DIY Kitchens: Ikea or Bunnings Flatpax? (Part 3)

This is part 3 of 3. Also see Part 1 – intro, cabinets and doors and Part 2 – benchtops and kickboards.

other considerations

Proximity: Unless you live close to Ikea (or far away from everything) Bunnings is going to be much closer. We’re lucky enough to be less than a 45 minute drive from the only Ikea in NSW, but we have two Bunnings warehouses within 15 minutes. Even for a smaller kitchen project, you will have to go more than once, to buy parts you didn’t realise you needed, return pieces that turned out to be the wrong size, and so on (we had about 5-10 trips to each, just for the kitchen). So closeness should be a major factor in your decision.

Design Software: Ikea has a fairly detailed design application you can download to your PC and use to design and preview your kitchen in 3D. You can send the design to ikea, and print off your order in-store. Bunnings has a much more basic application on their website, but the in-store flatpax catalogues have graph-lined sheets and stickers for each cabinet size that you can use to at least make a top-down floor plan of your kitchen. Note that with both, your plans will likely change as you go, due to one unexpected issue or another, so plan as perfectly as you can but be ready to compromise if needed.

Display kitchens: It makes a big difference to see samples of the products, especially when assembled into an actual kitchen. Each Bunnings store should have a display kitchen or two, but Ikea wins here with half a dozen different display kitchens and a clever matching wall where you can grab samples of benchtops, put them over the doors you like and step back to judge how it would look.

conclusion

I have a good overall impression of both the Ikea Faktum range and the Bunnings Flatpax range. (Update: 4 years later, I’m slightly less impressed with Bunnings doors and hinges. The modern gloss white doors have already yellowed visibly, and my corner-cupboard door hinges have already broken. But, I’ve had no other unexpected problems.)

Both seemed to be decent quality and fairly easy to assemble for a determined handyperson.

Both had some very nice styles (meaning the colour, texture and “look” of the doors, benchtops, etc), though personally I think the Ikea range was a bit more tasteful, on the whole. They put a lot of effort into design.

Each had a few distinct areas where their price for a similar item was significantly better (e.g.: Ikea’s Pragel laminate benchtop, or Bunnings’ modern gloss white doors), but overall they had similar pricing. Look at enough display kitchens to decide what you want, then compare prices on similar items (Ikea prices are online, but unfortunately flatpax aren’t on their a website at time of writing – we went into bunnings armed with a pencil and paper and wrote a bunch of prices down).

So both price and style will vary depending on what kind of kitchen you want (modern, heritage, muted colours, bright colours, etc) and they should be the major factor in deciding where you get your kitchen from.

But price and style aside, I think the most important differences were probably:

convenience: Bunnings is closer for most people, and you’ll likely make more than 2 or 3 trips for a whole kitchen.

wall cabinets: Bunnings hardbacked wall cabinets are much easier to anchor to the wall (in most Australian houses).

try before you buy: Ikea has a better display showroom.

stock: Ikea has most of their range in stock at any given time. Bunnings usually has enough stock of their most popular stuff (like modern gloss white doors and white kickboards) but if you like something that’s not as popular, they’ll have to order it in (or at least send you to another Bunnings – but most have similar stock).

That’s it! Go do your research, choose your style, plan your layout, and have fun building your own shiny new kitchen.

Any questions? Ask them in the comments section below.

Good luck!

other thoughts

do your homework: learn as much as you can about what you’ll need to do, especially if you’re not an experienced handyman. The flatpax kitchens instructional DVD from Bunnings costs about $5, so just get it – even if you’re getting all Ikea parts. It’s short and will give you an idea of what your in for (though of course, the leave out a lot to make it seem much easier and quicker than it is). Youtube should also have some good instructional videos for various tasks, like cutting the benchtops (I can write a post about this if anyone’s interested, let me know in the comments).

your kitchen walls aren’t perfect: good quality constructed houses aren’t quite perfect (and they settle over time, apparently). For example, your back kitchen wall might be 3000mm wide near the floor, but 3011mm wide near the ceiling. The cabinets are designed to help handle this (for example: the Bunnings corner base cabinet has extra space left at the back to allow for corners that are slightly less than 90 degrees). But you still need to be prepared to deal with problems. I had to cut into the gyprock a bit to fit my last wall cabinet in – the gap between the other cabinets and the wall was a couple of millimetres too small near the top.

