Insider Info: IKEA Employee Shares Tips for Buying IKEA Kitchen Cabinets

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Today, I'm sharing some great insider info found in our comments section. Drew wrote: I worked for IKEA for four years—one as a kitchen planner, three as an interior designer. If you buy an IKEA kitchen, specifically the Akurum fitted line that the rest of the world outside the US calls Faktum, you can get a great product. The question is what's your time worth to you?

IKEA sells things at the prices they do because they have slim margins and little labor cost in assembly and shipping. The catch is the end user either a) does it themselves, or b) hires it done for a fee. What this means for a kitchen is that you measure, plan, and order it yourself with a little bit of help from IKEA staff—or hire this work done by IKEA certified local subcontractors.

Akurum is a fine product. The cabinets themselves are frameless, made of 3/4" pressed particle board veneer. You can go to a designer gallery, open a few cabinets and find the same thing. No, they're not wood, and that's a good thing—wood expands and contracts with moisture and temperature changes. You can make a great kitchen with Akurum, if you're willing to put in a little more time and effort.

The fittings are predominantly made by Blum, a world-class manufacturer of hinges and drawer guides. You can find the same thing in a pricey designer kitchen as well.

IKEA is mass-produced, which means a quicker turnaround from purchase to install, but the finishing options are going to be slimmer than with a fully-custom product. At any given time, IKEA only offers about two dozen different door styles, which are the easiest and most effective way to go, and what about 99% of kitchen customers do. The other 1% are custom woodworkers who buy the cheapest door style, use it as a template, and make something beautiful from it. Others hire a custom woodworker to make trim to match their IKEA fronts and end up with an Architectural Digest-worthy kitchen.

If you're going to go the IKEA route, here are a few good things to know:

  • They are warrantied for 25 years, so save the receipt and literature. It is transferrable, provided you sell your house or buy one with an IKEA kitchen, and as long as it was installed according to IKEA specifications.

  • Measure your space before coming in for your first visit. Measure all appliances you plan on using. Aside from a dishwasher, there is no such thing as a 'standard' cooktop, fridge, or oven.
  • Get it delivered. Delivery means it'll take another week or two, but the order will be inventoried piece by piece before shipping, and if you have any problems, every IKEA has an after-sales department that will take care of you. If you need or want it right away, a cash & carry order for a kitchen takes several hours to pull from the warehouse and involves dozens if not hundreds of parts. They almost certainly won't have all the parts you need, which means multiple visits and if you have a problem, take a number and wait at returns & exchanges. If you leave without something you paid for, you're SOL. Then you have to have a pickup or U-Haul to take it all away.

Big thanks to reader Drew for the super-helpful info!

(Image: Steve Williams / Roy and Jen's Professional DIY House Tour)

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