Tag Archives: countertop

IKEA Kitchen Remodel – What We’ve Learned Part I

Hello everyone! Summertime is here and we’re so glad that we can turn back on the A/C during these scorching hot SoCal days! It’s been about 2 weeks since the kitchen’s been remodeled and we’ve already been getting pretty good use out of it. I have to admit, it’s so nice to be cooking or baking in a bright, new, pretty space. In fact, it’s become the whole family’s new favorite gathering spot in the house! It’s probably also because we’ve turned off our TV service so there seems to be more time just to hang out with each other. Ahh, the wonders of not having a TV in the house…

Anyway, I wanted to share with you what we’ve learned from planning, installing and using our IKEA kitchen, albeit it’s only been a couple of weeks. We were so appreciative of all the blog posts out there that talked about their IKEA kitchen experience that we wanted to pay forward! First, the planning stage:

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Matching grout color to flooring sample at Home Depot

PLANNING

IKEA Kitchen Sale and 15% Gift Card:

We started our planning process back in December (2015) and after several visits to our local IKEA stores and talking to as many kitchen staff as possible to extract any juicy info about upcoming kitchen sales, we discovered to our dismay that IKEA was planning to either skip the next two sales or change the terms. To our pleasant surprise, they didn’t skip the Spring sale but they did change the terms from giving out a 20% discount to 15% of your total kitchen purchase in the form of a gift card. So, while you pay full price for your kitchen cabinets (and other qualifying purchases), you get a nice 15% “bonus” to spend at IKEA on anything else you want. We ended up spending ours on kitchen accessories and dining furniture, as they were not part of the sale.

To qualify for the 15% gift card, you have to spend more than $4,000 on qualifying kitchen products. Our purchase was about $9,000+ so our gift card amount was around $1,350. A tip about the gift cards: Break them down into smaller amounts if you can. Our mistake was getting them in $1,000 and $350 – on two separate cards. Well, had we started using the $1,000 first, then we wouldn’t have incurred such a terrible loss – losing our card at one of the IKEA stores. Long story short, we had about $600 left on the bigger gift card and took it shopping with us one busy Saturday evening. Well, the card slipped out of the envelop (another tip, SECURE your gift card in a zipped or closed wallet!!!) and out of our grip forever after a long tiring day. We frantically back tracked our steps a few times, reported it to the store security, talked to the customer service managers but they didn’t help us much. A week later, we went to another IKEA and found out that someone had picked it up and used up the full amount. What was maddening was that we were told at this particular store that there WAS something that could’ve been done to cancel the lost gift card and replace it with a new one, especially because we had all the proof/receipt that it belonged to us and that there was still a remaining balance on it. But the manager at the IKEA store we lost the card at a week prior did not know this and just basically told us, “Too bad, it was your responsibility not to lose the card and you did, so we cannot do anything! Nope, No, NO!” with a stern, unsympathetic face.  So IF this ever happens to you, ask to talk to the Cash Manager at the store or the highest customer service manager and be ready to show your receipt showing your gift card # and balance. I called IKEA Corporate and reported the incident and I could’ve pursued it further by going back to the store and demanding that we needed to be compensated, but that meant driving all the way there to have an unpleasant stressful experience.  So, after aching and grieving over the loss, we made the hard decision against it. Sigh… You lose some, you win some in life… But in the bigger scheme of things, we still got about 8% in gift cards. So it wasn’t a complete loss.

By the way, the summer 2016 kitchen sale is going on right now until August, so I hope you can take advantage. When we went during the Spring sale, the stores weren’t too crowded. We thought it was going to be crazy like I had seen IKEA during their previous kitchen sales. Still, go during the middle of the sale as most people go either in the beginning or during the final week.

 

Kitchen Measuring Service and Treamand:

IKEA offered a “free” measuring service – for someone to come to your house and measure your kitchen for you (for cabinets and installation), so that you don’t have to do the painstaking work of doing it yourself. The service was free only if you bought a kitchen from IKEA afterwards. We almost signed up, because why not? It’s free after all. However, in order for them to measure your kitchen, all the elements, like the flooring, have to be in place and all the walls knocked down and patched up if you’re planning on knocking down walls. Suppose you had your kitchen ready for the measuring person to come in.  Then, they would measure, and within a few days send you a kitchen plan and the estimates of the cabinets and installation. At that point, if you decided to go with Treamand, the kitchen installation company IKEA is contracting with, then they would do the job from start to finish in a few days (JUST the cabinets installation. Anything else would be extra and you’d have to ask them if they can do it.) What we were told was day one they would inventory the parts received, day two, they would assemble, and day three they would install. Of course, this was an estimate and depended on the amount of cabinets and the size of your kitchen. When we researched the price of the installation and compared it with what some of our contractors bid, Treamand was significantly higher. So, in the end, we decided to measure the kitchen ourselves because it was nowhere ready for the measuring person to come in, and to have our contractor install the cabinets instead. More on this later.

