Kitchen Confidential 

“Life happens in the kitchen”


IKEA Cabinets or Custom Built? 

What Will Work For Your Kitchen? 

Is this a situation that seems familiar? You are starting to design your dream kitchen and come up with a budget. You are trying to save some money so you look at IKEA cabinets. You fit your budget around those cabinets only to be disappointed in their options, wait time and the fact that the closest IKEA is over 200 miles away. Now you might start looking into other options because you can’t wait 2 months to finish your kitchen. You start to research custom cabinets and realize that this could work as an option. 

I get asked this question all of the time, “Are IKEA cabinets good or bad?” You may have asked yourself this question at some point too. Let’s walk through some differences between IKEA cabinets and custom-made cabinetry to see which option would work best for you. 


IKEA cabinets used to be very inexpensive. You could walk into an IKEA, pay $1,500, and walk out with a new kitchen. However, that is not the case anymore. You are looking at paying about the same amount for IKEA cabinets as you would for custom-built cabinets. 

We offer a lot of added features and finishes to provide you with a true custom build for the same amount of money you would spend at IKEA. So, if money is a factor in your decision then you can either go with IKEA cabinets or custom-built cabinets and you will be spending about the same amount of money. 

Cabinet Features 

One of the major benefits of IKEA cabinets is that they are frameless cabinets. The walls are ¾ of an inch thick and because it is just the box you can maximize the space in your kitchen. However, they only come in about 6 or 7 even number standard sizes. This makes it hard to maximize your space in your kitchen. 

Say you have 52 inches of space available between your stove and the wall. Now you are going to have to come up with 2 different cabinets that would work in this area if you are going with IKEA cabinets. You select a 30-inch cabinet to start but are left with 22 inches of space left. The next cabinet they have is either 24 inches or 18 inches. You would have to go with the smaller size, but now you have 4 inches of wasted space and a weird gap. 

IKEA cabinets are European-style cabinets that are on a rail system. This is wonderful if you are working with a space that is perfectly square and straight as the cabinets themselves are perfectly square. However, this makes it hard to make adjustments as you aren’t truly screwing the cabinets into the back wall.  

A lot of the houses I have installed in aren’t perfectly square and don’t have completely straight walls. The rail system makes it hard to make adjustments because you can’t manipulate the cabinets in the same way you would be able to with custom-built cabinetry. This is one of the biggest downsides I see when using IKEA cabinets.  

They also have leveling feet with a very thin toe kick. I have seen where damage can happen to these toe kicks very easily because they are not ¾-inch solid wood toe kicks. 

A big positive is that they do have soft closing doors and drawers. However, the hardware is not the same as if you were buying custom cabinetry. The slides are the true workhorse of the kitchen as they do about 90% of the work. Our custom cabinets are on 150-pound weighted slides so that you can put what you need in your cabinets without worrying about the weight of the slides. The standard sizes of IKEA cabinets are too shallow and are not as sturdy. 

If you are going with a custom-built cabinet you don’t have to worry about figuring out a combination of cabinet sizes that work in your area. We are custom-making the cabinets for you to maximize the space and functionality of the kitchen. Our cabinets are also frameless and allow you to save that much-needed space in your kitchen. Our cabinetry is not on a rail system. This allows you to be able to manipulate the cabinetry to fit the space and screw it into the back wall. 

So, overall it is great that they are soft closing, but they still do not provide you with what you truly need in a kitchen. 

Cabinet Finishes 

IKEA cabinets are made up of laminate plywood. This is a type of wood that is made up of crushed composite, cardboard, and sawdust. The problem with this is, is when your kitchen has water damage. In a kitchen, it is inevitable that you will get water in one of your cabinets at some point. It’s truly only a matter of time. When this happens since they are laminate this causes the wood to puff up, swell and pucker since it’s not real wood. 

Also, you can only get IKEA cabinets in white laminate plywood. They offer a very modern style and have a variety of colors for their flat doors. So, these truly are a great option if you are looking for that modern plastic look. 

However, our cabinets are prefinished ¾-inch maple and are waterproof. This means they don’t swell or puff up since they aren’t made out of particle board. When you purchase custom cabinetry you can do any type of door. They can be raised, inset, or solid wood with any type of finish and color. There is no limit to the look of your cabinets when you work with us. 

Receiving the Cabinets

Another downside to IKEA cabinets is that you have to go to the store to pick them up. This usually isn’t a problem if you live in the area of an IKEA. However, we have had many clients where the closest IKEA is hundreds of miles away. This can make it very difficult to plan a time to pick up the cabinets. 

They also have been seeing a lot of shortages. I have heard that you can expect to wait anywhere from 6 – 9 weeks. This can be a huge problem if you have already decided to demo your kitchen without purchasing your cabinets ahead of time. 

If you decide to go with custom cabinetry, through us, we ship to every single state in the country. We work directly with you to make sure you are getting exactly what you want and it will get delivered right to your driveway. This is a huge convenience since you don’t have to worry about when you will have time to go to the closest IKEA. 

Overall, IKEA cabinets are not total crap. They are a great option if you are looking for a modern look for your kitchen remodel. They are a frameless, European style and are soft closing. However, they do have a flimsy toe kick and are on a rail system. Being on the rail system makes them hard to adjust, but not impossible. They also don’t offer custom sizes so you may be left with some wasted valuable space in your kitchen. 

They are not a bad option, they just have their limitations. It is the small things that truly make a difference in your kitchen remodel. If you are looking for a true custom build that offers everything you are looking for then we might be the right fit for you! 

If you would like to hear more about what I feel the main differences are between IKEA cabinets and custom-built cabinets check out The Kitchen Sink Podcast Episode 24: Are IKEA cabinets crap?