Thoughts on IKEA Cabinets


In December, I finished up remodeling my kitchen. You can see the before and after pictures in my post I wrote in December. For my cabinets, I used cabinets from IKEA, and since a lot of people seem to be curious about IKEA cabinets, I figured I would write up a post with some of my thoughts on them.

Why I Chose IKEA Cabinets

Price was the biggest driver. I had Lowes and a kitchen design place put together quotes, and if I remember correctly, IKEA was about half the price of either place. If I hadn’t felt comfortable installing the IKEA cabinets, I probably would have gone with one of the other places. But since I felt that my dad and I could get them installed, I decided to save some money and give the IKEA cabinets a shot. Plus, most of the people who wrote reviews online seemed to be really happy with them, and they seemed to look pretty good. However, although we would be saving money, it also meant my dad and I would be putting in a lot more work than we would have by going with one of the other places. But we were ok with that.

Where Is Your Closest IKEA?

This was the biggest con for me when I was debating whether or not to use IKEA cabinets. If we had an IKEA in Oklahoma City, it probably would have been a no brainer. However, the closest IKEA for me is about 3 hours away in Friso, TX. This meant likely making multiple trips to Frisco, and also not being able to make a quick trip to the store to make an exchange if something got damaged in shipping. I ended up making two trips to Frisco: one for a consultation and one for ordering. A couple of my pieces were damaged in shipping (more on this later), so I had to have some replacement pieces shipped. I got them pretty fast, but still had to go through the process of calling the store, getting the pieces figured out, and then waiting on them to arrive. And then once I was finished, I made a trip to the Kansas City IKEA to return a few items (since I was already at my brother’s place over the holidays and only about an hour from the Kansas City IKEA). So just keep in mind: if you don’t have an IKEA close, you may be making several trips back and forth and/or waiting on pieces to arrive.

Putting Together Your Plan

IKEA has an online tool you can use to build your virtual kitchen. It isn’t the easiest tool to figure out, but once I got the hang of it, I really liked it, and it helped a ton in figuring out what I wanted to do. You can go into the store and do this on their computers, but if the associates are busy, there is no guarantee that you will be able to get a lot of help from them. You can set up appointments with associates to help you out, but you have to pay for this. I would highly recommend getting the plan put together yourself if you can. That way you can set up an appointment to essentially have the IKEA associate check your plan and make sure you aren’t missing anything (I was missing cover panels) or let you know if they would recommend something else. This will likely also give them time to get an order list put together. That way, if you are coming back later to place the order, you really just have to give them the order list and they can place the order. If you set up an appointment and have to start from scratch, the associate may not have time to get the order list ready, which isn’t a huge deal, but it would save you a little time when you went in to order.

You could go in and put together your kitchen plan and order at the same time, but in my case, I set up my appointment when IKEA wasn’t doing a kitchen sale, so I waited for them to have a kitchen sale before I placed my order. I have heard that it gets pretty crazy in the cabinet department during the kitchen sales, so I would suggest getting everything lined out before the sale, and then when the sale starts, all you have to do is have an associate place the order.

One suggestion when placing your order: get a template for the handles. You have to install the handles yourself, and the template makes it so much easier to get all the handles right. My IKEA associate suggested this, but if yours doesn’t, make sure you mention it.

Getting Your Cabinets

When I went in for my consultation, the associate told me it would be $59 to ship the cabinets to my place in OKC. That was a no brainer. However, when I went in to place my order, I was told it was going to be $199. I tried to get them to change it to $59, but they wouldn’t. However, $199 still beat having to deal with driving to Frisco, figuring out Uhaul logistics, and then hauling them back. Also during the consultation, the associate told me it generally takes 2-3 weeks to get them when they are shipped. However, when I put my order in, I was able to get them in less than a week, which was a plus. Anyway, you have the option to have them shipped (which was better for me living 3 hours away from the store), or you can pick them up yourself (possibly same day as order), which may be better for you if you live close to the store.

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Cabinet order in my garage after being unloaded. Red arrow points to damaged package.

