Buying a kitchen is probably one of the most expensive purchases you’re ever likely to make and something you will only have to do perhaps two or three times in your lifetime, it can also be one of the most bewildering experiences if you don’t know where to go, what to ask and what to expect. Good research is therefore paramount and will help you find the kitchen that is perfect for you, your family, your house and your budget. There are three main ways to buy a kitchen and, to a large extent, where you go will depend on how much money you wish to spend. Usually the more expensive the kitchen, the better level of service and better quality furniture and fittings you should receive. However, even if you are buying a flat-pack kitchen from a DIY store, you should still be able to avoid substandard goods, shoddy workmanship and poor service. All kitchen manufacturers have to meet rigorous standards set by the industry and you could also investigate warranties that cover you against defective materials or workmanship.
The larger-than-life extractor fan pictured protrudes over the entire length of the island. A brave design move, it adds an unexpected industrial element to what is a modern version of the country kitchen. The preparation area here is made up of everyday utility adjustable glass shelving and a plain white worktop is offset by a map of the world used as wallpaper and a length of tough, yachting rubber pulls across to conceal storage beneath. The emphasis in this kitchen is on inexpensive efficiency, practical good looks and hard wearing materials.
Don’t be put off by the do-it-yourself Label. These days, large stores offer a huge range of styles and design options that echo these at the top end of the market, from cool, contemporary to the more traditional, country look. Most also offer quality brand-name appliances plus sinks, taps, worktops, lighting and flooring. A free design service is usually available although you may need to take your own measurements into the store, as site visits aren’t always on offer. Don’t forget to enquire about computer-aided design so you can see your kitchen as a colour, 3-D plan and then get a printout to take home with you to examine at leisure. DIY kitchens are likely to be of the flat-pack variety for home assembly, although certain stores do offer the option of a rigid, factory-assembled version.
Unless you are a trained kitchen fitter or an accomplished amateur, it is wise to call in the professionals. Most DIY chains have an in-house installation service or can recommend fitters in your area. Don’t forget to ask for a written quotation for the installation service before you agree. While the price of the kitchen may seem good value for money, extra charges, such as installation and delivery, can easily double the total cost of a new kitchen. Also check what kind of after-sales service the store offers, including helplines and insurance backed guarantees.
The High Street
If you have a larger budget available, an independent kitchen showroom will offer a large selection of brands including German, Italian and French kitchens. Most showrooms will be able to work within a set budget se don’t be put off by pricey-looking window displays. They should also offer the same level of service to each customer regardless of how much the kitchen costs. The high street specialist should be able to take care of the whole job for you — from ripping out your old kitchen to installing lighting, flooring, appliances and cabinets. Ask questions and establish what the service includes, for example, home visits and planning. Nearly all showrooms require a deposit of some kind, but the amount they charge can vary dramatically. As a guideline, expect to pay around 25 per cent of the total cost.
The Bespoke Kitchen
This is the haute couture of the kitchen world, a design tailor made to suit your ideas, needs and space. A bespoke designer will begin by showing you examples of his designs, then discuss colours, materials and finishes to create a one-off kitchen. This will inevitably require a lot of input from you at the design stage, so make sure you have a fairly firm, but net inflexible idea of what you want from your kitchen before you make any appointments. To a certain degree, every bespoke manufacturer will specialise in a certain style of kitchen, so avoid the company that is known for its rustic, country look if you want a sleek, modern design. As with any one-to-one service, expect to pay a premium for a bespoke kitchen, so advise them of your budget before you begin work. However, that’s not to say this type of kitchen is completely out of your price bracket even if you are working within a restricted budget. Once the designer has presented you with a plan, you could ask about replacing some of the more expensive materials with cheaper alternatives to keep costs down. For example, substituting solid wood cabinets with a wood veneer or substituting granite worktops with a good-quality laminate. As bespoke companies offer such a personal, one-to- one service, you are likely to form a very good working relationship with your designer, and the after-sales service is usually second to none.
Questions to Ask
- What does the price include? Make sure you get a detailed quotation that covers every aspect of the job, including fitting, tiling, flooring and any structural alterations you have discussed. Only when you have get an overall price for everything you have asked for, will you be able to make a fair comparison with ether quotes.
- Is there a free design service? Most showrooms offer this as a free service but check to see that an extra charge isn’t added en to your total bill. Some bespoke designers will charge you for plans because they are extremely detailed and can include hand-drawn and computer-designed images.
- How long will the job take? Ask how long the kitchen will take to arrive and how long the fitting will take — get a written estimate for extra reassurance. Be prepared to wait some weeks especially if the kitchen has to be ordered from abroad, if it is an unusual size or specification or if you are having made-to-order features.
- How strong is the kitchen? Ask what the doors are made of and hew sturdy the furniture is. Unless you go for a bespoke kitchen, the carcases will usually be made from melamine covered chipboard or MDF. These will vary in thickness depending on quality — from 16mm at the budget end of the market up to 15mm for a mid-range kitchen. Bespoke kitchens may have MDF (medium density fibreboard) carcases faced with a matching veneer. Check drawers and hinges and, if possible, choose metal as opposed to plastic. Ensure that the bases are firm — a piece of chipboard stapled to the frame won’t last, and if units are in MDF, check that it is water-resistant, chipboard isn’t. Installation
Now that you are more knowledgeable, if you want a new kitchen fitted the kitchen fitters Belfast use are some of the very best.