On the Level
Kitchen renovation is not for the faint hearted. Even if you are not doing any of the work yourself, it is still a roller coaster of decision making, crisis management, and active problem solving. There is no such thing as an effortless kitchen remodel, just as there is no such thing as a perfectly level wall, floor, or ceiling. While I am at it, there seems to also be no such thing as a kitchen remodel that comes within the original budget. Maybe someone out there has done it, but if you have, please don’t tell the rest of us! We would like to hold on to the feeling that our experience is the norm.
Anyway, this week, we are back with another leveling problem. I know I mentioned this last week, but I have to say that just because we managed to solve it on one side of the kitchen did not mean that the problem went away. In fact, on the other side of the kitchen, it seemed worse. Mostly, this is because of our design.
We have cabinets facing in all four directions. One of them faces the family room here, while the other one is at a 90 degree angle and faces the fridge.
The two middle cabinets face the fridge also as well as does the end cabinet closest to the sink. The last cabinet by the dining room door, faces the hallway. Since the cabinets are facing different directions, we could not use the rail system. The cabinets had to be installed to the floor.
This is when we found the biggest flaw to the Ikea cabinet system: the feet.
The base cabinets come with these plastic feet that do not get attached in any stable way. There is a groove that they can slip into, but you cannot move the cabinet while there is any weight on the feet. If you try to move the cabinet while it is resting on the feet, the feet will come off or break off. This means that in order to move the cabinet, you have to lift it, even if is just an inch. And these cabinets are hard to lift.
Why? It’s the rails on top. Most cabinets are box shaped. Ikea base cabinets are U-shaped with rails connecting the top instead of another piece of “wood”. This leaves you nothing to grab unto or lift from without risking damage to the cabinets. Maybe we were being overly cautious, but we were afraid to lift these very heavy cabinets by the rails for fear of distorting or making the rails come off. Once the cabinets were in place, the rails were a non-issue, but it took several days to get to that point.
Why did it take several days? Well, it took several days because not all of the cabinets were square and because they were not square, they were having trouble sitting next to each other without unsightly gaps. This problem also made it difficult to level the cabinets. If you are just considering Ikea cabinets, just be aware when you are building them. It’s much easier to make sure they are square during the building stage than it is to correct them when you are trying to install them.
Also, if you want your counter to be level, your cabinets have to be level. If you want your cabinets to be level, it would help if your floor was level, which ours was not.
We had over an inch of variance in the level of our floors. To deal with the floor and the problematic feet, the husband made plywood boxes that the cabinets could rest on. This all meant that we spent a lot of time laying on the floor adjusting the height of the feet and the boxes underneath using shims to get all the cabinets level.
Eventually, after many hours of work, we got all the cabinets in place and leveled and could begin attaching them. For this, we needed a special tool.
This is a right angle extension for a drill. It helps to drill things in tight spaces, which we definitely had. It was useful for the boxes underneath the cabinets and also the box which we built as a spacer behind the two middle cabinets.
Since we were not using the wall to attach the cabinets, we decided to pull everything away from the wall a bit to increase our counter space. Oh, and I am sure you have wondered why we have a U shaped layout over on this side of the kitchen. It is a bit unusual, we know. Our first plan was to make a matching L shape to oppose the sink and stove side of the kitchen, but the space from the sink and stove to the other side of the kitchen was too wide, about 5-6 feet. It was not enough space for us to put in an island (you need 3 feet of space all around an island), but it was just wide enough that it was not efficient. It was two big steps from there to the stove or three little ones and when you are cooking, all that inefficiency adds up and we found that we did not use the L for cooking or prepping. We decided to try adding another section of counter and, despite the fact that it makes it harder to pass through the kitchen, we loved it. We found that we used that little bit of extra counter more than any other bit of counter in the kitchen. It was within easy reaching distance of the sink, stove, fridge, and the area where I have my mixer. So, here is where we stand now.
Our base cabinets are all installed, including the one that the husband had to build for the dishwasher.
We have all the wall cabinets built. This took us as a family, working in assembly line fashion, less than two hours.
The boys have really been very helpful throughout this whole process.
Next time, I will have to tell you more about the Countertop Saga. Like I said, no kitchen renovation happens without hitches. In our case, it seems that every part has to have some sort of obstacle. Stay tuned.