Since we measured the kitchen ourselves, everything was self-service. We had to triple, quadruple measure our kitchen to make sure the measurements were as accurate as possible, especially because we hadn’t demo-ed our kitchen yet. We had measured with our old cabinets still in place, thus the reason for going over the measurements a few times over to be sure. And because house walls and ceilings are never perfectly straight nor at 90 degrees angle, it’s best to measure at different heights and places many times over. For example, if you’re measuring the distance between your light switch to the corner of the room for your upper cabinets, it’s best to measure at the highest, mid and lower points of the wall to get the best or min/max measurements.

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We measured multiple times (before and after the demolition) to make sure our cabinets would fit perfectly.

The “planning” part or the virtually putting together your kitchen part was done at the local IKEA stores and at home on our computer. IKEA has an online kitchen planner tool you can access anywhere using your free account. It was easy to use once you learned what some of the features did. And we got a lot of help from the kitchen staff at the store too. By the way, a shoutout to the Carson IKEA store kitchen and customer service departments!! They seriously are the BEST all around in terms of knowing their stuff and going the extra mile to help you when you have a problem.  Each time we would go and have questions after questions, never once did they lose their patience nor got short with us. I applaud their management and training, because I truly believe that things flow from top to bottom. Anyway, back to the software. Once you have your measurements (windows, doors, ceiling height, etc.), you enter them on the software, creating your kitchen/room first. Then the fun part begins with selecting your upper and lower cabinets and trying out different configurations. One tip is to save copies of your working master so that it’s easy to go back to the previous version if you mess up. We’ve received lots of help from the IKEA kitchen staff on moving around the cabinets and selecting the necessary features, like cover panels. It took us a good two months before we had a solid finalized plan. Once you have your plan, you can print it out and make your kitchen purchase. We went on a weekday afternoon when it wasn’t busy to make the purchase. The ordering process took about 2-3 hours. We still had to make some last minute tweaks and once over before checking out. You do have to be pretty detailed when going over your purchase list. There were a couple of things our kitchen staff member forgot. He was definitely so great to work with but hey, no one is perfect! So you as the owner have to be on the ball with details. I guess the beauty of using a kitchen planner/measuring service from IKEA is that while your inputs are what makes your kitchen and cabinet selections, they are ultimately the project managers and responsible for watching out for details. And there are loads of details when planning a kitchen!! (Like how wide does the filler space for the corner cabinets have to be, any customized measurements, which way should the door swing if you have an option, how about under cabinet lighting and which ones, etc.)

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At the IKEA store, using their kitchen planner software

 

Delivery and Inventory:

The day our cabinets were delivered, it totaled about two tons in weight for 275 boxes. It took us about 5 hours (2 people) to inventory all the boxes and number and separate them in an organized fashion. It was hard work and sweat but we are glad we did it to save us about $1,000 (we’re guesstimating based on the Treamand pricing.) When the delivery truck arrives, ask the delivery people to do an “article by article review.” That way, you can catch any damaged goods or missing items on the spot. The review took about 1-2 hours and there were unfortunately damaged and missing goods.  After the driver leaves, IKEA gives you 48 hours to report anything else that’s wrong with the delivery. But it’s just best to check with the delivery person when the items arrive. We found more damages after the driver left and IKEA asked us to photograph the items and email them. We received the replacement parts within a few days. But the 2nd delivery also had some damaged pieces. Check the boxes when they arrive, especially the corners and the bottom of cabinet doors/cover panels. I’m not sure why they are packaged so flimsily but the taped seal breaks easily with the weight of the doors. So they get scratched up pretty easily.

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275 boxes weighing 2 tons for 27 cabinets!

 

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We numbered and organized the boxes by cabinet numbers.

