Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My Experience with IKEA Cabinets: Part I

A while back, I talked some smack about IKEA cabinets. The first time (about a year ago) I checked out the kitchens in IKEA they seemed pretty flimsy and . . . yucky. I just hated everything about them. I also have an extreme love - hate relationship with Ikea. Somethings are really diamonds in the rough and others are just crap.

After looking at all the models, I picked out a style I liked and headed to the design section to see if I could take a closer look. The place was mobbed and I barely got to grab a price sheet before someone toting a big yellow IKEA bag knocked me out of the way to get to a drawer pull display. It was a fight or flight situation and I choose flight.

Back at home, I re-measured the kitchen space and began planning out a design. I soon learned IKEA cabinets do not have all the sizes that say Kraftsmaid does and it gets a little more difficult to plan out a space. After a few days of playing with different styles, I headed down to the store.

This time, I was smarter. I did not go on a Saturday afternoon and instead choose a time during the week to head down there. This made a HUGE difference. About a minute after stepping into the kitchen design section, I was greeted by an IKEA kitchen contractor and set up on a computer to start my design. A few questions about the dimensions of my kitchen and I was clicking and placing cabinets into my design.

Then this happened:

I explained how the plan was to set an open shelf the standard cabinet height (54" above the ground) and then start the closed cabinets about that to go to the ceiling.

Contractor: You can't do that. The cabinets would be too high.

Me: Well, see the open shelf would be like the base of the wall cabinet - just no door.

Contractor: It's too high. It wouldn't meet code.

Me: Well... but, see, it's like the shelf would be like the wall cabinets. But, but. . .

Contractor: No licensed contractor would do that. It's not code.

Me: So, what? I would get a fine or something?

Contractor: Yes. It wouldn't pass inspection.

Me: AugjakjhGAKJYkjhkngknnf. Fine. You win.

to be continued. . .


Anonymous said...

ummm are you having an occupancy inspection of your house? You are already living in it aren't you? I have never ever heard of a code official say anything about cabinets in a residential project.
Do what you want and tell the contractor to suck it.

Ben said...

Well, we have to get a permit to do the work in our house. Or, we get a big fine. I heart DC.

Believe me, I totally wanted to tell him to suck it.

Scenic Artisan said...

reading that there is a code about that made me a touch angry.

its seems like such a fine idea.....
whats the height from the counter to the bottom of the cabinet coded to be?

Ben said...

Scenic Artisan,

I hear you. I am pissed as well. Apparently your cabinets have to be 54" from the floor to be "code".

dcdude said...

I have never heard of the city inspecting kitchen cabinets. Usually, an inspector will come to look at the plumbing and electrical before the contractor hangs the drywall, and once the inspector nods his head, you never see him again. I agree with others that you should tell your contractor to pound sand. But if you absolutely feel you can't, why don't you just lower the shelf and hang the wall cabinets at 54"?

dcdude said...

And don't be afraid to do the work yourself. My wife and I redid our entire kitchen (about 21 linear feet of cabinets) with IKEA cabinets (in white, like you're thinking about), and it was relatively painless. The good thing about IKEA stuff is that all of the parts are pretty much interchangeable, so once you build the first few, the rest are a snap. And the railing system they use to hang the cabinets to the wall (usually the hardest part) makes it nearly impossible for them not to be level.

Ben said...


Thanks for the pep talk! I just don't like the new design I have. I think I'm going to need to do some more research on this.

Cyndy said...

If there is some inspection issue relating to what you want to do, then get your contractor to hang the shelf units that you want on the bottom, and leave it at that.

Then, after everything else is finished you can go to Ikea to get the cabinets you want and hang them yourselves. We just put Ikea base cabinets in our laundry room. My husband was super impressed by the door hinges for some reason. It was a pretty easy job over all.

You just need to make sure that the cabinet doors are available in the right widths to go with the shelving units below them. You may need a permit for work involving a contractor, but if you own the house you should be able to hang things from the walls yourself if you feel like it, right?

Anonymous said...


While I'm not sure about a "Code" issues, there are general practices or guidelines. Check out web site that discusses that exact issue. http://www.hammerzone.com/archives/letters/kitchen/wall_cab_height.htm

I'll also check into the "Code" issue, but local authorities have final say!


Christopher Busta-Peck said...

I'd suggest verifying that this is actually a code issue. I've heard contractors swear up and down that the code had certain requirements when, in fact, there were no such requirements, or the actual requirements were nowhere near as strict as they might suggest.

Also, I'd suggest calling up the office of housing inspection. I've found mine to be both reasonable and helpful.

Nadja and Sean said...

Sorry about the code issues. We did Ikea kitchen cabinets in our lower level kitchen... they turner out pretty good and were easy to install.
I agree on some of the Ikea stuff being a diamond in the rough and others being crap though. We actually got an countertop in their "As-Is" segment for super cheap... apparently it had just been the wrong size for someone. You can find some gems in there if you look frequently.

Anonymous said...

Hey, while it's BS, and I'd be inclined to go all John Galt on them, still, why not just ask the inspector.

In my experience (here in CVG, granted), the inspectors are pretty decent, especially if you talk with them about what you want to do.

What the hell is the difference between a cabinet and a shelf, after all? Doors?

Just ask. See if you can't work with the guy who will inspect.

Good luck,


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