Since we’ve decided to take the plunge hand explore unknown territories of building our own kitchen cabinets, like any big projects, we sat down to plan.
Though we had no idea what to expect, we knew for sure that we wanted to keep the project as simple as possible and the costs within our very tight budget of RM6500 (including the need to buy various tools)
Throughout the planning phase, these 3 booklets were our best friends which contained every thing we needed to know when building our IKEA kitchen: from the range of worktops, doors, finishings, sinks, taps and cabinets available to the specific measurements, price – every single detail that that you can think of and beyond! Make sure you grab your copy from IKEA if you’re planning to build your own kitchen.
In this post, I’ll share how we planned the whole project and everything we learnt along the way to keep within budget.
If you’re under a tight budget – this is a no brainer. Determine how much you’re willing to spend on our kitchen and stick to it! We decided on a total of RM6500 for our kitchen, which we broke down as follows:
- RM5700: Kitchen (base cabinets, chairs, sinks, taps, kitchen trolley etc)
- RM 800: Tools and all the bits and pieces
The budget did not include appliances that you see in our plan: microwave, refrigerator, oven and washing machine. We already had everything prior to moving into the house.
I’m going to address the elephant in the room: we were super duper worried that we wouldn’t be able to build the kitchen cabinet and end up with RM5700 worth of junk! Our only building experience was limited to IKEA’s wardrobe, bed frames and bookshelves. We’ve never built anything of the magnitude of a kitchen cabinet!
We spent countless hours doing research online to find out how other people did it. We asked loads of questions to the people at ACE and every other hardware store. We’d hop on YouTube to learn how to use various power tools.
We knew this was going to be a big project and we wanted to make sure we won’t get bogged down by it. Throughout our research we identified two factors that could make the IKEA kitchen project overwhelming for newbies like us and so this became our boundaries when planning our kitchen:
- Keep total of cabinets below 10
- Minimise wall cabinets and tall kitchen cabinets.
More cabinets meant more railings and worktops to cut and install which will drastically increase workload. Wall cabinets and tall kitchen cabinets, on the other hand, meant drilling rails at high places (getting the rails straight is actually harder than you think!) which is an added amount of complexity. And the cabinets, seriously guys, are super duper heavy. Having to lift em up keeping it level and all that is a nightmare!
Keeping this in mind, we ended up with a total of 8 pieces of cabinetry, 2 pieces of worktops (only 1 which required cutting), 2 tall cabinets and 1 wall cabinet. I thought this was a nice number. Anything beyond this, would definitely be extremely overwhelming!
We put aside RM800 for tools. After much research we narrowed down the tools that we needed as follows:
- Drill and drill bits
- Laser level
- G clamps
- Try square
- Fine toothed handsaw
- Hammer and rubber mallet
- Adjustable spanner
- Caulk and caulk gun
- Wall plugs and wall screws
- Measuring tape
- Battery operated screwdrivers
- White masking tape
- Box cutter
How to keep within budget
While we recognised IKEA could give us the best kitchen on a very tight budget, it’s very very easy to get carried away. Adding little things here and there – will in the end, cost you big money!
While planning our kitchen, we identified a few things that can either really keep the price at bay or making it super expensive.
While it was sooooooo tempting to splurge on more expensive worktops (I mean look at that herringbone pattern! I’d drool on it every single day if it was in my kitchen!), it could quickly make your kitchen costly.
BARKABODA herringbone worktop. Image via link
Our small kitchen, for example, required a worktop with a total length of 432 cm.
If we opted for this expensive (yet super tempting) BARKABODA herringbone worktop, it would cost us RM1780. Instead we opted for the EKBACKEN light oak effect which cost us a total of RM520 – that’s an incredibly significant difference!
It’s worth noting that the cheaper worktops such as those in the EKBACKEN and SALJAN range are made out of laminate. The more expensive ones are made out of a few cm top layer of solid oak, walnut (depending on the range) over particle board which requires more maintenance. High maintenance and costly vs no maintenance and cheap – your pick! Hehe.
It’s also worth noting that all IKEA’s worktops come in 2 lengths: 186cm and 246cm. So it’s definitely a good idea to optimise the worktop that you’ll need. For example, if you have base cabinets which will require 200cm length of worktop, then you’ll either have to opt for the longer 246cm worktop which will cost you an additional RM70 – RM250 (depending on the worktop range) and an extra 40cm that you’ll end up throwing away. Or you may want to consider taking out 20cm from your base cabinets to cut down the total length from 200cm to 180cm. This way you can opt for the 186cm worktop! Bottom line: optimise!
This was a hard one for me. I just loved the BOBDYN doors in white. I mean look at that! How can that not spell L-O-V-E! (and those subway tiles – SWOON!)
Let me try break this down for you: my sink’s base cabinet would cost RM335 with HAGGEBY doors (the cheapest range for door/drawer finishings)
Image via link
The exact same base cabinet but with drool-worthy BOBDYN off-white doors would cost me RM545. That’s a difference of RM210 for a one single base cabinet! If I have a total of 10 cabinets then it would quickly add RM2000++ to my kitchen.
Image via link
It took me a while to convince myself to let go of those BOBDYN doors. I tried keeping my BOBDYN’s by reducing other costs – different number of cabinets, cabinet sizes and other things, but I just couldn’t get the price down within our budget. So with a heavy heart, I knew I had to forgo the BOBDYN and resort to the cheapest in the range: HAGGEBY. It wasn’t that bad – My kitchen will still be white!:)
Accessories and interior fittings
Accessories and interior fittings can quickly add up to the total cost too. As a rule of thumb, shelves are way cheaper than drawers.