Once you get them, inventory them to make sure you aren’t missing anything and to make sure nothing is damaged. It’s not particularly fun, but you don’t want to wait several days, and then have IKEA tell you that you’re out of luck since you waited too long to get back with them after receiving the order. In my case, I had a couple boxes that were damaged (see red arrow in picture above), which was a pretty good sign that I needed to check the pieces in the boxes for damage. Each box that had damage had a damaged cabinet panel in it. I also got a hinge pouch that was already open and missing some pieces. If the box didn’t look damaged, I didn’t pull any of the pieces out. I called IKEA the next day and they didn’t have any issues with sending me replacement pieces, which ended up being a whole new cabinet box. Unfortunately, some pieces in the replacement box also got damaged in shipping. This was part of the reason I was a little hesitant to go with IKEA. Luckily, between the contents of the three damaged boxes, we were able to make it work though.

Cabinets after inventory and organization (cover panels not shown, on opposite wall).

One other suggestion: when you are doing inventory on your order, group items by cabinet. In my order, each cabinet had a number. So when I started doing inventory, I wrote these numbers on small pieces of paper, and then I would group pieces by these numbers. It made it a whole lot easier going forward to keep track of what went with what and where it went in the kitchen. Once again, it takes some extra time, and you have to be careful about not getting pieces mixed up once you start assembling, but I thought it was worth it.

Assembly and Installation

Assembled cabinet frames.

Assembling the cabinet frames ended up being a lot less time consuming that I thought it would be. Most of them were really quite simple, and once I got the hang of it, it went pretty quick. The only somewhat difficult ones were the corner cabinets. I was able to do all the assembly myself without any big problems. The instructions aren’t the greatest, but I didn’t have much trouble following them. If you will be assembling your cabinets on a hard surface (such as a concrete floor like I did), I would suggest laying something “soft” down on the floor to do the assembly on. I just used the cardboard from the cabinet boxes, and it worked fine.

Installing the cabinet frames.

After I got the frames assembled, my dad came down and we got them installed. This is where you may have to get a little creative since these really aren’t custom cabinets. Here are a few examples where we had to be creative:

  1. Base cabinets on the right side of the picture above. Since we couldn’t get cabinets with custom depths, we had to bring a couple of the cabinets away from the wall to get them all flush out front. To do this, we cut a 4×4 post to the thickness we needed, mounted the post to the studs, and then mounted the railing to the post. We had to do something similar on the cabinet above the fridge to get it out far enough.
  2. To get the sink centered under the window, we had to put a couple finish panels between the sink cabinet and the corner cabinet.
  3. Our biggest headache: to get some of the upper cabinets level, we had to bring the bottoms out away from the walls, so we had to build some blocks of wood to use as wedges to keep them out from the wall, which wasn’t a big deal. However, this made the finish panels a heck of a lot more difficult and time consuming. The finish panels are made to be used when the cabinets are sitting against the wall as they normally would. We generally just needed to take one measurement (the height), and make one cut. But once we pulled the bottom of the cabinets away from the wall, we couldn’t use the normal finish panels. This meant we had to measure each finish panel, and custom cut it out of one of IKEA’s large (36″x96″) panels, and we ended up having to order an extra one of these panels (once again, we couldn’t just make a quick trip to the store to pick one up). Also, this large panel is thicker than the normal cover panels, so we had to then be careful about where we were sticking the normal cover panels and these custom cover panels to make sure that it didn’t look weird with the different thicknesses. And finally, the large finish panels don’t come with any screws to attach them to the cabinets (whereas the normal finish panels do). So we had to find some cabinet screws that we could use to attach the finish panels. They didn’t match the IKEA screws exactly, but they were close enough that it was fine, although we didn’t like them as much as the IKEA screws that were provided with the normal finish panels.
  4. On the cabinets to the right of the oven (both upper and lower), there is a gap between the cabinet and the wall to the right (can’t see it in the picture above). We had to figure out how to cut and mount a finish panel piece to fill this gap. We didn’t like our first attempt at the bottom piece, and luckily we were able to get it out without tearing anything up. But we eventually figured out a way that looked decent.

If you’re good with DIY, then you should be able to come up with solutions for most of the things like this you come across, but as I said, it may take some thought and creativity.

Finally came the doors, drawers, and hardware. The doors and shelves were all really simple. The drawers were more difficult and time consuming. I was a little careless and actually messed a few of the drawers up, but luckily in a way that I was still able to use them, and it’s actually nearly impossible to tell that I messed them up. And as I mentioned earlier, the template for the door handles was a huge help.

