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This post has been updated for 2024
IKEA cabinets: Everyone has an opinion on them but nobody seems to agree on what that is. There are some people who hate them and believe they’re terrible, and there are others who love them and try to use them even in high end kitchens.
In this review, I look carefully at the craftsmanship and quality of Ikea cabinets, and I compare them to other RTA cabinets. Can Ikea cabinets make the list of the Best RTA Cabinets available? Let’s find out!
Table of Contents
- About IKEA cabinets
- IKEA cabinets review: selection, variety, and pricing
- How difficult is it to assemble IKEA cabinets?
- Do you need any special experience or expertise to assemble IKEA cabinets?
- What tools do you need to assemble IKEA cabinets?
- How much time does it take to assemble IKEA cabinets?
- IKEA cabinet assembly tips and tricks
- IKEA cabinets review: cabinet quality
- IKEA cabinets customer service
- Comparing IKEA cabinets to other RTA cabinets
- The verdict: should you buy IKEA cabinets?
About IKEA cabinets
IKEA currently offers 4 different lines of cabinets. The SUNNERSTA is supposed to be for mobile kitchens, and are better suited for Europe and Asian countries where kitchens are tiny and may be brought to a new home when moving.
The KNOXHULT cabinets are the low end cabinet option from IKEA. These cabinets are cheaper and tend to be basic white cabinets with no frills and few options. These work reasonably well for a low end rental, but other than that should be avoided.
The two lines that are built for use in the home are ENHET and SEKTION. SEKTION is the higher end one, and ENHET is the more budget friendly one.
IKEA cabinets review: selection, variety, and pricing
In the rest of this article, I will focus on the ENHET and SEKTION cabinet lines from IKEA.
ENHET comes in 4 different styles: a white shaker, a white flat-front, a gray wood shaker, and a wood veneer flat front. Generally, you can get any of the cabinets in the ENHET line with any of these finishes.
SEKTION has around two dozen different face styles, including many shaker and flat front styles, and a few more classic options. There are also a few contrast options for accenting a a kitchen.
In terms of pricing, the ENHET line tends to be similar to the cheaper options from other RTA cabinet brands. The SEKTION line is closer in price to the more expensive options from other RTA cabinet brands.
How difficult is it to assemble IKEA cabinets?
IKEA’s cabinets tend to be pretty easy to assemble, and there is no need for any special skills or knowledge to do it.
Do you need any special experience or expertise to assemble IKEA cabinets?
IKEA cabinets are a lot like their furniture. If you have ever assembled one of their dressers, you’re totally qualified to assemble the cabinets. Just note that the cabinets may be heavier, so for some large pieces, you may need some help in assembly and placement.
What tools do you need to assemble IKEA cabinets?
To construct IKEA cabinets, there are a few tools that you’ll need:
A cordless screwdriver with a full bit set
You’ll need a cordless screwdriver with a full bit set. I like the Black and Decker 20V cordless screwdriver model, because it is lightweight and easy to use. I don’t suggest using a professional impact driver, like a Dewalt, Makita or Ryobi, because they provide too much torque and can damage the cabinet.
A full bit set is important because you need multiple size flat and Phillips screw bits. If you don’t use the right bit, you will quickly strip the screws in the cabinet, making assembly and disassembly difficult.
Optional: A rubber mallet and strong wood glue
With most RTA cabinet brands, assembly requires gluing the joints with wood glue and hammering parts into place with a rubber mallet.
IKEA generally doesn’t recommend gluing the joints of its cabinets. If you glue the cabinets, you won’t be able to disassemble them and move them to a new house.
However, cabinets take a lot of abuse. They wear quickly and any weak joints soon come apart under strain. In my experience, it’s better to forego the opportunity to disassemble the cabinets in exchange for a longer lasting and more durable kitchen.
Rubber mallets, meanwhile, can be used to coerce parts into place. This is generally unnecessary with IKEA cabinets, but it’s nice to have the mallet available in case you need it. Just remember that IKEA cabinets are somewhat fragile and can be damaged if hit too hard.
How much time does it take to assemble IKEA cabinets?
One great thing about IKEA cabinets is that assembly is quick. I found assembly and even installation of IKEA cabinets to be quicker than it was with other RTA cabinet brands.
|Standard (upper) wall cabinet
|Standard base cabinet without drawers
|30 to 45 minutes
|Base cabinet with drawers
|less than 1 hour
|Individual drawer assembly
|less than 15 minutes each
|Small upper cabinets
IKEA cabinet assembly tips and tricks
Here are some tips that I have found to be useful when assembling IKEA cabinets. IKEA cabinets differ a bit from other RTA cabinets, which you can read about here.