“no-name” options: Ikea and Bunnings aren’t the only options for flatpacked kitchens in Australia. I like the idea of a standard kitchen I can easily upgrade later, so I have no experience with the others, but it can’t hurt much to Google around.

even cheaper kitchens: if you know what you’re doing, and have a lot of time, you can simply buy the fibreboards from Bunnings and cut them up to make your own cabinets. Most kitchen installers do this (more or less).

really cheap kitchens: if you’re adventurous, the cheapest way to get a kitchen is to buy an old one from someone who’s renovating. Try eBay. They’ll usually go for a small fraction of the new price, but be prepared to remove them yourself, clean them, and match any parts your new kitchen space needs (obviously if it’s a Bunnings or Ikea kitchen, that’ll be easier).

This is part 3 of 3. Also see Part 1 – intro, cabinets and doors and Part 2 – benchtops and kickboards.

DIY Kitchens: Ikea or Bunnings Flatpax? (Part 2)

This is part 2 of 3. Also see Part 1 – intro, cabinets and doors and Part 3 – other considerations and conclusion.

benchtops

Both Ikea and Bunnings have a wide range of Kitchen benchtops from about $50 per metre. Bunnings stores have limited stocks on hand, but a lot can be ordered.

cheapest laminate: Bunnings have $100 2400mm x 600mm worktops in black and white, but they are not really for kitchens (more like laundry, etc) and the square front edges don’t look very waterproof (this is a big deal, if the MDF inside gets wet and stays wet long enough, it can expand and swell). Ikea has a very similar product in white, but slightly thicker and with a rounded edge : Lagan worktop ($99, 2.2m).

standard laminate: Recommended. Thicker, rounded top front edges, more commonly used. Much cheaper than any kind of stone or wood. Ikea’s is called prägel : $90 (1.2m) to $140 (2.4m). We used Ikea prägel in “Stone effect black”. Bunnings didn’t have anything at this price point.

Note: any benchtop with a rounded edge will need to be cut diagonally or with a mason’s mitre or it will look odd. Getting a plain old mason’s mitre benchtop join can be ridiculously expensive (lowest quote we found was about $500, more than all 3 of our benchtop pieces put together) but you can do it yourself if you’re careful (see my post about how I did mine). I saw a metal mason’s mitre cover-strip at Ikea too, which would be cheap and easy if you don’t mind the look of it.

Also note: The underside of the prägel benchtop isn’t laminated or fully waterproofed. The instructions say that you should place something underneath to protect the benchtop from moisture if you are putting it over something that might get moist (from water, steam, or condensation due to changes in temperature) such as a dishwasher or oven. I ended up buying a cheap sealer – a PVA based glue/sealant in a squeeze bottle – and “painting” it thickly onto the underside of the benchtop to waterproof it a bit. I also used a cheap halogen lamp from Bunnings to dry the sealant more quickly, though the sun on a warm, dry day will also work well.

pricier laminates: Bunnings has very-rounded-edge laminates in styles similar to prägel for 2 or 3 times the price. Ikea has some laminate choices at that range too, mostly square styles (the Ikea designs were both nicer, in my opinion, and cheaper, I think).

stone, wood, steel: These are all the rage at the moment. We never considered these, since the prägel is much cheaper, very durable, and just as pretty (for the style we wanted). I do know Ikea has some solid wood products for less than $300 per metre, and if you have thousands to spend, both stores can order engineered stone (like Caesar Stone), marble, and (I believe) stainless steel. Usually these come made to your measurements and delivered your home (they can be extremely heavy). See Ikea worktops, Flatpax benchtops.

kickboards

These are the long panels at your feet under the cabinets (the cabinets are held up by strong adjustable plastic legs, and the kickboards clip onto them.

