The comment came from McNeal Elementary School teacher Kristi Wade Dyer and was directed toward my wife, Jeannine: “I can’t believe you’re still remodeling your kitchen yourself – and you’re still married.”
“Yes, Kristi, Jim still has 10 fingers and a wife,” Jeannine said after months without a kitchen.
So how did we get into this mess? Our 30-year-old kitchen cabinets were falling apart and Jeannine was subtly prodding me for a new kitchen.
Here’s what we quickly discovered: Kitchen remodeling is expensive. Really expensive.
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Remodeling magazine says a full kitchen remodel can cost upwards of $55,000. Moreover, nearly 50 percent of kitchens done by National Kitchen and Bath Association members were priced between $20,000 and $49,999, and another 35 percent cost between $50,000 and $99,999, according to Jordan Zapalotosch of NKBA.
Our challenge: How can we get a $60,000 dream kitchen for $15,000?
While walking through the Tampa IKEA’s seductive kitchen display, we had an epiphany. We fell in love with the stylish Brokhult cabinets at what we considered an affordable $5,389.
Now begins our cautionary tale – nightmare? – of assembling and installing cabinets and appliances ourselves to save money.
We started by demolishing our kitchen on our own, risking electrocution and back injuries, to save $1,000. After designing and ordering our IKEA kitchen, nearly 170 boxes were delivered that we assembled to create our new kitchen.
Understand, however, that all cabinet sides had to be inserted with screws, nuts, nails, pegs, widgets and braces, just to form one cabinet box. Hanging the 14 cabinets we built on the wall came next.
This kitchen install was proving much more difficult than assembling the IKEA futon and chairs we purchased a few years back. The kitchen instructions were at best simplistic and at worst a sadistic IQ test.
For those not familiar with IKEA, the company uses drawings, in a series of comic book poses, for wordless instructions. The IKEA kitchen guide specifies that its kitchens are designed to be installed by “individuals.” My translation: An individual contractor, carpenter or experienced handyman.
“IKEA knows these kitchens shouldn’t be installed by most novice do-it-yourselfers,” said Sergio Milosavljevic, an IKEA kitchen installation expert at Sarasota’s Kitchen Craft, LLC. “They make their sweet spot by selling lots of low-cost kitchens by volume, though.”
Beyond those affordable cabinets, many homeowners fail to consider the cost for everything else is going to be industry standard. Don’t forget to consider the cost of labor, appliances, countertops, back-splashes and flooring. Also budget for electrical work and plumbing.
“We’ve come up with a formula: We take the linear feet, a straight-line measurement of your kitchen, and multiply it by $1,000 to $1,500,” said Matthew Hamel of Modern Kitchen Pros. “So if you have a 10x10 kitchen, that equals 20 linear feet. So the cost of this kitchen is about $20,000.”
Again, kitchen remodeling is expensive. Really expensive. And difficult to construct or install for someone lacking in experience.
“We try to push using professionals, but sometimes our staff doesn’t communicate this as much as we like,” said Jose Marrero, a kitchen installation specialist with IKEA. “Every kitchen is different, and there are risks and rewards to any construction. Assembling an IKEA kitchen is not a straight-and-easy process.”
When it was finally all said and done, the cost of our kitchen came in at $17,622. In the end, I think we saved more than $20,000, but was all the frustration and hundreds of hours of work really worth it?
My advice: Avoid installing or remodeling a kitchen yourself, unless you are an experienced contractor. If not, hire a professional installer.
Our new kitchen looks amazing and my wife seems happy, though she subtly mentioned last week that our bathroom looks “prehistoric.”