Installing new worktops can completely transform the look of a room and can be far cheaper than fitting a whole new kitchen. These are our top tips for designing, finding and fitting new worktops:
Know what you want
This may seem obvious but the more time you spend in the planning stage, the better the result is likely to be and the less likely you are to find yourself wondering if you made the right choice six months down the line. There are a number of online design and planning tools to help you plan your worktops, or, if you prefer the old-fashioned way, just use paper and pencil to sketch out various options and ideas. Many manufacturers or builders will happily work with you from your own drawings.
Spend time in showrooms and looking at magazines and websites to get ideas. Build a picture of your ideal kitchen so that you know what you are ultimately looking for.
The devil is in the detail
Think about the detail. A worktop is not just a plain ‘plank’. Think about things like join types to connect your chosen pieces, including straight, diagonal and curved. Don’t just stick to rectangular designs – add rounded table units to create new dining spaces or breakfast bars.
Always ask about joins – for the best quality finish, pieces can be cut to size and the near-seamless joins prepared in the factory, so during installation you won’t have to worry about alignment for stunningly smooth joinery. Think about edges too – what kind of finish do you want – square, rounded, bevelled PP effect, aluminium?
Price versus quality
At the bottom end of the market you can buy ‘lengths’, which can then be cut on-site and fitted by your builder or kitchen fitter. Think about pre-cut tap holes, draining grooves, bespoke and made-to-fit units versus flat lengths. Ask lots of questions from your supplier – pre-cut pieces and pre-prepared joins make it much easier to install your new worktop, whether you’d like to install it yourself, or ask your builder to do it for you.
Some manufacturers in the UK have now invested in mass-production factory machinery and techniques normally only used for trade which means, that for the first time, UK consumers can design and order one-off pieces of the highest manufacturing quality at incredible value. Some online made-to-fit worktop companies also have easy-to-use online planning tools to lay your worktop out to your exact requirements, specifying size, shape, cut-outs and tap holes.
Take time choosing exactly the surface you want. Think about laminate versus solid surfaces and read up about the differences if you are not sure. Browse styles and colours, make shortlists, order lots of samples – they are often free and nothing beats actually being able to feel and touch the material you will be living with. Avoid overtly trendy or outrageous colours or styles – think about how you will feel living with that lime green fluorescent worktop in two years time when brights are out of fashion.
Get accurate cost estimates
Make sure you have included everything you will need and that you have a cost estimate in writing. You’d be amazed at how many people end up accepting a verbal cost estimate that then escalates ever upwards as the project develops. Plan carefully, make sure you have thought of everything and get a written cost estimate. Don’t forget to include VAT where relevant – otherwise that can add a nasty surprise at the end of the day.
Think about delivery
Delivery times vary dramatically – some online companies now guarantee delivery in two to three weeks whereas other companies may take much longer. Don’t just think about timing either – consider insurance for expensive worktops, packaging for easily scratched surfaces and space to unload and lay out in your home. As always, ask plenty of questions of your builder, supplier and fitter.
Will you be fitting yourself or using a builder or kitchen fitter? The most important tip we can give you here is to be honest about your capabilities and decide accordingly.
Make sure you are clear about guarantees in case of problems later. Many quality companies will offer guarantees that span several years but other cheaper ‘bought by length’ worktops may only be guaranteed for a year – if at all.
Nailed your kitchen surfaces? Check out our guide to how to choose the right bathroom worktop for your home.