Bunnings’ are about $45 for a 2.4m piece. Anything but plain white will usually need to be ordered (arrives a week or two later, IIRC). Clips are sold seperately, about $5 a pair, with screws to attach them.

Ikea’s are about $42 for a 2.2m piece. They’ll have a wider range in stock. Clips slip on (no screwing needed) and come included with the cabinet legs.

This is part 2 of 3. Also see Part 1 – intro, cabinets and doors and Part 3 – other considerations and conclusion.

DIY Kitchens: Ikea or Bunnings Flatpax? (Part 1)

This is part 1 of 3. Also see Part 2 – benchtops and kickboards and Part 3 – other considerations and conclusion.

Note: I live in Sydney Australia, so all prices in this article are in Australian dollars, and refer to products available here (though I think the Ikea products are used elsewhere too – the Akurum range appears to be the US equivalent of Faktum, and the Rationell drawer/rack systems and Abstrakt doors appear to be similar or identical to the same-named products here).

Also Note: This article is from 2010. Some of the products have changed slightly. (E.g.: the latest range of Bunnings flat-packed kitchen components, under the name “Kaboodle”, are slightly different to the ones described here). I’m not renovating at the moment, so I don’t know what exactly is different, but please let us all know in the comments if anything needs correcting.

I recently built a kitchen using do-it-yourself flat-packed kitchen components, both from Ikea‘s popular Faktum range and the Flatpax range available from Bunnings hardware stores here in Australia.

Building our own kitchen (as opposed to getting a professional to do it) was time-consuming and we ran into our share of unexpected problems.

But if you’re low on cash or a bit of a handyman, I recommend it. It’ll give you a much better kitchen for your money: you can build a small, cheapo sink-and-cabinets-on-one-wall kitchen for as little as $1000.

Our new kitchen is pretty nice, and cost about $3000 altogether, including appliances and tiles (We were going for minimum cost, but ended up spending a few hundred extra to get nice cabinet doors and a fancy pull-out pantry, vastly improving the look and feel of the kitchen. This will hopefully add significant value to our home, too).

Both the Ikea Faktum and Bunnings Flatpax ranges are modular, meaning  that in that range of products, the parts come in standard sizes and you can buy each piece separately, depending on what you need, and easily fit them together (note – that doesn’t mean parts from one range will fit the other – for example, Bunnings doors on Ikea cabinets. But… since they are pretty similar, this can work sometimes, see my notes later on).

Advantages of these standardised modular kitchen parts:

  • Easy renovation later: In 10 or 20 years when you want to renovate the kitchen, all you need to do is go back to Ikea or Bunnings and buy a new set of standard-sized cabinet doors (and any cover panels) to make your kitchen look brand new.
  • Cheap now, fancy later: If you’re a bit strapped for cash (and who isn’t when renovating) you could also buy the cheapest doors for now, then add fancier doors later when you can afford it
  • Spread the work/cost: Rather than paying a kitchen installer for the whole kitchen at once, you can buy your basic sink and oven cabinets, and get the rest done when you have more time (or more money). I’ve been working on my kitchen on-and-off in my spare time for over a year now, but we’ve had the basics in place from the beginning.
  • Easier to buy and sell: Since there are other people with Bunnings or Ikea kitchens, you can sell the old parts to people doing the same thing – or maybe buy them cheap in the first place from someone who is already upgrading.

Both Ikea and Bunnings kitchen parts come flat-packed in boxes you can take home in your car (though we needed the roof racks a few times for longer boxes – over 2m). You can then assemble them yourself at home with minimal tools.

It wasn’t easy to choose which components to get from where – Ikea or Bunnings – so here’s a quick comparison for anyone who wants to try this:

general

Bunnings stuff was solid, but some components have a cheaper “feel” overall, and some had a cheaper price. The “modern white” doors faded (went slightly yellow-brown) noticeably in the first three years, even those not exposed to direct sunlight.

