Solid granite and quartz worktops will enhance even the most basic of kitchen units, turning an ordinary looking kitchen into a room fit for a design magazine. But getting the right company and service can be a bit of a minefield. A rapidly expanding market has attracted many start-ups with fierce competition, especially at the budget end.
Many small firms work out of the back of a van or use sub-contracted labour; not all have a good standard of workmanship. Nobody wants to pay more than they have to for their worktops, but where such a major – and visible – investment is concerned, the search for the cheapest can be a road to false economy.
You can’t beat the recommendation of friends, family or work colleagues whose own kitchens you know or can ask to see. Even if you don’t have friends of family who have granite or quartz worktops you may know a plumber or electrician who can recommend someone: in the course of their work they see a lot of kitchens and worktop installations. Your kitchen design company may be able to recommend someone too, but be aware that they are may well have some commission tied to their recommendations, so it is it is worth getting a quote direct from a fabricator.
The right fabricator-installer.
A good fabricator and installer will:
- Be able to offer sound advice on the right product for your personal situation and colour scheme.
- Be able to offer a choice of materials from their own imports, which will be more cost-effective.
- Have a good working relationship with trustworthy wholesale suppliers within the UK who can offer a wider range of granite colour choices.
- Have a well-equipped workshop where cutting and polishing can be done to a high-standard without making a mess in your home. A workshop helps with quality, but also implies more stability: deposits paid to – or guarantees received from – “a man with a van” may be worth less than transactions made with a structured company whose set-up implies serious capital investment.
- Welcome you to view their material and premises. This is really important. Particularly with some granites a small sample really doesn’t give you the full picture of the whole slab. Because of batch variation, samples may also be quite inconsistent with the product you actually end up getting.
- Have their own templaters and installers. Many companies sub-contract work, but a firm that works as a team, with clear internal communication (and clarity as to who is responsible when mistakes are made!) has a huge advantage.
- Give you clear and proper paperwork at all stages of the process. They may accept cash, but not offer a “cash deal” with the implied discount as VAT is avoided. For such an important investment for your home, do you want to have no proper contract and guarantee? And what does that attitude to the law say about attitudes to the customer? As someone has put it very well, “Flouting the law and shoddy work come hand in hand in my experience.”
The guide below was written to help those who are getting quotes from various granite and quartz worktop suppliers on the internet and really don’t know how to compare one to another.
Get a quote direct from a fabricator-installer.
Cutting out the middle man you are not only most likely to get the best deal price-wise, but by talking to a granite/quartz specialist you should get the best technical and aesthetic information about the type of surface that is best for you. It is no good choosing a material that is absolutely beautiful, if it is impractical for your needs and is going to require more maintenance than you are prepared for.
A fabricator can also tell you about the options open to you in terms of extras such as up-stands, splash-backs, window sills, overhangs and curves etc.
Trust your instincts
- Are the staff helpful, knowledgeable and straightforward?
- Is their advice always cloyingly positive, or are they honest about the cons as well as pros of different products?
- Do they have a business that you can visit, not just a mobile phone number?
- Is there evidence that the company is doing a decent amount of business? If you are in a hurry, a lead time may be annoying, but companies with waiting lists are generally further from bankruptcy and more clearly have the respect of the public and kitchen industry.
- Is there absolute clarity about what is – and is not – included in any quotation you receive?
- Is the price a good fair price but not too good to be true? Some apparently very cheap offers are the prelude to dramatic price increases on templating. By that stage they have you over a barrel and you won’t have time to go elsewhere.
It is worth checking out customer testimonials, possibly on the company’s website. Do they have the ring of being genuine? If a website has images of kitchens, are they only show kitchens? It can be very useful to see genuine case studies of kitchens where you can see that the kitchen is a real room and the testimonial ties up with the kitchen shown.
Looking at trade organisations can be a good idea although some of them just charge a fee for a company to join and then only pay little or no attention to the quality supplied by the company. Checkatrade.com is different in that it seeks recommendations before a company joins and then continually looks at feedback from customers. Checkatrade has a high standard of recommended practice which they monitor continually with every company.