Comparing various kitchens.
There are really two things which need careful examination; the products themselves and the deal you are being offered. (click a link below)
Price tends to be at the front of most peoples minds, but in the kitchen business price, while important, should not be your point of comparison. Value is of much more significance, so try to look for how you can get the best value for your money. For example, you might see a dishwasher with all the bells and whistles at a fantastic price, but if it is too small for your family needs it will not do the required job and so will be poor value. The one with fewer gadgets, although maybe £30 or so more, but which has the capacity to meet your needs, will be a much better buy.
OK, that's a simplification, but it explains the principal well. A bargain is only a bargain if the purchase meets your needs and requirements.
Kitchen units can be misleading too. You will often find two or more kitchens which look very similar, but are vastly different in price. A close examination will show up the differences, but again you need to judge what is value for you. Faced with a choice between a couple of kitchens which look similar, you have to decide if you will gain enough from going for the more expensive one. If it fits your requirements more closely, it could offer the better value choice.
Carcass (cupboard) construction.
The thickness of the carcass material is actually not a firm indication of the best quality. There are many good quality kitchens which are made from 15 or 16mm thick board, but the density of the board is high, so it can be stronger than some of the 18mm or 19mm boards.
A better indication of quality is the finish on the front edges of the cupboards and shelves. Are the edges smooth and not sharp of jagged? I the front edge an even colour or does it look blotchy? Darker blotches on the edge can indicate holes in the board underneath, so an even coloured edge can indicate a higher density board.
On base units look at the back panel. Is it full height to completely close the cupboard in? (Not on a sink unit where there is provision for plumbing!) If you push the back panel does it feel flimsy?
With wall cupboards check also the depth of the shelves. They should be big enough to accommodate a full size dinner plate, just less than 300mm. Remember that’s the internal size you need, not the overall depth which might include the door thickness!
Doors and Drawers
Look for seams and joins on the doors. Fewer joins will mean less chance of bits peeling off in the future. Some doors may have joints, particularly at the edges, so look for a good finish, smooth joints and no sharp edges. With solid timber and veneered doors there will always be joints, in a good quality door all the joints will be tight with no gaps showing.
Look for all metal hinges, the best ones will have 3-way adjustment. Avoid hinges which have plastic components. Similarly the best drawer runners will be all metal, although nylon runners and bearings are to be expected. Look at how the drawer front attaches to the drawer box. Feel the base of the drawer looking for a rigid, strong panel. Some drawer systems use metal sides, these are good, but timber or MFC sides do not mean lesser quality, it is the runners which are important.
Soft close systems are great but not essential. They are more of a useful addition and not necessarily an indication of quality.
There are other important features which you can’t easily see in a showroom. Ideally the base units should be on adjustable feet and should have a service gap at the back. These are features which assist in the installation process and will indicate good product design.
Of course quality workmanship is a huge factor. The showroom of an independent dealer will normally show the workmanship offered by their fitting teams, but you cannot assume the same in the showroom of a multiple dealer. Look for good worktop joints, the best ones will be hard to spot, but the type and colour of worktop can influence this too. Check that doors are adjusted to align properly and that the doors and drawers open and close smoothly. Screws and other fixings should be hidden as much as possible, and plinths (kick board) should be neatly fitted and well jointed. Cornice and pelmet trims on wall units should be well jointed and securely fitted too. Check how any accessories and internal fittings are fitted and finished, quality installation is all about attention to detail.