Q. I’m planning on doing some renovating, and am hoping to stay within a budget. I’d like to stick to IKEA and Home Depot whenever possible. Any thoughts on which stores offer the best value?
[Editor's Note: This article originally ran in June, 2012. It has been updated with new information for August, 2018.]
Price: Home Depot tends to be more expensive, but has a broader selection
Jeff Streich, contractor and owner of Prime Renovations, says Home Depot products tend to be more expensive, but the store wins point for having a broader selection and the fact that you don't have to assemble everything.
Rose Praino of Your Décor NYC, a handyman/designer/contractor service, says both stores offer “comparable lower cost options," and agrees with Streich that "Home Depot goes far beyond what’s available at IKEA.”
Despite the greater options available at Home Depot, Streich says that when he meets clients, “I always suggest IKEA cabinetry. It’s inexpensive, built decently, and it looks good.”
For the average Manhattan kitchen, Streich estimates cabinets at IKEA could be anywhere from $3,000 to $4,000. Even with the cost of assembling and installing the products added in, which is roughly $3,000, Home Depot still costs more.
Guy Kohn, principal of commercial and residential Manhattan-based firm KOHN Architecture, who says he has done two major kitchen renovations with IKEA, "bought tons of furniture there," and buys and uses building supplies all the time at Home Depot, says that Home Depot can be around three times more money than IKEA, but It does depend on the finishings. Adding, marble, granite or formica will cause the price for either store to vary.
Service: Stay away on the weekends
“Never go to these stores on weekends expecting great in-store service,” says Praino. She warns “If you’re expecting to sit down and have a focused conversation without interruption, all bets would be off.”
As for installation, Praino suggests that a do-it-yourself person choose Home Depot "because unlike IKEA, Home Depot will get you through the whole project—from cabinets, to paints, to stains, screws, anchors, wood, etc. And you can just walk through, see it, and grab it.”
Kohn agrees Home Depot is great if you are more of a do-it-yourself person. “Home Depot caters to people who know what they want to get,” says Kohn. A more experienced renovator can have success working with Home Depot, while a newbie will probably be more challenged.
Streich does not recommend IKEA as a DIY project unless you are really handy.
As far as ordering and installing products, with Home Depot you have to wait 6-8 weeks for them to deliver and if something is wrong, your project can be very delayed, says Streich.
Since you can just go to IKEA and pick up what you need the same day, a contractor and his or her team can start a demo, design, and buy all in a matter of days as opposed to weeks.
When ordering from IKEA, Kohn says deliveries usually arrive in a couple weeks, saving you more time. He does note that the process is “very labor intensive” when it comes to installation.
He suggests hiring a designer or an architect to help make your installation most effective, as “they will have more experience than the IKEA designer” and will help guide your process. You can hire a recommended installer at IKEA or someone independent of the company—either way they will help throughout process.
Yoel Borgenicht, a contractor and owner of King Rose Construction agrees that if you have the cash you should hire the extra help. “Your project will look better and your contractor’s job will be faster since he will have detailed drawings showing him the scope of work."
Style: IKEA allows more room for customization
Home Depot is less style-oriented, while IKEA is more contemporary and “fashion and urban oriented,” Streich says.
And while style is often subject to taste, IKEA cabinets do accommodate customization by a contractor. For example, a contractor can change the size of the cabinets, using what IKEA has and elaborating on it.
But even more common (and popular) says Streich, is using third party doors—available in a wide range of finishes, styles and colors—specifically made for IKEA cabinets to achieve a more personal and high-end look. (He’s a fan of semihandmade.) “But it’s not just budget jobs,” says Streich. “I’ve done IKEA kitchens in five million dollar apartments. It’s easy and people like it.”
For a more on-trend Home Depot shopping experience, Borgenicht recommends dropping in on the one of the chain’s two Manhattan locations. “They offer more style than a suburban Home Depot.”
Durability: Avoid laminates and go for wood
Praino urges remodelers to avoid laminates when shopping at either store. “When wood wears it can become part of the character, it may even be able to be repaired, and if the wood cabinets function well after 5-7 years they can easily be repainted with new colors and refitted with updated hardware," she says.
Laminate, on the other hand, will peel, bend, and warp, leaving fewer options than wood. But depending on the “preference and lifestyle” a laminate kitchen used gently could hold up, she says.
Kohn believes that both stores’ products are equally durable. He says an IKEA kitchen can last at least ten years.
“Cabinets should last until they are out of style,” says Streich. “If installed correctly, IKEA cabinets could last 15-20 years." (He’s never gotten a call to come deal with a problem in an IKEA he’s worked on.) However, Streich advises you expect a certain amount of your order to arrive in less than perfect condition; in his experience, about a third come out of the box with minor chips and dings, necessitating returns. So while you should anticipate some back and forth to IKEA, you won’t be waiting weeks (or months, in the case of luxury projects with pieces imported from Italy) for replacements.
Adds Borgenicht: “Home Depot has a much wider range of quality than IKEA does.” But in his opinion, both stores predominantly stock lower quality kitchen cabinet lines that “only last a couple of years before showing wear and tear.”
Extra tips to get the most out of your shopping experience
“Avoid buying shower bodies or any sort of plumbing from Home Depot,” says Streich. He points out that many customers are not aware of all of the pieces they need, and are better off going to a plumbing store for guidance.
To dodge issues such as missing pieces, Kohn says to make sure you do your homework and plan ahead. “Have a list of all the parts you ordered so as they deliver” you can check them off. Since IKEA is “not for the faint of heart,” be prepared, down to having the measurements, pipes, and electrical outlets all figured out before installation can begin.
A final tip from Streich is to ask your contractor the places they go and to see if you can use their discounts at stores to save you money in the renovation process.
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