The Truth about Ikea Kitchen Cabinets


The Truth about Ikea Kitchen Cabinets

It’s no surprise that the kitchen is probably the most common home renovation that people choose to do. It’s the place where everyone ends up as well as the part of the house where the food and drinks are. I have probably designed and built over 20 kitchens in the last 8 years and I have used various cabinet companies ranging from totally custom to off the shelf. As is the case with many projects, budget is usually a concern and for that reason, we use alot of IKEA cabinets. If you are considering using them on a project, I suggest you read on.

Every project I have done for Pocono Modern has used IKEA cabinets and I would say that I am fairly proficient in making IKEA products look custom. However, the question most often asked about IKEA cabinets is about the quality.

I have broken out my analysis into five major categories:

– Construction
– Door / Drawer Styles
– Hardware
– Variety of Components / Accessories
– Appearance

Ikea Kitchen Cabinet Construction

The construction of an IKEA cabinet frame (AKURUM) is particle board with a white or beech colored plastic laminate. Overall, this is pretty low quality but to be honest, not that far off from a more expensive Kraft Maid cabinet. Most production line cabinets today have particle board substrates covered by either melamine, laminate, or wood veneer. Only custom cabinet makers will use solid plywood for the frames and that will cost you big dollars. I actually prefer the particle board cabinets because they are more stable (plywood can sometimes warp over time) and they make them from wood chips, which is more eco friendly. But that being said, you hardly ever see the cabinet frame, especially if you have drawer units, so it’s not much of a priority to me personally. The other variable is that you assemble the frames yourself using locking cams. For this reason, I can verify the soundness of the connections and even add glue in the joints if I like. I would say though that the final quality of the unit depends alot on the assembler so if you are careful then you will end up with a good quality cabinet. If you are the kind of person who doesn’t use up all the nails when you install the back then IKEA may not be for you.

Door / Drawer Styles on Ikea Kitchen Cabinets

The door (or drawer) style is the part of the cabinet that you actually see and in that area, I believe IKEA brings the good stuff. Unlike the frames, many of the doors and drawers are solid with good quality wood veneer. The painted finishes tend to vary slightly, (particularly in the Ramsjo line) but overall they have a good variety and hit many different price points from dirt cheap laminates to better priced Oak. They even have glass doors and lacquered style colors. Overall the variety and quality are impressive at this price point but you need to be very careful about discontinued lines. If you think you may want to add a cabinet in the future, be prepared for the possibility that they may stop making that line and you won’t be able to get it. This has happened to me twice. First with the Oak Tidaholm line (below) and then with the medium brown Nexus style.

Tidaholm Line (discontinued)

Hardware on Ikea Kitchen Cabinets

IKEA has made great strides with their hardware. And by hardware, I do not mean the knobs and pulls but the interior drawer glides, hinges, dampers, and legs. The drawer and door dampers prevent slamming of parts and provide a nice easy glide upon shutting. The hinges are of the same or better quality than you would find in a comparable special order cabinet. They are all pretty easy to install, except for the door dampers, which I always have trouble snapping in. Note to IKEA: work on easier to install door dampers. They have also added decorative legs so your cabinets can sit off the ground, which I like very much. They come in three different heights so you can even use shorter cabinets to get different effects. If you choose to go with the standard black plastic legs, they offer matching toe kicks that snap right on. Overall, IKEA gets high marks on the internal hardware, especially when you compare it to the junk they were using a few years back. As for knobs and pulls, I find that their own line is far better priced than anything you can buy at the big box stores, especially the modern bar pulls.

Variety of Components / Accessories On Ikea Kitchen Cabinets

This is probably the single biggest flaw with the IKEA line. Looking for a flip down sponge drawer? They don’t have it. Want a narrow spice cabinet? They don’t have it. Looking for options on a corner unit. Sorry, they just have a couple. Although their line is fairly diverse in terms of door and drawer fronts, they keep the amount of components fairly limited to certain sizes and options. I suppose this is because they make so many parts and pieces that they have to stick with what sells. I have often hoped that they would add pull out drawer units for garbage and recycling bins, but alas, none have come along. If you want unique parts and pieces then I’m afraid you’re stuck with what they have. If you can get over the limits of their running line, then I would say that is the biggest hurdle.

Appearance Of Ikea Kitchen Cabinets

This last category is entirely up to you. I have found that when assembled correctly with the right amount of additional details (lighting, hardware, windows, etc..)  kitchen cabinets can look every bit as custom as one 3x the price. Of course it will never compare to a custom cabinet with inset doors (as opposed to overlay doors which is all IKEA makes) but for the money I don’t think you can find a better deal. Just be sure to get a second opinion on the planning as the standard work triangle is not the only consideration for a functional kitchen. You need to make sure you have the proper clearances for walking by, the proper support for countertops, and enough room to open doors and drawers.

Below are a few more samples of other IKEA kitchens that we’ve done. Please also leave your feedback on anything you feel is good or bad with the systems. Maybe IKEA will catch on to our suggestions in the next generation.

In summary, IKEA cabinets can really pull off a quality look if you plan it properly and take time with the assembly. They are limited in cabinet types and accessories, but the money you save will allow you to spend more on countertops and lighting which really add to a kitchen. However, if you truly desire a custom kitchen remodel with solid wood construction and specific finishes, there is no substitute for a quality cabinet shop. Just be prepared to spend considerably more.

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