- Inspect the cabinets for damage upon arrival, so that you can order replacement parts if necessary. You don’t want to have to pause your whole project while waiting for parts.
- I recommend assembling the larger cabinets with a helper. You will need plenty of space to build the larger cabinets, so consider this before choosing where to do the assembly.
- Drawer assembly can be confusing. Test the drawers before screwing them all together, since they may not fit correctly if you mismatch the parts and orientation.
IKEA cabinets review: cabinet quality
Now we get to the most important part: what is the quality of IKEA cabinets, and how do they compare to other RTA cabinet options?
IKEA cabinet quality: materials
The materials used in IKEA cabinets simply do not match up to other RTA cabinet sellers. IKEA uses a lot of melamine/MDF in their cabinets. This differs from other RTA cabinets, which tend to be made of either solid wood, plywood, or MDF.
For instance, IKEA’s SEKTION line uses melamine and plastic edging in its frames. Most online RTA cabinet sellers that we have reviewed use plywood or solid wood in their frames. For the back of the cabinets, IKEA’s SEKTION uses a cheap fiberboard (which is just a tiny step up from cardboard). Most online RTA cabinet sellers, such as TheRTAStore and Wholesalecabinets.US, generally use plywood, which is much higher quality.
IKEA’s ENHET is even lower quality. It uses fiberboard with paper filling for the side and bottom panels. Paper — you read that right! Other parts use particleboard and MDF. These materials are a huge step down from what you find at most online RTA cabinet sellers.
For an understanding of how stark the contrast is between IKEA’s products and other RTA cabinet brands, I cut some cabinets up to see what’s inside.
Here is a cross section of the RTA Cabinet Store’s Weston door, which is made of solid wood on the outside, and HDF on the inside:
Now, let’s compare that to a cross section of an IKEA ENHET door:
IKEA’s SEKTION line has better quality doors. However, only the most expensive option (a whopping $130 addon) has real solid wood. The rest use fiberboard or particleboard.
Let’s look at some other parts of a cabinet to see how IKEA differs from other RTA cabinet sellers. Here is a cross section photo of a side panel from Lily Ann Cabinets (the back panels are made of the same material):
And here is a picture of a back panel from an IKEA ENHET that I cut in half:
IKEA cabinet quality: millwork
IKEA cabinets don’t really have millwork in the traditional sense, since they’re almost completely made up of fiberboards and particleboard, as well as plastics.
That being said, the shaping and cutting of the parts is generally good. I didn’t really have any trouble with parts fitting when I assembled IKEA cabinets. However, I did find some parts that were damaged, which is relatively common with MDF and melamine.
IKEA cabinet quality: hardware
IKEA hinges, drawer glides and other hardware are pretty good. They mostly have a similar feel and functionality to those of other RTA cabinet sellers.
The SEKTION line has soft closing hinges that look and feel solid. Here is a picture of one hinge from an EHNET cabinet:
And for comparison, here are hinges from Lily Ann and The RTA Store cabinets:
IKEA does use some cheap hardware, however. Here are the clips used to hold the back panel on the ENHET cabinet:
IKEA cabinets customer service
IKEA has great customer service and an excellent return policy — you can return unopened items almost a year later (opened items get 6 months). And it’s extremely convenient to be able to take back items to the store.
That said, you can’t just go to your local store and pick up all of the cabinet lines. Some need to be shipped. So in that way, IKEA is no more convenient than any other online RTA cabinet brand.
In fact, most online RTA sellers will not ask you to send back any damaged or incomplete items, and they will send out a new one for free. So by purchasing from IKEA you aren’t saving yourself too much effort.
What is nice is that if you buy extras or change your mind, it’s easy to return the stuff you don’t want. This can save some real money, and it’s not really possible with online RTA cabinet brands.
One final point about IKEA cabinets: you have to make an appointment and go into the store to design the kitchen and place an order. Since my local IKEA store is over an hour away, this is quite a pain.
Comparing IKEA cabinets to other RTA cabinets
Here are some pros and cons of going with IKEA over other RTA cabinet brands:
- Easy to return
- Good warranty
- Lower material quality
- Fewer styles available
- Generally not real wood
- Must go into store to order
Do you have experience with the IKEA? Post in the comments below.
The verdict: should you buy IKEA cabinets?
I found IKEA cabinets to be just a little less desirable than other RTA cabinets. This is partially because of the materials quality, but also because they just feel a bit less solid. Personally, before buying anything, I would look at higher quality alternatives like TheRTAStore.