The Beginning

Current 1979 kitchen
A homeowner job, 19 years after the house was built that slightly expanded and opened up the kitchen but with poor workmanship

My kitchen needs help. It was a homeowner job in 1979. It was poorly installed – no level, maybe not even a tape measure. The cabinets are wearing out. It’s time for something new. What’s wrong? I have three sets of hanging cabinets, none of which are hung at the same level. One has been repaired several times to keep it from falling off the wall. Most of the hinges are replaced or worn out. The cabinets leave sawdust on the contents inside. I’ve had to repair several of the drawers. The layout isn’t great. The finish on the edges is worn out. The floor is wearing out and there’s a problem with the insulation that makes one of the base cabinets double as extra fridge space in the winter. In short, it’s time for this kitchen to move on and a new one to take its place.

I have been eyeing Ikea kitchens for several years. I did a comparison with some of the brands carried by Home Depot. Even with a 20% off promo there, Ikea is roughly the same price before adding a lighting package and with more expensive cabinet internals. If I’m able to take advantage of Ikea’s next kitchen sale, I should be able to come out far ahead if I do my own cabinet assembly and installation.

Tonight, I signed up for Ikea’s in home measuring service with design consultation for $249, which I will get back if I purchase an Ikea kitchen by August 1. They will be out in a little over a week to measure and review my designs. I have two basic concepts in mind at this point: one to get my first appliance choices to work and one to maximize counter space. All designs will have larger hanging cabinets, so I should end up with more space than I currently have.

I tried to sign up for the Ikea measuring service over the phone. I couldn’t get a phone number for my local Ikea, so I tried to call the “order your kitchen here” line at 7:30pm today (Friday). Their site said they were open until 8pm eastern. I got a recording telling me that I was calling after business hours. Ikea fail #1.

Next, I called the phone number listed for one of my local stores. It was an 800 number, so I wasn’t expecting it to ring the store. I was able to get through to their central kitchen department, who told me I’d need to arrange measuring through a local store. They transferred me “to my store” supposedly by zip code. Erica was incredibly helpful, but it turns out that she’s in the Seattle store. I was expecting to get assigned to the Woodbridge, VA store – a difference of only 2786 miles! Ikea makes it incredibly difficult even for associates to find contact information for another store. Erica was able to get my store on the line by trying to check stock levels. She worked with me for over 30 minutes and got me to the right person – if you need a kitchen and you’re near Seattle, definitely ask for Erica at Ikea. She’s a rock star! Ikea win #1.

My store called me about 10 minutes after Erica passed off my contact information – she didn’t transfer me directly because she’s had issues Ikea’s phone system dropping calls instead of transferring them. I started to go through the information with my store over the phone, but they strongly preferred my signature on the paperwork, so I ended up coming in. I was only 10 minutes away from their store at that point because I jumped in the car when it became clear that it was going to be hard to set up measuring over the phone – we’ll call the whole phone trouble Ikea fail #2.

In the store, the associates that helped me were pretty knowledgeable, but the one who helped me the most wasn’t permitted to work past formal closing, so she had to leave a few minutes before 9 – we’ll call Ikea’s rigid scheduling system that the associates in kitchen all agreed made no sense Ikea fail #3. The next associate to help me sent me to one of their model kitchens and indicated I should poke around for a bit (the store was already closed at this point). Shortly after, I was kicked out for store closing, which was either a failure of telling me I could look when I couldn’t or a failure through kicking me out when I could have had a few more minutes – I was almost done! Ikea fail #4.

The final troubles of the evening weren’t directly related to the kitchen but are still worth noting. I picked up a clearance Christmas wreath on the way out. It was marked $9.99, originally $24.99. I had to wait about 15 minutes to check out with my one item (no express lanes anymore). It rang up as $24.99. It took a manager about 10 minutes to correct the price. I wouldn’t have bought it at either price if I had known it would add 25 minutes to my trip. I was thirsty so intended to buy a frozen drink at their still open snack bar, however the frozen drink machines turn themselves off at “store closing”, which was now 30 minutes ago so they weren’t very frozen. I decided to settle for the water fountain. Unfortunately the bathrooms and the water fountains had already been closed off and secured for the night. Ikea was still quite busy at closing – seems they should be open later or at least have more customer friendly closing policies! I will be nice and not add to Ikea’s score since these issues weren’t directly related to the kitchen.

What did I learn?

  • Be prepared – you will get better help if you have an idea of what you want (success, but even more than I realized)
  • Drawers are more expensive, but much easier to fully utilize and are one of Ikea’s strongest attributes – use as many as you can
  • Avoid Ikea near closing time. Everything kitchen takes longer than you think. Make sure you arrive at least two hours before closing for anything but the most basic pick up

Final score for today’s trip: 4 fails and 1 win. Hopefully Ikea will do better in the future!