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05 May 2021

Rethinking Kitchens – The Smart Choice for Your Pocket and the Planet

Helen Lord, Founder of Used Kitchen Exchange – a leading online platform for buying and selling pre-loved and ex-display kitchens – reveals how self-builders can purchase a designer kitchen at an affordable price and at the same time help to protect the planet.


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Kitchens have evolved over the past 25 years; no longer are they just a place to cook – they are a multi-generational, multi-functional space that have become an aspirational, design-led purchase. With the average spend for a new kitchen in the UK being around £8000 and high-end designer kitchens weighing in at £70,000 plus, it’s a big chunk of your development budget gone right there. In addition, with sustainability playing a much bigger role in purchasing decisions and COVID-19 lengthening kitchen and appliance delivery times, many of us are finding the need to rethink our kitchen purchase.

Discount retailers are big news and have reshaped the high street. There is a real appetite for ‘quality for less’, and this also applies to the kitchens, so if budget is a consideration and you want to make a more ethical purchase, rethinking your options to include ex-showroom display cabinets or an underused pre-owned kitchen could be a game-changer.

A recent survey conducted by UKE showed that people have made a significant shift in their thinking when it comes to buying pre-owned items for their home, with 72% of respondents sighting cash savings as the main motivator and 35% saying they wanted to make a more ethical purchase.

The benefits

With potential savings of up to 90%, it is easy to see why the demand for quality pre-owned or pre-installed kitchens is so high. As a general rule of thumb, you shouldn’t spend more than 15% of the value of your new home on a kitchen, so buying pre-owned that has a higher original value will, in turn, provide additional value to your build. Whilst purchasing a kitchen this way does involve an element of compromise as you are buying a pre-defined design, the pros, which include shorter lead times, are guaranteed to outweigh the cons, especially if you choose to buy via a specialist service. And, of course, in addition to making financial sense, a pre-owned kitchen purchase makes an average saving of 5000kgs of carbon waste – offsetting that against your car will make it carbon-neutral for a whole year.

Measuring up

Measuring is relatively simple. You will need to understand your space; where your doors, windows and utilities are is a great starting point. The height of your ceilings is also vital. Then it’s a matter of deciding on the layout you would like and matching the units available against this. In the case of a pre-owned kitchen, buying one a little bigger than you need gives you far more flexibility with reconfiguration.

Mark out your kitchen to scale on a piece of graph paper and get yourself a scale ruler and cut out Post-it notes to the sizes of your cabinets. Write on them what type of cabinet it is, and then you can play around with the layout as much as you like, sticking and re-sticking them in place until you have the right layout for you.

Painted or wooden kitchens can offer a little more flexibility when buying second-hand as painting is always an option; this will then make it possible to change door furniture etc. or add additional cabinetry if the kitchen isn’t quite big enough. It is also easier to fill in gaps.

Ensuring quality and condition

There are some simple steps to help ensure that the kitchen you want to buy is in good condition. Ask to view the kitchen prior to purchase or ask for lots of photos if buying online. Things to look out for include checking for water damage – especially around the sink unit.

Check for wear and tear to cabinets internally. Whilst they can be replaced, most cannot be repaired. If the kitchen you are considering has MDF doors, then check for any swelling or bubbling. Ideally, cabinets that are a minimum of 18mm thick offer better quality and longevity.

Having purchased your kitchen, consider who is going to collect/deliver for you. Kitchens are very heavy, and moving a whole kitchen in one go takes skill, knowledge, experience and the correct insurances. Seek professional help/advice for this to avoid any damage to your kitchen, or worse still, to yourself. Many builders may have installed kitchens, yet few have dismantled. Any shortcuts here may have dire consequences.

Managing expectations

If a kitchen has been pre-installed or pre-owned, you should expect to see some signs of use. You will most probably need to have it professionally cleaned post-installation. This is normal and worth the effort when you consider the savings you are making. Kitchen installation costs can run quite high if you don’t have the necessary skills to take on the task – The British Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom & Bathroom Installation (www.bikbbi.org.uk) has a great online tool that estimates installation charges. Finally, if you have chosen stone worktops, they will require re-templating so remember to factor the cost of this into your calculations.

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