Choose Your Own Spring Cleaning Plan


Instead of trying to do it all — and ending up doing nothing — pick a cleaning approach that suits your motivation

The thought of spring cleaning can be as entrancing as a fairy tale — but getting through a giant list of tasks while having a busy life can be just as unrealistic as a cheerful Snow White twirling about in the forest, with birds tweeting and helping sweep with brooms in their little beaks. The key to successful spring cleaning, then, is to not try to do it all. Instead, pick from one of these six themes for your spring cleaning — and focus your energy where it will count. And if you decide to put on music, fling open the windows and twirl around with your mop, we won’t tell.
by Murchison-Hume
Spring cleaning focus: Bust dust and clutter. This can be a satisfying plan to follow because when you’re done, your home should be noticeably cleaner and less cluttered. Start with clutter clearing, because the less stuff is in your way, the easier it will be to clean surfaces. Just don’t consider the decluttering done until you have actually removed the items you don’t want from your home; otherwise, it will have a way of working itself back into your closets, cupboards and drawers. If you know you will have many items to donate (especially if some of them are furniture) call around in advance and see if a local charitable organization will do a pickup — having a pickup scheduled can be a good way to get motivated to get the work done.
Transitional Entry by Thorsen Construction
Thorsen Construction
For any clutter-clearing endeavor to be a success, it’s best to get the other members of your household onboard. Ideally, each person would be responsible for decluttering his or her own belongings — at the very least, try to garner some support for your clutter-clearing efforts and encourage people to pitch in as they can. In each space (room, closet or cupboard) you tackle, follow these three steps:

Remove everything.
Vacuum or wipe down the empty space.
Put back only what you want to keep.

Modern Kitchen by Giulietti Schouten Architects
Giulietti Schouten Architects
Spring cleaning focus: Get cooking. If you love to cook (or want to cook more), it can be well worth the effort it takes to give the kitchen and pantry a thorough cleaning. Start by clearing out old food and spices, and wash the interior of your fridge and food cupboards. Clean all of those forgotten nooks and crannies, including inside the oven, microwave and toaster oven, plus the dish drainer. Finish by wiping down the walls (which can get surprisingly grimy) and windows.

If you have a bit more time, give your breakfast nook or dining area a once-over. Chairs and table legs (especially in households with kids) can use an occasional cleaning. Put pads on the feet of chairs to protect your floors, clean dust from the corners of the room and set something pretty in the center of the table.
Eclectic Living Room by Luisa Volpato Interiors
Luisa Volpato Interiors
Spring cleaning focus: Textile refresh. If it’s been a while since you’ve cleaned your rugs or upholstery, this could be the right focus for you. Start by laundering small washable items, like shower curtains, cotton rugs and washable slipcovers, at home. When laundering slipcovers, try putting them back on while they’re still barely damp for a better fit.
Transitional Entry by Brett Mickan Interior Design
Brett Mickan Interior Design
Take larger area rugs and removable pillow covers to be professionally cleaned. If you have wall-to-wall carpeting, have it professionally cleaned or rent a carpet cleaner and do it yourself. Drapery and upholstery that cannot be cleaned by another method can usually be safely steam cleaned using a real steam cleaner designed to be safe for textiles — not a carpet shampooer or hard-flooring steam cleaner. (Always check for care directions and test a spot first.)
Entry by Shift Interiors
Shift Interiors
Spring cleaning focus: Green and clean. Around Earth Day (April 22) is a great time to give your home a healthy, ecofriendly makeover. Consider making one or more of these changes during your spring cleaning:

Use natural cleansers (or baking soda and white vinegar) to tackle cleaning projects like mopping, wiping counters and caring for furniture.
Cut up old T-shirts to make rags and use them in place of paper towels.
Replace disposables with reusable items, like glass water bottles, stainless steel straws, cloth shopping bags and cloth napkins.

