Dear PoPville – Recommendations for Kitchen Cabinets and/or contractor?

Photo by PoPville flickr user ekelly80

Dear PoPville,

My husband and I bought a rowhouse in the H Street area this year, and we’d like to renovate the kitchen. However, we are on a budget, but we don’t want to sacrifice quality. Does anyone have experience with Cabinets to Go? Or would they recommend a reasonably-priced, quality contractor who would be able to install cabinets if we purchase them? We originally got an estimate from Ikea, but when their contractor came to my house, she quoted me $8K – $10K for labor ONLY! Thanks!

29 Comment

  • Ikea cabinets are great, and are designed to be installed by homeowners themselves. You don’t need overpriced an contractor, especially if you’re on a budget.
    Were the contractors you got a quote from going to install the cabinets only or also assemble them? They are very easy to assemble, especially if you’ve ever assembled Ikea furniture before, but labor-intensive, so you might do well if you build them yourself and have a contractor, not necessarily Ikea contractors, put them up.

    • I agree!

      My Mom and I put all of my cabinets together in one day. It’s no more difficult than putting any IKEA furniture together. My contrator put in the metal bracket (not sure if that’s the right word) in which the cabinets hang, and we hung them ourselves. I’m very happy with the cabinets- they’re high quality and beautiful.

      • And you don’t have to pay tax on the cabinets when they’re delivered, because there are no IKEA stores in DC.

        • Well actually you do owe DC sales taxes, it’s just the IKEA doesn’t collect it from you. You send it to them at tax time, or when they audit you…

    • I have seen great kitchen remodels done with Ikea cabinets, and I have seen some that are less successful. I can’t speak to the quality, but I would caution that if your kitchen screams “Ikea” it might affect your resale value. This isn’t a commentary on the aesthetics or construction of Ikea cabinets, just an observation about the attitudes that some people hold.

    • This is generally true if you have some free time, tools, and are moderately handy. I got a ridiculous quote from the Ikea-approved installer and decided to do it myself.

      It is not, however, as easy as some people here would have you believe, especially if you want a kitchen with the bells-and-whistles that you see in the a lot of the showroom displays. There are a lot of little tricks to getting it just right, and these are going to be learned the hard way.

      • I may require a little creativity or effort to get the finishing pieces on – such as trim or cover panels cut to hide under-the-cabinet lighting. But all in all, it’s really not hard. And it’s certainly worth a weekend of your time and some trial-and-error learning to save $8K-$10K!

        A word of advice – if you are cutting cover panels to size, wrap painter’s tape around the area you are going to cut to keep the edges from being jagged.

  • 2nd pru. Ikea provides features of higher level cabinets. The hardware and workings are of good quality so they’ll last better than other similar priced brands. And really, they’re not hard to install, especially if your space doesn’t present challenges. Heck, I”ll build and install for much less than that quote. If you want to go with a contractor, try finding a handyman who will charge an hourly rate.

  • I assumed a long time ago that Ikea is for college dorm rooms, and have been trying to phase it out gradually.

    Are their cabinets solid wood, or that cheap stuff they use in everything else?

    • their boxes are MDF (as are boxes for many very high end european frameless cabinets) and the offer a wide variety of solid wood and veneer doors. You can also buy the boxes and have custom doors made, google semihandmade ikea for the link.

  • There is a place on Taylor just east of 13th. Check it out. I have found photos of the cabinets I want, now I need to figure out where to get them made, and have just about no clue where to even begin, so good post if we get some good answers….

  • I owned a cabinet company and assure you that IKEA is extremely high quality. Their hardware is exactly the same hardware used in Poliform, poggenpohl. their particleboard is not the greatest and the back of the cabinets are cheap but they will last as long as you would ever want them. That quote seems high, probably included demo, plumbing, etc. Another resource for quality RTA (ready to assemble) cabs is You can also go to and use their search feature for ideas. Good luck

  • IKEA is a great choice for 2 reasons. First, they are easy to assemble. Its true, we did it ourselves, including the large pantry units. And we know lots, and lots, of others who have done the same. If you do not want to spend the time, however, I believe there is an older blog called “DC Rowhouse” — the owners give a referral for the contractors they used to assemble and install their cabinets. You may try to search for that.

    Second reason, is aesthetics, durability and ability to customize. Here’s my own blog post outlining why we chose IKEA. (

    Good luck!

  • We bought our bathroom cabinets at Home Depot and are happy with them. We spent the extra 20% or so to upgrade to plywood from particle board (both are covered in hardwood veneer), which I recommend. They will last much longer.

