Cooking up a disaster

In my previous post, I shared some pictures of the kitchen as it was being installed and highlighted a few of the issues we faced. This post I’m going to share a few hard-learned lessons that came out of this disaster. Some of these things will seem blindingly obvious, but when you’re six months into a build and the builder you’re working with is making excuses, it’s easy to trust them at their word. I’m here to set the record straight so let’s not waste any time, shall we? 

Lesson One: don’t trust a builder who says they can install a kitchen. Even if they’re a carpenter and even if they’ve done a good job so far. That builder is not a kitchen fitter. That builder is a builder. And that builder might find “solutions” to whatever problems arise, but those solutions aren’t likely to be correct. There is a reason kitchen fitters only do that job and that’s because they’ve built a skill set and they understand the products they’re working with. Handing a drawing to a builder and expecting him to make sense of it is like handing a scalpel to a guy on the street and asking him to perform open-heart surgery. Obviously, the stakes are a bit lower in this instance, but you get my point.

Builders are also, generally, a bit more… messy. And you don’t want your brand new kitchen covered in filth. I mean, that ain’t cool, right? IMG_4247IMG_4249IMG_4253But I could have lived with the dirt if all the parts had arrived.

Lesson Two: your kitchen parts should all arrive at once. And any missing parts shouldn’t take THREE MONTHS to arrive. The builder started installing the kitchen (that we never ordered) mid-September and when we asked them to remove said kitchen at the end of November we were still missing cabinet doors and panels. Every week it was a different excuse as to why simple parts were not being delivered. Towards the end, we were told that the owner of the company who sold us the kitchen “drove to Sheffield” to pick up the cabinet drawer and it was “in his van”. Funny that door never materialised… a real business should work tirelessly to make sure they’re delivering the product for which you’ve paid.SONY DSCLesson Three: your cabinets should be level and there should be 90-degree angles in your kitchen. We were given multiple excuses as to why the cabinets weren’t level. And why the run of tall cabinets didn’t meet the hanging cabinets at a 90-degree angle. And why the shadow lines weren’t level. Excuse after excuse as to why the walls weren’t straight (when they were the ones who had built the walls!). In essence, nothing was straight, square, level, or correct. Need I remind you that this was a brand new room? SONY DSCThe reality is, a skilled kitchen fitter will be able to overcome some of the issues above, including ensuring the shadow lines look right. They will also be able to correctly hang your cabinets.

Lesson Four: you should get the kitchen (or room or paint colour etc.) you want. If you want an island in your kitchen and you have space, your kitchen designer should work with you to design that island. If you want a bench along a wall or a breakfast nook, you should have a bench. Don’t let yourself be hampered in by others lack of vision. And honestly, a designer who isn’t willing to work with you isn’t worth your money.SONY DSCI mean look at the above. Where is my freaking island?!

The problem is, it’s really easy to get overwhelmed when planning any new space. You’re likely to be spending a large amount of money and you’re going to be out of your comfort zone. A good, honest designer (or builder) will work with you, make you feel comfortable and will listen to what you want. They will be honest and take the time necessary to explain next steps. A crook, like the ones we hired, will put in as little time and effort possible, to get what THEY want.

Lesson Five: you have a right to know how much things cost. The initial kitchen providers never provided a breakdown of the cabinet costs. We were given a single number and that was it. At the time, I thought this was normal but when we finally worked with an honest business, they gave us an item by item breakdown. I realised what I was buying was expensive, but I understood everything. Not being provided with any transparency into cost is wrong and you should run for the hills if your kitchen provider won’t give you any details.

Lesson Six: trust is a fragile thing; once broken it’s incredibly difficult to repair. What eventually sent me over the edge was that we were being lied to by both the builder and the kitchen provider. I will spare you the details, but when someone shakes your hand, looks you in the eye and lies to you, you’ve got a problem. What else have they been lying to you about? What will they lie about in the future?

And so we pulled that kitchen out. It’s now in a dump where it belongs and we went through this whole process again. I can say working with the company we chose the second time around was like a dream come true. I felt as if I’d come in from the rain and they’d handed me a nice warm cup of soup.

So there you have it! I will say this was a bit of catharsis for me, as we’ve been through the mill. It was overwhelming and hard and disappointing and I wouldn’t want to go through it again. And yet, I learned so much and we’ve now got a beautiful kitchen so it’s not all bad, right?

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