scroll down to the "Cabinets" category. Look for & click on "IKEA" under the "Cabinet manufacturers" subcategory. A list of GWers who used IKEA cabinets in their kitchen remodel will be listed. Click on each one for details!

Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: Read Me If You're New To GW Kitchens!

    Bookmark   May 15, 2010 at 2:24PM
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We looked at them pretty seriously, and would have gone with Ikea had we decided to do frameless cabinets.

Pros: Excellent hardware (Blum), range of door options so you can opt for a higher end wood door, or even have doors custom made for not much more. My personal view is that Ikea really excels at drawers (they use Blum Tandembox, which is a pricey upgrade with custom cabinets---and they make all sorts of inserts), so if you have a drawer-heavy layout, it's a great way to go. Their door cabinets with particle boards shelves are fine but not their strength, I think. I also love Ikea for modern or mid-century modern kitchens, but not so much for the vintage look---though lots of people (including some GW folks) have pulled it off stunningly. And they do adhere to European off-gassing standards, which is a plus over many other big-box cabinets sold in the U.S.

Cons: Particle board boxes/shelves have some challenges, especially near water. They have some pluses, too, though (wood naturally expands and contracts, which MDF/particle board won't do). Plenty of threads here with people debating the merits. My parents have Ikea in a laundry room and all-wood custom in the kitchen in a region with humid summers, and have actually found the Ikea cabs much better at rolling with the punches after a few years---the wood cabinets have issues with doors out of whack, etc., that the particle board cabinets don't. Also, if you don't live near an Ikea, be prepared for some trips back and forth since they are notorious for not quite getting everything together. Being religious about your parts list will help on that, though. (We live two miles from Ikea, though, and thus didn't stress too much about this part!)

My uncle, who's a cabinetmaker himself, summed it up by saying they are pretty much the best value for the money out there in frameless, but will not necessarily be 20-year cabinets depending on circumstances (though notably, they do have 30-year warranties, I think). I would buy Ikea over other inexpensive big-box cabinets, but for us, custom from a small shop ended up making more sense. It was double the cost of the identical layout from Ikea, though. Higher end national semi-custom lines were triple the price.

Hope that helps!

    Bookmark   May 15, 2010 at 2:55PM
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One reason many contractors think of them as junk is that they insist on installing them like regular cabinets, which always leads to big trouble.

Frankly, if you are committed to this GC and to having him do your install, I'd just skip ikea, because for sure he'll do something like nailing the wall cabinets up by the backs. (The backs are just for stabilization, not weight bearing and you really need to use the Ikea hanging rail.)

    Bookmark   May 15, 2010 at 4:12PM
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I've just completed all but some of the trim of an IKEA kitchen. We went IKEA because we liked the "old" birch they used to offer, the frameless construction and the Blum hardware. The hardware, by the way, is mostly made for IKEA by Blum and in many ways is not compatible with Blum hardware sold elsewhere. You save money but lose flexibility as compared to what Blum offers generally.

You also save money both because the IKEA kitchen is very reasonably priced AND because you can install it yourself. IKEA has a system making it, mostly, easy, in fact very easy--except for lifting the considerable weight of the particle board boxes.

The boxes (in the USA) are USA made and, I think, of a very high quality. You do a lot of screwing into the particle board and I never stripped a hole in 18 cabinets. The plastic surface is extremely durable, almost impossible to scratch, for example, with the very sharp end of a sheet rock screw. I have birch color boxes and assume the whites are the same.

Some people worry about particle board getting wet. I don't, but if I did I would caulk the inside corners of my sink cabinet and that would be that.

I also like that IKEA is very reasonable about extras. An extra shelf is about $3-$5. Drawer fittings and other storage devices are inexpensive as well, as are pulls and knobs.

All that being said, IKEA customer service is non-existent although you might find a knowledgeable person at your local IKEA if you go in person--but don't count on it. The cartoon character on every instruction sheet that indicates you should call with questions is really a joke. As I wrote in another thread, if you're contemplating an IKEA kitchen call your store's customer service line as though you have the kitchen and a question. At least you'll know what you're in for.

If you use a contractor and he is NOT willing to learn how IKEA intends for the cabinets to be installed best to let him put in what he's familiar with. There is a video on the IKEA site which explains the system very well. IMO after seeing that video you shouldn't really need the general directions you get with the purchase.

With the money we saved we got led high-hat lighting, quartz countertops and an induction range and still have money left over.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2010 at 5:24PM
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We are also just about finished with an Ikea kitchen and I would echo what the other posters said. There are two big "cons" with an Ikea kitchen--if their standard sizes don't work for you, it can be a challenge, and if you want a traditional white kitchen you may not be satisfied (you can go the scherr's route in that case).

