Six things to know before buying fitted wardrobes
Fitted wardrobes can cost anywhere between a few hundred and several thousand pounds.
Choosing and installing them can take time and effort and you’ll be living with the result for years to come.
So here’s what you need to know before you sign on the dotted line for fitted bedroom furniture.
1. Are fitted wardrobes worth it?
The first question to ask yourself is whether fitted, built-in or freestanding wardrobes are the best option for your space and how you want to use it.
If you’re set on fitted furniture, do you just want fitted wardrobes, or does your dream bedroom incorporate other built-in furniture too?
While fitted wardrobes were the most popular item in our survey (84% of fitted furniture owners had them), other elements can be built in too including:
- Drawers (48%)
- Cupboards (37%)
- Shelving (31%)
- Desk (18%)
- Dressing table
- Bedside table
- Bed (including storage underneath)
The majority of those we surveyed had bought fitted wardrobes, though our overall results take into account all purchases.
Think about where you want to position the fitted furniture in your room, how much you plan to store in it, how you use your current bedroom storage and how it can be better and whether there are any awkward areas you need to work around.
2. How much do fitted wardrobes cost?
Buying flat-pack wardrobes to fit a specific space in your home and building them yourself, can be a reasonably budget-friendly £300.
If you’re envisaging luxurious bespoke furniture meticulously installed to make the most of every inch of your space by a professional, up your budget to at least £2,000.
The more personalised you want your furniture to be, the more it’s likely to cost. Opting for off-the-shelf space-saving solutions will help keep your budget down but it won’t fit exactly into your space. So it’s important to decide on this early.
A quarter of people we surveyed* said that being the cheapest was one of the main reasons they chose the company from which they bought their fitted wardrobes. One in five said they chose the firm because they were offering a discount, and slightly fewer (18%) said they chose the company because it had a sale on.
So getting a good idea of how much your dream bedroom will cost is important to do early on in your journey. This is fairly straightforward with firms which sell off-the-shelf options, such as Argos, B&Q, Homebase and Ikea. You can select the parts you want and tot up the total cost.
But it’s trickier with firms which offer more tailored options, or build the furniture from scratch to fit your space. The total cost will depend on the materials and finish you choose, how much is bespoke, your choice of brand, installer and carpenter, interior fittings and whether you want extra features such as incorporated lighting.
Our survey found big differences in value for money between 10 of the biggest brands which sell fitted wardrobes. While the best achieved five stars based on customer feedback, others scored a less impressive three stars. See the customers rated best value for money.
Get a feel for the price for the type of fitted wardrobes you want before signing-up to a contract. You can do this by getting quotes from more than one company or trader – ideally three. Check these carefully to make sure all elements of your project are included.
Philip Thomas, Which? Trusted Trader Assessor Manager, explained that any quotes from businesses should be ‘a clear unambiguous price that includes all fixtures and fittings, the fitting of the furniture and VAT. If there are any unexpected costs - for example where additional work is required - this should be explained to you and agreed before the work takes place.’
He also warns that you shouldn’t let yourself feel pressurised to sign a contract if you are offered a discount. He said: ‘good traders will allow you time to think. They won’t put you under pressure to make your decision immediately, nor use a discount to encourage you to do this.’
Some fitted bedroom companies will require a deposit upfront. Check that your deposit will be protected should anything happen to the company before your furniture is fitted. Philip Thomas, Which? Trusted Trader Assessor Manager, advises: ‘Check that the company provides deposit insurance and make sure you get confirmation that your deposit has been registered with the insurer.’
3. How to buy fitted furniture that is built to last
Fitted bedroom furniture that’s made for your space, built-in, unique to your home or chosen to fit a specific place can come at a cost. One big brand suggest upwards of £2,500 for built-in wardrobes.
Some brands’ fitted furniture comes with a 10, or even 12, year guarantee. Others offer a much shorter one so you’re only protected for faults soon after installation.
While sturdy cupboards, drawers that run smoothly and a flawless finish will add luxury to your daily routine for years to come, furniture that needs repairs, readjustment, or that slips from its original position will irk you no end.
So it’s no surprise that the quality of the product and the quality of the installation are the two most important things to those buying fitted furniture, according to our online survey of Which? members and the general public in April and May 2020.
Just two brands of the 10 included in our survey achieved five stars for how well customers found its furniture lasted over time. The lowest score was a mediocre three stars.