 

Selecting Materials:

If you are “selective” (i.e., picky) like us, give yourselves ample time, about 5-6 months, to plan and prepare for your remodel. The market is full of design options and it’s best to have time on your side to help you research, learn and know what you are buying before you make the purchase and get the best prices. I suppose we could’ve just let our contractor pick out all of our materials for us, but we wanted to save money (because the contractor will charge you extra for doing the shopping for you) and have full control over what went into our kitchen. This includes flooring, backsplash tiles, cabinet door style, countertop, hardware (knobs, handles), paint colors, trims (baseboard, crown molding), lighting fixtures, etc. It took us a few trips to the stone yards and tile stores, home improvement and kitchen cabinet stores to make our final selections. In the end, all those trips back and forth to compare prices (we also did a lot of phone and online comparing) and seeing things in person (<— very important!!) were all worth it. We had bought a gray and off-white Bodbyn drawer fronts and took them around with us for color reference when shopping. Here’s a photo of our finished kitchen, sans window treatment and decorations. (I can’t wait to post the final reveal!!)  It’s a white and gray kitchen and we’re thinking about yellow being the accent color. For a list of the materials we used, go here.

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Preview of our remodeled kitchen (before adding on window treatments and decorations)

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Trying out paint color samples on our old wall before the remodel

 

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Above is the Bodbyn off-white drawer front with LG Cirrus Quartz sample

 

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Comparing countertop quartz stones

 

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Checking out faucet styles. Found this at Orchard’s.

 

Selecting Appliances:

One of the most important advice I can give about appliances is to have them picked out PRIOR to selecting your kitchen cabinets (if you’re getting new appliances). This is so that the correct cabinets can be selected to house them. For example, you’d want to shop and finalize on your new refrigerator to know its measurements.  Let’s say they’re 37″W x 75″H x 34″D. Then, you can pick out the cabinets that would fit above and on its side(s). Another advice that’s equally important is to purchase your appliances a couple of months in advance to your remodel date. This is crucial because it’ll take time for your appliances to be delivered, depending on the availability of stock and delivery schedule. We got ours during President’s Day Sale in February and our remodel was scheduled for early May. Originally, we were going to wait to get them during Memorial Day Sale in May, but we’re SO GLAD we got them in February instead. For some of the appliances, the earliest delivery date was April! Imagine if we had waited until the end of May, we would’ve had a brand new kitchen that was unusable without any appliances for at least a month or two!

Holiday weekends (some of the sales begin the week prior and extend to the week after) are the best times to get deals on your appliances. We went to Sears for ours and the more you bought, the better deal they were willing to give us. They were having a killer sale on Kenmore Pro and Elite appliances. Buy two and get 50% off on both! They were also able to price match on non-Kenmore appliances and throw in a couple of other sweet deals. I started out by showing interest in only a couple of the appliances. Then we left the store and came back the same day, which got the salesperson’s attention even more. That’s when she started to tell me about how I can get even bigger discounts if I bought more appliances. Well, the fact was we were shopping for all new appliances, so that totally worked to our advantage.

Don’t forget to buy your hoses that need to accompany your refrigerator (ice maker line), dishwasher and/or oven! We got ours online for cheaper and better options than at the stores.

 

Selecting Contractor(s):

The last on the list  for today is about selecting contractors. We began interviewing contractors starting February. Most didn’t like the fact that our job wasn’t going to start for another 2-3 months. But still get them in early to check out your kitchen and give you an estimate of their work.  We were looking for someone who had experience installing IKEA cabinets. Out of the five contractors we interviewed, only two had the experience and one other was willing to take on the challenge. They each quoted at least $1,000 cheaper than what Treamand would have charged us for 27 cabinets (including large pantry wall cabinets.) The way we got contractors were through personal recommendations via friends and through home improvement stores. We walked into Home Depot one day unsuspectingly and met a super helpful kitchen department guy who was willing to sit with us at the store for about 2 hours, going over his own kitchen remodel experience and giving us tips. We asked whom he used and he recommended to us his contractor, which we interviewed. Another recommendation was from our flooring store where we had gotten our laminate flooring last year. This was the contractor we ended up choosing for these reasons: He had remodeled the flooring store owner’s kitchen twice, which told us a lot about his skills and trustworthiness; his prices were reasonable compared to the others;  he had experience installing IKEA cabinets; we saw the photos of his previous projects and they looked good; and he was very good about getting back to us in a timely manner every time. Communication is key to your project’s success! You need a contractor who understands your style of communication and what you want to accomplish through the kitchen remodel. We rated the contractors we interviewed on their communication skills – how promptly they responded, how they kept their promises, etc. For example, if you cannot get a hold of your contractor on the day your countertop arrives because he’s at another job site and forgot about yours (we’ve heard some horror stories), everyone’s time (and money) gets wasted. Also, ask him to show you pictures of their previous jobs (or better yet, visit the homes they’ve worked on if you can), so that you can determine their workmanship and taste. Oftentimes, they’re the ones choosing materials and finishes for clients, so you can get a feel for their aesthetics through the pictures. For our kitchen, my sister and I were the designers and we had selected all of our finishes and layouts ourselves. But we also felt that the contractor needed to have some sense of style so that in times when we didn’t see eye to eye on certain design or functional elements, we can trust him to make better suggestions.

