Q&A: Kitchen Remodeling!

CATEGORIES: Informational Posts, Kate

All right, guys. I know we’ve posted a lot of treats and holiday fun lately, so I had really fabulous intentions of posting something you could, you know, eat as a meal (not saying that Streusel-Topped Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins or Skeleton Cookies can’t be a meal, but I’m talking a meal that you don’t have to eat in a closet and then lie about later).

I also think we can officially tell you that we’re in the thick of writing our second book and I kind of ended up wanting to save the dinner recipe I was working on for our new book and I was sad. And then I remembered that I promised a Q&A post on remodeling my kitchen, so I’m answering all sorts of kitchen remodeling questions today and I’ll be back later this week with a kick-butt recipe. And if kitchen remodeling isn’t your thing, check out these fabulous fall recipes:

Minestrone Soup

Apple Cider Caramels

Smokey Bean Soup with Ham & Bacon

Everyday Cinnamon Rolls

So with that, here we go into your questions! If you want a refresher on what I’m talking about, head on over here. I really tried to answer all the questions that we got, so if I missed one, please let me know and I’ll get back to you! ๐Ÿ™‚

Dining Room Questions

Q: What are the dimensions of your laundry closet?

A: Ha! The better question is what are the dimensions and what were they supposed to be. We’re chalking this up to the learning experience, but the interior of the closet was supposed to be 6 1/2 feet wide and 3 feet deep. Those ended up being the exterior dimensions, hence why we still don’t have doors.

Q: Where did you get your china hutch?

A: We got it at Ikea–you can find a link to it here.

Q: Can you post a close-up of your word cloud?

A: I can’t upload one that’s a high enough resolution that also blurs out all the information that would lead pedophiles and crazies to my front door, so if you’d like a closer look, just email us at general (at) ourbestbites (dot) com.

Q: Where did you get your green apothecary bottles and the little glass milk bottles? And do you actually drink from them?

A: I got them from Bake It Pretty, which is a very bad place for me to visit because I love everything so much. And no, I’ve never gotten anything free from them, but I do have a little crush on them. And yes, I do actually drink from the bottles–I don’t know why, but milk tastes SO much better out of them.

Q: How did you paint the wainscoting?

A: Well, I didn’t technically paint anything (although I totally would now), but I’m fairly certain they did it with a brush. We did run into problems with dings and holes in the wainscoting, just because we used real wood and stuff like that happens with natural products. In retrospect, we probably would have used a manufactured bead board–I think it would have made life so much easier in so many respects.

General Kitchen Questions

Q: What kind of tile and grout did you use on the floor?

A: Honestly, I can’t remember what the floor tile was. I know that it was under $2 a square foot, it’s dark gray, it’s porcelain, it’s supposed to look like slate, and we got it at Home Depot. And we used a dark gray grout. I’m full of useful information, right??

Q: How did you decide the layout of everything? Our kitchen is big, but not very functional at all! Did you guys just plan it yourselves, or ask around?

A: I’m so glad you asked this question because I kind of found myself in the doghouse after I wrote this post because I didn’t give my husband credit for designing the kitchen. He did it all and he did a fabulous job. The thing is, though, that he’s done a lot of construction work over the years and he’s a manufacturing engineer, so part of his job is figuring out the best, most efficient use of time and space. If I knew he wasn’t great at stuff like that, I would have totally had someone help us out. There are kitchen design specialists at Ikea, Lowes, and Home Depot and their services are ususally free.

Q: What did you use to treat your countertops?

A: After we installed them, we treated them a few times with John Boos Mystery Oil and John Boos Block Board Cream. However, we’re planning on treating them with Waterlox sometime in the near future.

Q: How are the white cabinets faring with kids?

A: Great! We’ve had white cabinets in some or another for nearly 4 years now, and these are hands-down the easiest to keep clean. They have a slick surface on them, so they wipe down really easily.

Q: We share a jar-collecting obsession. How do you get the sticky stuff off of them?

A: Try a little Goof Off–it works wonders!

Q: Where did you get the food storage containers in your pantry?

A: Aren’t they awesome?! I got a 10-piece container set from Amazon and then evaluated what I still needed and filled in the holes with the same containers from Target.

Q: What kinds of pots and pans do you use?

A: I have a stainless steel KitchenAid set, but I really, really love my Better Homes and Gardens Hard Anodized Non-stick cookware. I got a set to try out last year when we were competing in the Better Homes and Gardens blogger cook-off and they are seriously one of my favorite kitchen items.

Q: What’s with the pantry doors? How do they work? Do you like them?

