How hiring professional IKEA kitchen installers will make your kitchen remodel a success.
A new IKEA customer looking to remodel their existing kitchen will have a lot of decisions to make, including product choices and design theme selection while learning how to navigate the remodeling process. One thing can make a huge difference in the success of your IKEA kitchen remodel: Hiring a professional cabinet installer.
That’s why IKD is talking with IKEA-certified cabinet installers to learn more about the advantages for homeowners instead of them going it alone. For this blog, we sat down with Terry, owner, of Tampa, FL-based The Kitchen Installers who shared some insider tips about using professional kitchen design plans; the importance of accurate measurements and how they impact a project (hint, it saves time and money!); and steps homeowners can take before installation to reduce the need for installer “go-backs” to your local IKEA which can further slow down your project.
Even if you’re an experienced DIYer who’s installed IKEA cabinets before, or have conducted online research for examples of kitchen products and designs, there’s definitely new things to learn from a professional cabinet installer like Terry. The following information will surely help IKEA customers better understand the ins and outs of IKEA cabinet installation. The end result will provide you — and your family — with peace of mind knowing your IKEA kitchen cabinets were properly installed.
Let’s hear from Terry!
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IKD: What led you to get involved in IKEA cabinet installation?
Terry: My first job with IKEA was back in 2012. I saw one of my friends was building a house and he was having a lot of trouble with project managers and just in general. He was very stressed out. He had ordered an IKEA kitchen. The first time you do an IKEA kitchen and you have no entry into that field, it’s hard — and time consuming! It probably took us a good six weeks to put that thing together only because we had no idea what we were doing.
I still text him every now and then and ask how the kitchen is doing and he says it’s still doing great so I knew that I could do them and it just evolved from project management into finding out that this is something that people need. Not everybody can do an IKEA kitchen, or not by themselves anyway, so there’s definitely a need for professional help. And what IKD does makes my job easier.
IKD: How so?
Terry: Usually I would be the one to do all the design work for them because it’s hard for me to rely on the designers at IKEA. Not that they’re not good, but they’re just not as detail oriented as IKD. IKD makes it easier because they literally hand (the design plan and inventory list) to me on a silver platter. Once I have it, there’s really no calls that I need to do back and forth to IKEA. A lot of times it’s going from the customer’s mind to the IKEA designer, and then the designer might tweak something that I’m not familiar with, or he might do something that he discussed with the customer. If I’m not involved with a customer from the very beginning — and IKD is not involved — it’s causes so much back and forth with IKEA. It really helps what IKD is doing and it just helps get the project done faster.
IKD: If you had to estimate then the difference in time, say working with IKD versus if the homeowners is doing it themselves, what would you say is the difference?
Terry: Throughout the whole project it saves me hours every day, especially in the very beginning when I have to do an inventory and I have to interpret a design plan. A lot of times customers call us when they’ve tried to do it themselves and they realize they can’t.
Usually they’ve opened up all their boxes, and I won’t know where anything is. So I have to sit there and inventory every single piece. This is not necessarily something that I charge for but I have to do it for my sanity. It’s just easier to have it on a on a PDF and just kind of check it off. Other times I go to the job site and customers don’t even have the original design just a really long receipt. So then I have to start looking up article numbers and seeing what matches with what. Overall, I mean it could easily save us a couple days.
IKD: Can you talk a bit about the services you provide and the typical process working with your company?
Terry: We have three levels of services. The first level is just easy. If a customer has somebody like IKD already doing the design, we’re just going to go in and install. That’s the basic package and we’ll price it accordingly. For all three levels, I really charge the same price for installation, it’s just more of a service for people when they’re not using IKD. Then I have to literally do exactly what IKD does in order to bring it up to that level. But I am not a designer by any means. But between the levels, it’s more just trying to get to the final design. On the third level package, for example, we do everything. Not that we advertise that we do flooring and bathrooms. But a lot of times when people are doing a kitchen, they ask if we know anyone that can do flooring or remove a wall. So, when I need to, I do it all in-house. We don’t subcontract, only the electricians and plumbers. Other than that, we do flooring, we do tile work, backsplashes, and countertops. Basically, we do anything in general when it comes to remodeling the kitchen in order to achieve the final design.
IKD: So, how do you determine pricing?
