Customizing IKEA cabinets--any last words, thoughts, horror stories?

Mittens Cat
7 de Abril de 2019

We're close to ordering new kitchen cabinets and want to do half of them with custom fronts (either walnut, Douglas fir or maple veneer).

Main cabinets will be along one wall, 16' 4" across, plus an island roughly 10 x 6. We're considering Semihandmade, Scherr's and The Cabinet Face to dress up IKEA's Sektion boxes.

Just hoping to hear input from those who have BTDT! Anything you wish you did differently? Any questions you wished you'd asked up front? Or anything else?


Comentarios (23)



  • jdesign_gw

    To me it's all about the quality of the veneer. Don't know if all the companies listed offer those particular woods. Are the doors flat slab or shaker style? This would make a difference in sequenceing the grain through out the kitchen. What are the non custom door that will be used. Depending on the look you are going for you also have the option of alternating the drawer configuration and mounting slides on different holes. We only use architectural grade veneer not off the shelf plywood veneer for all our doors. Using this European oak on an IKEA kitchen next week.

    Mittens Cat agradeció a jdesign_gw
  • Mittens Cat

    Thanks. We're aiming for a clean, contemporary look, so we'd be doing slab, not Shaker. We've been researching for about 6 months--I have a large box of samples from Semihandmade and The Cabinet Face and have visited SHM's office (where they have one vanity in walnut--looked good!). So far, the walnut from SHM looks a bit better and slightly thicker (if you can even use the word "thick" with these veneers) than TCF.

    Honestly, the one thing we both love is Baltic birch, but the only company I've found that makes residential cabinets out of that is Kerf, which was very pricey last time I checked.

  • PRO
    Patricia Colwell Consulting

    IMO by the time you add the custon doors you don’t save any money with Ikea . I do Ikea kitchens all the time and my clients usually find something that works from Ikea in the end to save money.

    Mittens Cat agradeció a Patricia Colwell Consulting
  • Hillside House

    I’m a big IKEA fan, and have used it for multiple projects: two kitchens, a kitchenette, and pantry. I don’t have any specific advice about the wood fronts, because we used either IKEA fronts or paint-ready ones.

    I have more time than money, and definitely have champagne taste on a beer budget! I don’t have issues trying to save a few thousand by starting with IKEA and then customizing the heck out of them.

    So, assuming you’re doing this to DIY and save some money, my advice is to not get too married to any one thing. Be flexible, because you’re bound to have issues.

    (And if you’re not doing DIY, I’d probably skip IKEA and pay someone else to be in charge.)

    Mittens Cat agradeció a Hillside House
  • Mittens Cat

    Hillside House, we are not DIY types, to put it mildly! We are looking at something like this:

    Semihandmade walnut + IKEA

    Or this: The Cabinet Face walnut door + IKEA

  • PRO
    Design Intervention

    IKEA makes a totally good "box" for a cabinet. Most of my clients have all custom millwork in many parts of the house but when the budget is tighter in certain areas and the customer asks to economize, I have not had any issues using an IKEA box. They are guaranteed for 25 years and most folks don't realize that they use hardware made by Blum which makes hardware for very high end cabinets.

    Mittens Cat agradeció a Design Intervention
  • Mittens Cat

    Thanks Design Intervention, that's what we've been hearing. Appreciate the confirmation!

  • jdesign_gw

    We buy select veneer in the raw state and process it ourselves to insure consistency , color and graining.

    Most of what I see out there (off-the-shelf hardwood plywood) I would never put into a clients home. A lot of people my not be educated to the fact or know there is a difference but it has it get by me first. Just my two cents (and thirty plus years of experience.)

    Mittens Cat agradeció a jdesign_gw
  • wiscokid
    If you are not handy enough to DIY, don’t do IKEA, even with SH (which are totally overpriced for what you get, btw). Watch some YouTube videos showing installation or, even better, delivery where there’s a bizillion flat pack boxes that all look the same in living/dining rooms and see if that excites you. It’s not hard but it’s not easy either, especially if you’re “far from DIY,” as you admit. It’s also not quick, you have to make sure things are level and square and plumb and it can get overwhelming and tedious after a while, not to mention there’s always one thing they forgot to send or you forgot to order. Not a “look what we did this weekend!” project, unless you have a very small kitchen.
  • Mittens Cat

    Not sure where you got the idea that we'd be putting the cabinets together ourselves, but thanks for the chuckle!