To clean the air, bringing in an air purifier is a good idea — but don’t neglect simpler methods as well, like opening windows to let in fresh air and keeping plenty of healthy houseplants.
Eclectic Bathroom by Studio Stamp
Studio Stamp
Spring cleaning focus: Deep clean. Let’s face it: In the course of a regular weekend, it never seems like a good time to get to those truly deep (and often pretty yucky) cleaning projects you know you should be doing. Why not dedicate a day to doing all the dirty work you’ve been putting off? Just be sure to plan a nice reward at the end of it!

Here are a few tasks to consider putting on your deep-cleaning to-do list:

Vacuum all of the hard-to-reach places you usually skip, such as deep under the beds and behind furniture.
Clean out the dryer hose and vacuum inside the lint trap.
Clean behind the fridge and vacuum the coils.
Scrub the grout in the kitchen and bath.
Clean out the garbage can and recycling bins.
Dust the light fixtures.
Clean the blinds.

Victorian Exterior by Anthony Crisafulli Photography
Anthony Crisafulli Photography
Spring cleaning focus: Exterior scrub-up. Perhaps staying indoors to clean just when the weather outside is getting bearable sounds like a horrible idea altogether. In that case consider making your spring cleaning all about the exterior of your home. Hose down the siding, clean out the gutters and downspouts, wash the windows and stain the deck. If you feel really inspired, make your way into the garden and clean your tools, edge the lawn and mulch the flowerbeds.

Tell us: Do you do spring cleaning?

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Homeowner’s Workbook: How to Remodel Your Kitchen

9 steps to a kitchen remodel, from gathering design ideas through construction and final review

You’ve decided to remodel your kitchen. Now what? Not knowing where to start, many homeowners fall into two camps. Some start by looking at appliances. Others start by collecting inspiring kitchen photos. Some decide they need more room. Others simply want to upgrade their current kitchen. Homeowners may find themselves in this exploration stage for a year or longer before they start interviewing kitchen designers or general contractors.

Once you’ve pondered long enough and you’re ready to green-light a kitchen remodeling project, then what? We’ll start with the first 9 steps and we’ll get into the nitty-gritty details under specific steps as we move through the complete workbook.
Transitional Kitchen by Mary Evelyn Interiors
Mary Evelyn Interiors
Step 1: Think about what you need

This step is all about how you use your kitchen, and finding the layout and features that fit your household’s lifestyle. Get ideas from every resource possible, including Houzz guides and photos and kitchen showrooms.

Think about your priorities: how many people will be cooking and gathering here, and how they’ll need to move around in it. Do you need an addition? Or can you work with your existing kitchen footprint?

If you haven’t already, start saving photos of kitchens with features that suit your style. Your collection can be organized and beautiful like a scrapbook or it can be filled with random, unorganized images. I actually prefer the latter, because I like to randomly stuff images into my folders and ideabooks and go back to them later on for edits.

How to Organize Your Ideas | Browse kitchen photos and save your favorites
Traditional Kitchen by Dijeau Poage Construction
Dijeau Poage Construction
Step 2: Research and plan

Ready to green-light that project and take the plunge? The best place to start is by formulating what’s commonly referred to as a scope of work and figuring out your preliminary budget.

Both of these may be subject to change, so don’t feel like you have only once chance at this. Budget and scope are intertwined and often change many times during the design process as you become more educated and able to reconcile what you want and what you can afford. As a homeowner, you’re not expected to walk into this knowing what everything should cost. Remember, this is an educational process.

How to Map Our Your Scope of Work | 3 Common Kitchen Budgets

Step 3: Find the professionals you will need

Even if you’re going the DIY route, unless you’re building your own kitchen cabinets and doing your own electrical and plumbing, you’re going to have to work with a professional at some point. It may be as brief as leaning on your salesperson to help you in selecting and ordering your appliances or cabinets, but it’s something to plan on either way.

