Advice on IKEA kitchen + bathroom replacement in San Francisco?

Anyone with experience replacing their kitchen and bathroom using IKEA products, design services, and installation services?  Are the design and installation services even available in the SF Bay Area?  

I'm looking to replace the original kitchen and bathroom in a single family house in San Francisco, built in the 1950's.  I am entirely ignorant of the process involved, but need it to be efficient and cost effective. I'd also like the rooms to look nice, but they don't have to be dream rooms.  

1. Would you need permits if just replacing tile, counters, toilet, sinks, some appliances, cupboards, flooring?  

2. Does IKEA do measurements in person and help design for a fee?

3. Are there specific IKEA lines/families of components that work well or that people have used and like?

4. How long would it take, generally?

5. What's the cost range?

6. Would you use a project manager or contractor of some kind to manage/oversee the project to ensure it's done well?

7. Other advice?

Thanks so much for any advice/tales of experience!

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My family member recently renovated the kitchen in their 1940's house, partially using Ikea. Here's what I remember from helping them make decisions.

1. Not sure. We did a more involved remodel, which did need permits.

2. Ikea will send someone around to measure up your space, and this gets sent to your Ikea account. You can then go to Ikea and sit down with a design person, who can access the measurements and help you put things where you want. We did this twice. Got the first design, mulled it over, went back and tweaked it. This was either free or some nominal fee.

3. I don't know, but while you're with the design person, you can ask. They also give you time to walk around and pick cabinet styles and such, and then you can go back to the design person and ask their advice on what you've chosen. I think mostly the Ikea structures all work together, and the style of cabinet doors or countertop is just slapped on the top, so it's a taste issue at that point.

4. Our decision making was definitely the rate-limiting step, not Ikea. We asked for stuff that was in stock and they could deliver everything in a couple of days. I think a few small things like matching kick boards or spacers were out of stock and came later. 

5. Well, that's a "how long is a piece of string" question. The Ikea designer can add everything up right then and there if you have your styles and stuff picked out. If you're also buying your appliances from them, it'll be a more complete price estimate, but you can also just add those numbers in yourself, of course. We bought the appliances from elsewhere, and the designer was perfectly happy to work with standard appliance dimensions in the design.

6. The entire kitchen renovation was done by a contractor. Ikea can give you names of people who can install, but they don't do it themselves. One note: our contractor charged us extra to put together the Ikea cabinets.

7. Our Ikea design people were definitely of the "put X here and Y there but you need 5mm clearance for this door" type of helper. They did not go into the more arty, style-y design sphere. We didn't go to them and say, "We want a beachy industrial kitchen with pops or color" or whatever. We said, "We want a cooktop rather than a freestanding stove, and a large sink." Maybe if you did, they can help as well, but I didn't get that feeling from ours.

Hi! I don’t know the rules re SF and permitting, but I remodeled my kitchen, working with a general contractor, using all IKEA cabinets, and a third party IKEA installation specialist—and all in all, very happy with the whole process and the work. I also worked with Inspired Kitchen Design to create the design and figure out exactly what I needed to buy from IKEA. They were the key to making it all work-here’s the before and after:….


I am an interior designer and I would not recommend IKEA as their cabinets are not built to last. Here are some answers to your questions:

1) You will need permitting if you are doing any electrical or plumbing work. And, since you indicated the house was built in the 1950s, I suspect the electrical in your kitchen and bathrooms are probably not up to code. 

2) The time for a full kitchen and bathroom remodel depends on the plans. Are gutting the kitchen and bathroom and relocating the location of plumbing and appliances? Or are you planning to keep the footprint the same, but replace the existing cabinetry and location of plumbing, electrical etc? If it is a full gut and remodel, a realistic timeline is probably 6 to 8 months. If you are planning to keep the existing footprint, it is probably around 3 to 5 months as long as you have a contractor lined up. 

3) Kitchen and bathroom projects range depending on the scope of the project and the fixtures, flooring, appliances, tile etc you pick. It is hard to provide a range unless there is a discussion of the scope and materials you want.  

4) A good contractor is worth it unless you want to be the "general contractor" yourself but that takes time, energy, and knowledge. I can recommend one very good contractor who works in SF and Berkeley. She recently helped me to a complete gut and remodel of a kitchen. I suggest you get at least 3 bids for the work you want done. However, for a contractor to bid accurately, you need floor plans which means hiring an architect or a draftsperson.

I hope this helps and I am sorry that I cannot recommend IKEA. 

One thing to keep in mind with ikea cabinets or anything that has a hinge is that they aren't made of wood.  What that means is over time if the hinge fails, you're SOL because you can't repair them.  We looked at doing ikea cabinets in our kitchen and this was the feedback we got from our contractor.

Check out florence [at] ( They design spaces using IKEA cabinets and furniture. We used them for a redesign of our garage. They are very economical, worked with us on design and then they generate a complete IKEA order list for simple checkout and delivery. Then you can use craigslist to find someone skilled in installing cabinets or whatever related work is needed.

The big drawback of IKEA kitchens is the labor for installation. It’s just so time intensive with so many fiddly bits.  I went with Mod Cabinetry which comes mostly assembled and it’s been great. Labor is what kills ya in cost. By the way, any of the majors like Home Depot and Mod Cabinetry will come and measure your kitchen, get your appliances accounted for in the design and then visualize it, etc. They do this day in day out. You will want to have a contractor or someone like that overseeing it, I think. But ask them. You don’t need to know all the answers before engaging with them. 

I have to just counter one responder here- I put an IKEA kitchen in my house almost 14 years ago, and they have lasted great. The cabinets look almost new. I am a huge cook - I cook 6-7 nights and mornings a week and host many dinners, so they get loads of use. I’d say that I may replace the fronts only in 5 years (the interiors are perfect including those that have been exposed to water) simply because I want a new design. I don’t know how long kitchen cabinets are supposed to last but I’d say 20 years will be pretty solid for spending about $2500!