A note about most contractors is that they are usually late to your appointments. Some are better than others. But most showed up 15-30 minutes late to the interviews and on the days they were supposed to work on our house. Or they were a week+ late on giving us the estimates. I’ll share more later about the actual installation timeline and what to expect. But the tardiness also spread into the project finish line. Also, most will promise you a shorter timeline and a lower estimate. Expect to add at least one-two weeks to what they’re quoting you (or in our case, our two-three weeks estimate became six weeks ’til completion) and you don’t know what your real cost is until you open up the walls. In our case, we ended up changing out some of the pipes and putting a water snake through the drainage and the latter alone was $600 additional. Thankfully, we didn’t have any asbestos, mold nor termite issues, which would have been thousands of extra! Whew!

Lastly, DO NOT pay your contractor in advance of them completing some of the work. We gave ours a 10% down-payment before starting the work, but we didn’t pay him until some of the work got done and paid him a small percentage at the end each week. Know the tasks that need to be done and have the contractor itemize the labor and materials. He/She’ll probably want to negotiate a payment schedule. However you schedule the payments, WITHHOLD the very last payment (I would say 15-20%) until your kitchen is absolutely finished to your liking.  The reason for this is that contractors tend to work on multiple projects simultaneously and in the beginning of your project, they work diligently and make good progress. But towards the end, after they have collected most of your money, they slow down the pace, come up with excuses why they need to wait a few days until they return to your site, send less workers to work on your house, etc. So withholding the last payment, preferably a bigger portion, would motivate them to finish your project sooner.

Well, that’s it for today!  Next post, I will share about the installation experience.

Kitchen Remodel Progress

Hello folks! I wanted to do a quick post on our kitchen remodel progress. We started six weeks ago and the contractor finally finished last Saturday.  We MADE IT (!!) through the stress of going through a major remodel and eating out of a make-shift kitchen and wondering when the contractor will be done. I will share more about the remodel experience and about installing IKEA cabinets in the next few posts. And for those who’ve been waiting to see the “before” pictures, I want to save them for the final reveal, so that you will have a good side by side comparison. For now, here’s how our gross, UgLY, 1970’s kitchen transformed in the last 6 weeks!

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Obviously, the last few pictures are not the final reveal. I’ll have much better pictures taken with my DSLR for the final post in way better lighting. We started moving into the new kitchen and figuring out the window treatment, picking out the fabric for the banquette seating, shopping for decorations, etc. You know, the real fun part of remodeling! There is no set deadline for everything to be done but we desperately need some window covering so that the whole neighborhood stops driving by and peeking into our lives! (We like our neighbors, but still…)

In my last remodel post, I mentioned about sharing a design board of all the components. Well, sorry, I didn’t get around to making a design board but I made a list of the materials we used:

  • Cabinets: IKEA Bodbyn doors in gray (island) and off-white (the rest)
  • Quartz Countertop: LG Viatera in Cirrus
  • Vinyl Floors: RC Vinyl in Walnut
  • Backsplash Tiles: Jeffrey Court 3×12 in Allegro White from Home Depot
  • Farmhouse Sink: IKEA Domsjo double bowl sink
  • Faucet: IKEA Glittran
  • Over the sink lighting: Style Selections 5.52-in Polished Chrome Mini Crystal Pendant from Lowes
  • Dining area lighting: Possini Euro Metairie 20″W Silver Fabric Crystal Chandelier from Lamps Plus
  • Island Hood: Frigidaire
  • Dishwasher: Whirlpool
  • Refrigerator: LG
  • Cooktop and Oven: Kenmore Pro
  • White paint: Valspar’s “Soft Wool” in semi-gloss finish from Lowes for the ceiling/trims/doors & Behr’s color match in the off-white cabinet color. The Soft Wool color did NOT match the cabinets all that well. It is on the whiter/lighter side. So, I got some color matched paint and repainted the upper cabinet’s crown molding. Much better now!
  • Grey wall paint: Benjamin Moore’s “Stonington Gray” in semi-gloss finish

