Guide to IKEA kitchen planning and installation

Most people would say "IKEA's kitchen cabinet are low quality, that's why they're cheaper." Then them "most people" are not really good at how business and supply chain works. IKEA is the largest furniture company in the world. That means they produce a thousand times more furniture than other companies combined. Any company who can do mass production, their products will be much cheaper than those with lower production capacity. Unfortunately, people associate lower price with lower quality. That's not true. Yes, IKEA's cabinets and all of their accessories (doors, drawers, shelves, panels) are made of particle boards and MDF. But if you take a look at other places that sell more expensive cabinets, you'll realize that they are also particle boards. No more, no less. They don't manufacture the cabinets themselves but purchase them from other manufacturers in their supply chain. So the prices are higher to mark up the costs. IKEA on the other hand manufactures and sells directly to its customers. That's why their price is way cheaper.

Contradicting to what the majority thinks, IKEA kitchen can offer lots of advantages and you can create a custom look to the planning. As long as you have a good installation contractor and a solid plan. I will share with you some tips in planning and what to look for. There are also limitations that I'll share at the end of this article.

So! Here we go.

1. Have a plan for the appliances and countertop before planning the kitchen layout.


To determine how high the lower cabinets should be mounted.

In theory, IKEA lower cabinets are hung at 34 1/2" from finished floor to cabinet top (without countertop). That's because they want you to buy their countertops which are 1 1/2" thick. That makes a total of 36" from finished floor to top of countertop. And that is the standard height of most apartment stoves (30" x 36"). But, many of my clients usually don't go with IKEA countertops but opt out for more luxury looks like marble or granite. And those countertops usually come in 3/4" or 1 1/4". Now the total height is between 35 1/4" or 35 3/4" finished floor to countertop surface, not 36". Meaning your standard stove will "stick out" about 3/4" or 1/4" above the countertop. And that's gonna be a problem later on when we the installation contractor finished our job and you discovered the mistake you should have avoided in the first place.

By having the countertop thickness and stove height planned out before hand, the installers can adjust the mounting height accordingly so everything will fit perfectly right off the bat.

Also, don't forget about the fridge. Fridges.... have even more sizes to choose.

So plan for them appliances and countertop thickness first. Then we can move on to the next step.

2. Hire an IKEA planner:

Like IKEA used to say (when they still offered the assembly service themselves) "You can do it yourself but you don't have to."

I have seen plans that are "too creative" like mixing the 36" x 96" finishing panels with 25" x 80" panels on each side of a high cabinet. They may have the same "panel" word attached to them but they are different in thickness. One is 5/8" thick and the other is 1/2" thick. Blame it on IKEA, how dare they don't place the thickness specification where people can be made aware of. Some clients wants a flush look (side panels flushed with doors). The only panel that can do this trick is 36" x 96". Other panel sizes are about 1/4" shorter than the door surface.

Some people messed up the measurement, planned with the wrong measurement and received cabinets that are either shorter or wider than wall space. (Shorter are easier to fix with fillers FYI). It comes with experience to plan it right at the beginning. Now, by all mean, do it yourself if you're confident with your measurement skills. However, hiring an IKEA planner will save you lots of headaches. You're gonna live there for a long time, cook a million meals for your kids and spouses. Don't cheap out a few hundred bucks. Money can recover. Peace of mind? Maybe.

3. Hire a good installation contractor (by contractor I mean someone with a license):

Well, use your judgement. Basically, a few things to keep in mind:

Licensed: in Quebec, hanging anything on the wall other than curtain rods and decorative shelves requires a license from the RBQ. Any contractors who carry a license must show their RBQ number on all advertising media. If someone tells you they have a license and you have to ask for their number, consider it sketchy. They may use someone's license to bid on the job but not actually qualified.

If the project goes south or becomes dangerous, you have no coverage because you hired an unlicensed contractor.

Insurance: most legit businesses in the world have at least liability insurance. Running a business without insurance tells you 2 things: 1st they don't care about you. 2nd they're inexperienced and unprofessional.

Competency: This you'd have to use your own judgement.


- If your floor is about 1" off level in 8 feet. Expect to have the toe kicks to have some gaps or ask your contractor to make custom toe kick out of finishing panels for you. This will raise the cost. - Pay attention to walls not being squared at corners. It may eats up space for your finishing panels or even not enough space for a cabinet at all if you want to run cabinets across the wall. 1/8 to 1/4" off square is normal. Be careful when it's more than 5/8".

- If you've made modifications to the wall (i.e close up an opening), you should inform your kitchen contractor. So he's aware of stud placement. I've seen walls with studs placed at irregular spacing (11", 14", 23" or 9" even). We call it "Handyman specialty".

Last words

I'm sharing these tips based on my experiences at having installed a good amount of IKEA kitchens to have the opportunities to see the struggles my clients faced so you can avoid them. Reality is way different than planned. All walls are bumpy, all corners are off squared and all floors are off leveled. I hope my little tips here will save you some avoidable headaches. I wish you have a great kitchen planned and executed. We only come to you for a few days to execute the plan, you will live there for as long as you could. Plan it right at the beginning and you'll be happy for a really long time.

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