Now We’re Cooking with Gas: Kitchen Remodel

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The kitchen in our new home won the award for “worst room,” though our downstairs bathroom definitely gave it a run for its money. Sure, it gives off a cute, cottage vibe in the professional real estate photos (see below), but the microwave was not functioning, the stove was electric, and the fridge continued to give off an odor that could only be described as “rotting compost” no matter how many times we scrubbed it. The kitchen’s worst offense, though, was its lack of dishwasher. Also, it was yellow.


Thus, nothing made gave me greater pleasure than to (watch Jason) destroy it. We elected to save hundreds of dollars by doing the demo ourselves. We listed the appliances on craigslist and, weirdly, people came for them. The rest of the trash was picked up in a fabric dumpster called “Bagster” – you buy the bag at home depot and schedule a time for the company to come get it once it’s full.

We had big dreams, but a small budget – so, we elected to go with Ikea cabinets (as well as appliances and countertops). Overall, the process was truly a nightmare but we saved a ton of money and were happy with the finished product.

Design. If you’ve ever wandered through the kitchen section at Ikea, you know there’s an area with computers where people are tearing their hair out trying to design their new kitchens, with one Ikea employee floating between them trying to “help.” You can avoid this by scheduling a designer to come to your home, take measurements, and select the cabinets/appliances/layout that will work for you. I should note that you can create your own kitchen plan online, but the program is impossible; in fact, it took me 20 minutes just now to figure out how to print the plan pictured below.

A note on costs (because, let’s be honest, that’s the reason you go for an Ikea Kitchen): Yes, the $5431.83 total listed on the 3D model of our kitchen design is the correct price for our cabinets and fridge (not too shabby)! Our appliances (microwave, range, and dishwasher – all Whirlpool) added another few thousand dollars to the total cost. We were also able to take advantage of a 20% off sale on everything we purchased (cabinets, countertops, lighting, and appliances) as Ikea kitchens routinely go on sale; you can pretty much purchase the kitchen anytime, save your receipt, and they’ll credit you the difference between what you paid and the sale price (so, slash that total listed above by 20%). Another cool thing about Ikea is that you can estimate the labor because each type of cabinet has a set price for assembly/installation – it is something like $75 a cabinet. Our grand total was in the neighborhood of $11,000 – not too shabby for a budget conscious couple! Not so fast. Unfortunately, as this was our first big renovation, we did not factor the price of bringing our 100-year-old money pit of a house up to current code. This basically doubled the cost. When the grand total estimate came in, we literally ate some old ramen I found in the back of pantry for lunch and lamented about how this would be breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the next few months.

Assembly Required. After our design plan was solidified, we still had to go in to Ikea to place the order and, once it was delivered, cross check the boxes against the shopping list. You can pay extra to have the contractor (referred to us by Ikea) handle the ordering and checking – this was an additional $800, so we chose to do it ourselves. Of course, several items were missing from the delivery because they were backordered, requiring us constantly check Ikea’s website to see if they were back in stock at our local store. You can see the kitchen starting to come together in the pictures below with some drawer fronts still missing because they were out of stock.

Ikea recommended a contractor for us to work with that would assemble and install our cabinets/appliances and coordinate with an electrician and plumber. Unfortunately, for people that specialize in putting together Ikea cabinets, they were kind of bad at it. For instance, there were gaps left in the molding and they seemed to think we wouldn’t mind that the base cabinets didn’t cover the unfinished floor. Communication was also not amazing. When we called to describe some of these issues in an extremely polite and chill manner, our contractor waited a week to call us back, indicating that hanging out with her grandkids prevented her from responding to us sooner. Our electrician was also missing for about month such that even our contractor didn’t know where he was. My personal favorite, however, was when our plumber smelled gas coming from the basement and turned off our furnace, breaking a knob in the process so we couldn’t turn it back on. Naturally, because he had another job site to get to, he left us with no heat on a zero degree Massachusetts winter day. We ended up having to hire a different plumber (who worked for us, not our contractor) to fix our furnace and in the meantime (about two days) relied on space heaters. Jason went out to buy these especially for this occasion and, because it was the end of the season, he could only find the huge ones that look like fireplaces in a random CVS. Fortunately, we were able to return them.

Finally, after two months of headaches, came the blissful day on which our countertops were delivered. It was truly a magical moment – everything came together. And, in the end, our contractor was able to meet our standards and we were very happy with the end product. In fact, there are many things I really love about my kitchen that Ikea’s pricing put within reach for us: double farm sink, in- and under-cabinet lighting, quartz countertops, a gas range, and a hidden dishwasher that is camouflaged by a cabinet panel. We also used Etsy vendors to purchase custom shams and the pendant light above the sink.


Conclusions. If I could back and time and do my kitchen renovation over, would I still go with Ikea? Yes, because you can’t beat the price and the quality/features (i.e., cabinet lighting) far outpaces other budget lines (i.e., Home Depot). Given that we had just blown our savings on our downpayment and we had time (read: no kids) to dedicate cross checking boxes against our shopping list and holding our contractor’s feet to the fire, an Ikea kitchen was a reasonable option for us. If I were re-doing my kitchen now (with two kids, a busy job, and a little bit more money) – probably not.

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