Ikea vs. Semi-Custom

LizPel12May 14, 2014

I've gained so much knowledge from this site as we plan our kitchen renovation! We are trying to decide between Ikea cabinets and a semi-custom line, Espresso by Cabico. We are attracted to the wood cabinets offered by the semi-custom line, but really like the modern storage options from Ikea. In both cases the design is virtually the same, frameless, all base cabs are drawers, and all drawers are full extension, self-closing with Blum hardware. The Cabico are definitely more expensive, but including assembly and purchasing for the Ikea cabinets (services our KD provides for a fee), the Ikea cabinets are more than we thought they'd be, so we decided to take a look at a semi-custom option, which was more reasonable than we expected. I am really on the fence... Has anyone had a BAD experience with Ikea cabinets? Everyone seems to rave about them. Down the line, would buyers be more attracted to the wooden box, wooden doors than the Ikea look and feel? Would you buy a house with an Ikea kitchen? Any more recent experience with Cabico? (I've read everything about them I could find on GW). Any thoughts or opinions would be welcome! TIA

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I'm doing IKEA boxes and hardware with custom fronts. I feel like it's the best of both worlds. I like how wood interiors look, but I really wouldn't want to pay more for that. I splurged on counters and flooring - relative to my budget. FWIW, I think most of the markup of IKEA kitchens is the fronts, not the hardware/boxes. That may change with the new line that will be released in 2015.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 12:12AM
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Fwiw, our Ikea kitchen got good reviews from house lookers when we sold our last place. The couple who bought it specifically mentioned it as a positive. I have no idea how many people recognized it as ikea. We used the stat door and drawer front which has been in iKEA's line up for years and years so it is pretty recognizable. The house sold for over $750,000 so it wasn't a low end starter home (it was in N. VA).

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 12:35AM
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Cabico is out of Quebec right? Do they make their frameless cabs from wood? Most of those Quebec cabinet companies have pretty state of the art facilities and work with particle board which is better suited to frameless construction than wood anyway. I'm aware they do a fair amount of business in the US which requires some adaptations but that seems odd.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 12:45AM
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Sophie Wheeler

Ikea is only a good choice if you DIY the project. That's what it's designed for, and it is NOT difficult to do. If even very simple assembly and hanging isn't for you, then you are much better off with semi-custom and contractors to do the work for you. They will have tons more options than Ikea as well.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 7:49AM
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I agree with hollysprings. We just finished an ikea kitchen and while I absolutely think it was a good value it was also a pain in the butt :). If semi-custom is not much more I'd go with that option.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 8:44AM
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Our IKEA kitchen was assembled and installed by a carpenter. Still cheaper than the other lines I priced and the hardware was much better quality. Ymmv.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 9:24AM
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Yes Cabico is Canadian. Last I knew they offered both particle and ply boxes- most of the Canadians do ( I use a different Ca. brand at that price point) Cabico also has(d) a decent selection of "modern conveniences" did custom sizes, good mods...not sure what your missing there. If so there are other options out there.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 10:16AM
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jakuvall, you are correct that espresso has both particle and plywood. My issue with the interiors are the roll-outs- the trash pullout and the pantry cabinet roll-out are really inefficient uses of space. Plus, they just don't look as snazzy as Ikeas! (I know, that's a bit ridiculous.) Also, Ikea's drawer box system allows you to snap on these dividers that keep things very well organized.

feisty68, what type of home are you doing your kitchen in? We are in an area with avg home prices of around $1 million and our house is about avg. It is a suburban family home, so trying to figure out that trade off you're talking about about people preferring/not caring about wood cabinets in a family home.

crl - thanks, that's reassuring to hear!

We do not have the time to DIY the Ikea but have a wonderful Ikea KD and contractor who know all about Ikea kitchens to assemble & install.

The Cabico cabinets look good, but I'm worried if I spend that much money I'll be devastated if I don't like something or something goes wrong, whereas with Ikea I'll be more tolerant of issues, which also might be easier to fix.

caryscott, Why is particle board better for frameless cabs? We were going to go with plywood if we got that route.

Someone mentioned the new Ikea cabinet line, which was another reason I was moving away from Ikea - will they still be able to support Akurum once they go Metod in the US? The Metod line looks awesome!

Thanks so much for everyone's opinions and thoughts!

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 10:36AM
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Ikea says it will stock arkrum parts for two years. But ikea seems to have supply line troubles a bit too often for my comfort level. I'd be sure to get all the parts I needed ASAP if I wanted to go ikea right now.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 11:30AM
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Agreed, I would definitely get anything I needed at the time of installation, but worried more about something failing 3 years from now...

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 11:37AM
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We live in a very pricey area (San Francisco) and I have yet (in nearly 40 years of home ownership) to experience a buyer asking whether cabinet boxes are plywood or mdf.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 11:39AM
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Are you looking at only Cabico other than Ikea? Has Cabico fixed their glide issue? Search the boards for old threads. Make sure they are using Blum glides and not King in the line you choose.

