What is wrong with flat-pack furniture?
Nothing. As long as you are satisfied that you fit into a category of customer that likes one of the looks on offer in the range and that the result is not unique. It also helps if your walls and floors are level and square, and your space will take the limited range of standard sizes. It is true that the quality of flat pack units, especially kitchens, has greatly improved over the last ten years but be careful not to chip off any of the covering on
the corners or edges for they will quickly become rather shabby looking. Once you have knocked a unit hard enough to pull a specialised fitting out of the chipboard or MDF carcass, the unit will never feel as robust again.
The key to successfully fitting flat pack units is to know exactly how they are constructed and where their inherent weaknesses are. The weaknesses are obviously not advertised and usually don’t manifest themselves until after a couple of years of wear and tear. By that time any warranty has long since expired and you are left with a repair job which could have been designed out. Weaknesses can also be introduced by poor fitting. I believe it is essential to have the skills to reinforce the weaknesses and to be able to “tailor” the units to fit the space. This is where the craftsmanship comes in; having an eye for detail, a steady hand and commitment to take enough time to deliver a high quality finish.
Although the same applies to any flat-pack solution e.g. bedrooms and bathrooms, the most obvious example is fitted kitchens. In July 2012, Which? sent a survey to all Which? Local traders in the Kitchen showrooms and fitters category with a rating of three stars or more and an email address.
34 kitchen fitters responded to the survey. Using their experience and expertise, they answered questions about the cost of 12 different popular kitchen fitting jobs, and how long they should take to complete.
The full results are at http://local.which.co.uk/advice/cost-price-information-kitchen-fitters
I have selected one of those job, fitting a medium-sized kitchen.
Kitchen size approximately 10′ 10” x 10′ 7” (3.30m x 3.22m). Remove eight double units and worktops. Install eight double units (five base units, 1000mm; three wall units, 1000mm) and worktops (approx.y 5m in total).
- Typical price quoted = £800
- Price range = £660-£1,100
- Typical time to complete = 3–5 days
This does NOT include tiling, decorating or installing white goods. © 2013 Which?
This suggests to me, on average, two people each around £100 per day. The full survey responses suggest that a full medium-sized kitchen fit, including tiling, decorating, some plumbing and wiring and installing white goods would be between two and three times as much in time and cost.
If you are going to spend between £2,000 and £10,000 on the kitchen and up to £3,000 to fit it, you want to be sure that it represents value for money. How do you do this?
Sometimes the fitters offered by the kitchen retailer are in-house and they are therefore able to subsidise the fitting cost from the profit margin in the kitchen and also have the retailer’s reputation in mind. Usually the kitchen supplier outsources the fitting, to a reputable outfit, which may also be able to reduce the price based on the amount of business they receive from the supplier.
In my experience there are many cases where, time being money, the fitters want to be in and out as quickly as possible. Although the result may be acceptable to many, a careful inspection reveals a lack of attention to detail, the minimum amount of “inherent weakness” rectification and an overuse of silicone sealant to hide a “multitude of sins”.
The way to avoid this is to ask the following questions, before you agree to anything.
- Can I speak to three people who you have previously fitted kitchens for?
- Do you guarantee your work?
- Will you come back promptly and rectify anything I’m not entirely happy with?
- How many fitters will be used?
- Will you work every week-day until the job is finished?
- Does your price include any unforeseen problems?
- Will you rectify any damage caused by the installation e.g. plaster falling off the wall?
- Can I pay you once the work is completed?
- Can you come down on your price?
Satisfactory answers, checks with previous clients and a comparison with the Which? survey responses should encourage you to go ahead.