    Our GC has installed many IKEA kitchens, and Semihandmade also has a substantial list of installers who exclusively do SH + IKEA installs in our area. At our local IKEA, we've found many of the salespeople are on a first-name basis with the Semihandmade folks since they are there so often.

    Semihandmade also lists kitchen designers who, for a reasonable fee, act as intermediaries to expedite the process and make sure it all goes smoothly. I have not heard as much about The Cabinet Face (based in Denver) but so far I haven't found any negative reviews. (I know some remodelers have done this process all on their own--see link below--but for me...I need the hand hold.) [KL's Big Reveal: Semihandmade/IKEA kitchen[(

    We are looking for a clean, contemporary look, and the walnut fronts on IKEA Sektion boxes (with Blum hardware) looks to be our best choice for the price. In any case, good to hear all input and I'll let you know how this turns out! :)

  • sockpuppetpete

    Ikea + DIY saves a lot of dough as the Pros in this thread have already pointed out. However, even with paid labor i'm still not convinced that for the cost of Ikea + custom fronts cost you can get comparable quality in another cabinet line. I'm sure you've already priced out other lines to compare.

    I've started browsing around for our remodel next year. It's been 10yrs since we last did a kitchen. I've noticed a few lines that try to emulate ikea. More frameless options, blum blumotion hardware and even metal frame drawer upgrades. But the prices just don't compete - even with custom fronts.

    As for quality, we installed ikea cabinets in our playroom 6 years ago. The kids use the drawer handles as ladder rungs to climb up onto the countertop. some times we've caught them standing in an open drawer. Then there's games of hide and seek inside the cabinets and tug-o-war with the cabinet doors. As of today, there are zero issues with any of the cabinets/drawers. All work perfectly. It's really impressive actually.

    Mittens Cat agradeció a sockpuppetpete
  • Mittens Cat

    Agreed! The bulk of our IKEA cabinets we bought 20 years ago are still working great and look shockingly new. I think it depends on what you get. My favorite piece had steel legs and rungs and was topped with a plank of 12-layer birch plywood. It took lots of abuse but still looks great. I think it was under $20.

  • GreenDesigns

    No one read any of the links. If they had, and understood them, they’d see that both Omega Frameless and Dura Supreme Frameless are going to be within a stone’s throw of the fancified IKEA by the time all of the extra labor and parts are accounted for. Then you get a much higher quality assembled box as well as 11,965 more choices in size, doors, and finishes.

    And all of those doors and finishes are much higher quality than SH. SH is way overrated. It’s not great quality. So by the time you match it with Ikea, you could have had double the quality of what you end up with for maybe 15% more money. SH walnut is just cheap extremely thin veneered plywood, cut to size. It looks exactly like what it is. Cheap. Any real cabinet manufacturer does a veneer layup that provides better looks and better quality both.

    You want walnut with a light stain that modified the eventual blonding out of walnut? You got it. You want a green paint? A navy paint? A just barely white paint? 6 choices. You need a 33 1/2” Wx39 1/2”H wall cabinet? You’ve got it. NO CHARGE size modifications. Just pick the next size up and input whatever size reductions that you want. You need a deep refrigerator wall cabinet that is 33 1/4” wide and 26” deep? Got it, with only a bit of a price increase for the oversized depth. From the factory. And factory sturdy and factory tough finished. Not cheap thermofoul. If you do happen to want thermofoil, DuraSupreme has high gloss Euro ones that look like you e been shopping at Poggenpohl, but without the 100K price tag. If you want a custom aqua color for your master bath? No problem. It’s only a 10% up charge.

  • PRO
    Scherr's Cabinets & Doors Inc

    Hello Mittens Cat,

    If you haven't already, send over your IKEA plan and we'll work up a free quote for you. We can do slab veneers with grain matching on any of the woods you have listed. We have a few projects in our gallery that show how our slab doors look.