We looked at Ikea briefly but decided against it for multiple reasons. We have a really tiny kitchen and didn't want too many fillers so we decided to go with a more flexible cabinet line. Also, like you we are way too busy to DIY and paying someone in our high priced area will negate all the savings.

I would suggest looking at other cabinet companies nearby. If you are looking for frameless- Brookhaven, DuraSupreme, DeWils, Ultracraft, Innermost/KitchenCraft, Holiday cabinets are some of the other lines to consider. I know having too many options is sometimes a problem but you have to be comfortable with your choice.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 11:44AM
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Thanks vinudev, I did see the threads on the slides. I asked the cabinet guy twice to verify they are Blum, so he finally forwarded me an e-mail from Cabico that says that all glides after Oct. 2013 are Blum (and were King before that - this is the Espresso line, I don't know about the full custom.)

We are probably going about this the wrong way, but were 100% set to go with Ikea, then went for a gut check with a highly recommended cabinet guy in our area. This is the only line he carries in which the cost is reasonable enough to make the switch. And unfortunately at this point we don't have the time to do much shopping around.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 12:39PM
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Liz- Either they are not showing you everything or things drastically changed since I dealt with them.

If you go looking around add Elmwood to your list. I considered every frameless brand on the market after my mid range brand went out of business. It took two years to get what I wanted.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 1:04PM
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I'm in the last stage of my IKEA remodel. I found it very easy and satisfying to construct the cabinets once the first of each type was put together. I did it assembly line style. I also found no problem with cabinet sizing and have very little filler and I really like the option of the 39" upper. The amount of custom storage for the price is great. In fact, I made an additional order of drawers to further customize and maximize storage. With a combination of IKEA inserts and Wood Hollow's custom drawer inserts, I'll add organization and finishing touches. Like Feisty and many others, IKEA boxes and innards with custom fronts sounds like the IKEA choice for you. Do a search for Dutty on GW if you haven't followed her posts. She chose IKEA for her new custom build. Looking at her customization shows the possibilities.

If you are happy with your KD and contractor ask about costs with custom fronts like Semihandmade doors to see how that would effect the pricing. Or if you are in an area with an IKEA, I'd get multiple quotes as more and more contractors are adding IKEA to there repertoire. Those that charge exorbitant install prices likely are not at all familiar with the system and want to slap cabinets in without much thought. IKEA takes planning, but once familiar with the system it is not time consuming but quite clever.

After my recent experience, I would still do IKEA if money were no object, with custom fronts. I don't mind the IKEA doors but I'd rather have the uniqueness that a custom front brings.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 2:10PM
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Don't get me wrong jakuvall, I really like the Cabico line, it's just that some of the storage options seem a *little bit* clunky in comparison to Ikea's. The incremental cost is not insubstantial, just less than we had thought. Very much on the fence...

Agree bbtrix, maybe Ikea and semi-handmade...

Our original KD is dedicated only to Ikea and used to work there, as did her contractor. I would call their prices reasonable, certainly not exorbitant, but it is still a cost of going with an Ikea kitchen for us.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 6:36PM
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"home prices of around $1 million and our house is about avg. It is a suburban family home, so trying to figure out that trade off you're talking about about people preferring/not caring about wood cabinets in a family home."

People want a functional, up-to-date, good looking kitchen. And I would stress that people mostly look for up-to-date and good looking because I don't think that most people recognize kitchen dysfunction. But, they can recognize ugly, old, and disrepair. Also, people look for certain status/quality brands:Viking, wolf, subzero etc. That's why you see those brands listed in ads. Some countertop materials--granite, marble, quartz--are advertised. And people do look for that. But, only rarely have I seen "all-wood" cabinets in a real estate ad. Occasionally, I have seen a cabinet company listed. But, when I have seen that info it's a high-end euro brand or Henry-built.

If you like ikea, get them. The cabs and hardware are great. Door options are wide open with Sherr's, barker door, semi-handmade.... FWIW, If I had more confidence in my hacking/install skills, I would have done ikea in a second. And I am in a similar real estate market NYC metro.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 10:14PM
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Fori is not pleased

Yeah, I'm in a pretty pricey market and people can't even recognize that my current cabinets are fake wood. Seriously, they were refaced with VINYL. Few people will know enough to sneer at an IKEA kitchen (if they were inclined to sneer at one). Most people just don't know this stuff.

I love the IKEA kitchen guts. That sleek clean fab eurostyling is super. If they still made that eucalyptus door...anyway, don't worry about the name. Get the cabinet you want.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 11:13PM
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@LizPel12, we were looking seriously at using Cabico Espresso last fall - I posted a query or two here under a different user name. Our contractor flamed out (I changed my username because I was posting here about what to do afterward and wasn't sure how it would all shake out.)

I really liked what I saw of the Espresso line (they had a couple of great greyish brown stains that remind me of what @feisty68 has been posting about.) The cabinet shop that recommended them also impressed me - they only carried higher end lines and were very professional and serious KDs. I also saw the prior posts about glides but was assured that at minimum I could get Blum as an upgrade.