The Ikea stuff has the usual clever design and tasteful style you’d expect from Ikea. It seems “well thought out”. Ikea has much better assembly instructions (the Bunnings ones are adequate but not as detailed as they could be, and occasionally even had minor mistakes). The Ikea hardware – screws, fittings and so on – are a little bit fancier (though not in a way that’s really noticeable to anyone but the kitchen installer).

cabinets

The cabinets (or “carcasses”) are the kitchen base (floor) cupboards, wall cupboards and pantries (meaning the ones that go from the floor almost to the ceiling – Ikea calls these “high cabinets”). They’re apparently made from MR MDF (Moisture Resistant Medium Density Fibreboard). Both stores sell them in similar sizes: 600mm deep and about 1m high (Ikea has 860mm cabinets, 140mm legs) for cabinets that sit on the floor, in various widths.

Aside: You can actually use wall cabinets as base cabinets (we needed to, as our back wall area wasn’t deep enough for 600mm base cabinets) but you’ll need to buy feet for them (bunnings feet are easier for this, ikea feet need special holes drilled in exactly the right place, which won’t be on the wall cabinets) and don’t forget to leave the right amount of space for the kickboards.

Bunnings cabinets are about 20mm taller (though they have shorter feet, so you can still put them side by side; they just hang down past the bottom of the cabinet, which isn’t really noticeable). We actually put Bunnings doors onto Ikea cabinets on one wall. You could probably put the shorter Ikea doors onto Bunnings floor cabinets, and cover the gap at the top with some kind of trim (perhaps cut from matching Ikea doors, coverpanels or kickboards) if you really need to (but save yourself the hassle and use matching doors if you can).

Assembly is fairly quick and easy for both Ikea and Bunnings cabinets, just follow the instructions. The Bunnings cabinets screw together with ordinary screws (holes are pre-drilled). The Designers of the Ikea cabinets seemed to have tried hard avoid you having to to own a drill or powered screwdriver, and I guess you can get away with using very simple tools if you’re only doing one or two cabinets. However, I bought a decent 14v rechargeable drill with screwdriver bits (cheap Ozito brand, around $50 at Bunnings) and I recommend it if you’re going to make a whole kitchen, even if you never use it again (hint: you will, so just get one). If you do have a drill for driving the screws, the Bunnings cabinets are probably quicker to assemble.

Important: If your walls are plasterboard (such as gyprock or “sheetrock” – most interior walls are in Australia unless you’re in an apartment building) an important advantage of the Bunnings cabinets is that they have a solid back. This allows you to find the studs on the wall (the wood pieces inside your walls that hold your house up) and screw the cabinets straight in to those, so the base cabinets don’t move and your wall cabinets stay up. The Ikea cabinets don’t have a solid back (they have a thin, flexible fibreboard, which can’t hold the cabinet’s weight) and rely on two L-brackets on the inside of the cabinet sides to hold onto screws in the wall. This is fine if your wall is concrete, as it doesn’t matter where the wall screws go. But otherwise you’ll need additional wall brackets and/or pantries on the side so the wall cabinets can hold their own weight and their contents. For my Ikea cabinets, I used additional L-brackets in inconspicuous places (like the top side of the wall cabinets and the inside bottom) right where the studs were.

Bunnings cabinets come with legs, door hinges and at least one shelf included. Ikea legs, hinges and shelves are usually sold seperately (keep this in mind when comparing the cost, though the Ikea parts are fairly inexpensive – it comes out pretty similar, in my experience).

The legs are a strong black plastic and are adjustable (that’s the point – you adjust the feet until the cabinets are level) but the Ikea feet are slightly taller (at least at their minimum height). The idea is that the weight of the base cabinets is on their legs, which are then covered by kickboards (long panels which hide the legs). Ikea also has fancy metal legs in various styles, designed to be used without kickboards for people who like that style (that is, people who are unable to figure out that it’s going to be a pain to clean under those cabinets).

The door hinges from both stores are easily detachable and adjustable. The Ikea hinges are slightly easier to remove due to a neat no-screws door-clamp device and removable screw anchors.