Some people start by visiting big-box stores or cabinet showrooms where they can see everything. Many homeowners get referrals from friends or colleagues and start by hiring an architect or designer. Still others might work on their own with a builder or contractor. Pros are available to help you with everything from contracts and permits to space planning, budgets, choosing finishes and fixtures, shopping, ordering products, helping you set up a temporary kitchen, and managing your project from start to finish.

How to Work With a Kitchen Designer | Find Kitchen Designers near you
Contemporary Kitchen by Urban Homes – Innovative Design for Kitchen & Bath
Urban Homes – Innovative Design for Kitchen & Bath
Step 4: Schematic design

This phase includes sketches, space planning, preliminary floor plans and elevations showing the layout and cabinet sizes. I try to keep my clients focused more on layout and space planning, even though the temptation is to talk about what the kitchen will look like. But I find that getting caught up in the look too early can distract from the space planning phase.

Plus, you need a plan in order to figure out what materials will go where, and how many square feet you will need, and ultimately how much this will cost. I like to begin the contractor interview process early and give them a preliminary drawing packet and scope of work so we can get some ballpark construction numbers. At the same time you can be sending out drawings for estimates on some top choices of finishes and fixtures.

More on Planning Your Space | How to Read a Floor Plan

Step 5: Fixture and finish specification

Throughout this process, and probably long before, you have been saving photos of kitchens you love into your ideabooks and folders. You’ve found your style, whether it’s modern, classic, traditional, cottage or a personal style in between. You probably know if you want a white kitchen, a natural wood kitchen, or some color.

Now you need to make your final selection of finishes and fixtures. This usually includes:

Cabinetry construction type, doorstyle, finish and color
Countertop material
Refrigerators and other appliances
Kitchen sink and faucet
Light fixtures
Decorative hardware

More on planning your layout and appliances
Traditional Kitchen by Buckminster Green LLC
Buckminster Green LLC
Step 6: Work on design development and construction documents

This is the stage when you finalize the design and prepare final floor plans, elevations, details and, if applicable, mechanical and electrical drawings, lighting switch plans, and exterior elevations.

This is where your final permit set or Construction Drawings (CDs) come into play. It’s important to have finishes and fixtures selected at this time, since this is what will be considered in the final pricing from the contractor.

You’ll submit drawings for permits. These have a lead time, so check the timing with your local village. You’ll need an architect, designer or licensed contractor signed up to finalize the paperwork and pick up your permits, so get ready to hire someone in the next step. I often find that we’re submitting for permits around the same time or a little bit after we’ve placed the cabinet order, due to similar lead times.

Step 7: Get contractor estimates

If you don’t already have a licensed contractor on your project, your next step is to find one to carry the project through. I always recommend to my clients to get at least 3 different contractor estimates. I like to do preliminary walk-throughs with the contractors once the schematic designs are done so we can get some ballpark estimates and find out if we’re on the right track or need to pull back some to fit the budget.

What to Look for in a Contractor’s Contract

Step 8: Get ready for demo

The big day is upon us, most likely something like 4-8 weeks from when you submitted for permits. Time to get that schedule firmed up and plan on cleaning out the cabinets, putting what you don’t need in storage and — if you’re living in the house during construction — setting up a temporary kitchen so you don’t lose your mind!

You may be moving out of your house temporarily, but most homeowners white-knuckle it and try to live in the house through construction. Preparation and organization can save your sanity.

Discuss the logistics ahead of time with your contractor. Will you meet once a week for updates? Will you have to be out of the house for certain tasks like demo or flooring? What about debris removal and dust? Are there any family allergy issues? What is a typical work day for the crew? Getting all this on the table beforehand can set expectations and make for a smoother ride.

4 Ways to Get Ready for Kitchen Construction

Step 9: Surviving the dreaded punch list

Once construction is over, well … almost over … there’s always this annoying little list of items that are missing, wrong, or simply forgotten about. A missing light switch plate, a caulk line that shrank and pulled away from the wall, paint touch ups — small things like this, and sometimes bigger things like the hood doesn’t work, or there’s a big scratch in the newly refinished floor.

