Hi there, sweet friends! Welcome back to kitchen palooza! 🙂 We are up to our eyeballs in kitchen renovation details lately, and what kind of blogger would I be if I didn't share those details with you?!
Ever since we started this process, I've gotten a bunch of questions about IKEA's new SEKTION line of kitchens, and since-- let's be honest-- Donnie did most of the demolition and installation on this project, I asked him if he would give a detailed rundown on the process!
(PS... IKEA is in no way sponsoring this project. We just really like them a lot and were impressed by their kitchens! 😉 )
This post is a bit longer than some of our normal posts, but there are tons of details involved in a kitchen reno, so we wanted to pass on as much info as we could... here's Donnie!
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.
In 2015 IKEA made a massive overhaul to their entire kitchen line — AKURUM was replaced by the new line of SEKTION cabinets earlier in the year.
Abby and I were fortunate enough to attend an event at our local Pittsburgh IKEA highlighting the new SEKTION line and some of the updated features. I was so impressed that when it came time to install a new kitchen, we really didn’t look at any other options besides IKEA.
Installing a new kitchen is a lot of work, but it was actually easier than I thought it would be. Here’s how I did it:
1. Browse catalog and IKEA showroom
Abby spent a lot of time pouring through every page of the IKEA kitchen catalog as well as looking at examples all over Pinterest of the type of kitchen she wanted. We had to keep in mind that we have a tiny kitchen so some compromises had to be made (no island or huge lighting fixtures, etc.).
In our numerous trips to IKEA, we also walked through all of the model kitchens - playing with the drawers, looking at sinks, lighting, countertops, and just getting a sense of the type of features we like. Thank goodness for IKEA Smaland!
2. Schedule IKEA kitchen measuring service
After we (kind of) knew what we wanted, we started the whole process by calling IKEA and scheduling a measuring service. It cost $99 for us to have one of their certified reps come out to our house and measure all the details of our kitchen. The cost was later rebated during the purchase process.
At first I thought this was a completely unnecessary step, but then I later learned that if something doesn’t quite fit, IKEA is more lenient with returns of open items if your kitchen was “officially” measured. I'm glad we had someone else do all of the necessary measuring.
3. Remove old cabinets and prep the kitchen
It’s funny that I’m going to boil down this step down to a few sentences. This step was about a week of work. I removed the old cabinets, countertop, and sink. I then chiseled off the old backsplash. This destroyed the drywall so I ended up replacing it in order to have a fresh surface for our new tile backsplash.
I also changed some electrical outlets to line up with our new microwave as well as prepped the plumbing to make sure the water supply and drain was positioned correctly for our new sink and cabinets.
4. Design your kitchen in the IKEA online kitchen planner
Two or three days after the measuring service was completed, I received an email with unique login credentials to the online IKEA SEKTION kitchen planning software. There you can see your entire kitchen in 3D and build your kitchen around the measurements. From there we added the upper and lower cabinets. It’s a little tricky to get everything to fit - there are not unlimited cabinet size options.
It was helpful for Abby and I to start with what we knew — general location of sink, fridge, and corner cabinets. We worked our way out from there filling in the top cabinents and the bottom cabinets.
Selecting the correct cabinet widths and making sure everything fit in the planning program took about an hour. There were a few moments of frustration trying to drag cabinets around on the screen and slide them into the right spot, but it wasn’t too bad.
I am totally not a spatial person at all-- it's really hard for me to visualize size and fit in a space without actually seeing it. Because of this, I ended up using graph paper and small cutouts of the various cabinets and appliances to plan out the kitchen before we put it into their software.
This won't be a necessary step for everyone, but if you're struggling to get everything to fit, you might want to try it. It was really helpful for me to be able to move around the pieces on a small scale, try out different configurations, and see how everything went together.
5. Meet with an IKEA rep in the store to review plan and place order
When it comes time to meet with an IKEA rep in the store, I recommend showing up when the store first opens on a weekday. Our IKEA Pittsburgh kitchen department uses a signup form to hold your place in line. The list fills up quickly and people arriving around noon had to wait a while before meeting with a rep.
Together, the IKEA rep and I logged into the IKEA planning software to look at my plan. He reviewed everything to make sure it all made sense. He even had a few really helpful suggestions about the design, and I made some minor changes on the fly based on his input. He was also able to help me add some finishing pieces to the order that I didn’t realize I needed. This guy knew what he was doing and gave me confidence about the whole process.
Once the plan was finalized (about 30 minutes) I placed my order and scheduled delivery. Our total (including sink) was around $3,000. We actually knocked this price down by about $700 when we decided not to use a very tall vertical cabinet that we originally planned for. So for $2,300 we bought all the cabinets, doors, hinges, shelves, drawers, and trim pieces we needed to complete our kitchen. Very reasonable price!
One tip for keeping your price down -- cabinet doors and finished trim pieces are expensive. Cabinet frames, hinges, and shelves are relatively cheap. Our tall vertical cabinet that we initially planned for was really expensive because it was exposed on both sides.