Note: if you want to do what we did – put doors from one range onto cabinets from the other – you’ll need to carefully measure and drill your own holes for the hinges (and if it’s Bunnings doors on Ikea cabinets, don’t forget to buy the hinges, as the Bunnings hinges are included with the cabinets, not the doors. I recommend the Ikea hinges, easier to measure, though you’ll still have to drill holes).

Aside: Ikea has an option for taller wall cabinets (900mm instead of 700mm) and pantries (about 2100mm instead of 1950mm – plus legs). These wall cabinets could be used as floor cabinets, allowing higher  benchtops. People about 5’4″ or taller might prefer the higher benchtops:

  • less bending over the benchtops
  • it can give the kitchen a different feel (possibly more unique and modern – I’ve seen a few designs with higher benchtops along only one wall, for an interesting multi-layer feel)

though if you want to try this, you’ll have to consider a few issues like:

  • space between the benchtop and the bottom of any wall cupboards above it
  • how tall you want your kids to be before they can reach things on the kitchen bench
  • whether shorter people might not buy your house if you eventually sell
  • I believe these only come in wall-cabinet-depth (about 370mm) not base-cabinet-depth (about 600mm)

We couldn’t do it because our window was too low.

cabinet doors

The style we wanted was shiny and modern-looking. We also needed it to be somewhat neutral in colours and conservative in design, as we didn’t have the time, money or expertise to risk experimenting with fancy styles and colours, though you can easily go for bright orange or something if you want a unique look. There are a huge range of door styles and cupboards on display at Ikea:

[ikea doors pic coming soon!]

In the end we chose to go with different colours for base and wall cabinets. A few of the nicer display kitchens in Ikea do this (though we did it partly because we had to – the Bunnings doors we already installed on the base cabinets didn’t come in the right size for the pantries and wall cupboards we needed). We got Bunnings “modern – gloss white” at the bottom, and Ikea “abstrakt – dark grey” on the top (and pantries), to co-ordinate nicely with the black, white and stainless steel in our major appliances and wall tiles.

cabinet door handles

For handles, Ikea seems to have both cheaper prices (around $15 a pair) and some more interesting styles (though the bunnings cabinets come with basic cheap handles included). Both have a very wide range. Remember that you can wait until the end to put these on, though it is easier to put them on when the doors aren’t attached to the cabinets (both Ikea and Bunnings door hinges are easily detachable, and the Ikea hinges don’t even need to be unscrewed to detach completely from the door).

This is part 1 of 3. Also see Part 2 – benchtops and kickboards and Part 3 – other considerations and conclusion.

Dell 1720 Laptop replacement battery and power adapter

time for replacements

The 9-cell battery that came with my Dell 1720 notebook in late 2007 now only gives about 15 minutes of power from full charge (used to be 3 hours or so) even on the most power-saving settings.

The power adapter or charger (the cable and “brick” that plug into the electrical socket) was failing too. It powered the laptop but wouldn’t charge the battery.

Lucky for me, my wife’s Dell 1520 adapter is compatible, so I was able to continue to use my laptop easily while I shopped for a replacement. I was also able confirm that it was both my battery and my adapter that were failing: neither adapter could make my battery hold it’s charge, and my adapter wouldn’t charge either battery.

razor blades and print cartridges

My first plan was to get genuine Dell replacements; I didn’t want to risk frying my laptop. But I was surprised to discover them not listed on Dell’s website. While searching around, I discovered Dell’s own customer reviews of the compatible 6-cell and 9-cell batteries for my 1720 were not encouraging. Dozens of customers complained that the batteries failed within a year or two of use and the replacement prices were baffling – USD$155 for a battery!

I googled around a bit more and discovered that this is a common complaint. It didn’t take long for me to realise I’m looking at one of the oldest tricks in the book: Selling something cheap and making money off the consumables. Just as Gilette gave away free razors but make a profit on the blades, and Canon sell $30 printers that only take $50 cartridges, Dell had sold me a nice laptop at a good price but were making a killing on cheap-to-make batteries. Someone even said Dell puts a chip in the power adapter so the laptop can check for non-dell-brand adapters and refuse to charge from them.

but can you risk your laptop?