Sometimes the homeowner does the punch list. It can be as informal as an emailed list of items that need to be fixed or finished. I like to use a little form I put together that identifies the item to be fixed or finished, the responsible party and the date of completion. I send it to the client for review, changes and additions, and then off to the contractor.

It’s inevitable that the contractor may have to make multiple visits back to the house to finish these items; prepare yourself for more than one visit and you’ll be fine.The best way to approach this is with a Zen attitude. Things happen, little things get missed. It’s sort of like making a list for the grocery store and still forgetting some key ingredient. We all do it.

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Before and After: 6 Bathrooms That Said Goodbye to the Tub

Sleek showers replaced tub-shower combos in these bathroom remodels. Could this be an option for you?

Bathtubs, while a common bathroom feature, don’t always get a lot of use. Fifty-six percent of respondents to a Houzz survey say they never use their tub for taking a bath. So it’s no surprise that some people are opting to take out the tub altogether when they remodel their bathroom.

Let’s take a look at six bathroom transformations that said goodbye to the tub. Maybe these scenarios will shower you with new ideas for your own bathroom.
Before Photo
Room of the Day: Bathroom
Related: How People Upgrade Their Bathrooms and How Much They Spend

1. 1980s Style to Classic Charm

Bathroom at a Glance
Who lives here: A couple of empty nesters
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Size: About 50 square feet (4.6 square meters)

BEFORE: A renovation in the 1980s left this bathroom dark and cramped.
Victorian Bathroom by Christa Pirl Interiors
Christa Pirl Interiors
AFTER: A large glass shower greets the homeowners, who chose a plan that would age along with them. The designer, Christa Pirl of Christa Pirl Interiors, focused on adding a shower that allowed easy access should the couple have any mobility problems in the future, something their previous tub didn’t do.

Wall paint: Mt. Rainier Gray; wainscoting paint: Alabaster, both Benjamin Moore; toilet: Kohler; sink: Barclay; faucets: Pfister; mirrored medicine cabinet: custom; floor, subway and shower floor tile: Daltile

Read more about this bathroom remodel
Before Photo
A Stunningly Simple Master Bathroom Full of Storage and Function
2. Crumbling to Crisp

Bathroom at a Glance
Who uses it: A couple expecting their first child
Location: ​Philadelphia
Size: ​About 55 square feet (5 square meters)

BEFORE: This 1912 bathroom had patched tile, limited storage and flickering fluorescent lights.
Scandinavian Bathroom by Osborne Construction
Osborne Construction
AFTER: The couple gets a bright, warm bathroom, designed by Brian Osborne of Osborne Construction and Niko Dyshniku of Kole Made, complete with a large shower. (Note: A glass panel was added to create a side on the shower after this photo was taken.) The couple had fewer reservations about having only a shower in this space because the home has another bathroom with a tub.

Toilet: Adair, Kohler; paint: White Dove, Benjamin Moore; sink: Teorema; fixtures and knobs: Purist in brushed Moderne Gold, Kohler; cabinets: reclaimed sinker cypress, Kole Made

Read more about this bathroom remodel
Before Photo
ROTD Lee Kimball Charlestown Condo Bath
3. Floral Curtain to Elegant Glass

Bathroom at a Glance
Who lives here: A single professional woman who travels extensively for work
Location: Charlestown, Massachusetts
Size: 75 square feet (7 square meters)

BEFORE: The shower was tucked back into the corner of the space and was closed off from the rest of the room by a curtain.
Transitional Bathroom by Lee Kimball
Lee Kimball
AFTER: Meredith Tomlin-Hilliard and designers from Lee Kimball changed the space into a shower stall. It opened up the space, making the bathroom feel larger, lighter and more airy. The shower covers about the same footprint as the previous shower but gives the room a whole different look.

