If you're designing a new kitchen, it's highly likely you'll be about to buy a new kitchen, too. It's a big investment of time and money, right? So it’s worth knowing your rights before you shell out. Here's what you need to know.
Research kitchen companies before you buy
If you've found a kitchen you like, start by thoroughly researching the supplier and their fitter – although you might like to save money by fitting your own kitchen.
Choosing trades accredited by Trustmark, the Kitchen, Bathroom, Bedroom Specialists Association (KBSA) or the Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom and Bathroom Installers (IKBBI) can help to resolve any issues that may arise, as you can approach the accreditation board for a dispute resolution directly.
‘Where possible, buy from a supplier you know and trust. In some situations, kitchen providers may offer you a special deal, which is legal, but if it seems too good to be true, it probably is,’ says founder of Checkatrade, Kevin Byrne. ‘Prevention is better than cure, so researching and checking is key.’
‘Do your research on the retailer before heading to the store, including reading reviews and seeking out any previous customers you may know,' advises Damian Walters, chief executive officer, The Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom & Bathroom Installers (IKBBI). 'When you are there, ask as many questions as you want about the products, services provided, installation practices and accreditations and ensure you receive thorough answers – alarm bells should start ringing if any question relating to the product or services is avoided. Here's what to ask:
- 'Does the retailer offer an installation service and who are their installers?
- What credentials, especially gas and electric, do they hold?
- Do they have valid public liability insurance and do they belong to a trade association?
- Does the showroom provide a survey service to help you understand the true costs of an installation, including if gas, water and electric systems need to be updated or if structural alterations need to take place to ensure your dream kitchen can be successfully installed?
'A lot of homeowners may want to use their builder to install the kitchen as well as build an extension, but this really should be carefully considered, as the skills may not always transfer,' continues Damian Walters.
‘Finally, go on your gut instinct. If you’re unhappy or unsure for any reason, don’t be rushed into making a decision. If you feel pressurised into making a quick decision, step back, review and seek advice or an alternative, comparable quote.’
Communicate well with your kitchen build team
‘Be clear about your vision and do your research so you won’t be afraid to ask questions about the project. Your designer, fitter or builder will appreciate you taking the time to understand what you want from the project, often resulting in a much better working relationship,' says Celia Francis, chief executive officer, Rated People.
'Make sure you give as much detail as possible at the initial meeting, such as whether your budget allows for materials or labour only, and be clear about what you want – the more specific you are, the easier it will be for your contractor to give you an accurate quote.
'It’s important to be reasonable and realistic and bear in mind that your builder will be able to let you know what is feasible structurally, which may not always mean you can have exactly as you’d imagined, so you should be prepared to find different solutions, and be flexible with your plans.'
Find out what you should be asking your kitchen designer before you appoint them.
Keep paperwork, create a paper trail
Keep a clear record of any kitchen quotes, kitchen design briefs, plans or communications with your supplier, and get in writing what the agreed price covers, including who will be responsible for disposing of old units or appliances, and any requirements specific to your project. Before you commit to a payment plan, check the company on Trading Standards’ approved Buy With Confidence scheme, which lists businesses that have been vetted to ensure they meet stringent regulations.
Agree on a timeline for your kitchen
‘The next step is to decide on timelines to suit both you and your chosen professional, and make sure that you agree costs and a payment plan in writing before the project starts,' says Celia Francis, chief executive officer, Rated People.
'It’s also good practice to check if you require planning permission, or if you need to use a surveyor or architect before you begin your project. To give you peace of mind for the duration of the project, ask the tradesperson if he or she has public liability insurance and request to see a copy for your own records. A suitable policy should cover the tradesperson, and everyone else on the property, from a personal injury claim and damage to your property.’
Be clear about the kitchen budget
‘You should ask for a breakdown of the budget when buying a new kitchen, rather than just one final price and be clear about what needs to be paid when,' advises Ruth Ward, Kbsa Sales & Marketing Director. 'Be sure that you know what is included in the price and who is responsible for the design and installation. Also ask about the aftercare service and any guarantees on furniture and appliances for added peace of mind.’
Understanding kitchen guarantees
Ask your kitchen supplier what guarantee their company offers, but bear in mind that, before any guarantee is issued, you already have Rights under the Sale of Goods Act 1979. This means you have six years to make a claim for faulty goods in England, Wales and Northern Ireland; in Scotland you have five years.
‘It’s a good idea to ask the retailer how their guarantee offers more protection than your statutory rights,’ says Kevin Grix, who is head of The Furniture Ombudsman. ‘Ask which parts of the kitchen are covered by the guarantee and to what extent. Will a repair or replacement be offered in case of a problem? Which eventualities are covered – accidental damage, fire and flooding and general wear and tear? The length of a guarantee should be considered, but it is important to put it in context. A two-year guarantee that covers accidental damage may be better than one lasting five years that doesn’t.’
However, if making a claim six or more months after purchase it can be difficult as you need to prove the fault was present when purchased and not for example normal wear and tear. This is where a good guarantee can make it easier and quicker to get sorted if there is a problem.
Pay for your kitchen by credit card
Paying by credit card is advisable, as all purchases are protected under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, so if a business goes into liquidation before delivery, you are entitled to a full refund from the card provider. This covers all purchases between the value of £100 and £60,260, but never pay the full balance of the job before completion.
What to do if the kitchen's not as expected
‘Goods must be fit for purpose when they arrive,’ says Peter Stonely, lead officer at Trading Standards. ‘If you have made specific requests regarding the design or asked for any bespoke features to be included, these must be as promised. If you ordered units on a supply-only basis, you may prefer to reject the goods on delivery if they are faulty in any way.’ If you find any issues with the kitchen after it is fitted, the first step is to open a clear communication channel with the suppliers and keep a record of any action, ensuring it is done within a reasonable period (ask each for their timescale) from when you receive the goods.’
What to do if the kitchen fitter doesn't come?
When a tradesperson fails to turn up, call and ask for an explanation first. ‘Give them a second deadline to start the work and if they fail to turn up again, get quotes from other fitters and warn the first supplier you’ll be looking to recoup extra cost from them,’ advises Amanda Diamond of Which?. If a company disappears before the fitting is completed, recuperation can take some time.
If you have phoned and written to the trader, with no response, put your complaint in writing to Trading Standards, or go to the Citizens Advice Bureau for guidance, says Kevin Byrne. ‘If there is still no response, legal action is the only recourse, but exhaust other mediation methods before this.’