My favorite element in the kitchen is the ~~beautiful~~ over the sink lighting from Lowes. It is absolutely gorgeous in person with all the crystals glowing and sparkling in the light. Second is the gray wall paint color (Stonington Gray) by Benjamin Moore. We’ve had a wall color change once, which went from Behr’s “Historical Ruins” greige color to this one. Our front door is painted with Historical Ruins and it looks very nice against the blue exterior of our house. But in the kitchen, this greige ended up looking too green unfortunately. BM’s Stonington Gray has a blue tint to the grey but not in the slightest bad way.  It is clean, soothing and sophisticated, which is what we wanted for the kitchen.

Well, that’s it for now. Hope you’ve enjoyed this post! Feel free to leave a comment or question below and I will do my best to get back to you soon!

Quartz Countertop Shopping

Shopping for quartz countertops can be overwhelming due to all the wonderful options out there! We’re skipping all the major brand names (Ceasarstone, Silestone, Cambria) and going for the lesser-known ones to make our selection for our new kitchen! We found that the generic ones (that usually “copy” the major brands’ designs) are cheaper in price and slightly lesser in quality (90% quartz versus 93%).  But the 3% difference is not a big deal according to all the quartz vendors we’ve been talking to. So far, our top choice is from LG Viatera quartz in Cirrus.

LG Viatera Quartz in Cirrus
Cirrus

When you look at it in person (which I recommend that you do for any countertops/flooring/back splash tiles, etc.), it’s grayer than what the website describes it to be (“White with subtle hints of gray”). Since we’re going with white cabinets and a gray island (IKEA BODBYN), we wanted the countertop to be in the gray family but nothing too dark or crazy. There were many contenders in the last few weeks but so far, this is the winner.

IKEA Bodbyn Kitchen

IKEA Bobdyn Kitchen

Ideally, we would love to have a Carrara marble countertop. But the maintenance seems too daunting for all the Korean food we’re going to be cooking! Can you imagine spilling kimchee jigae all over your beautiful marble top and having red stains all over your expensive investment?! But we do LOVE the look of Carrara marble… It was funny how we were immediately drawn to it every time we went to a showroom. One time, we saw a sample of it with a bunch of quartz samples and thought, ‘OMG! We finally found THE ONE quartz manufacturer that got it right!! They made their quartz look exactly like Carrara marble!’ Ha! We were promptly told that it was marble with a chuckle.  Wishful thinking…

So we had no choice but to resort to quartz stone that resembled marble (we didn’t want to deal with the maintenance of granite either.) Most of the marble-like quartz we’ve seen were too blue-cheesy for our taste. Or the veining was too dark or pronounced against the light background. But close contenders were: PentalQuartz’s Onixaa, Silestone’s Lagoon, Silestone’s Ariel, MSI Q quartz’s Cashmere Carrara and a few others. I’ve been Pinteresting like crazy to my kitchen board of all of these options. Feel free to check it out here!

We’re starting our kitchen remodel planning waaaaay early, like several months before.  But we wouldn’t be the Lee Sisters if we didn’t start this early! Last year’s remodel was getting rid of our carpet throughout the house and re-flooring with laminate, painting the house inside and out, replacing our central AC/heating, updating our electrical, and refurnishing a few rooms from scratch. This year’s going to be gutting out the kitchen, combining the current kitchen space with the adjoining dining room to make one big kitchen with an island. In the last few weeks, we’ve measured, drew up our own blueprint, shopped and researched countless hours online (Google image search to the rescue!), drove over to the Anaheim stone and tile district, Home Depot/Lowe’s trips, Floor and Decor (which we just got in our town a few weeks ago), and talked to as many pros in the industry for estimates and tips.  It feels so much better now that I have a ballpark of what things are going to cost. We’re hoping to meet our budget and I think we will if we balance our splurges with economic options. But we’re also being realistic and setting aside some contingency fund (for possible mold, asbestos, termite – the three monster problems I really wish we have none of!)  This planning stage is exciting but also could be anxiety-producing, as there seems so much to do and go through to reach the end. But I’m just imagining a pristine white kitchen with just the right accents to be the reward and that would be worth all the trouble.

My next post will include a design board of all of our kitchen remodel components. Stay tuned!