This required super tall finished trim pieces that are pretty pricey. The less exposed cabinet sides you have, the less expensive your kitchen. So it's not just about how many cabinets you buy; your price depends a lot on how many cabinet sides are exposed.
6. Delivery day!
The delivery was surprisingly quick — I placed my kitchen order on a Friday, and our entire kitchen was delivered on Monday!
The IKEA SEKTION cabinets were packed well and delivered unassembled in about a million cardboard boxes. I think our delivery included 96 pieces, most of them separately packed. We staged (piled up) everything in our living room.
When I placed my order we were told that we had 10 days from time of delivery to make sure we had all the correct cabinets and other items. It was actually a pretty big task to go through all the item numbers and match everything up with the order. Abby turned it into a treasure hunt game and had Connor help match up all of the numbers.
It turned out that we were missing a few pieces. To fix the problem, I went back to IKEA customer service. They gave us the missing pieces, no questions asked.
7. Cabinet assembly
At first this step seemed overwhelming with the number of boxes piled in our living room. But a few minutes after starting, things made a lot more sense. The cabinet assembly was actually one of the most enjoyable parts of the entire process. Even different cabinet sizes are all assembled the exact same way. I read the instructions for the first one and all others followed the same pattern.
During the cabinet assembly you're just putting together the frames. You don’t have to worry about cabinet doors, hinges, or shelves.
Even though there are dozens of cabinet door options, IKEA makes their SEKTION cabinets streamlined and simple by only offering two colors of cabinet frames: white and brown. With our nearly white cabinet doors we obviously chose the white frames.
The cabinet frames are not solid wood (very rare these days) but the composite material was nice and thick and the laminate coating seemed very durable. I was impressed with the sturdiness.
After all of the cabinets are assembled and sitting on the floor, you’ll still have dozens of unopened boxes lying around. Don’t worry about these yet.
8. IKEA SEKTION suspension rail installation
Once upon a time I helped my dad install some solid cherry cabinets in their new house. It wasn’t difficult but it certainly involved two people and a decent amount of shimming and leveling.
One of the most unique things about the new IKEA kitchen cabinets is the suspension rail for both top and bottom cabinets. It is possible to hang the cabinets the traditional way, but why would you when you can simply hang the cabinets on a suspension rail?!
The rails come in 84” sections of thick galvanized steel. I spent nearly an hour cutting them down to size. The steel quickly dulled my hacksaw. I didn’t have the correct type of blade for my chop saw, so I ended up using a Dremel Tool attachment to grind my way through the rails. It was a huge pain with sparks flying and my hands vibrating until they were numb. If I did it again I would take the rails to Home Depot and have them chop them down to size for $5 per cut.
Once everything was cut to the correct length, it was time to hang the top rail. The galvanized rails come with a measuring guide that's important to review before hanging. Also, think through issues ahead of time like how high you want your microwave to sit over your range. Upper kitchen cabinets are hung at a variety of heights, so there is no perfect answer.
Remember that IKEA's upper cabinets are 15” deep. The extra depth is a nice bonus over standard 13" North American cabinets. With the extra depth, I felt like we needed to hang the upper cabinets an inch or two higher than our previous cabinets to give ourselves some space.
Before you start hanging the rails, make sure you mark your stud locations. Everything hangs off of these rails, so having it securly attached to the wall is crucial. Unfortunately on one of my walls I was only able to use three studs for an entire 84” section of rail. In this case I also used self-tapping drywall anchors every eight inches or so. After I was done, I grabbed onto the rail with my fingertips and hung to make sure it was secure!
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have your rail perfectly level. Check it over and over. If it’s off it will affect the entire row of cabinets. I initially used a laser level but then found that it was a little off. We’re talking about a 1/16” over the course of 6 feet. That’s enough to mess everything up, so I then used a 4’ level that I tested to be accurate.
I installed the rails by myself with a step ladder, but it certainly would’ve been easier with two people. I spent 30 minutes or more adjusting everything before tightening down the rail.
We used a suspension rail for the lower cabinets as well. This isn’t necessary, but I think it made installation easier. Instead of using the SEKTION cabinet legs on the front and back of the bottom cabinets, because of the rail, I only needed legs on the front.
9. Hang the IKEA SEKTION cabinets
This is cabinet “hanging" in the truest sense of the word! Once the cabinet frames were assembled and the rail installed, I literally just picked up each cabinet and hung them on the rail. I started with the upper corner cabinet and worked my way out, hanging each cabinet and then sliding them into place.
Once all of my upper cabinets were in place, I checked front to back and side to side levelness. The corner cabinet was perfectly level, so I started anchoring the neighboring cabinets to each other with the provided wood screws.
Make sure to use countersink bits to pre-drill before screwing the cabinets together. This will make the wood screw heads sit flush with the inside of the cabinets without over tightening and causing damage.
If your wall is a bit wavy (mine is), you may end up with an upper cabinet or two that doesn’t have perfect front-to-back levelness after hanging it on the wall. In these cases you can use some wood shims behind the bottom of the cabinets to bring everything into level. Then when you anchor the cabinets together they end up as one perfectly level unit.
