7 Vital Kitchen Questions

With over 30 years experience I feel it is important to have all the facts before making any big decisions. These 7 questions will help you on the way to complete confidence in your kitchen aspirations.

1. How can I maximise easy access storage space in a small Kitchen, and which quality of cabinets to use?

There are many additional storage options especially for corner solutions. Most have good practical uses but some can be quite costly. It is however worth checking what is available for your particular application.

Cabinet quality can vary a great deal:

  • 95% are made from melamine-faced chipboard (MFC) in white flat pack form and are made from 15mm (5/8”) MFC with hard board panels as backs.
  • Then there is a similar type made from 18mm (3/4”) MFC. Some of these ranges have replacement end panels in colours to match the doors for use on the end of a run of units where only the end is visible; the rest of the cabinet remains white. These kitchen ranges often only give you standard sizes in height of wall units and the width of base and wall cabinets.18mm cabinets are also available in a wide range of coordinating colours and wood grains inside and out to go with the appropriate doors. Some of these often have thick back panels improving the overall quality of the cabinets. The range of sizes is often greater with these.
  • You then go to the rigid or ready assembled cabinets with some of the imported models, being 15mm MFC in white or coordinating colours to go with doors. Others are 18mm fully colour coordinated inside and out with 18mm solid backs as well. If you are having solid wooden doors then some manufacturers offer veneered end panels for a closer colour match to doors. The range of unit sizes with rigid units often is more diverse than flat packs.

There are many independent UK base cabinet manufacturers who offer a large range of standard sizes and will also make bespoke sizes to your specific requirements at very reasonable prices. These companies don’t usually supply doors for their cabinets; they are available through your retailer. These UK manufacturers produce their cabinets from a wide range of industry standard 18mm MFC colours and wood grains, working very closely with UK door manufacturers and importers to ensure good colour matching. Some of these companies offer bespoke door sizes to go with bespoke cabinets. Rigid cabinets will normally be more expensive. Seek on site advice from your retailer or installer.

2. It would be great to have solid wood doors in my dream Kitchen, but if they increase costs too much, what other materials are available? 

There are so many ‘real wood’ doors available today from very light wood grains like maple or birch to dark woods like walnut. The majority of suppliers insist these woods are sourced from sustainable forests. Real wood doors today cost less to manufacture than they have historically with manufacturing costs being reduced in our global market place and door designs being more minimal. Popular door designs have changed from a solid curved frame design and moulded centre panel to square shaker design with flat centre panels. With the centre panels being flat they are too thin to be made from solid wood and are often a wood veneer on a man made board, which is more stable and much less likely to split. This also reduces manufacturing costs. There are also other options on plain flat wood veneered doors on chipboard or MDF (medium density fibre board) base panel.

You then come to the ‘wood effects’ doors most often manufactured from MFC (melamine faced chipboard) or a vinyl wrap door on an MDF baseboard. Both can be manufactured from either a single one piece board in a variety of colours with the vinyl wrap/MDF doors available a large variety of moulded door designs. They are also available in a 5 piece door which consists of a top, bottom,2 sides and a centre panel, again available in various moulded frame designs and wood grains. Some of these doors are so ‘life like’ you sometimes have to look twice before you realize that they are not real wood. Many other door types and styles are available today from certain retailers, ranging from gloss finish vinyl wrap doors, painted wooden or MDF doors available in various finishes and any colour, hi gloss lacquered doors or to keep things simple natural wooden doors, with a natural oil finish of your choice are also available.

If you choose a painted colour of your choice the chances are that the cabinets are not available in the same colour. Which means that you will need plant on painted end panels on visible unit ends and could mean amending the design to make it work. This can get complicated and your retailer will be happy to guide you. Remember the more individual choices you make when choosing your doors will increase costs. Seek on site advice from your retailer or installer

3. With the vast range of built in & free standing appliances available today, how do I determine which make, style and colour to buy?

Cooling and Washing

The first thing to do is decide whether you want your fridge, freezer, washing machine, dishwasher and tumble dryer to be free standing and visible or integrated and hidden behind kitchen cabinet doors. If you have a separate utility room often the washing machine, tumble dryer and freezer can be free standing, leaving you to decide if you want an integrated fridge and dishwasher in the kitchen.

There are also many white and stainless steel freestanding side-by-side fridge freezers with ice & water dispensers available, which can be costly and take up their share of the space. Generally if you want integrated appliances you should expect to pay between 40 and 100% more for the appliance plus the extra cost of the door and cabinet to cover the appliance.

Ovens, Hobs, Hoods and Cookers

If you don’t like to bend down to your oven then a built in high-level oven would be most suitable. You could have these in various heights depending on your choice of single or double oven and/or a built in microwave above. The type of oven you choose will depend on how many functions you want your oven to have. If you don’t like cleaning ovens then look for self cleaning oven liners or self cleaning programs or a pyrolitic self cleaning oven.

An electronic timer/programmer is a useful feature, which means if you are out for the day your oven can switch itself on and off and your meal can be ready on your return. Many other additional features are available but remember the more you have the more you should expect to pay. After you have done your comparisons the overall price you pay for your appliances will give you an indication of the quality, however high price doesn’t always mean high quality. It is not uncommon for people to have different makes of appliances in their kitchens as this gives you a much greater choice and can save money.