A couple final notes on this:

  1. The dust from cutting the finish panels is horrible. It’s a really fine powder that sticks to everything and gets everywhere. So be prepared for that, and cut these somewhere where you don’t mind getting dusty.
  2. Be careful how you cut the cover panels and take your time. You will likely need to cut them differently depending on the saw. With my table saw, the “finished side” (the side that you would see) needed to be face up. With my circular saw, the “finished side” needed to be face down. Also, take the cuts slow, as this seemed to help make the cut look better. And finally, and probably most important, use a fine tooth blade.

Final Thoughts

If you want a flawless kitchen, I would say IKEA cabinets aren’t for you. They are time consuming, and make a big mess if you have to cut as many finish panels as we did. They aren’t custom, so you may have to be creative to make them work in your kitchen. They also have some metal pieces that you can see on the bottom. The only place these are really visible in my kitchen are above the fridge, but if you bend down and look under the cabinets, you can see them.

However, I’m pretty picky, and I’m really happy with how they turned out. If you don’t mind spending the time on them and are good with DIY, then you should be able to make them work, and I would recommend them. If you aren’t good with DIY, you could probably find someone to install them for you, but at that point, I probably would have gone with Lowes or the kitchen design place.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read the post, and I hope it was helpful for you. If you haven’t read any other reviews/articles/blogs or watched any videos on installing IKEA cabinets, I would suggest you do some more research. You can learn something different from each of the articles/videos. I have placed a few videos below that I found helpful. If you have any questions, I would be happy to answer them for you. Just use the contact link at the top of the page, or send an email to



(A lot of video to watch, but some good tips in each video.)

The Importance of Maps

Not just a map, but maps. As in more than one.

When my brother and I started doing backpacking trips, I took along a National Geographic topographic map. The National Geographic maps gave us a general idea of where trail intersections should be, which is all we really needed to know. We weren’t doing any off-trail excursions. And luckily we never ran into any instances where we needed any sort of other map.

This past summer I took a navigation course through REI, and learned about the custom USGS quad maps on With, you can create a map that merges several USGS quad maps into a single map, possibly eliminating the need to carry multiple USGS quad maps. I tried one of these maps out for the first time on our hike this past summer in the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming. It was so nice to have the detail of the USGS quad map. I rarely looked at the National Geographic map that we had during that trip. I was definitely glad I had learned about these maps, and they were something I was going to use going forward.

Fast forward a couple months to September. I took my first solo backpacking trip out to the Uinta Mountains in Utah. Just like the trip in Wyoming, I had a custom USGS quad map from and a National geographic map. Once again, I loved having the detail of the USGS quad map, and for most of the trip, that was the only map I really needed. But if you read my trip report post, you know that I ran into some issues on the way back to my car. Some strong winds had kicked up a wildfire and was blowing the smoke across the trail. I knew the fire was relatively close to the trail, and the smoke and ash was thick enough that I didn’t feel comfortable hiking out on my first attempt.

This is where having both the USGS quad map and the National Geographic map was important. With the possibility that I may not be able to hike out the way I had come in due to the wildfire, I knew that I needed to look for other potential ways out. However, due to the zoomed in nature of the USGS map (relative to the National Geographic map), it didn’t show any other trailheads. I could find other trails on this map that went other directions, but I would have no idea if they led to other trailheads. This is when the National Geographic map came in handy. It wasn’t as detailed, but since it showed a larger area, I was able to see other trailheads and map out a secondary way out if it was needed. It definitely wasn’t ideal and I wasn’t looking forward to it, but it at least gave me relief that I had another option.

Thankfully I didn’t have to use that secondary option, but it made me realize the importance of having (at least) two maps: one with detail of the area I’m planning on hiking, and another that shows a broader area just in case something goes wrong and I have to find another route.

And while we are on this topic, I would highly recommend taking a navigation course if you are going to be doing any sort of hiking/backpacking. My brother and I took several trips without either one of us having taken a navigation course. You may be able to get by without those skills, but you never know when you’ll run into a situation when you’ll need those skills, and they could save your life.