We found a new contractor who works with a different shop and a different semi-custom cabinet line; it meant not using frameless, but after the drama with the original contracting firm, our priority was all about finding a rock-solid contractor (and as we're now on day 4 of the reno, I don't have any doubt about that decision.) I couldn't find a stain I liked as well as the Cabico options, and we wound up choosing a painted greige (a totally last-minute call, after about 3 years of planning on stained maple.)

I also considered Ikea, but we never found a contractor who had experience doing the incredible hack/customization work that I see on here all the time. I couldn't find any feedback on the Ikea-affiliated contractor in our area, and they weren't game to do the structural work we needed. And we have neither space nor time nor skills for any DIY, not even just box assembly. Still, I love a lot of the aspects of the Ikea kitchens, and there are some seriously awesome ones that have been showcased on this site.

I think either Ikea or Cabico are very good options; if you really want to throw a third in there, I priced out Innermost at HD and it wasn't much more than Cabico, maybe 10 percent-ish at a good sale time (which are perpetual to some extent.)

Fwiw I also live in a high-priced area, tear-downs in my neighborhood start at $500k. I think there's probably a tiny bit of snobbery that might apply to an Ikea kitchen, but given how many houses sell around here for $750k and upward with kitchens from the 1950s, it simply couldn't be a deciding factor unless you were well above the "lower" end of the price spectrum.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 8:34AM
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"feisty68, what type of home are you doing your kitchen in? We are in an area with avg home prices of around $1 million and our house is about avg. It is a suburban family home, so trying to figure out that trade off you're talking about about people preferring/not caring about wood cabinets in a family home."

Yes, we are in a similar real estate market. I'm in a 1000 sf condo that is 500K but detached homes are *much* more. My neighbour just paid much more for customized plywood cabinets with wood inserts and that was really important to her - but she is the kind of "kitchen geek" that would frequent GW, not a "normal" person ;) . And she did get all the high end hardware.

Most of my neighbours like wood stuff, but OTOH if you are not familiar with Blum Tandembox soft-closing drawers with dampers there is a pretty wow factor there. In the small homes that are common here, the concept of optimizing storage with nifty interior organizers is very attractive. It's really when you open the drawers that you realize that you're not in your grandmother's kitchen.

In this area (west coast Canada), IKEA is not sneered at in general. People appreciate Euro-style design in my city so there is an open-ness to the more quality IKEA stuff. Design mags in Canada regularly feature customized IKEA kitchens. And seriously, if you have custom fronts I don't see how anyone could tell just by looking. I would not worry at all about an IKEA kitchen and resale in this area - especially if other kitchen finishes are quality.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 12:54PM
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I would add that it also depends on the respective IKEA fronts you're considering. Some random thoughts:
the glossy Abstrakt looks very high-end European. An appraiser in our similary priced expensive market thought they were Italian (a plus in our area).
Ditto the wood fronts (e.g. dark Romsjo) or the wood Adels.
A potential drawback of the gorgeous looking white cabinets (e.g. Adel, Lidingo) is IMO that they kind of look plasticy from close-up.
Sofielund, for example, even though thermofoil don't feel fake to many non-experts.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 3:14PM
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We just kicked off our entire house remodel and will be installing IKEA cabinets and door fronts.

This is my second IKEA kitchen. It was the high point of the home I sold last July and we got a full price cash offer for the place within days, highest price tag for our floor plan in the community since before the real estate crash. So no, IKEA kitchen did not hurt my resale value. And I had exactly ZERO issues with reliability or wear/tear in my old kitchen. The cabinets, drawers, pulls hinges all held up beautifully which is why I decided on using them again without hesitation.

I bought a second set of IKEA appliances for this new house as well since the ones I had previously were so good. They are Whirlpool inards. Try to find any other brand that will give you 5 year warranty on appliances.

I strongly considered using different doors this time and found some beautiful ones. But with the cost of an entire home remodel mounting (and the kitchen being just one, albeit important, room) I decided to save several thousand $ and get the IKEA doors. I've seen several photos of the product installed and I think it's going to look great. It is better quality than than the cheap imported cabinets that compare to the price point.

Whatever you decide I don't think will be a mistake--the custom door options are great. The stock stuff is very good too.

I cannot comment on ease of installation--I hired people to do this both times. Just make sure you have installers that know the product.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 6:02PM
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My neighbour is getting Lidingo Grey...so pretty:

Nosoccermom is absolutely correct that different IKEA doors have a very different vibe and some look more quality or trendy or ?? than others.

Don't assume that custom fronts will be more expensive though. If you get a local cabinet maker and provide all measurement and specs it can actually work out to be less than some ready-made door opens - prices vary a lot according to style. And you can pick your wood/colour/stain/style. Companies that specialize in custom IKEA will definitely upcharge for the service they provide in giving you everything all ready to go (and that may be worth it).

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 7:47PM
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For me, it came down to saving a little money vs. not having to deal with trying to hack several areas to make Ikea fit and compromising my ideal design for Ikea standard sizes. No hack won, but I still sometimes long for the Ikea bells & whistles that I could have gotten for less money.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 8:01PM
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Thank you all so much for your input. It really is the Ikea bells and whistles that keep nagging at me. Coupled with the savings!

    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 10:17AM
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