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Planning a kitchen

Kitchen units, doors and worktops

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Expert advice on kitchen units, doors and worktops, whether you're buying a totally new kitchen, or replacing old ones.

When you're planning your new kitchen design, or kitchen refresh, one of the biggest decisions you will have to make is what materials to choose. 

Costs, as well as the quality, can vary dramatically depending on what material. So to help you make the best choice for your kitchen, we've surveyed 2,154 kitchen owners about the materials their kitchens are made from to find out which are best able to stand the test of time.

Kitchen units

Your kitchen units are the backbone of your kitchen, offering brilliant storage solutions and a seamless cooking experience - if you get it right. 

The first thing to consider is the size of units, also called carcasses. Our table below will give you an idea of the dimensions you will need to work to if you're buying a fitted kitchen, as opposed to a bespoke one, which will be more flexible.

Kitchen unit measurements
Sizes Base unit Wall unit Sinks
Height 72cm plus plinth 72-90cm 15-18cm
Width 30-60cm 30-60cm 76-95cm
Depth Up to 60cm 30cm 44-50cm

There are a huge range of storage options, but what's right for you boils down to how you use your kitchen on a daily basis. Our page on planning your kitchen talks you through this in more details.

Once you have chosen the sizes and types you need, you'll need to think about materials. 

Chipboard or MDF kitchen units

Most people choose laminate covered chipboard or MDF units.

These are the cheapest units and many of the kitchens from big-name brands, such as B&Q, Ikea and Hombease, offer units in these materials. You choose plain matte or gloss laminate finishes, or you could choose laminate with an effect, such as wood. For the most part, you won't see it though, except for when you open your cupboard. 

In some instances, cheaper units are cut with a less accurately, which can lead to poor and misaligned assembly. However, as long as units are fitted properly and the correct shelf fixings are used, then they should be sturdy and take the weight on their shelves.

It's worth taking a look at our kitchen installation page to see ratings for kitchen installers from different brands - the top got 84% while the bottom just 56%.

Solid wood kitchen units

Solid wood kitchen units come in a variety of wood types, from oak to beech, and as you might imagine, these are more expensive. Most arrive pre-assembled (and glued together), making them very strong and rigid.

If you're keen to have the look of real wood, but not the cost, one option is to get cheaper laminate-covered cupboards, but end panels and doors in a solid wood.

Best kitchen units

Which? members can log in now to see what kitchen owners rated as the best type of kitchen units when it comes to standing the test of time, according to our customer survey. With this, you'll also be able to see which type of doors and worktops were rated highest too. 

If you're not a Which? member, you can gain access with a trial  subscription to Which?.

Replacing kitchen doors

If the layout of your kitchen works and your units are in good condition, replacing just the doors and drawer fronts, rather than the whole units will save you a lot of money. 

There's a wide range of options available when it comes to kitchen doors, and a range of prices to reflect that. As your doors are central to the look and feel of your kitchen, this is the place to spend a little bit more, if you can, to get the style you want. 

Doors cost from about £5 per door. Many of the big-name kitchen companies sell replacement doors as well as fully fitted kitchens, but it's also worth looking on second-hand sites, such as eBay, for cheaper doors in the material you want. Our kitchen costs page gives more information on the cost of repairing and replacing kitchen doors as well as worktops.

Whether you're buying new or second hand, you'll need to ensure that you get the right size and associated fittings, such as hinges, for your cupboards. Most kitchen companies have a free design service, so make the most of this and ask for advice if you're unsure. 

The last thing to think about is the material your doors are made of. Again, laminate covered chipboard or MDF are a cost effective types of kitchen doors. They're a very flexible choice and come in a range of colours and effects. The majority of people we asked, 19%, have gloss laminate covered MDF doors. 

But if you love the look of wood, and don't want to get wood-effect laminate, there are lots of solid wood options, including oak, beech, walnut and teak. 28% of people we asked have solid wood doors.

Best kitchen doors

Which? members can log in now to see the ratings for the different types of kitchen door, as well as all our kitchen brand ratings and costing information. 

Repainting kitchen doors

If your existing kitchen cupboards are in good condition, you could repaint rather than replace them. You can paint pretty much any type of door, and there's almost an endless selection of colours to choose from, whether you prefer vibrant colours, or more muted pastels.

You'll need to make sure you properly prepare your doors first - they'll need cleaning, sanding (if they're wooden) and priming - and use the right paint for that material. Most DIY shops and paint specialists have detailed advice how to paint specific types of doors, or you could pay someone else to do it for you.  

Kitchen worktops

Kitchen worktops come in a wide range of materials and finishes, from more expensive solid wood and granite to cheaper stone or marble-effect laminate on chipboard or MDF. 

As you can image, the price for these vary widely too, from £50 to more than £500 for the same length of worktop. 

Laminate covered worktops are a flexible and cheap choice as they can be made to look like a range different surfaces, including granite, wood, stone or slate, without the associated cost. This is why they're clearly a popular choice - 46% of Which? members we surveyed have a laminate worktop, 12% as wood effect followed by 8% with granite.

When it comes to solid materials, 16% of members have a solid granite worktop, 10% solid quartz and 8% solid wood (oak).

Most worktops come in 20 to 40mm thinkness - the most common is 28mm and 38mm - and 600mm and 900mm widths, but not always. You can also get a bespoke worktop made to your specifications.

Granite worktops

Granite worktops are available in a huge range of colours (blacks, creams, red etc) and with different levels of glistening flecks. They are very hard-wearing, highly scratch and heat resistant, although they can still become marked with heavy use, such as through exposure to heat and acidic chemicals for long periods of time, or chopping food without a chopping board.

Granite doesn't need a lot of maintenance, although you should keep it clean. You can also buy specialist granite cleaners and sealers to use every so often.

Quartz worktops

Like granite, quartz worktops come in a range of colours, but are more commonly white, black or grey. Some look quite detailed with a range of shapes within it, while others are plainer.

It's durable and resistant to heat and scratches, although not as much as granite. Again, you'll need to ensure it's kept clean and doesn't undergo excessive wear and tear, but it won't need a lot of maintenance.

Wooden worktops

Wooden worktops come in a number of different types, including oak, walnut, beech, birch, ash and teak. Wooden worktops are sealed, so should be fairly durable. But you'll need to be more careful than with quartz and granite, particularly to avoid staining and scorching from heat. 

You'll also need to maintain your wooden worktop, coating it with oil semi-regularly initially, which you can gradually do less frequently. It's best to ask the company you buy it from about specific maintenance for that type of wood. On the flip side, wooden worktops can also be sanded and resealed to remove imperfections, which quartz and granites can't undergo so easily.

Wooden worktops can warp if poorly stored, so check thoroughly when delivered and before installed.

Best kitchen worktops

Log in now to see which types of worktop kitchen owners rated highest. 

All of the big-name kitchen brands do a range of standard worktops, particularly laminate, while a number of specialist companies offer wider ranges for different materials, as well as bespoke services. 

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