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.

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

  1. Mark says:

    Thanks heaps for the great post. I have been tossing up whether to renovate using flat pack from the stores you have reviewed so it’s great to have the info. Do you know what the Masters stuff is like? Comparable? Cheers, Mark.

  2. Ted James says:

    Great blog. Well done.

  3. Angie says:

    That was great to read. It is hard to find info on installing wall cabinets in Australia. I also did the L-bracket thing so I’m feeling slightly reassured now!

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