The rule of thumb with appliances is pretty simple, buy a reliable brand, ALWAYS consult your installer before purchasing to ensure compatibility and to get previous experience feedback, we have supplied & installed hundreds of appliances for customers and have significant experience in recommending appliances that are not only reliable but also work efficiently.
Integrated? or free standing? which to choose?
Probably the most popular question we are asked.... and the most complex.........
Integrated appliances usually fall into one of two unofficial categories, Germany has for some time tried to persuade the EU to develop and release integrated appliance minimum requirements, but pressure from the large far eastern appliance manufacturers has made this impossible to initiate, so the two unofficial categories are simple......
DIN standard (A voluntary standard adopted by some European Manufacturers ie. Bosch, NEFF, Seimens, Meile, Smeg and outside of Europe F&P.
NON DIN standard (pretty much everyone else!)
Why is this important? ... Integrated Appliances by their very nature are designed to be discreet, to be 'invisible', to have the minimum impact of the aesthetics of the kitchen, to that end they have to be 'installed', they are seeded so deeply into the fabric of a kitchen they are difficult to remove should something go wrong or breakdown, therefore it would make perfect sense to ensure that the above is reduced to an absolute minimum by ensuring that all parts used in integrated appliances are hard wearing and very reliable... well... it makes sense to us!.... the negative effect is they are and always will be more expensive to purchase over free standing appliances of the same specification for DIN Standard Appliances ONLY.
NON DIN Standard Appliances do not adhere to this self imposed regulation, therefore they are significantly cheaper to purchase..... but... buyer BEWARE.
Internet bargains ....
There is no doubt that money can be saved by purchasing appliances over the web, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing this, HOWEVER, the old metaphor of 'If it looks to good to be true...it usually is' always springs to mind...
Doors and Panels... Without stating the obvious, doors and panels are the Jewel in the Crown of any kitchen, and focal point of your hard earned cash...
The kitchen environment is harsh, hot, cold, humid or dry, bright sunshine one minute and subdued the next, busy for phased times throughout the day and the social point of any dinner party, So choosing the correct door is essential.
Doors are a very personal thing, from contemporary to traditional, from bespoke paint finish to standard vinyl, one thing towers above all others when choosing a door design, they key is longevity and an easy to clean surface.
FIRA (Furniture Industry Research Association) have spent years developing standards for the independent manufacturers to follow to achieve approved status, and that is a very good place to start when selecting doors and matching panels, Always ensure the supplier has FIRA approval for its doors, that way your are selecting a door with a cast iron guarantee of quality backed by a 5 year warranty, by the way, No high street DIY chain carries FIRA approval... FACT.
Door thicknesses vary immensely, but rule of thumb is simple, the thicker the better... 22mm thick doors are now rapidly becoming the standard door thickness as it gives great stability to the door under the harsh environment of a working kitchen.
Door finish is entirely dependant upon your nature as an individual, the more fastidious you are the wider the range becomes, it is true to say that high gloss doors need more wiping than satin and matt finish, always be aware of this before choosing a door, however, colour can play a major role also.
Paint, Vinyl or foil?... Finishes are split usually into three categories, however one is to be avoided what ever the cost. Foil covered doors are in our opinion not fit for purpose, they originate from China, and are a very weak copy of Vinyl wrap doors, essentially the door 'blank' has a 0.8mm coloured foil vac-formed around it giving the door its appearance, for all intents and purposes this looks reasonably good, however 6 months exposure to the kitchen environment and the foil begins to separate from the blank (especially around ovens and hobs), water ingress occurs and... well.. we dont need to explain any further.
Vinyl wrap doors are the real thing when it comes to vac-formed doors, they use 2.2mm vinyl heat formed around the door blank, and then a super hot burst of heat is applied to the outer edges to esure that zero de-lamination (separation) occurs throughout the life of the door. Vinyls have come a very long way in the past 5 years, High gloss, Satin, Matt, wood grains, wood grain bleached and colour treated are amongst the huge range available, all vinyl doors can be made to measure.
Painted or Lacquered doors are the next natural progression in door finishes, a few simple rules to adhere to and you will have a product that will stand the test of time and look great doing it...
When considering paint one must consider the doors 'substrate' in others words the base material the door is made from, if considering either a slab design of a handless slab design it is extremely important that the doors substrate is compatible, MDF is NOT suitable, it is far too soft to be considered, if it is used, doors will dent, chip and scratch very easily, the material to use is HDF (high density fibre board) this material in very tough, very hard wearing and almost imperious to damage, its only draw back is weight, it is 50% heavier than MDF, so great care must be taken in hinge selection, to allow the door to function and operate for the doors lifespan.
Under no circumstance must car paint be used, car paint has minimal flexibility and is far to thin to be used, specialist paints from Ankzel Nobel. S&R and Trimite are the way to go, but the key to the finish is the priming coats, we always have our doors primed in high build AC primer, three coats de-nibbed between coats, then the final top coat is applied and oven baked to ensure a fully cured surface is achieved. The ultimate finish in our opinion is Poly-propylene mixed with carborundium particles, its incredibly tough stuff and reflects a very subtle sparkle under LED light....