I called Dell anyway. They said they were too busy to tell me the price (?) and would email me back. I began to look at 3rd party products – there are plenty of online sellers with compatible batteries and adapters. I found some on eBay from China that were claimed to be “genuine Dell parts” for less than $50, but this isn’t my first time buying “genuine” stuff on eBay. Even if it’s a good factory second or something from Dell’s own factory, can I really trust it not to fry my laptop?

an easy decision

A few days later, Dell finally replied with a quote for my battery and adapter:

Part Number: UW280 – 9 cell
Price including GST: $242
Availability: 10 – 15 working days
Part Number: DF266 + FF683 – adapter
Price including GST: $110
Availability: 10 – 15 working days

So that’s AUD$352 (USD$322), and 2-3 weeks, for parts that should still be working (and I now know they will fail again in less than 3 years). I could literally buy a new laptop for that price (with Windows, a 1.6Ghz CPU and 1Gb of RAM). Even Dell has a windows 7 machine for less than that on their US site (with a 6-cell battery and power adapter included – so it’s not like they’re actually expensive to make).

I ordered the ones from eBay.

taking the plunge

An eBay seller named Lycfeng sold me a brand new 9 cell, 85Wh “genuine Dell” FK890 battery for AUD$57.98 (including postage from China to Australia). It arrived only 7 days later in a plain cardboard box:

The new battery itself is identical in size and shape. It looks like a slightly newer version of my old battery – just claiming to be made in China using Korean-made cells (the original was made in Japan).

I backed up my data, said a prayer, swapped it in, and switched the laptop back on. I got pretty concerned when I got a BSoD and an IRQL_not_less_than_or_equal error on startup (!) but I remembered I’d got this once or twice in the past and tried simply restarting. This time the laptop started up fine and has worked well ever since. The battery lasts about 3.5 hours on conservative settings (that’s at least as good as the original battery – it’s a 17″ laptop with 2 HDDs) and never gets hot (always cooler than the rest of the machine, actually).

The adapter was a “genuine” Dell PA10 (90W 5.62A 19.5V) from a seller named unstar2006. It shipped in 8 days from China for $26.57 (including postage). It looks exactly like the old one, and has worked without any problems.

Update: after about a month, I have had a problem with it, though it was easily fixed. These adapters come in 2 parts:

  1. a long cord with the dell-specific plug for the laptop on one end, and the “brick” that does the actual power conversion on the other.
  2. a shorter, standard cord with a three prong IEC-C5 connector (that plugs into the “brick”) on one end, and a standard AC plug, that goes into your wall outlet, on the other. These are generic standard plugs that cost about $5-10 from eBay or an electronics shop. Many laptop power bricks use the same connector.

The eBay auction was aimed at an international audience, so the seller said he would ship the main part of the adapter (cable 1) with whatever version of cable 2 fits the buyer’s electrical wall outlets (because it depends on what country they live in). For me, he included one that fits Australian electrical outlets.

It appears it wasn’t a good quality one though, as it simply stopped working about a month later. This might concern some people about the quality of parts unstar2006 is using (though he didn’t claim that cable 2 was a genuine Dell). Personally, it hasn’t bothered me because I have one from my old dell power adapter still lying around. I plugged that in and everything works perfectly again. Since then, I bought another for my wife’s laptop, and her cable 2 died within a few months too. So if you’re thinking of buying one of these, keep this in mind (and don’t throw away your old cables).

the verdict

I’ve only had these for a month at time of writing, so the jury is still out on how long they’ll last. I’ll add an update to this post if they fail anytime soon (I have already had a problem with the wall plug part of the power adapter, as noted above, but it was very easily fixed).

But while I still think they’re most likely just excellent counterfeits, or made at Dell’s factory without their permission, I’ve had no real problems (not even any evidence that they’re not genuine Dell parts).

Not bad for $85 (almost $250 less than Dell’s price).

Your mileage may vary, and all the usual disclaimers, but so far my own experience has been great.

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