It can become clear quite quickly if the fitted furniture you opted for isn’t well-built. Feedback from customers who bought new fitted bedroom units in the last two years revealed three brands whose build quality was worth three stars.
4. Should I get professional advice?
Staff at fitted furniture companies big and small and independent carpenters will all be invaluable sources of information during the buying process. They’ll be able to give ideas and tips for designs and layouts and guide you to make the best choice on what will work for you and your space.
Keep in mind that brands are limited to what’s included in their ranges. Some brands’ ranges are more extensive, and have more options for customisation, than others. Likewise some retailers sell furniture from only one or two brands.
What this means is that if you rely on just one company or individual to design or recommend fitted bedroom furniture for you, you can’t be sure that it’s definitely the absolute best option for your space. It might be the best option from the range they can provide, or the best design an independent trader can suggest, from their experience.
Other brands and carpenters may have different options so it’s worth speaking with more than one.
Finally, different options and finishes, or adding more bespoke elements will have an impact on the overall cost. If you’re speaking with a salesperson consider carefully whether their recommendations benefit them, rather than you.
Some 5% of customers told us that they felt under pressure or were persuaded to buy a more expensive option than they intended, in our online survey in April and May 2020 of 1,744 fitted bedroom furniture owners.
5. Should I choose a big brand or independent firm?
We’ve asked customers of 10 of the biggest brands selling fitted wardrobes to rather their bedroom furniture and the company from which they bought it. But you can also buy fitted wardrobes from hundreds of other companies across the UK, including small firms and carpenters.
To help you decide which would be right for you, consider:
- If you want to choose from an existing range or design something completely bespoke
- Your budget
- Your timescales
- How you would prefer to deal with a company (for example do you find the established processes of a big company reassuring or frustrating?)
- Examples of their previous work
- Feedback from customers
Our research found that the reasons customers buy from independent firms and some well-known brands are very similar, whereas other firms’ customers’ motivations are very different.
6. Should I buy DIY fitted wardrobes?
A fifth of fitted furniture owners we surveyed had installed it themselves, while another 9% got a family member or friend to install it.
Unsurprisingly, those who bought their furniture from Argos, Ikea and Next were most likely to install it themselves. No one from Hammonds or Sharps did as both firms’ service includes installation.
If you are tempted to install fitted wardrobes yourself, keep in mind what level of experience is needed and how much you have, how long it’s likely to take, whether you have the necessary tools, and how concerned you are with the professionalism of the finish.
Don’t take on a project that you are not confident in your ability to complete.
Here's six more tips from people who have built their own fitted wardrobes to help you decide.
Tip 1: Make sure you have enough people
"My partner is a joiner so we did it together and had no problems. He would say if you are fairly handy you could certainly have a go but be patient & it's not a quick build done correctly."
"My wife and I installed it together. It's easy enough if you've any experience with DIY, but definitely needs more than one pair of hands."
"Built it myself. Very heavy so had to get a friend to help."
"It was easy to build and install on my own. You need to have done it before and some strength and perseverance."
Tip 2: Read the instructions before you start
"I would tell people to read the instructions very carefully before each stage."
"My wife and I installed the furniture. Instructions are pictorial and mostly clear. However it is important to read the details carefully beforehand in order to avoid having to take pieces apart and rebuild them correctly."
"Installing it yourself is easy to do for someone with moderately competent DIY skills with the right tools and following the instructions as the assembly sequence is critical to success."
Tip 3: Measure
"My advice, measure, measure, measure. The more effort and detail you do before ordering is a great benefit. Know your options, hanging space, shelf space, draws needed and look at all the other options."
"I installed it myself, it was straight forward by following the instructions. Advice would be to check your measurements two or three time as they need to be perfect.”
"Measure lots and cut once."
Tip 4: Beware wonky floors and walls
"Level the floor with plywood before starting. Allow for walls not being straight."
"My partner and I installed the furniture. It was moderately easy. The floor was not level which caused problems and we cut a bit of the bottom the wardrobe to get it level."
Tip 5: Allow plenty of time
"Expect it to take longer than you'd expect."
"I installed the flooring and wardrobe which took longer than I expected. I would advise people to allow more time for installation and to have help to build it."
Tip 6: Be confident that you can complete the job
"It was quite difficult. I wish I had paid someone else to do it for me."
"I installed it. It took way longer than expected and was stressful but the end result was great."
*Online survey of 1,744 fitted bedroom furniture owners in April and May 2020 who bought fitted bedroom furniture since July 2018."