Tile: Tile Showcase; shower wall and door glass: Starphire glass

Read more about this remodel
Before Photo
Contemporary by Paul Kenning Stewart Design
Paul Kenning Stewart Design
4. Outdated to Efficient

Bathroom at a Glance
Who lives here: A family of three who regularly has guests
Location: Toronto
Size: 45 square feet (4.2 square meters)

BEFORE: When the owners purchased this condo, the bathroom had a mismatch of styles in the bathroom, as well as outdated electrical and ventilation.
Modern Bathroom by Paul Kenning Stewart Design
Paul Kenning Stewart Design
AFTER: The renovated bathroom by Projekt Home (Paul Kenning Stewart Design) created a bathroom that efficiently uses space and requires little maintenance. One maintenance saver was the fixed-glass shower door. It also lets in additional light, along with the new window, to make the space brighter.

Read more about this bathroom remodel
Before Photo
ROTD Bubble Tile by homeowner Jan Ferris
5. Unloved Pink to Cheerful Rainbow

Bathroom at a Glance
Who uses it: Artist and psychologist Jan Ferris and her standard poodle, King
Location: Los Angeles
Size: About 94 square feet (9 square meters)

BEFORE: Not only did the homeowner not love the color, but a recent leak that flooded her home had left black mold in the bathroom. The vanity also was jammed against the tub, making everything feel crowded.
Bathroom ROTD Bubble Tile by homeowner Jan Ferris
AFTER: A large, glass-walled shower fills a corner of this artist’s now very colorful bathroom. The removal of the tub gave the homeowner more room, and she wasn’t concerned about the resale value of not having a tub.

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The Truth about Ikea Kitchen Cabinets


It’s no surprise that the kitchen is probably the most common home renovation that people choose to do. It’s the place where everyone ends up as well as the part of the house where the food and drinks are. I have probably designed and built over 20 kitchens in the last 8 years and I have used various cabinet companies ranging from totally custom to off the shelf. As is the case with many projects, budget is usually a concern and for that reason, we use alot of IKEA cabinets. If you are considering using them on a project, I suggest you read on.

Every project I have done for Pocono Modern has used IKEA cabinets and I would say that I am fairly proficient in making IKEA products look custom. However, the question most often asked about IKEA cabinets is about the quality. I have broken out my analysis into five major categories:

– Construction
– Door / Drawer Styles
– Hardware
– Variety of Components / Accessories
– Appearance

1- Construction

The construction of an IKEA cabinet frame (AKURUM) is particle board with a white or beech colored plastic laminate. Overall, this is pretty low quality but to be honest, not that far off from a more expensive Kraft Maid cabinet. Most production line cabinets today have particle board substrates covered by either melamine, laminate, or wood veneer. Only custom cabinet makers will use solid plywood for the frames and that will cost you big dollars. I actually prefer the particle board cabinets because they are more stable (plywood can sometimes warp over time) and they make them from wood chips, which is more eco friendly. But that being said, you hardly ever see the cabinet frame, especially if you have drawer units, so it’s not much of a priority to me personally. The other variable is that you assemble the frames yourself using locking cams. For this reason, I can verify the soundness of the connections and even add glue in the joints if I like. I would say though that the final quality of the unit depends alot on the assembler so if you are careful then you will end up with a good quality cabinet. If you are the kind of person who doesn’t use up all the nails when you install the back then IKEA may not be for you.

2- Door / Drawer Styles

The door (or drawer) style is the part of the cabinet that you actually see and in that area, I believe IKEA brings the good stuff. Unlike the frames, many of the doors and drawers are solid with good quality wood veneer. The painted finishes tend to vary slightly, (particularly in the Ramsjo line) but overall they have a good variety and hit many different price points from dirt cheap laminates to better priced Oak. They even have glass doors and lacquered style colors. Overall the variety and quality are impressive at this price point but you need to be very careful about discontinued lines. If you think you may want to add a cabinet in the future, be prepared for the possibility that they may stop making that line and you won’t be able to get it. This has happened to me twice. First with the Oak Tidaholm line (below) and then with the medium brown Nexus style.

