Kitchen Cabinets: The difference between custom vs IKEA cabinets

Kitchen Cabinets: The difference between custom vs IKEA cabinets

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Since January, I have started to work on 6 new kitchen designs. In my past kitchen design work, I have worked with both my custom cabinet company as well as with IKEA. When it comes to looking at kitchen cabinets, what is the difference between custom cabinets vs IKEA cabinets?

difference between custom vs IKEA cabinets


When working on a kitchen renovation (or any renovation for that matter), the design needs to be in place before any pricing can be obtained. The design of the kitchen also needs to be functional. Most clients are having their kitchen remodeled due to it not functioning or being outdated. Here are the differences between custom vs IKEA cabinets.

Custom Cabinetry

I create all of my designs using my 2D and 3D computer software, Chief Architect. Being able to create conceptual designs to show my clients what their kitchen is going to look like is something I love to create. I also love the fact that my cabinet company uses the same software so I can easily send my plans over to them.

With my software, I can make changes quickly and easily, and use any cabinet size that is required. This is especially great when working in tighter spaces that may or may not fit ‘stock’ size cabinets. I can also make any customizations that are needed. For example, one of my clients is looking to have some toe kick pull out drawers. That is customized!

A custom cabinet company will offer a full service which means, they will come out and remeasure once the space has been created (if walls are coming out, etc.). They will also re-check their drawings and if there are any discrepancies, they will address them and look after those for you.

difference between custom vs IKEA cabinets
Design by Sheri Bruneau | Get It Together
Final image of this kitchen is at the end of this blog.


I typically end up swearing, at least a half a dozen times, when working with the IKEA software. I find the software so glitchy that I end up having to waste a lot of time.

When it comes to the actual design of the kitchen, IKEA offers ‘stock size’ cabinets. That may mean that a bit of function may be┬ácompromised due to the cabinet sizes that are offered. I say, ‘may be’, as it has happened to me in the past. When I could have used a 26 3/8″ base cabinet, I have had to settle for a 24″ base cabinet with a filler. Ugh! You should also note that if there are any measurement discrepancies, you will be on the hook to address those and fix those.

What I do like about IKEA’s software is that it readily can spit out the design and the cost in one click!

IKEA also offers a number of services such as a measuring service and an in-home planning service. These two services are great for the DIY’er who wishes to ensure that they have planned out their kitchen correctly. These services are at a cost.

difference between custom vs IKEA cabinets
An apartment where I have designed the new kitchen (showing the North wall)


When the functional design has been solidified, the next step is to make the functional kitchen pretty. There are some pretty significant differences between custom vs IKEA cabinets!


When you chose custom cabinets, you can have your cake and eat it too! If you have wood cabinets, they can be stained, sprayed any colour, or have some custom finishes (antiquing) done.

difference between custom vs IKEA cabinets
Design by Sheri Bruneau | Photographer Ruth Skiffington
Outer cabinets: Fleur de Sel Island: Grizzle Gray


When it comes to using IKEA cabinets, you only have a certain number of choices to pick from. That includes the style and colour.

difference between custom vs IKEA cabinets
A sampling of door fronts from IKEA

There is a company that I can purchase other doors through that will fit on IKEA base cabinets, however, I do not use them for one reason. Most clients will choose IKEA due to budget. The minute you start to change and/or customize, the budget increases.


Once the design is in place, it’s time to order the cabinets. IKEA wins this hands down when we compare the differences between custom vs IKEA cabinets.


As a rule of thumb, once the design has been accepted and a deposit has been made, I look at roughly 4-6 weeks for the cabinets to get made. If my cabinet company is swamped or it is a very busy time of year, I may have to wait 6+ weeks.

I know that in advance and plan my construction calendar accordingly.


Depending on stock, you can order and pick up your cabinets on the same day! For my projects that use IKEA, I get all of the cabinets delivered. I will often go in about 2 weeks prior to needing the cabinets, place my order, and arrange delivery.


All of the thought has gone into the functional design and picking out the pretty. Now it’s time to actually see the space come into shape! The biggest difference between custom vs IKEA cabinets is the ease of using a custom cabinet maker.


Oh, how I love it when my cabinet company arrives and I know there will be no issues I have to worry about. I also love knowing that the cabinets come put together! All of the boxes are made and ready to be installed!

Custom cabinet companies have their own installers who do this I am typically onsite to ensure there are not questions, state where the knobs and/or pulls need to be installed, and then let the crew work!

difference between custom vs IKEA cabinets
Casa Flores installing a kitchen.


When IKEA gets delivered, they are delivered in boxes and are not put together! Prior to having the cabinets installed, you will need to have the cabinets put together. There are three ways to have IKEA kitchens installed.

  1. Put the cabinets together and install them yourself.
  2. Hire a certified IKEA installer to do the work.
  3. Hire someone (a General Contractor or Carpenter) to do the work.

It really doesn’t matter who you choose to look after your cabinets. Any way you pu it, the cabinets need to be put together and installed.

In the past, I had a carpenter put together and install the IKEA cabinets. Now, I strictly use certified IKEA installers. Why? They put together and install IKEA cabinets all the time. They are quick, they are efficient, and a large kitchen can be put together and installed in a couple of days.

A large kitchen may take a carpenter a week or more if they are not used to the IKEA system. My two apartment kitchens will be put together and installed in one day!

An important part to know about is your role during an IKEA install. For the certified IKEA installers I use, I am requested to be on site for the entire time in case the installers need something. This does take up my time to ensure there are no delays in having the cabinets put together and installed.

difference between custom vs IKEA cabinets
Certified IKEA installers installing a very large kitchen for me.


There are many factors when looking at the budget and determining if IKEA is more cost effective than custom. If you are looking at a full DIY project, there will be a huge difference between custom vs IKEA cabinets. If you are doing a partial DIY or wish to customize anything with IKEA, there may not be a huge difference!


If you plan to do all of the:

  • measuring
  • ordering
  • accepting the delivery
  • putting together all of the cabinets
  • installing all of the cabinets.

IKEA will definitely save you money! The only thing you will need to factor in is the time it will take you.

If you start to engage companies for measuring, putting together and installing the cabinets, adding on any ‘extra features’ like a different crown molding or a furniture kick around your island, then you can expect your budget to increase.


The entire list above is looked after for you when you go with custom cabinets. While the cost of custom cabinets may be more than a full DIY IKEA kitchen, there isn’t one single thing you have to worry about.

difference between custom vs IKEA cabinets
Kitchen Design by Sheri Bruneau | Photography Ruth Skiffington
This is the final kitchen of the rendering used at the beginning of this blog.

The value of time vs money plays into this. If you value your time, then you will want to hire someone to do the work for you. If you wish to save some money and are comfortable with doing the work, then an IKEA kitchen may be in your future!

Looking to remodel your kitchen? Contact Sheri today to discuss your options!


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