A: The pantry doors pull straight out and then there are drawers inside that pull out individually. Honestly (and don’t tell my husband this), I kind of wish they were hinged doors instead of pull-out (and that is an option at Ikea, just not the option we chose). But I still love them.

Buying an Ikea Kitchen

Q: How does buying an Ikea kitchen work? What’s the process, start to finish?

A: It is an adventure and a lesson/test in patience. First, either by yourself or with the help of one of their kitchen specialists, you design your kitchen (meaning you’ll need exact measurements for the dimensions of the room and a general idea of where your electric and plumbing work are).

Once you’ve designed your kitchen, you’ll be given an order number. You’ll either take that number to Ikea (it’s best to do it early in the morning) or you’ll call them the morning you go to pick it up and let them know you’re coming. The great thing (at least in the Ikea universe) is that they pull everything from the shelves for you–none of the infamous hunting through the warehouse and making sure you have every single part. If you’re calling ahead, you’ll need to get a credit card authorization form from them before you go. If you do it that way, they may have everything pulled by the time you get there.

When you get to Ikea, you’ll head to the Kitchens department and they will give you a receipt (if you paid before you got there) or an order sheet (which you’ll scan when you check out). Theoretically, it will have a detailed list of every single part that was part of your kitchen plan. I say theoretically because there were parts that weren’t on our list, but when we went to put our kitchen together, stuff was missing.

When you’ve made your way through the Warehouse of Doom and have checked out, you’ll head over to the merchandise pick-up area. You’ll hand them your sheet and they should have everything pulled at that point. You then get to load everything into your vehicle (although if you’re lucky, someone might be able to help you).

If you’re super patient, you can check everything as you load it into the car and make sure you have everything on your list. However, if you’ve got a huge order or if you’re like me (and everyone else I know), you’re pretty much ready to leave and find the biggest Diet Coke in the universe and try your best not to yell at anyone. However, when you get home and are unloading everything, have someone read off the numbers and someone else check them off on your list. That way, you can make sure you have what you’re supposed to. It’s also a good idea to organize everything by type (cabinet bases, cabinet tops, cabinet doors, drawers, etc.) Keep in mind that, in true Ikea fashion, nothing will come assembled in any way, so organization is vital to maintaining your sanity.

Chances are that you will be missing something. And I can virtually guarantee you that something (probably a cabinet door) will be damaged because the packaging leaves a lot to be desired. So keep a list of what you don’t have and what needs to be replaced and keep it organized so when you head back to Ikea, things will be as easy and pleasant as possible.

Then you get to put it all together. Or, if you’re close to Ikea, you can pay someone there to do it for you. It’s not hard, it’s just monotonous. Installing them is actually probably the easiest part–looking back, we would have hung them ourselves instead of having the contractor do them because, well, we ended up rehanging them, anyway.

Q: Can I buy organizational components if I don’t have Ikea cabinets?

A: I honestly don’t know. Size-wise, I imagine it would be okay because the Ikea cabinets seem to be standard sizes, but I don’t know exactly what they need to be attached to inside the cabinet. During this whole process, however, I have found the kitchen specialists at Ikea to be incredibly patient and helpful, so I’m sure they’d be happy to help you out.

Q: You sound like a Negative Nelly. Was it worth it? What about the quality?

A. I love Ikea kitchens and I love that we saved a lot of money (but got great-looking cabinets) by doing a lot of it ourselves. They’re good quality and they have a 25-year warranty, so there’s not much to worry about in terms of them not holding up over the years. That said, we are 4 hours away from the closest Ikea and I wouldn’t do another Ikea kitchen being so far away, especially with little kids.

Q: What’s the name of the pull-out lazy susan in the corner cabinets?

It’s called Rationell, but that will do you no good because every single organizational/drawer element is called Rationell. But because I love you guys, here’s a direct link to that particular element.

Q: Why did you choose Ikea appliances? How do you like them?

A: We chose them because a) they fit perfectly with Ikea cabinets and b) because if we bought 3 major appliances (range, dishwasher, and microwave in our case), we got 20% off our kitchen, which ended up being a HUGE savings. They’re not actually Ikea appliances–they’re Whirlpool (kind of like how Whirlpool makes Kenmore and KitchenAid appliances). I wouldn’t have bought them if they didn’t have a major brand behind them. I like them a lot, especially the dishwasher.

Q: Did IKEA cut the counters tops to size for you? Really only $300?

A: They didn’t cut the counter tops for me, but we had a table saw handy, so that was easy. I’m sure you could take them to Lowe’s or Home Depot and have them cut there, though. And yes, $300! These were the counter tops we chose and, based on the extensive agonizing we did over our counter tops, you can’t find a better price on them anywhere.

