Fitted Kitchens Guide – Top 3 Tips

Top 3 Tips when planning a new Fitted Kitchen

The idea of a new kitchen sounds great; you can't wait to replace those dated cabinets and experience the lastest cooking tech with a new pyrolytic self cleaning oven and a boiling water tap.  Then you look around; you realise that one retailer has a sale on, 50% no less... what could go wrong?  Below are our top 3 tips when looking for a new fitted kitchen - we hope this helps you with your journey to a new kitchen. 

  • Do your research

  • Don't be fooled by 'sales' or influenced by sales tactics

  • Find a designer and retailer you can trust


1.  Do your research

The first and most important step in your journey towards a new kitchen is research.  It helps to have a certain amount of knowledge and understanding on what makes a good quality kitchen.  This will allow you to make a more informed decision on your kitchen purchase.  Product specifications are important; what size and construction are the cabinets/carcasses?  Do they glue and dowel their cabinets or are they cam and doweled like Ikea furniture?  Are they stocked or made to order and can you pick the cabinet finish?  What is the construction of the frontals (doors); are they wrapped?  Are they painted?  What brand and feature set are the appliances?  And what construction and brand are the worksurfaces?  Below is a list of categories and the sort of specification you should be aiming towards; most of the criteria are the same whether you are spending £10,000 or £50,000 on a kitchen (or even more).  Some of our kitchens can be in excess of £100,000 but the majority of our kitchens fall into the £20,000 to £35,000 bracket - all use the same specification of cabinet.

Glue and doweled construction is better, rigid construction (not flat packed).  Cam and doweled is a cheaper method and can also be supplied flat packed sometimes.  
You want solid 18mm cabinets including the backs (not 6 or 8mm backs that some companies use to reduce cost).
You want at least 560mm depth for base/tall units and 300mm for wall units (our standard depth is 570mm or 580mm for handleless rail kitchens, with wall units being 300mm deep).  Most independents will offer a choice of unit depths, for example, deeper wall units to allow for specific plates.

Painted doors are generally considered more premium and foil wrapped are cheaper and can delaminate.  Budget will determine the construction of the door; for example, a solid timber painted door will be much more than a MDF wrapped door. 
Modern kitchens using a slab door can benefit from an MFC door (the same type of material and construction as most cabinets are made from) - these are cheap, hard wearing doors and a lot of German kitchen manufactures opt for these.  They do an excellent job. For traditional kitchens, try and go for timber if your budget allows (Ash is a cheaper timber but still works well) - if the budget simply doesn't allow for timber, you may have to consider a HDF or MDF overpainted smooth shaker or finally, the cheapest option would be an MDF wrapped door.

Hinges & Drawer Runners
Hinges and drawers are extremely important; doors and drawers will be opened thousands of times during the lifespan of the kitchen.  You want to opt for a good quality brand with a track record.  We opt for Blum and we would recommend all customers seek Blum hinges and drawers - they offer a lifetime warranty on all of their products and I cannot remember the last time we had an issue with one of their products.Our standard hinges are Blum Soft Close BLUMOTION 110 degree hinges-  we advise these.  We offer three drawer options; Blum Tandembox Antaro which is Blum's older drawer system - still excellent; soft close and robust.  Their newer, LEGRABOX is a newer, sleeker looking drawer box with a better functioning runner - if the budget allows, we would always suggest going for LEGRABOX drawers.  Finally, we offer oak dovetail drawer boxes (again, using the Blum Soft Close runner system).  Be weary of OEM or own brand hinges; you'll regret it in the long run.

Budget will dictate the brand and feature set of your appliances; but try and be sensible with your wish list of features versus your budget.  A good quality, but European manufactured oven will perform better and last longer than an all singing, all dancing pyro self cleaning oven from a cheap Chinese manufacture or OEM brand.  Generally we like BSH products (Bosch / Neff / Siemens) and AEG.  If you're thinking of opting for a ducted induction hob (with integrated extractor) then we would recommend BORA.  Hot taps, we only recommend Quooker - they perform better than the rest in our experience.  Finally, standard taps and sinks we opt for Blanco - German quality and reasonably priced with lots of sizes and styles.Again, be weary of OEM or own brand appliances; and check that the retailer holds stock of your chosen products before ordering (or they can confirm a due date).  We are seeing extremely long wait times for high end ovens and compact appliances with many retailers not being open and honest with customers about the likelihood of long delays.

Most people opt for quartz in their kitchen.  Quartz is generally a good option in the kitchen as it doesn't stain (it's non porous) and does not require maintenance.  There are a number of different quartz brands; some that are sold in the UK are not even food grade safe - so just check the brand of quartz or the specification documentation to ensure they have the correct accreditations and warranties.  You want a quartz with at least 92% quartz (ideally 95% or more).  We generally stick with Cosentino Silestone and PWS Strata brands.  Quartz can scratch and you cannot put heat on quartz; it will melt the resin that holds the worksurface together. Granite is also a good option for a kitchen; it is fairly hard wearing and you can find some beautiful slabs of natural granite.  The disadvantage of of most granite's is that they should technically be 'sealed' every year or so as they can stain due to being porous.  If you install granite we tend to suggest customers go for Cosentino Sensa granite, which is sealed for the lifetime of the product - so requires no maintenance.  Solid Surface is a man made substance; the biggest brands are Corian and HiMacs.  Whilst we love this product as you can form shapes and create invisible joints, we don't advise customers' to use it in their kitchens.  It stains and scratches more easily than other materials and whilst it can be repaired and sanded down most customers do not want to do this.Ultra Compact surfaces are great options for the kitchen.  The biggest brands are Cosentino's Dekton and Neolith.  These products are scratch, stain and heat resistant - they are the only surface that you can put heat on (and be warrantied for).  We know of examples where customers' have put heat on granite for years with no problems, but technically they can fail from thermal shock so no granite is warrantied against heat.

2.  Don't be fooled by 'sales' or influenced by sales tactics

Many of the national retailers like to advertise huge sales.  50% off plus a further 30% for example yet in our experience they are always running a sale or discount.  Ignore the % sales, just focus on the net price.  We often have customers' who have previously thought they were getting an amazing price on their kitchen, only to find out our 'standard' price was the same as a national retailers sale price.  Most independents don't do sales - they just offer consistent, fair pricing throughout the year.  They may also try and 'lock you in' when your not ready to make a decision.  Don't be pressured to pay a deposit; they might say the sale will end or the managers' discount is only valid until today but if they want the sale, they'll honour the price.  

3. Find a designer and retailer you can trust

Some kitchens, especially contract kitchens are fairly straight forward and easy to plan with cost being the main factor.  On the other hand a lot of kitchens can have different layouts, design features and accessories and by utilising the best of these an experienced designer will help create a kitchen space that not only looks amazing but is functional for your lifestyle.  At the time of writing this our current designers have over 7 years experience in the industry.  This means they can spot potential problems in advance and understand a customers' requirements in order to design and spec the right kitchen for their needs and budget.  This process can take time; but if you find a designer (and company) that you trust, stick with them.  You may pay slightly more but you are paying for experience and quality (usually; remember to  firstly do your research as per the first tip!).If you are at the start of your journey you may have 3 or 5 meetings with your designer and speak to them a lot over the process; you need to ensure you can work together and they understand what you are trying to achieve with your ideas.  They will take those ideas and help make them a practical reality.  I hope these tips will help you in your future planning.  If you are yet to find someone to assist you or are confused with all of the options out there, we welcome you for a coffee at our Croydon showroom.  Why not pop in for a chat?