Terry: It’s very similar to the company that IKEA uses. We’ve just figured out the pricing, how they do it per drawer, per cover panel, per box, and we just have a matrix that we use to calculate everything. Some people will ask how much an IKEA install costs? Well, it’s very hard to answer that. We really have to put the design together. That’s why IKD is important because it makes it easier.
Also, unless the customer specifically asks to go to IKEA and they already know what they want, I’d rather go for them. I can get in and out really really fast versus spending hours there with the customer. I can just have the IKEA people send them a link to pay for the whole thing and I can walk through with the designer because the designer is the only one that can set it up the whole package. If there’s an IKD plan, for example, it’s just easier because I can just hand it to them. It answers all their questions for them instead of me having to relay it.
IKD: Do you notice a lot of employee rotation at IKEA or that they move around a lot?
Terry: Yes, there’s somebody there one month and another the next month.
IKD: One of the things we’ve heard from our customers, and obviously with IKEA, is the back orders. Can you talk a little bit about what you’re seeing with that and how you’re handling supply chain issues?
Terry: I’m very rarely getting backorders recently. It’s gotten much better in the last three or four months. I have no idea about in the other parts of the world. But here in Tampa, for example, we place an order every Thursday and every single piece is in stock.
The hardest part in the last year and a half was mostly the boxes. I could care less about the doors and the drawers. As long as I can get the boxes in there, I can complete the job. We can get the countertop template in there, and they can have a functioning kitchen, and if they’re missing a few doors or drawers it’s no big deal. But in terms of backorder, I think IKEA has stepped back up because with COVID they were in peril with all that stuff. I was hoarding boxes at my storage unit for everybody. They were so hard to get. For example, a 30” pantry for an oven and I think I still have like six of them. I was hoarding them whenever I could just to meet the customer’s demands. Now we’re finding all the boxes are there. It’s a great thing because people will want to buy from them again because so many people I think aren’t even bothering because they think there’s no inventory. One customer has an order with 62 cabinets. It’s a huge kitchen with 62 cabinets and they were all there.
IKD: That’s great to hear. How has that made the whole process easier?
Terry: It definitely affected our go-backs [to IKEA]. I hate going back to IKEA because we don’t like charging the customer and we had to waive our cost of going back. We can only do X amount of work before we get two or three more cabinets. Or we would try to do just the base cabinets instead of doing any of the uppers or any of the pantries just to be able to get that kitchen in working condition. I hate to have a customer that doesn’t have a kitchen and they’re just waiting and waiting. They often say they didn’t know it was so hard to find somebody to install. I tell them it is because chances are is that a general contractor just doesn’t do IKEA. Many GCs think they can’t make any money off of [installing IKEA], and number two, it’s a learning curve that they don’t want to learn.
Now that everything is in stock, we don’t have to do that back and forth. That was a huge issue that now we just don’t have to worry about anymore.
IKD: Does your company provide any cabinet hacks? And how do you charge for them, if you do?
Terry: The biggest cabinet hacks are usually just the length and the width and sometimes we can get away with doing edge banding on a door but the biggest cabinet hack is just the messing around with the measurements. Say IKEA’s 21” wouldn’t fit and we need a 16-1/2”. We’re good about cutting stuff down and reinstalling. It’s nothing hard for us at all. What would be another hack? What’s really hot right now is people putting the cabinets on top of the counter. And a lot of times the designers are not accounting for the thickness of the cabinet or they expect me to come up with something. One designer accounted for giving me extra product, knowing that I’m gonna have a lot of the cabinets. It was a 12’ tall kitchen, and we needed to do one of those library ladders that slides across. It was a really really cool kitchen but we needed a cut down and to have all those seams line up. We needed to cut down like six or seven cabinets on the uppers and then stack them and make room for the ladder as well so we’re just used to doing it. We don’t charge a lot of money for it. It’s like thirty or forty dollars a cabinet.
IKD: Do your customers submit their designs to you using the home planner? Like how does it typically work?
Terry: If they’re using it themselves, they’re usually good about just sharing the link with me. I just ask them, have you worked with a planner before? All they do is just email it to me and then I’ll just start editing it as I see fit. But the most important thing is getting the measurements correct. Rarely do I ever go into a house or start a project without confirming measurements. You never know if that half inch might make a difference.