Tidaholm Line (discontinued)

3- Hardware

IKEA has made great strides with their hardware. And by hardware, I do not mean the knobs and pulls but the interior drawer glides, hinges, dampers, and legs. The drawer and door dampers prevent slamming of parts and provide a nice easy glide upon shutting. The hinges are of the same or better quality than you would find in a comparable special order cabinet. They are all pretty easy to install, except for the door dampers, which I always have trouble snapping in. Note to IKEA: work on easier to install door dampers. They have also added decorative legs so your cabinets can sit off the ground, which I like very much. They come in three different heights so you can even use shorter cabinets to get different effects. If you choose to go with the standard black plastic legs, they offer matching toe kicks that snap right on. Overall, IKEA gets high marks on the internal hardware, especially when you compare it to the junk they were using a few years back. As for knobs and pulls, I find that their own line is far better priced than anything you can buy at the big box stores, especially the modern bar pulls.

4- Variety of Components / Accessories

This is probably the single biggest flaw with the IKEA line. Looking for a flip down sponge drawer? They don’t have it. Want a narrow spice cabinet? They don’t have it. Looking for options on a corner unit. Sorry, they just have a couple. Although their line is fairly diverse in terms of door and drawer fronts, they keep the amount of components fairly limited to certain sizes and options. I suppose this is because they make so many parts and pieces that they have to stick with what sells. I have often hoped that they would add pull out drawer units for garbage and recycling bins, but alas, none have come along. If you want unique parts and pieces then I’m afraid you’re stuck with what they have. If you can get over the limits of their running line, then I would say that is the biggest hurdle.

Two toned Ramsjo Kitchen

5 – Appearance

This last category is entirely up to you. I have found that when assembled correctly with the right amount of additional details (lighting, hardware, windows, etc..) an IKEA kitchen can look every bit as custom as one 3x the price. Of course it will never compare to a custom cabinet with inset doors (as opposed to overlay doors which is all IKEA makes) but for the money I don’t think you can find a better deal. Just be sure to get a second opinion on the planning as the standard work triangle is not the only consideration for a functional kitchen. You need to make sure you have the proper clearances for walking by, the proper support for countertops, and enough room to open doors and drawers.

Below are a few more samples of other IKEA kitchens that we’ve done. Please also leave your feedback on anything you feel is good or bad with the systems. Maybe IKEA will catch on to our suggestions in the next generation.

Nexus Black Brown
Nexus Medium Brown (discontinued)

In summary, IKEA cabinets can really pull off a quality look if you plan it properly and take time with the assembly. They are limited in cabinet types and accessories, but the money you save will allow you to spend more on countertops and lighting which really add to a kitchen. However, if you truly desire a custom kitchen with solid wood construction and specific finishes, there is no substitute for a quality cabinet shop. Just be prepared to spend considerably more.

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DIY kitchen cabinets: IKEA vs. Home Depot

A few years ago, we did a budget remodel of our gross, outdated kitchen. You can read about it here in detail, but here’s a before-and-after shot to provide a visual summary:

ikea kitchen before and after

During our planning, I researched the hell out of stock, ready-to-assemble, and custom cabinets. We ultimately decided to go with IKEA cabinets because they’re cheap, pretty easy to install, surprisingly durable, and look great.

Then last year, we ended up remodeling the kitchen in our downstairs apartment. It’s almost the exact same layout, so we figured we’d take roughly the same approach that worked so well for us a couple years earlier (and has worked out great since).

However, at the time, IKEA was in the middle of its summer kitchen sale and all the while phasing out its longstanding Akurum cabinet system, so they didn’t have a lot of the cabinets we wanted in stock; in fact, it was going to take three weeks to get some of them in. (And you can’t really install a kitchen with just “some” of the cabinets!)