As for drawers, there’s 2 options you can choose from: FORVARA and MAXIMERA. The latter has additional features like smooth-running drawers and a 25 year guarantee but at a heftier price tag.
Knobs and handles now, these babies are magic. It can give big impact by enhancing the style of your kitchen. Don’t underestimate the power of small!
So what we did was we opted for a more expensive handle from the LANSA range to draw the eyes away from the plain white HAGGEBY door finishing. We were able to do this and still keep within our budget.
Measure everything in your kitchen. From wall to wall, from wall to door, from corner to kitchen pipes. And measure them again – at least 3 more times. You also need to check the measurements for your appliances, especially the built-in ones like ovens, microwaves and hobs, and make sure they can fit into IKEA’s cabinets.
Plan your layout – The Work Triangle
Planning your kitchen layout is crucial in achieving a natural workflow and making sure that everything is within reach to ensure an efficient and everyday friendly kitchen. One trick in planning your kitchen is to think of it as a triangle. Each side represents a main working function/zone in the kitchen: Cooking (hob, oven), storage (refrigerator, pantry) and washing (sink, dishwasher).
Image via link
Ideally the distance between each point is around 90cm. If the points are too far away from each other, you’ll need to do a lot of walking to carry out a task. Otherwise if it’s too close to each other, then your kitchen will be cramped.
IKEA’s Online Kitchen Planner
I have a love-hate relationship with IKEA’s kitchen planner. Loved it when it worked, but totally hated it everytime it froze and decides to just dump my hours of hard work! So rule of thumb, SAVE SAVE SAVE – do this every 3 minutes or every time you’ve made an important change.
Start your planning by carefully defining your room size, ceiling height and by putting in all constraints/features in your kitchen into the planner (such as windows, doors, piping) – this is when your measurements will come in handy.
IKEA online planner via link
The IKEA online planner allows you to put your ideas together and visualise it. It also lists down all the components required for every piece you add into your design plan as well as its price. Which is awesome because you can keep tab of how much your kitchen is costing you in effort to stay within budget.
After hours of playing around (and after more than 50 versions) we finally agreed on a design that both of us liked and well within budget.
Using IKEA’s planner, you can view your design from different angles, swivel it up and around to get a better perspective of what to expect and what your kitchen would look like.
You can put in your own appliances (which IKEA’s planner will allow you to adjust the size) as well as change the types of flooring, windows and doors. You’d be surprised at how different your kitchen will look with wooden flooring instead of tiles! Finishing matters!
You can change the type of interior fittings you want to use (e.g. FORVARA vs MAXIMERA), you can see them in action as you pull the drawers out and push them back into place.
You can change how the doors open for each cabinets, play around with different handle types and vary the placing of the handles (across or vertical).
You can also arrange the shelves and finalise how many shelves you want in your cabinets.
I kept a running list of all my kitchen equipment and things I needed to store like plates, mugs, cups, containers, food stuff and cleaning detergents and envisioned where and how I’d store them in these cabinets.
Finalising the details, finishing and interiors was probably my favourite part of the planning process. But it didn’t take me long to find out that it was easy to pass our budget line. So every time I made a change to the plan, I’ll record the overall cost to make sure everything’s within our budget.
One thing that we did to optimise working space and save on building time/cost was to include a void space to park our kitchen trolley instead of a base cabinet. The IKEA kitchen planner, by default, only allows worktops on base cabinets. Thus, to visually extend the worktop over the trolley we had to use the ‘Extra Worktop Solutions’ feature built into the planner.
There were lots of tips and tricks that we learnt through playing around with the myriads of features in the planner. This was just one of them. It’s definitely a good idea to spend some time playing and familiarising yourself with the software before you actually finalise your design.
Finalising our plan
Once we had our final version ready, we booked an appointment to see the kitchen specialist through this link. Just make sure you remember your username and password that you used to log into your IKEA kitchen planner when you go for your appointment.
The kitchen dude sat down with us, suggested a few minor changes and made sure that our kitchen was OK. After the appointment we went around IKEA’s kitchen showroom to have a final look at all the finishings, interiors, worktops and handles that we’ve chosen. We touched them, scrutinized every inch; really take them in – before going back to the kitchen specialist to order the kitchen parts.
After putting in our order, they gave us a receipt to present at the counter to pay. In the receipt was a list of cabinets, doors, shelves, drawers, worktops and the gazillion and one small parts it came with. There were things that were not in the receipt like handles, trolleys and stools. We had to hunt these things down ourselves.
We thought IKEA would get us to retrieve the cabinet stuff after paying – was actually dreading this bit since (1) there was a lot of things (2) they’re incredibly heavy and (3) we had 2 active kids in tow.
But since we used IKEA’s delivery service, we didn’t have to retrieve anything. In fact, we didn’t even get to see any parts from our kitchen cabinets till they got delivered to our house – everything was settled in the background which was really super duper convenient.
We tooka bit more than a month (having a wee few hours of free time between work, kids and house chores) before we finalised our plans. We played around with different configurations, different colours, different combination of interiors – till eventually all the plans sorta converged to our final piece.
Phew! So that’s the planning phase!
Want to read the whole process?
We learnt a lot through the process and hoping to share as much as possible to those who may want to install their own kitchen cabinet:)