Even if they’ve checked their own measurements, it doesn’t hurt for us to go out and check it. I remember working on one of IKD’s plans for a customer, and she had taken the measurements off by three inches. It messed up the whole thing. When I got there I told her we can’t use this cabinet because it’s too short or too long so let’s do a hack or let me go ahead and return stuff. That’s why I’m always in in IKEA! It’s also one less thing for the customer to get frustrated about, because I’ve had it where they’ve gone into IKEA and they got pissed off. And the next thing you know, So I go back and forth because I don’t want anyone to get mad.
IKD: So what are some of the qualities of an outstanding kitchen design?
Terry: If the customer is happy with it and I see that it’s a good layout. Also if we have a good walk-around room, and in general that they’re happy with it. I just want to make sure the customer is happy. And I’ve yet to see a customer upset with a design that they’ve made using IKD. Overall it’s more about the cohesiveness that everything will flow. If you have a really tight spot and you just start shoving cabinets in there just to have cabinetry, but it doesn’t flow very well, then what are you doing?
I’ve also been scolded before by not telling somebody we could do something. I remember the customer. She’s says we should have put that refrigerator over there. And she says ‘why didn’t you tell me?’ I said ‘I didn’t think you wanted to spend the money to knock that wall down’. And she said ‘Terry, how did you know I didn’t want to spend the money?’ Ever since that moment, I’m like she was right. So now I raise my hand and tell people that they have the option to do this. Yes, it’ll cost an extra $2,000, but just so you know, there is an option to do that.
IKD: It’s also impressive that you give assistance in returns and purchasing and delivery and such. If you could speak a little bit to that. I mean, do you pick up customers’ IKEA orders too?
Terry: When I’m first meeting a customer, a lot of times the customer has already gone to IKEA and they already know what they want. When it comes to ordering, I’ll just give them the option and ask if they want to go to IKEA again? Most of the times people say no. That’s when I tell them I’m there all the time doing returns for other people. It’s really easy for me to just go upstairs, get it done, and put the order in and have them email you the link. That’s a new feature from IKEA that they were offering maybe late last year that customers can start paying by just sending a link. Beforehand, I would have to fill out a credit card authorization form, have the customer sign it, send it back, email back and forth, etc. It took longer. Now it’s really just a phone call and they pay for it and it’s done. It’s all just customer service and making sure that customer is happy.
IKD: What can the homeowners do beforehand to prepare for a quality installation?
Terry: Just make room. That’s the biggest thing for us. Just make room for us because a lot of times people ask [where we need to work]. It’s always an issue of where are we going to be able to cut because there’s going to be sawdust somewhere. One of my installers always makes the joke that sawdust is always free. We don’t charge for it! But we’re good about cleaning up after ourselves. A lot of times, you’d be surprised by how many people don’t have the room. We’ve had to do it before, where every time we finish something, we have to move boxes out of the way and we lose momentum as we’re working. We can get it done faster if everything is clear for us. But we’ve never walked away from a house.
IKD: You’re in Tampa, FL. What cities do you serve in, and what is the mile radius that you’ll travel to?
Terry: If Tampa is the central point, we can go all the way north to Spring Hill or to Dade City, which is like 60 or 70 miles from there, and then we can go all the way down to Sarasota. Recently, because of the hurricane, we’ve been going down to Inglewood and Naples and Marco Island, Venice, and even a few in Orlando. We’ve been asked if we would go to Miami and if somebody was willing to pay for a hotel or Airbnb for us to go to Miami we would. As long as they can help accommodate us, we’ll be more than happy to go to anywhere. In fact, we have one in Dallas, I know it sounds very far away, but it’s for a family member. We’ve done one in Atlanta before also.
IKD: How do customers usually find you?
Terry: Usually just Google. It’s usually organic and they just type in kitchen installer Tampa and I we’re going to be one of the ones that pop up first.
IKD: You install Semihandmade (SHM), so how do you charge for some of the custom doors that you put in? Is that a higher price point? How do you work that out?
Terry: Really there’s no extra charge for Semihandmade. We don’t charge anything different for semi-handmade. The only extra charge is if there is like a custom refrigerator panel for a built-in refrigerator. It doesn’t matter if it’s from Semihandmade or if it’s from IKEA. It a lot of delicate work to make sure that it fits perfectly. It doesn’t make a difference to me because it fits just like IKEA so there’s no reason for me to charge more.