    Our kitchen has some funky spaces that required semi-custom cabinets. Home Depot or Ikea are fine for standard spaces, but we wanted to maximize cabinet space. Semi-custom basically means more sizing options without actually having cabinets custom made for your space, which, as you might imagine, is extremely expensive. I don’t recall the manufacturer.

    • We also went wih HD for the cabinets and picked a contractor from Craigslist to install them. I wasn’t terribly concerned about hiring someone off the ‘net since hanging cabinets isn’t difficult (drill in to the studs, keep them straight), just time-consuming. I hung around while he did the work and I could see he knew what he was doing. We were quoted about $37/cabinet + some other amount to put up the molding, etc.

  • My wife and I used Cabinets to Go and had great results. They are similar to Ikea in that they come packaged flat, and you have to assemble them yourself. But the assembly is quite simple and they are very sturdy, well constructed and great looking cabinets. We talked to Linn Tarry 240-387-6779 in the College Park, MD store who was extremely helpful and knowledgable (although, the last time I drove by over a month ago, they were building a new showroom in that location). That location is about 1/2 mile from the Ikea, just in case you want to do some comparison shopping.

    I can’t comment on installation costs, because I was lucky enough to have a buddy that really knew what he was doing, so we put them up ourselves.

  • And once you are ready for a countertop, I would highly recommend Blue Isle Granite and Tile out of Manassas. IKEA was charging more for the manmade countertops than what we paid them for lovely granite. And they were fantastic to work with.

  • Those cookies look amazing. Inspires me to bake some pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. Mmmm…

  • we got really good value from Reico

    We went with Merillat cabinets. A lot cheaper even than Home Depot and they were really helpful with planning the kitchen to maximize our space with stock cabinets, and they suggested some upgrades (like self close drawers) to the basic cabinets without spending up for the fancier lines.

  • i recently remodeled my kitchen and also went with reico. good quality at a good price.

  • IKEA cabinets look cheap and their drawers and hardware don’t hold up do daily wear and tear. if you are planning on staying in the house for a while get real cabinets.

  • Put the cabinets in yourselves and save. Its pretty easy. Watch a couple of this old house videos on line and take your time while doing it. You’ll save $10k by doing a couple weekends worth of work.

  • I just wanted to comment that the cabinets in my house probably date from IKEA’s entry into the DC region, circa1990 maybe. The then-owner was very cheap, and I’ve been correcting and upgrading his various “renovations” for the 16 years I’ve lived in the house. The cabinets are showing their age, but all-in-all they’re still sturdy and have performed well. I keep putting off a full kitchen renovation because for now, they just do their job and there is plenty of life left in them.

  • If you assemble the cabinets yourself and bring the contractor in to hang them (which IMO is the tough part), then you can save a bundle on labor.

  • For our last kitchen reno we used Kraftmaid cabinets we bought at Home Depot. The customer service at Home Depot (Hyattsville) was absolutely horrible. If I had to do it again, I’d definitely order from Lowe’s and would drive far out of DC to find a decent one. We paid $20K for labor, for an overall cost of $30,000. That’s pretty typical for a DC rowhouse with good quality materials.

    Previously, I put in an IKEA kitchen at my condo in Adams Morgan. The cabinets cost $1800 and installation, including knocking out a wall & repairing drywall, cost $4800. A kitchen reno for under $7K. You can see it online because my old condo is for sale again

    I noticed the current owner hasn’t upgraded anything since my reno in 2002. This was back in the day when DC condos were pretty cheap, plus before the stainless/granite wave. The counter is gray laminate ($125 at Home Depot) and the butcher block island counter was maybe $80 at IKEA. I kept the old stove (maybe from 1980?) and see the current owner never replaced it either. My, how times change. I’m surprised though that the current owner didn’t upgrade the counters and appliances for resale. I think the IKEA cabinets are still cute – and they were certainly nicer than any cabinets I ever had before!

  • Pelican Kitchen & Bath has done a great job on a number of family friend’s kitchens!

  • I renovated my kitchen a couple of years ago and used Costco cabinets – I think they look better than Ikea. I don’t think they sell them in the Costco stores but you can get samples sent to you.

  • Check out Panda Kitchens. We added onto our kitchen and got a fantastic quote well below contractors (who are friends) and MUCH nicer than IKEA. We got solid wood cabinets (approx. 13 ft. of wall space), granite countertops (approx. 10 ft. by 2 ft.), and the install for under $6k. The install was around $1k for our job.

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