Once the upper cabinets were installed, it was time to move on to the bottom cabinets. These were harder. For some reason it was a little more difficult to get everything level. There are also plumbing considerations to be aware of.
Most likely you’ll have to cut holes in the bottom or back of the under-sink cabinet to accommodate hot and colder water supply as well as drain pipes. I borrowed my dad's oscillating tool to make the cutouts. That thing cut through the cabinets incredibly well.
Because the lower cabinet rail is fixed, the only way to level the cabinets from front to back is by twisting the SEKTION cabinet legs.
These big plastic legs made it easy to change the angle of the cabinets by twisting one direction or another. Super simple! Once the lower cabinets were in place and level, I anchored them to each other just like the upper cabinets.
10. Install doors, hinges, drawers, and shelves
This was a fun step because everything was finally starting to look like a completed kitchen! This was also a really easy step. The hinges are adjustable, so it was easy to make sure all of the cabinet doors and drawers lined up. For the most part, no adjustments were needed.
I was somewhat confused about the installation of our "drawer within a drawer". At first I thought we had the wrong parts -- turns out it was user error (me)!
11. Countertop installation
We purchased quartz countertops through IKEA, so they arranged the measurement, cutting, and installation through their local provider. We picked “Organic White” with an “eased” edge, no backsplash, and a farm sink cutout. Ceasarstone was the manufacturer, and the installation was done by one of IKEA’s local partners.
We paid $59/square foot for the countertop, but that included measuring, cutting, and installation. Unfortunately IKEA has a 25 square foot minimum for custom countertop installation. That's not a problem for most people, but our tiny kitchen only needed 23.5 square feet, so we ended up paying a little bit more than we needed to. Oh well.
We did shop around a bit, but we couldn't find anything we liked in our price range. Also, it seemed like a lot of other companies didn't want anything to do with this small job. I'm happy we went with IKEA's countertops.
During the countertop installation, they set the IKEA DOMSJO single bowl farm sink in place, but I asked them not to anchor it permanently. This made the next step easier.
12. Faucet and plumbing hookup
After countertop installation I lifted the farm sink out of place and set it on the countertop for easier access to install our new (amazingly awesome) Moen Align faucet. The faucet is incredible with hands-free operation and was really easy to install. When I opened up the box I was a bit overwhelmed but clear instructions with good pictures solve most problems.
I then set the sink back into place, made sure it was level, and then anchored it with the provided IKEA hardware to the inside of the lower sink cabinet. I was then able to install the drain flange and hookup the garbage disposal. It was the first time I've ever installed a sink. Turns out it's easy!
I read online that some people were having a hard time finding a garbage disposal with a flange that fit the DOMSJO farm sink. I guess I lucked out because without any research I bought a 5HP Badger disposal, and it fit perfectly.
After the garbage disposal was installed, I hooked up the hot and cold water to the new Moen Align faucet, installed a P- trap from the garbage disposal to the drain pipe in the wall, and used a clamp to connect the plastic dishwasher drain hose to the garbage disposal. This plumbing work took about 6 hours. Nothing ever seems to fit perfectly, so I had to make a trip (or two) to the hardware store to buy a few needed plumbing pieces.
13. Cabinet hardware installation
You can read about our D. Lawless hardware installation here. It was a little nerve wracking to start drilling holes into the cabinet doors, but everything turned out great!
The only hiccup was when I drilled through a drawer front right into the face plate of the hidden drawer. Abby may or may not have accused me of ruining our entire kitchen, but thankfully we can just buy a new inner drawer front for $9, so I'm out of the doghouse. 😉
14. Miscellaneous finishing touches
Whew! That was a lot to take in. After all of that there are still lots of little things that need to be done to get everything looking great. I still have to add one more filler piece between an upper cabinet and the wall, install the IKEA SEKTION toe-kick, replace a section of baseboard, and of course our tile backsplash — stay tuned!
Final IKEA SEKTION Kitchen Installation Thoughts
If you're considering installing an IKEA kitchen yourself, hopefully this post gives you a better understanding of what’s involved. Sure, it’s a big job and a big time commitment, but anyone can do it.
The planning, demo, and prep work take more time than the actual cabinet installation. If you commit to a project like this, just take it one step at a time and you'll get through it. In the end, you'll have beautiful new kitchen that adds a tremendous amount of value to your house.
If Abby and I were building a new house right now, I would again choose to install an IKEA kitchen myself — that's how much I like the SEKTION kitchen and the entire installation process.
I will remember that he said that when I ask him to do our next kitchen reno... 😉 Big projects like these are never super quick, but we are making progress each day-- baby steps! We plan on sharing each step along the way, so be sure to check back to keep up with the full renovation! If you'd like to start from the beginning, you can see our full kitchen plan here...
...and our first progress report + hardware installation details here...
Update: The kitchen is finished! See how it turned out here!
[Psssttt… Don’t miss our top 100 tips for organizing every single room in your house!]
Thanks for following along! Hope you're having a wonderful week, friends!
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.