IKD: So what would you say is your worst installation experience?
Terry: I think worst installation, but it wasn’t IKEA though, was a beautiful install but it was this customer that spent a lot of money on these custom cabinets that looked like IKEA. I could have done the whole kitchen like IKEA but it wasn’t. Every single cabinet, all the measurements were just like an eighth or a sixteenth off from the other one. And it took probably a good two weeks to fix because I told the customer that we should expect nothing less than perfection from all the cabinets. But everything in this lady’s house was just hard. Every wall was off, every ceiling was off, and she wanted perfection. I told her you’re going to have to reorder the boxes and get them in the right size because it’s not fair that I should give perfection when the manufacturer didn’t. We were not there for three weeks straight. We were there for a total of three weeks doing an install that should have taken us ten days. Now take that three weeks and divide it by a year and a half. Every time they went to go manufacture another box — mind you this was during COVID — they would send another box. It would take six weeks to get one box. It was wrong. And they would have to send it back again. And every time I opened a new box, it was either scratched or the paint wasn’t good. That’s one thing that I definitely appreciate with IKEA. Whether it be Semihandmade or whether it be IKEA, I don’t have to worry about this tolerance of a sixteenth of an inch or an eighth of an inch. Everything is perfect. Everything. I tell my customers that I’ll give you guys perfection, but I can only do it as perfect as these cabinets are.
Some customers ask ‘Can I save money by assembling the boxes myself?’ I say sure if you want to save money, but just know if they’re not perfectly square we’re going to have to unassemble the whole thing and reassemble it and it’s a little bit more expensive. Some customers are very handy and they’ve done it perfect for me and I’ve appreciated that.
IKD: Do you also install appliances?
Terry: If it’s something that’s a built-in, like a built-in refrigerator or built-in freezer or built-in dishwasher, I’ll install those. If it’s like a built-in oven, that needs an electrician. I’ll be more than happy to help them put it in place, but usually it’s the job of the electrician to power it up. Rarely do I charge for just pushing your refrigerator in place but if it’s there is a charge for built-in cover panels is with built-in dishwashers and built-in fridges. When you’re doing a built-in fridge, it really has to be meticulously attached to the cabinets — perfectly square and perfectly level to make it look flawless.
The major appliances that we install is the built-in fridges and the built-in dishwashers. I’ll help with the oven when the electrician needs it too.
IKD: What are some of the specialized tools that you prefer to work with, Terry?
Terry: We use lasers and we use our levels. There’s one thing that actually has helped us was a handle jib, just to drill handles. We used to make our own jig every single time for every single customer. But we found this $35 handle jig on Amazon, and it’s really helped us do the handles faster.
IKD: Do you install IKEA cabinets in mudrooms and media rooms and other spaces as well?
Terry: We’ve done many entertainment centers, laundry rooms, butler’s pantries, kids’ cabinetry in a playroom. Those are very simple because we treat everything like a kitchen. So it’s not any harder for us to do a bar and make it as custom as we want to using our key cabinetry. There was a bar recently that we did which is the first time that I did under the countertop lighting that shone through. He invited me to his New Year’s Eve party and everybody was in awe that it was IKEA. It was a very luxurious IKEA kitchen.
IKD: Do you feel that IKEA cabinets are good or better than some of the higher priced brands?
Terry: I would say that I think so. Let’s talk about the boxes. If you were to take any other line of cabinetry from Home Depot, Lowes or any other on my Website, I just don’t think anybody can beat the price of a $50 to $60 box that’s engineered so perfectly. I don’t know how they would make it better if they were to recreate their boxes. So for the value and for the money and for the quality, IKEA boxes, you can’t beat it. Plus, I believe they still use Blum hardware. And if it’s Bloom hardware, that’s lifetime warranty.
Some people might use a plywood box, but then we’re back down to is it perfectly square. I don’t think anything can beat IKEA for the quality.
IKD: What do you enjoy most about your work? What gives you the satisfaction every day?
Terry: I love the before and after pictures. And I just like when the customers when they see it, when they see the before and after. We always laugh a lot and they say ‘I don’t remember what it was before!’ When you get something brand new, it brings a peace of mind. When you walk in that room, you see a new kitchen and feel so much nicer that now we have our kitchen. Finally it’s done or it’s just the way you want it.
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