Q: Is the pantry from Ikea a premade item, or did you have to buy several pieces and piece it together? Were there any shorter ones, or only the size you bought?

A: I honestly can’t say for sure, but I do know that Ikea cabinets are highly customizable, so I imagine you can find them in virtually any size you want. The downside is that you do indeed have to put every single piece together and nothing comes pre-assembled.

What Did You Learn?

So much.

In terms of using a contractor, we should have shopped around a little more. Honestly, in retrospect, we probably would have had the contractor do the demo, framing, and handle the plumbing/electrical work and we would have done everything else ourselves.

Along those lines, I was rushed by the contractor into starting. I wish I would’ve stood by my guns and given myself a little more time to get ready. I needed to be more assertive about my expectations from the get-go (which is hard for me because I do not like confrontation). Also, there’s no such thing as being overly specific in what you want a contractor to do.

I found that I liked the big-box hardware stores for different things. Paint? Lowe’s. Flooring and tile? Home Depot. Counter tops? Neither. They were both supremely unhelpful.

Most of all, I learned I could do a lot more than I thought I could. I’m totally not scared to paint or remodel the bathrooms in the next little while because I felt like we got the worst of it out of the way. It was hard and stressful, but it was also a really fun little adventure that actually, through some miracle, made our family closer.


  1. My husband and I re-modeled a kitchen about seven years ago in Jacksonville, FL, where there is no Ikea. We used the pre-assembled cabinets from Lowes. While they didn’t have nearly as many options as Ikea as far as organization and stuff, the quality was fantastic, they delivered everything to our doorstep and we didn’t have to assemble anything. And I’m pretty sure the price is similar to the Ikea prices. So if you have a kitchen that’s not entirely difficult to fit things in and don’t want to assemble cabinetry, that is an option, too. This was prior to the explosion of the blogosphere, else I’d have probably done a blog post on it. It was so much easier than I ever would have imagined. The folks at Lowe’s are super helpful at figuring out what size cabinets you need and how to fit them in. And they don’t let you forget to get drawers in your kitchen (oops, we completely forgot about that!).

  2. I got my little green bottles from Bake It Pretty a few days ago, along with the clear bottles as well. They are the cutest little stinkers I’ve ever seen. I opened the clear bottle box first and my daughter exclaimed “Those are SO CUTE!” Then I opened the green ones and she got even more animated and did a little happy dance. Now we’re having a Halloween party for her four year old son just because she wants to use those green bottles (well, maybe not JUST because, but still)! It’s all your fault. Thanks!

  3. As much work as the real wood bead board is (we have it in our bathroom and guest room) it is by far more realistic and fabulous then the other stuff they sell. It takes more work, because you do have to sand, prime and fill any rough areas in.) but by far they look way more fabulous once their up, the beads have more depth then the other stuff. So I’m glad you guys went with the wood kind!!!! (and I hope your readers decide to also!!! )

  4. Awesome, thank you for all the details! I’ve often dreamed of an IKEA kitchen remodel, you made it seem slightly more do-able. While you’re on the subject of book #2, can I beg you to consider including the Lettuce Wraps recipe? I am *seriously* going to lose my iPhone in a soy sauce accident if I don’t have that recipe in cookbook format soon! (And, yes, I probably could just print it out, but when I want Lettuce Wraps, there’s no time for printing!) ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. While I always love the IKEA kitchens in the store, I am with you and live 3 hours from one. Do you mind mentioning an approximate cost for the cabinets for your kitchen from IKEA? Just wanting to get an idea for our next house in a few years. Also, I live in the town of John Boos manufacturing and have dreamed of having butcher block countertops. You didn’t get them from there, did you? I know you mentioned you got your countertops cheap (free?) and I was super jealous when I heard that!

    1. Lindsey, with the discount we got for buying our appliances there, our cabinets, all the hinges and hardware, hinge dampers (so we have the soft close), interiors (drawers, lazy Susan’s, etc.) came out around $3500.

      We don’t have John Boos countertops (definitely not in the budget!)–we paid a little over $300 for the oak countertops at Ikea (for around 17 linear feet of countertops).

      1. WOW! I had to do a double take to check out to make sure that 3 wasn’t an 8! That is much cheaper. We redid our kitchen a few years ago and spent about 8500 and they weren’t even custom. Definitely keeping IKEA in mind the next go around. Maybe since Boos is 3 blocks from me I can manage some butcher block countertops ๐Ÿ™‚ I would settle for just a butcher block table top..

  6. Thanks for this post! I “oohed & aahhhed” over it the first time but so many details were brought up in here that I found myself clicking around a lot. Thanks for all the links. Next venture, home remodeling?

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