Friday, December 5, 2008

Install your own kitchen and save!

Installing your own kitchen is all about details. So many it will make your head spin. But it's worth coming to grips with the hassle of installing your own kitchen if you want a swanky-looking room for a fraction of the price.

Yes, we all adore those sleek Leicht and Poggenpohl kitchens (why are the Germans so good at kitchens?) but you can get a similarly schmick kitchen by shopping around and having a willing screwdriver operator to install it. What you save on the installation, you can spend on the pull-out pantry or the stone benchtop.

Installing cabinets and benchtops yourself will save about 15 to 20 per cent of the cost of a kitchen, says Michael Caminer, the chief executive of Alsa Manufacturing, which makes Smartpack Kitchens. Design-and-install kitchen companies rarely specify the exact cost of installation, but you pay a premium to the company that has the headache of overseeing and scheduling tradespeople.

"We have had people say they were quoted $25,000 or $30,000 for a kitchen that we can offer to them for $10,000 or $12,000 if they install it themselves," Caminer says.

That's a big enough saving to allow you to line up at David Jones for the Chloe instead of making do with Witchery. Now comes the bad part: all the things you have to remember. It's not worth bothering with this self-installing caper unless you can juggle details, deal with tradespeople and remain calm during the dust, mess and chaos of a renovation.

Oh, and you can't oversee the entire kitchen renovation with only a screwdriver. You'll probably need a drill, too. And a level. And a tape measure. If you are the kind of person who can't assemble an Ikea bookshelf, please don't attempt this.

Each kitchen renovation has different requirements but the basics of scheduling the job are as follows
  1. Plumbing The bits that make the dishwasher do its job and allow the gas cooktop to light up can only be overseen by a licensed plumber. And the plumber needs to visit twice - once in the early stage to rough-in, then again after stage 4 to finish off and/or install the appliances and taps.
  2. Electricals As with the plumber, the sparky may have to come twice, first to rough-in and later to install light fittings, power switches and appliances. If you don't already have an electric oven installed, you may need a new circuit to run the appliance.
  3. Cabinetry Base and wall cabinets need to be ordered weeks or even months in advance of the installation date. These are assembled first and lined up in position, waiting to be topped by ...
  4. Benchtops Customised stone benchtops can take a long, long time to arrive after ordering. It's best to order and schedule the benchtop to coincide with the arrival of the cabinets.
  5. Splashbacks Whether you choose tiles, coloured glass, timber or stone, the splashbacks make the kitchen look finished. And don't forget the silicone seal between the splashback and the benchtop.
  6. Flooring This can be done now or before the cabinets are in, depending on the type of flooring you need and whether you want it to continue underneath the cabinets.
  7. Painting-finishing The final touch. You can sigh with relief when the dust is gone and the doorhandles are on. And invest in a drill jig to get the cupboard door handles in the right position.
  • There are plenty of companies selling flatpack kitchens, which renovators can install themselves. For starters look at Ikea, A-Plan Kitchens and Smartpack.
  • Self-assemble kitchens are often on sale at auction houses such as Laws Auctions, sometimes in fixed U- or L-shapes. Keep an eye out for ex-display kitchens or kitchens for sale in the Trading Post or on eBay.
  • Not all kitchen-supply companies have a self-installation option. Many insist on providing a full installation service (and charging the mark-up) to retain quality control. Check the fine print of contracts before committing to anything.
  • Not all flatpack kitchens are created equal - check the material used in the cabinets, the type of hinges and drawer runners used and the edging on the doors.

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