The huge plus we have found is that the cabinets are so very configurable. So--if after you have put up your cabinets you decide you want a stack of drawers instead of doors, you just return the doors and buy the drawers. We did a customized pantry, and I have changed my mind a couple times on the configuration and am very satisfied with the final layout. Same with an under-sink pull-out. It is really cheap to get exactly what you want.

This flexibility puts a real premium on understanding the options available. We worked with an architect who had done Ikea before, but I knew better than she what was possible because I had really studied the Ikeafans website and had actually spent some time trying to figure out what I wanted the layout to be. I really enjoyed doing that, but others might find making this investment difficult or irritating.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2010 at 5:53PM
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We just purchased and DIY'd IKEA cabinets for our laundry room. We are extremely pleased with our cabinets. I have admired many an IKEA kitchen on this forum (morton5 is one of them--try a search, and momof3boys_pa is another--unless I misspelled her forum name). Sw_in_austin is another amazing IKEA kitchen--search her kitchen photos if you haven't already. I would shop IKEA cabs for the kitchen and spend my savings elsewhere--and we had a contractor (who I trust) tell us that IKEA cabs weren't very good, either. I went against his recommendation and am extremely happy I did so!

    Bookmark   May 15, 2010 at 10:14PM
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I'm considering IKEA cabs and am wondering how the shelves hold up to the weight of heavy mixing bowls and serving dishes. I have a very old, very large pottery mixing bowl in which I nest my set of Pyrex mixing bowls. All together they're very heavy and caused the roll out shelf in one of my crappy builder-grade cabs to break (the brackets holding them up are only plastic). I'm wondering if the weight will cause the IKEA shelf to bow. Has anyone had their cabs long enough--at least a few years or so--to know if this would be a problem? TIA for any help/advice you can give me.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 12:01AM
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Ours have only been in for a few months, but we love them. If we had had an unlimited budget we might have gone Henrybuilt or Kerf. But we didn't, so we didn't. In fact, the extremely low cost of the cabinets is what allowed us to redo the kitchen in the first place. We were on a pretty strict budget ($15,000 for EVERYTHING for a gutted kitchen) and cabinets and hardware for less that $3,000 made it happen.

I would take care with your door choices, though. The solid wood and wood-veneer doors hold up the best. The thermofoil not so well. And if you have a custom guy who can do it for twice the price, you might consider the custom guy, depending on the numbers. We paid $2,600 for all cabinets, panels and hardware. If I could have gotten custom for $5,200, I might have done it. But if you're talking $6,000 vs. $12,000, that something different entirely.

Here is a link that might be useful: My IKEA kitchen

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 12:46AM
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Perhaps this will help:

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 11:45AM
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In spite of the advertisement that the cabinets will hold up to load for one week (sorta damning with faint praise, that), flwrs_n_co is right to be concerned because of the particle board and the shelf peg seating - not exclusively an ikea issue.

You'd need to make sure that what your stuff weighs is in line with the cabinet materials and the width of the cabinets. Smaller is better for weight bearing.

If you put your stuff in a 24" wide ikea cabinet, and if the stuff on one shelf weighs around 17 pounds, that's about as much as the particle board shelf can handle without sagging over time. If you put the exact same stuff on a particle board shelf in a 36" cabinet, it will sag and possibly damage the peg holes. If you use an 18" cabinet, you can put in stuff up to 35 pounds per shelf. Again, there's nothing special about ikea - I'm picking on them because I know the exact dimensions of their cabinets.

If you want to put heavier stuff, use plywood shelves if they're offered as an option. In the 24" sample cabinet above, changing only the shelf to fir plywood (not cabinet grade material - that's usually better), the total weight per shelf before sagging happens raises to about 60 pounds.