Plus, people had caught on to the ludicrous bargain that is IKEA’s apron-front farmhouse sink — it was back-ordered for two months and the associate said he wasn’t even allowed to sell it anymore. (IKEA’s Domsjo single-basin farmhouse sink, which we have in our own kitchen, costs less than $200 and looks fantastic — a similar one elsewhere can cost $800 or more. The double-basin apron-front sink is a hair over $300 — compare that to over $1,000 for a similar Kohler.)

And as if that wasn’t enough, they were out of butcher block counters, too. Another two-week wait. We needed to get all this done while I had a break between jobs, so we didn’t have much flexibility in terms of timing.

So we had to scrap our plans for IKEA Kitchen 2.0, and start shopping the big-box home improvement stores.

We ended up getting stock cabinets and a regular Kohler cast iron sink from Home Depot, and one huge slab of maple butcher block from Lumber Liquidators. (That thing almost killed me in the driveway.)

That means I’ve bought and installed both IKEA cabinets and Home Depot’s stock Hampton Bay cabinets (not to mention IKEA butcher block vs. Lumber Liquidators), so I can give you a pretty good pros-and-cons review of each from a DIY perspective — at least from my personal experience with them.
IKEA cabinets vs. Home Depot cabinets

Which ones were easier to install, better quality, and just look nicer? Well, that’s easy: The IKEA cabinets beat Home Depot’s stock cabinets hands down in just about every category — except availability at the time. Here’s how they compared:
Price: Even

In terms of overall cost, IKEA’s cabinets and Home Depot’s stock Hampton Bay line were roughly the same. We got a higher-end trim of the IKEA cabinets, so they could potentially be cheaper — but we got a small kitchen’s worth for about $1,600.
Flat pack vs. pre-assembled: IKEA

I convinced myself that the pre-assembled Home Depot cabinets would save me time and hassle compared to the IKEA ones — after all, it takes a solid half hour to assemble each IKEA cabinet, and that’s after you’ve done a couple of them and gotten the hang of it.

However, I didn’t anticipate a few things:

The assembled cabinets are BIG. I went to pick them up at Home Depot, and even with a completely empty hatchback with the back seat folded down, I could only get two cabinets in the car at once. I had to make multiple trips just to get them all home.
The assembled Home Depot cabinets are bulky, heavy, and awkward. Getting them from the car into the kitchen by myself was brutal, too. They’re pretty heavy, and the weight isn’t distributed evenly. Plus, they’re about 30″ x 24″ and our old doorways are all 30″ — it was a tight fit.
You actually have to disassemble them somewhat to install them. While the Home Depot cabinets were all assembled in the box and ready to go, you have to take off all the doors to actually install them (unscrewing them in several spots) — and then screw them back on afterward. It took almost as much more time as assembling an IKEA cabinet from scratch.

We got all of our IKEA kitchen stuff delivered for a flat rate of $99 (I believe this varies by how far you are from a store). But it’s easy to pick up an entire kitchen’s worth of cabinets from the store — they of course come in IKEA’s famous flat-pack boxes so it’s easy enough to get them home.

If you go with IKEA cabinets (or most other ready-to-assemble stock cabinets), expect to take up to an hour or so assembling your first cabinet, and then you should be able to whip through the rest of them in 15-30 minutes each as you get the hang of it.

Quality: IKEA

I never thought I’d say this, but the cabinets we got from IKEA are pretty diesel. We’ve had them for four years now (most of that time with a small child around), cook at home almost every day, and still they’ve endured the abuse of modern family life admirably.

The “enamel” as I call it is wearing off in just one spot, under the trash can, which rubs against it every time I yank it out and push it back in with a handful of onion peels or whatever. But for the most part, I’ve been extremely impressed, and they look and feel nicer as well.