    The project below is walnut with horizontal grain matching. The customer ordered them from us unfinished. She then stained and clear coated them herself.

    Mittens Cat agradeció a Scherr's Cabinets & Doors Inc
  • Mittens Cat

    Actually, I read through all those links, Green Design. I have been getting bids from custom cabinetmakers as a Plan B. So far, Plan B has ended up being at least 50% more costly. Maybe it's the area we're in.

  • pippabean.

    Mittens, some posters here endlessly repeat the same idea, which on closer inspection somehow never adds up. No point arguing, it's not just your area, it's everybody's...

    Mittens Cat agradeció a pippabean.
  • sockpuppetpete

    I'm going to rant here a little bit, so pardon me. If you're shopping mid-range cabinets and lower, serious consideration must be given to Ikea. Ikea cabs aren't for everyone, but they do insane volume with extremely tight manufacturing tolerances. For the price they can't be touched in terms of quality and options.

    The cabinet folks (some anyway) aggressively bash Ikea on this forum and in their stores and for good reason. Ikea poses a huge threat. I'm an engineer. I'm interested in materials, construction methodologies, process. You know, boring stuff :-)

    - There is ZERO need for plywood boxes. It's a BS upcharge. Engineered materials are more temperature stable, just as strong when assembled(or sufficiently strong with good design margin) and are no more or less vulnerable to kitchen mishaps that plywood.

    - A quality install makes more of a difference than the quality of the cabinet - to a point

    - invest in quality hardware (hinges & glides). If it moves, it breaks. spend your cash here. In my years of use with Ikea cabs, their hw is not just sufficient. It's awesome. Their tight milling tolerances and great hardware are the secret sauce.

    - next, spend on quality fronts to the extent possible. They take the wear, the bumps, spills, etc.

    - ikeas french cleat system is legit. it's a common construction approach that has been around for hundreds of years. I really don't understand why this hasn't been adopted more in the cabinet biz.

    If you're shopping high-end, fully custom then Ikea isn't for you. But the meat of the market would be perfectly happy with Ikea cabs.

    Mittens Cat agradeció a sockpuppetpete
  • PRO
    Design Intervention

    Amen Sockpuppetpete! I don't understand why everyone is so militant about wanting to change the mind of this very thoughtful homeowner. She has done much due diligence and seems like she has done much homework on her choice. Let's respect her and her choice.

    Mittens Cat agradeció a Design Intervention
  • pippabean.

    Yes!!! to what sockpuppet said above. So true.

    Mittens Cat agradeció a pippabean.
  • Katie Jones

    Did you end up going with custom doors? If so, which company? Any pictures to show? Thanks!

  • Mittens Cat

    Beachy Home, we are midway through the kitchen process but ended up going with a local cabinet maker who came highly recommended by several neighbors (as well as our own G.C., who we trust). Cabinet maker's price ended up being about 25% more than IKEA's Sektion + Ringhult. But our kitchen has some challenges (sloped ceiling, oddly placed beam, etc.), plus I'm a total sucker for the maple interiors and dovetail joinery, so hopefully it'll be worth it. He also uses architectural grade walnut veneer, which seems to be at least twice as thick as what I've seen from the IKEA customizing companies I sampled.

    The only snag thus far is getting the stain color just right on the walnut veneer. We came up with an excellent sample color last month before we signed the deal, but now that the doors are ready to stain, he has not been able to replicate the color to my satisfaction, so we're having some back and forth on that now.

    We are going with IKEA Godmorgon vanities in all four bathrooms, though, including in our master. Going to try Semihandmade for the first one (I purchased on the final hour of their latest sale) to see how it goes before deciding on the others. Fingers crossed! :) FWIW, I have had good customer service from The Cabinet Face in Denver and they do a lot more types of wood than Semihandmade, if that's what you're aiming for.

    Oh, and our resident Houzz expert jdesign_gw is launching his own IKEA customizing business soon, so you might want to inquire with him as well. :)

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