What went well and what didn’t when we got a new kitchen.
When we started looking at getting our kitchen replaced I was amazed at just how much new ones can cost. We’re possibly talking tens of thousands of pounds. Even budget options don’t come cheap.
We shopped around a few different suppliers, big and small. I did a fair bit of research, including reading the guides on Which? magazine to get an idea of reliability and durability. Finally though, we went with the kitchen we liked the best, which was sold by Magnet.
Well actually, it was the second-best one we liked, essentially the next model down. But the style was very similar and it came in the same colour choices. Most importantly the price was decent compared to other similar options.
Even so, it wasn’t smooth sailing. Here’s what we did that worked out well, and the things we wish we’d done differently.
Choosing your kitchen
Look for inspiration
We looked in loads of brochures and websites to get new ideas and inspiration that was invaluable in shaping what we wanted. This was really important as the most expensive mistake you can make is to have a kitchen fitted that you don’t like or isn’t fit for purpose.
Get some plans drawn up
When we then started looking in ernest, we arranged a visit from Magnet to measure up and draw out some plans. These really helped us work out where we wanted things and visualise how it’d look in our space.
Tell them what you want and where
Though these salesmen should, in theory, know about kitchen design, I was surprised how much more I instinctively knew. For example there’s a well-known rule called the “Kitchen Triangle”, where you want the flow between sink, oven and fridge to be triangle-shaped and generally unobstructed and relatively close to each other. Yes rules can, and often should, be broken, but their initial plans completely ignored those basic principles. So we had to clearly say what we wanted and where. You’re spending a lot of money here so make sure you get what you want!
Don’t order what you don’t want
Of course, the suppliers want you to buy as much as possible from them, which means adding things to sketches you didn’t necessarily want. They hope once you see them in the images you’ll feel you can’t go without. This could be whole extra units, or it could just be smaller extras such as lighting.
Check those plans
Despite going through a few iterations to get the kitchen just right, we still found not everything was updated on the plans, or wrong items had been put on the order (for example, white end panels rather than blue). So just double, actually triple, check everything.
Paying for your kitchen
Buy it yourself
It’s tempting to get a builder to order on your behalf if they’re going to be fitting it for you (more on that in a bit). The main motivation here is they can often get a trade discount. Great. But there’s a big, big risk.
We actually had a builder lined up to start work on our house almost 10 months before it actually happened, and we were going to order the kitchen via him. But, just weeks before we were due to get started he went bankrupt. Fortunately, we hadn’t handed over any cash, but if we had then we’d have likely lost it all.
Plus, if you’re project managing further renovations at your property, there’s no reason you can’t be “trade” too. That’s what our friend did last year.
Haggle on the final price
These big stores always seem to have a sale on, and in my experience they’ve got room to move on those too. So get them to quote and ask what they can do to help bring the price down.
Pay some of the deposit on a credit card
It doesn’t have to be the full amount, but if you put down some of the money via a credit card, then you will get Section 75 protection. This is an extra layer of consumer rights which would make the credit card company equally liable if something was to go wrong. However, the kitchen does have to cost less than £30,000.
Consider 0% finance
I’m not someone who likes to borrow money, but we did take the kitchen out on a 12-month finance deal. Now, we actually have the cash, and could have paid for it. But by putting it on finance it just gave us some wiggle room in case of unexpected costs (which did come up in our building work), and we could leave it earning some interest. Of course, I’m going to pay it all off before the 12-month period ends to ensure I don’t get charged any interest at all.
Buying your appliances
I avoided buying any appliances direct from Magnet. Apart from the fact the range is often limited, you’re also likely to pay more than if you source them yourself. I was able to shop around and get better appliances for less money. And that’s not just big things like the oven and fridge. I also shopped around for the tap and sink.
Look for price-matching deals
Once we identified the oven we wanted, I looked around for the best price. Once I found it at a decent price, I then got John Lewis to price-match, which meant we also got a two-year guarantee.
Haggle on large orders
If you’re buying lots of new appliances then it’s worth seeing if suppliers will give you a deal. I found our fridge and freezer at the lowest prices from Mark’s Electrical and got them to give me a further discount on a dishwasher if I bought them all at the same time.
Get graded appliances
Graded appliances are usually ex-display items which might have the odd scratch or knock, and they can be heavily discounted. You can usually look at photos to see the extent of any damage, if any.
I picked up a Smeg extractor fan from The Appliance Depot for £170 rather than the full price of £330 from AO. When it arrived the only thing wrong with it was the box had been damaged!
Fitting your kitchen
Get the measurements double-checked
The Magnet salesman came over early on and measured our kitchen to help draw up the plans. But it turned out they’d measure wrong – by around 30 centimetres! This obviously meant that not everything we ordered fitted in the space! We got it sorted, but if we did it again I’d demand they come around and measure the kitchen again before the final order went in.
Get your kitchen supplier to fit your kitchen
As we had a fair amount of other work going on in the house, including some structural changes to the kitchen itself, it made sense to get our builder to also fit the kitchen. This was a mistake.
First, the builders refused to fit the acrylic worktop we ordered saying it wasn’t worth the risk if something went wrong. It then transpired that there were only a couple of kitchen fitters in our town who were willing to work with that material. So we had to pay more for a “specialist” to come around to fit the worktops.
Then, even though the fitters were really nice and worked hard, they weren’t familiar with Magnet’s kitchens (which you’d think they would). And they struggled. It took a lot longer than planned, and though we had a fixed quote the knock-on was they rushed bits of it.
At first glance it all looked great, but then we spotted things which were wrong. Though we got a lot of those things adjusted, we had to be on it and badger the fitters to fix them.
And even then there were things which the builders blame on Magnet and Magnet blame on the builders. They could both be right, and the things that are left aren’t the end of the world. For an easy life we’ve decided we can live with these imperfections and annoyances – mainly so we don’t have to face any further disruption and stress by trying to get them fixed.
But in hindsight, we could have avoided all of this by getting Magnet to fit the kitchen. Anything that wasn’t right would lay purely with Magnet, and make any fight to get things fixed much easier.