The Home Depot cabinets… Well, for starters, they were roughed up right out of the box. I spent a good half hour trying to reinforce this one below, which had come completely apart at one (fairly crucial) joint and was simply shedding shredded MDF particles all over the place:

home depot cabinets bad quality

Want to know why it came apart so easily? IT WAS STAPLED TOGETHER. So, there you go. Staples: Good for term papers, bad for kitchen cabinet joinery.

They also have a kind of cheap-looking finish to them compared to the white IKEA cabinets. On the whole, I wasn’t impressed.

(Update — Oct. 2015: Just a year after installing the Home Depot cabinets downstairs, and under very light use (the apartment was virtually empty for three months), the wood veneer in the silverware drawer has bubbled up in gross pock marks, presumably from moisture:

home depot cabinet – warped from water

I mean, it’s a kitchen drawer – sometimes your silverware is still a bit wet coming out of the dishwasher, it’s bound to happen. This is completely shoddy.)
Ease of installation: IKEA

This goes to IKEA hands down. For starters, they’ve designed them so you can get a suspension rail that you secure to the wall (to the studs). Then the wall cabinets simply hang on that rail. You know how much easier it is to keep a strip of aluminum perfectly level while you screw it in than, say, a boxy, 40-pound cabinet? MUCH easier.

Granted, that creates a small gap between the cabinets and the wall, and a perfectionist should trim the cabinets with some kind of decorative molding. (I just left it.)

Also, IKEA’s cabinets come with adjustable, self-leveling legs, so you don’t have to deal with tapping in a dozen shims just so in several different places trying the get the whole row lined up evenly. I didn’t realize what a lifesaver those legs were — particularly in a wavy house like our old lady — until I was on my 10th shim with the Hampton Bay cabinets.

And finally, the IKEA cabinets came with strips across the top of them that you can mount a countertop to. With most other cabinets, you’re kind of on your own in that department.
Extras: IKEA

Our IKEA cabinets have the soft self-closing feature on the drawers and cabinet doors. So you (or more typically your three-year-old) can’t slam them shut — they catch and then slowly pull all the way in. It’s an AMAZING feature I can’t imagine living without at this point.

And you know how much that little luxury costs when you go with IKEA cabinets? Like four bucks a cabinet. It’s just a little air-cushion mechanism that you snap into place on the hinges. Ingenious. Meanwhile, to get the same feature on other cabinets it’ll cost literally 10 times that or more.

Using IKEA cabinets means it’s easy to incorporate other cool stuff of theirs, too, like their clever storage designs and pull-out shelves.
Choice and customization: IKEA

At the time, this was one limitation of both IKEA and Home Depot’s in-stock cabinets — they only came in some fairly common sizes. IKEA did have a few more options, with multiple sink base sizes and drawers and cabinets at 12″, 15″, 18″, 21″, 24″, 30″ and 36″. The stock Hampton Bay cabinets had very few available sizes, and no odd sizes like 21″ for instance.

And now, in 2015, IKEA has overhauled its cabinet line with a new system called Sektion, which has been in use abroad for some time, with a lot more options for customization and modular mixing and matching. It looks awesome. (Don’t worry: Most of the fundamental things discussed here, like the suspension rail, soft-close features, etc., are all still the same.)

And that’s huge, because everyone’s kitchen is different. Unless you live in one of those awful McMansion developments — God help you. And everyone uses their kitchen differently. Some people want lots of drawers, others want open shelves to see where everything is and show off some cute stuff. The new system actually allows you to install nesting drawers — a big drawer face with a smaller drawer inside it. Outrageously cool.

So, if our house were a three-decker — thank God it’s not! — and I had yet another dumpy old kitchen to makeover for under $4,000, which cabinets would I choose: IKEA or Home Depot?

IKEA cabinets all the way.

But, to Home Depot’s credit, they had the cabinets I needed in stock when I needed them, and we were in a time crunch. And despite the fact that they didn’t measure up to IKEA cabinets, the finished product didn’t come out half bad. (I also purchased just about everything else at Home Depot, including the cabinet hardware — they have a lot more options in that department.)

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