The cost of a renovation will vary depending on the overall size and scope of the project, the materials you choose, and the types of labor required to implement the plan. An Ikea kitchen renovation is no different: The amount you’ll ultimately shell out will depend in part on your choice of styles and materials and the level of work you’re willing to do yourself versus hire out. (Plus, incorporating third-party elements—custom fronts, for instance, or high-end countertops and appliances—will cause costs to fluctuate further.)
But in comparison to a fully custom kitchen—which, according to Seattle designer Katie Hackworth, “can run anywhere from $60,000 to $400,000”—there’s no denying the cost savings of opting for IKEA. For an idea of how much you could potentially save, consider this: Let’s say cabinetry accounts for 20% of the budget in a custom kitchen renovation. That means you’d reserve $12,000 for cabinets in a $60,000 kitchen and $80,000 in a $400,000 kitchen. Ikea cabinetry for a sample 10’ x 10’ kitchen layout ranges from $1,149 to $3,599.
This begs the question: How is it possible that Ikea can be so much cheaper—especially when so many swear by its quality and durability? One answer lies in Ikea’s approach to pricing: The company decides on the cost of a product first, then produces that product so that it can be marketed at that projected price tag. Below, three other reasons you’ll end up spending less:
They’re made of engineered wood.
Solid wood cabinets, esteemed for their strength and good looks, can quickly run up a five-figure price tag. Ikea cabinet units, on the other hand, are made from a cheaper melamine-clad, medium-density fiberboard (or MDF), a type of engineered wood. “Most millworkers would say that MDF is not as high-quality as plywood construction,” Space Exploration designer Kevin Greenberg says. But MDF isn’t without its upsides: “It’s less weather-sensitive and less prone to warping than solid wood,” Greenberg concedes.
In other areas, however, Ikea cabinetry bears surprising similarities to its higher-end counterparts: Its internal hardware, made by a brand called Blum, is the same you’d find in many costly custom options.
They’re mass-produced, not custom.
Ikea products are mass-produced in a fixed range of styles, colors, and sizes, which makes them an affordable alternative to small-batch or made-to-order options. The pros of mass production include lower price tags, limited lead times, and the relative ease of replacing lost or broken parts. The downsides? Less character, one-size-fits-all details (“those pre-drilled holes that allow for adjustable shelving makes the product look cheap,” Greenberg says), and, in the case of their cabinets’ interiors, a certain ubiquity that leads everyone and their mother to know:
handle assembly and installation.
Because Ikea products come disassembled and flat-boxed, their prices don’t need to account for significant storage space, transportation costs, or the labor required to put them together. (Of course, if you prefer, you can have your products assembled for you—for an additional fee.) Custom solid wood cabinets, on the other hand, are one-of-a-kind products made by skilled mill workers—on top of materials, you’re paying for their time, labor, knowledge of construction, and artistic ability.Despite the potential savings, renovators with larger budgets may wonder, When is it worth going custom? Depends. If this is the home you’re planning to spend the rest of your life in, it may be worth investing in a perfectly tailored kitchen that you’ve had a hand in designing yourself (if you can afford to do so). Or, if your renovation needs to accommodate an unusual layout or highly specific cooking requirements (specially sized drawers, say, or countertops of a particular height), custom cabinetry and detailing can ensure your needs are met.
Rest assured, however, there’s no need for FOMO if your budget is limited. “For the average person,” Greenberg says, “a simple, modified Ikea kitchen is a good option to consider. Most people don’t have to go far beyond that.”