Natural timber and Lacquer ... If the correct materials are chosen, a timber door with a clear coating looks timeless, although predominantly traditional, lighter timbers can really pull off a more contemporary look. timber such as Maple, Ash, Sycamore and Yew can look astonishing .... conversely darker timbers such as Oak and Walnut are timeless classics, These doors must be coated in Acid Catalysed Lacquer, the timber MUST be seasoned correctly, but when all is said and done, timber doors are still a great choice,
when considering a Shaker design door in paint finish we would only recommend the doors is constructed from either Maple, Oak or Tulip wood (poplar)
Worksurfaces... There is no doubt that the most abused areas in a kitchen are the horizontal surfaces, Making the right choice of surface is paramount to a kitchen remaining good looking and also stand the test of time and water ingress. Surfaces fall into four main categories, Quartz & Granites, Solid Surface, Timber and post formed Laminate .
Post formed laminate
The most cost effective and value for money surface there is, however careful consideration must be taken when selecting these not to choose unbranded 'DIY' products as they will without hesitation , underperform. Always look for a branded product such as BushBoard, Duropal, Axiom and Getalit, that way you know you are getting a quality product with a sound warranty, always ensure that tops are jointed correctly using a jig to produce the classic 'Hockey Stick' joint, and that either ColourFil or preferably the manufacturers own adhesive to joint with, also try to avoid High Gloss or dark colours as these products will age rapidly buy showing scratches readily.
Timber surfaces are beautiful, there is no argument to that statement , however, selecting the correct timber surface is not easy, the internet is full of suppliers who will gladly take your money and then hide behind the 'Natural product' disclaimer when things start to go wrong, Always select a 40 mm thick surface, 28 mm is NOT fit for purpose, Always ask the supplier if the product is 'Date stamped' on its underside, if not... walk away. Date stamping is used exclusively in Europe, European manufactured timber Stave (woodblock) and full stave surfaces will almost always be seasoned correctly to our European climate (A moisture content of between 11% and 12 % ). Unstamped surfaces are almost always Far eastern in manufacture, and are therefore seasoned for that climate (Moisture contents vary enormously anything from 7% to 19%) this means the chances of warpage, shrinkage, splitting and bowing are greatly increased as the surface has to reach equilibrium with its new environment.
Morally you should choose FSA approved surfaces such as Beech, Walnut, Bamboo, Cherry and Oak, however Iroko, Zebrano and African Walnut are also available but in limited supply.
Try to avoid Oak if at all possible, Oak contains Tanin which when exposed to water for short lengths of time can turn a blueish Ink colour and stain, Beech, Walnut and Bamboo are extremely good surfaces, but again care needs to be taken when looking after the surfaces to keep spillages to a minimum and also wipe off liquids immediately. Iroko and Zebrano are the hardest wearing and most water resistant, however they are expensive.
Avoid Danish oil like the plague, cheap worktop suppliers will try to sell you Danish oil as a surface finish, frankly its rubbish, Hardwaxes are ok, if a little needy of an extra coat every now and then, but the ultimate finish is Carnauba Oil based products such as Osmo Oil, we have Osmo manufacture our oil to our specification mix, this is based on years of experience.
Never sand the surfaces too finely, a 180 to 240 grit finish is perfect, dont be tempted to sand finer, as the abrasive paper packs the fibres to tightly together which reduces oil absorption.
Finally, remember, timber surfaces look their best when a working 'Patina' of use has been developed, timber surfaces wear and absorb water over time, its the very nature of the material, if you dont like the sound of that.. do not buy timber surfaces.
All our timber surfaces meet and exceed the above criteria
Acrylic surfaces are stunning, they tick every box when it comes to reliability, stability, longevity and resistance to water ingress, in our opinion it is THE kitchen surface, it is repairable, refurbishable and retains completely seamless joints, colours can be slightly limited unless Corian or Hi-Mac is selected, but overall its a superb surface, you may well notice there is no sub heading for Granite and quartz? thats because we will never put our name to any of these products, we will always recommend solid surface over Granite and quartz, as we dont believe they stand the test of wear and time proportionate to cost,
Note, as with all surfaces always try to avoid dark colours, they show scratches very easily regardless of surface, we are trade suppliers for many solid surface products including those below
Carcasses... The kitchen cabinet carcass is the cornerstone of your kitchen, but that does not mean they have to be expensive items, wherever possible choose an 18 mm thick construction, preferably with an 18 mm back, that way you are ensuring structural integrity throughout the life of the kitchen.
Edging is a key factor, always go for PVC edging, and if possible to a thickness of 2mm, most carcasses today carry PVC edging, however 2 mm thick edging is rare, the reason for this choice is impact resistance, the thicker the edging the more robust and longer life the carcass will have, heavy impacts from ceramic items such as plates and cups will 'ding' edges, PVC edging has a shape memory and will revert to its original shape after impact but the MFC substrate will not, therefore the edging joint is compromised and a gap will appear between the two, this encourages water ingress, with biggest threat to carcass life there is.
Flat Pack or Ready Made?... Its more a case of 'installed correctly or not installed correctly' it should not make any difference IF the carcass is installed in the correct manner, although in our experience ready made units do have a habit of arriving damaged and occasionally out of square... All our carcasses meet and exceed the above criteria.
Made to measure kitchens without a made to measure price