There are some other ways to fix-up shelves - adding a stabilizing strip to the front or the back of the shelf or doubling the material or converting a couple to fixed shelves. And there's probably 5 other ways that I'm not familiar with. It can be overcome but you're correct to be concerned.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 1:38PM
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flwrs n co
I tend to not put heavy things on the uppers because it does not make ergonomic sense to me. I find it too hard to get heavy things from the uppers down to counter level.
I currently have 36 inch 5/8 inch particle board (not Ikea) cabinet. No suport structures on the shelves added. The shelves use metal pegs, not plastic. I have 10 place setting for my china in arranged two different shelves. No bowing after 20 years. I find these shelves extremely sturdy.
We have used Ikea for a rental 10 years ago, and shelf bowing was not an issue. We will do it again for other rental remodels that are coming up.
I had cheap particle board (thinner) cabinets in my previous condo. It bowed terribly. I think not all particle boards are made equal.
My to be installed custom cabinet people will not make (all plywood constuction) shelves that are longer than 36 inches without stabilization strip added in the front, which I am getting.
My exiting cabinets are particle board cabinets that are similar in quality with Ikea (frameless with Blum hinges etc). They have held up well except the water issues. However, over time the hinge screws tend to back out of the board and have to put back in with sometimes of seizing/locking compound since you cannot screw back into particle board since there is nothing there to hold the screw once it backs out. This is quite easy to do, however. This is something you will not likely to experience with plywood.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 2:09PM
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Thank you lennym, bmorepanic, and kaismom--all the advice is appreciated. I weighed my nested bowls and they're about 12 lbs--they feel heavier! I can't wait until I can put them in a lower drawer/cabinet again (most of lowers have broken roll-outs right now)--the only place I have to store them is in a small upper cab. I'll definitely keep in mind the width of the cab when figuring out what I'm going to store in them no matter what kind of cabs I get. Just feeling a bit overwhelmed by cabs & flooring right now.
Thanks to everyone on GW--I'm learning so much!

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 4:43PM
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Thanks to everyone. Our parts list for IKEA totals out to about $3500, and even if I need to rent a van to get it all home and spend a week or two putting it together, we are way ahead of what I expect the upmarket national brand or the local guy to charge. I am wondering about the comment that it is difficult to get a good result with IKEA if you want a white kitchen. We definitely want a white kitchen, and were looking at the applad doors. I would prefer melamine/formica over lacquer, but the melamine line they offer does not come in the 39 inch wall cabinets. We are tall, have high ceilings, and need as much storage as possible. Our ceilings are not tall enough to stack 30 inchers, so we want the 39's. I totally trust our contractor, but I am somewhat doubtful that he ever installs IKEA, as he specializes in high end renovation and construction. We chose him based on fabulous references, and he did say he would install whatever cabinet we choose. Our architect friend recommends them, installed them in her own kitchen, and specs them regularly for clients, and I feel like that, plus the comments here, to really push me in the IKEA direction. I was able to work out the layout using their sizes, with some small compromises. Custom would be awesome, to really use the space well, but I am not sure it is worth 3 times the cost.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 7:17PM
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>I totally trust our contractor, but I am somewhat doubtful that he ever installs IKEA, as he specializes in high end renovation and construction. We chose him based on fabulous references, and he did say he would install whatever cabinet we choose.

Insist that he watch the installation video. Insist. And if he starts telling you that he knows a better way to do it, watch out.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 8:33PM
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Here is my IKEA Adel white kitchen. Kitchen needs cleaned...don't look too close.

Close-up of glass on doors

I love my kitchen and would do IKEA again in a heart beat.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 10:35PM
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I;ve seen really great Ikea kitchens. My b-i-l is a NASA engineer, he makes over 6 figures and installed these in his house. They are definitely well made and look great.

Why didn't we go with them? Water. I treat my kitchen like a splash park and was worried about the lower cabs.

I even considered getting frameless wood boxes for the lowers...but honestly, the endeavor became too much for me.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 11:36PM
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Beautiful kitchen, Caligal! It's so inviting!

Another beautiful white IKEA kitchen is Momof3kids_pa's kitchen on the Finished Kitchen Blog. I'm sure there are lots more--check out the cabinet categories.

Good luck, Josh!

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 11:48PM
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I just finished my IKEA kitchen (but haven't had time to post pictures yet). We didn't have the room to stack 30" uppers, either, but instead of the 39", we stacked 15" cabs on top of 30" cabs. It worked out perfectly with our ceiling height, I don't know if that would be a possibility for you, but I thought I'd throw it out there.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 8:49AM
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Thanks flwrs!!

Yes, I'll add that I love my ikea cabs. I am only 1.5 years done, but mine have been taking some abuse and are doing wonderfully.

I will say though that we did not use the Ikea adjustable legs -- we built boxes instead out of 2 x 4s. I also glued all my joints when I assembled the cabs - instructions do not say to, but I did. We put extra screws etc in the cabinet installation.

NOT to imply that there is anything wrong with the ikea leg system... we just did it because #1 we *assumed* the wood would be stronger and #2 it would give us something to nail the kick on to - as opposed to the ikea clip on kick, which somehow I don't think would stand up to the abuse in our house.

((I'm sure I've maxxed out the appropriateness of posting this pic, but, sorry, I can't help it... I love my kitchen!))

