Manufactures of Kitchen Cabinets/Doors
The Local Independent Suppliers
The companies and brands listed above manufacture a wide range of Rigid Fitted Kitchen units that are typically only sold to the trade and independent kitchen design companies. They typically supply a range of doors in various colours and styles to cater for most peoples tastes and budgets.
Your kitchen supplier will create a design to your requirements, based on the ranges available from their preferred manufacturers. Many local kitchen suppliers offer a FREE design service, they then make their money supplying the units, appliances, worktops and, of course, kitchen fitting - all with a profit margin built in. When obtaining a quote from your kitchen supplier it's worth considering asking for a fully itemised quote which shows the cost of the individual elements: Units, Worktops, Appliances and Fitting. This enables you to compare the elements against other suppliers and ensure that you get the best value for money.
Once you're happy with the design and price, they will then place your order with the manufacturer. Your kitchen units will be made by a Kitchen Carcass Builder (such as A&H Kitchens) who will assemble the units according to your spec. Colour matching the carcasses to your doors can usually be specified at no extra cost to the customer and the cabinets will be manufactured specifically for your kitchen which will mean hinge holes drilled only on the side of the door hanging and a choice of 3 to 4 shelf support positions,
Once the basic units have been pre-assembled, they will then usually be delivered directly to your home, ready for fitting and professional installation to the exact design specification supplied.
Your local kitchen supplier will provide you with detailed floorpans and visuals which can be passed onto your tradesmen for accurate quoting. This is especially helpful to the fitter because he can check measurements and quantities for you before the kitchen is delivered.
When buying from a local independent kitchen supplier it is usually their job to arrange the different tradesmen for your installation: Kitchen Fitter, Electrician, Plumber and Tiler. The customer usually pays them directly upon completion of their works. When buying from a national retailer such as the ones I will talk about below it is usually the kitchen fitters responsibility to organise and liaise with the different tradesmen.
National Kitchen Cabinet/Door Retailers
The Big Retailers
Other types of kitchen units are also available, typically aimed at the DIY market, which are usually supplied pre-assembled, some may offer flat-pack versions - usually for ease of storage. These tend to be of a lower quality compared to the source manufacturers who supply the local independents mentioned above. The main differences are;
All suppliers tend to make their carcasses from 18mm MFC (melamine faced chipboard) very few supply carcasses at 16mm nowadays. All have varying thicknesses of backs supplied with their cabinets but I find this makes little difference.
Pay close attention to the individual item prices when purchasing your new kitchen. Some of the large national retailers will shout about big discounts on kitchen cabinets - 50% off and a further 20% off doors, etc. but will be frighteningly expensive for other items such as end panels/worktops/appliances.
All kitchen suppliers provide units and cabinets that are very similar in strength, although colour matching, door options and price is likely to convince you one way or the other. All will offer a free kitchen design, so it will ultimately come down to who creates the best plan for you with a door style and colour that you like. It may be that you want to deal with a local supplier to take away some of the headache of getting replacements if something is damaged or it might be that you want to take advantage of an interest free option that a national retailer is likely to offer, either way if you give yourself plenty of time, plan ahead and employ professional tradespeople with expert knowledge and experience in their chosen areas then you should have little or no problems at all and things should run nice and smoothly for you.