These are cut into the work surface and are available in gas, electric, ceramic or induction or combinations of these. They also come in varying sizes with 2, 4, 5 or sometimes 6 burners. Prices vary enormously depending on size, design and type with ceramic and induction hobs being the most costly.


These begin normally 600mm wide (24”) with a conventional hood, which is normally completely visible and fixed to the wall or to both sides of the adjacent units. These are inexpensive but are not popular today. Also available is an integrated cooker hood, size and fixings are the same as a conventional hood but this hood is designed to have a small matching kitchen door fitted to the front of it so it can’t be seen. Canopy hoods which are built into the under side of the wall units, come in single or double widths, depending on the width of the hobor range cooker. Some of these also have a telescopic glass visor which pulls out when in use. Then you have all manor of designs, sizes and prices of stainless steel and black chimney hoods some of which have matching splash backs in glass or stainless steel.


These are what is termed as free standing and not built into a housing unit. A single cooker can come in 500 (20”) or 600 (24”) wide with a single oven or a small grill or a small oven/grill. Most are available in gas, electric or dual fuel. You then move onto the ‘range cookers’ with widths varying from 800, 900 1000, 1100 and 1200 and most have at least 2 ovens, a grill and a storage drawer. Colours, specifications and prices will vary a great deal. Cookers hoods for these widths are also available. Seek on site advice from your retailer or installer

4. There are so many types & designs of sinks & taps on the market, how do I decide the most appropriate to best suit my life style? 


Firstly, decide how many bowls would best suit your needs. Usually choose from 1,1 1⁄2, 1 3⁄4, 2 and 2 1⁄2. It is more usual to have more than one bowl if you are going to have a waste disposal unit (see question 7). If you have a dishwasher and are short of work top space you can sometimes get away without a permanent drainer, however you can use plastic or s/steel ones which can be stored away after use. If you have 2 bowls you can put a plate rack in one of them and use that as a drainer.

Sink Materials

The most popular materials used today are stainless steel, ceramic, fireclay or composite granite. There are other less used materials available like copper and silquartz.
The quality of the sinks will generally be reflected in the price, although some are more costly due to their complicated design and consequent manufacturing costs. You will get a much wider choice if you choose a sink and tap separately, not necessarily of the same make. Most of the sinks today are ‘inset’ into the worktop with other option being under mounted sinks or the old fashioned Belfast sinks. These ideally should only be fitted to a solid surface, ie granite or solid wood with drainer grooves machined into the surface if required (see question 5) You can also get sit on sinks which cover the whole unit from front to back, with work top butting up to both sides. Historically these have often been cheaper contract products for utility rooms etc. However there are much better quality (and more expensive) sinks available, usually in s/steel or composite granite, which come with corner options as well. Seek on site advice from your retailer or installer.

5. I would love to have Granite or solid surface worktops but would they come inside my budget& will new lighting improve the way they look? 

Lets face it, most of us would love to have granite or solid surface worktops. But can we afford them? It is often the last choice made and usually comes down to budget. If you remember that the biggest cost involved is the fabrication the simpler you keep it the less it will cost. Another option that works well is mixing your worktops with solid wood and granite. There are also solid surface options like corian and man made stone or keep with the many pattern options of the tried and tested laminate (Formica) worktops. Lighting can make a real difference in your kitchen especially under wall unit lights or ceiling spotlights, this tends to bring out the best of granite tops with their glossy reflective surfaces. At night under wall unit lights on their own can look really stunning. Seek on site advice from your retailer or installer.

6. If I don’t have matching floor & wall tiles what are the alternatives that still look effective but could save time & money? 

Alternatives to ceramic floor tiles could be if your floorboards are good these can be sanded and stained. There are vinyl tiles or vinyl in sheet form available, plus laminate or wooden floors. Prices to purchase the various products will vary a lot as will the labour costs to fit them. Instead of wall tiles if you are using granite, solid surface or solid wood a small up-stand i.e. 100mm (4”) is popular and there is sometimes no need to tile above these. With granite and solid surfaces a splash back behind the hob up to the under side of the hood can be installed, alternatives to this is stainless steel or coloured glass instead of tiles. Seek on site advice from your retailer or installer.

7. With lots of talk on being Eco friendly what about value for money waste disposal units, recycling bins and water softeners to stop the build up and reduce water-heating costs? 

Suffolk is a hard water area. A water softener installed in your home will start to make an impact within days. You will begin to need a lot less soap, shampoo, washing up liquid. Your glasses after washing up will look cleaner, your bathroom will no longer need so much elbow grease to get and keep clean – softened water makes this shine. Water purifiers often go hand in hand with softeners simply because they filter and purify the water to your drinking tap. Waste disposal units are becoming more popular without costing the earth and up to 10 years warranty. They also help the environment by eliminating the need to dump food waste in landfill. As part of your kitchen layout you can make room for a recycling bin inside a unit, which makes it easier to store and is of course a big bonus to the environment. Seek on site advice from your retailer or installer.

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