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 8:53AM
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I didn't read all the above posts, but I say that they're definitely NOT junk. My DH and I installed some in our first house 10 years ago and they were better than anything I've had since then. They've even upped their warranty since then, so I'm sure many improvements have been made to them in 10 years.

Many, many ignorant people would argue that all wood is best. It's true that IKEA's boxes are particleboard covered with melamine. Perhaps, this would be true if it's really good wood, the highest grade product. However, many wood cabinets today are built with subgrade plywood. It's painted really nicely, but it still has a tendency to warp. I recently bought a whole display kitchen's worth of all maple cabinets (and the accompanying granite) from a cabinet company franchise that went out of business. At $1500, it was a deal I couldn't refuse. The cabs have been sitting in my garage for a couple of months. I can really see how warped the plywood is and the the best way I can describe the shelves is "wonky". The drawers are beautiful dovetailed plywood, but once they were removed, I found that were only about 19" deep. So, overall, I'm so glad I didn't pay full price. I'll probably end up using my maple doors and go with IKEA boxes and drawer assemblies.

So, my opinion is, consider going with IKEA boxes and have custom doors and drawers made. You'll get a great, long lasting base and doors in any wood or finish you like.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 10:13AM
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momof3kids_pa, are your cabinets the adel white by Ikea? I like them a lot and I am looking to go with a lot of drawers if I get new cabinets. Thanks for sharing your beautiful kitchen.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 10:44AM
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lynn, my cabs are lidingo white.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 11:01AM
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1. Particle board is the norm in Europe - selecting plywood is generally seen as overkill. When my GC initially raised concerns for the sink cabinet I looked him in the eye and joked that he obviously didn't have faith in his plumber, because I trusted that I was going to be supplied with a non-leaking sink . . . he saw the point. (My Sister-in-law had US-made particle board cabinets in her kitchen, 30 years ago, and they're still fine, incidentally)
2. Ikea cabinets have a 25 year guarantee. They increased this from 15 years a long time ago, when they realised it really IS that good.
3. As someone said above, not all particle board is the same. I have particle board bookcases elsewhere, and in no way are they as good as my kitchen cabinets.
4. I echo the point about insisting your GC watches the video. Mine, who was initially doubtful about Ikea, did, and when it became clear that I had completely researched it, he was happy. In fact, if a question came up during installation, he'd ask me "what do the people at Ikeafans say?".
5. My Ikea cabinets cost $2600. The quote for custom cabinetry was $18,000. No contest . . . .
6. If I had an endless budget, I'd STILL do Ikea, because I'm so impressed by the whole system.
7. It's worth paying for the order to be delivered. You get 24 hours to check it all over and alert them to anything missing.
8. Use - it's an incredible resource of people like us, who have used Ikea cabinets and really understand the process.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 11:10AM
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sara, just read your post above and am laughing about #4. Ikeafans website was so very helpful!

momof3kids, nice job with lidingo! Beautiful kitchen!

thank you flwrs! It's small, but yes, inviting.

Josh, mine are 39" uppers.

Here is a link that might be useful: IKEA fans kitchen planning

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 11:05PM
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I agree with artemis78. My husband is a custom cabinetmaker and if you can afford to go that route and want quality construction designed specifically for your kitchen needs, that would be the best way. However, if you are looking at price only, Ikea is way better than buying cabinets from Lowes or Home Depot - a much better value for sure.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 12:31PM
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Insist that he watch the installation video. Insist. And if he starts telling you that he knows a better way to do it, watch out.

Yes, absolutely be certain he follows the IKEA instructions. I remember someone on Ikeafans calling for help because her fully loaded cabinet over her fridge fell from the wall. IT was determined that the installers did not install the cabinet on the suspension rail correctly.

Seriously, though. Just looking at the instructions and the parts, it doesn't take rocket science to see how that system works. I mean *I* figured it out. LOL. ;^)

Oh, and I love my IKEA cabs so far--especially all the drawers!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 3:30PM
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...but does the warranty cover particle board that swells because of a leak?

    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 4:48PM
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We choose IKEA cabs in our last house and will be using them again because we were so happy with them. Seriously  DH has extensive experience in construction and wood working, IÂm just a wife and Mom (equally important when talking about Kitchens!). We were so satisfied with these cabinets that we canÂt consider any other. However, we will probably go with different doors/drawers (Scheers) only because I want the white Shaker style (BM White Dove). We choose Adel Medium Brown last time and thought they were beautiful. Everyone who saw our kitchen was impressed, and they had no idea the cabinets were IKEA unless we told them. I built most of the boxes myself, DH installed them.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 4:49PM
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