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Best kitchen brands

Best Buy kitchens

By Liz Ransome-Croker

Article 2 of 13

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Find out which well-known kitchen brands we awarded Best Buy status to when we assessed kitchen units in our lab.

Our experts have assessed kitchen units from big-name brands Ikea, Howdens Joinery, John Lewis and Wickes in our lab, to find out how well-made they are. 

Combined with customer ratings from our survey of kitchen owners, our assessments mean we're able to award Best Buy status to some of the brands' kitchens.

A kitchen's carcass is an integral part of any kitchen. It should be sturdy, excellent quality, and able to withstand daily use from the whole family.  

So, looking at flat-pack and pre-built units, we assessed the quality (such as overall build and joins), sturdiness of shelves and the smoothness of opening doors and drawers of units from a range of kitchen brands. 

Best Buy kitchen units 

Three brands scooped our Best Buy accolade - the top scored a very impressive 92% and 90% for its two different units. A few just missed out with scores in the 60s.

Which? members can log in now to reveal which brands we assessed and which kitchen units scored highly enough to become Best Buys. If you're not a Which? member, you can join Which? to see this, plus all our kitchen survey results.

You can also visit our page on the best and worst kitchen brands to see how all the kitchen brands compare.

Flat-pack and pre-built kitchen units 

Many of the national kitchen companies use the same one or two kitchen carcasses, for all of their kitchens. Then you add different doors and accessories depending on what range and style you're after. 

In most cases, the difference between the two units from one brand are whether they're flat packed or pre-built. We've assessed both and have two types of Best Buys - flat-pack and pre-built. 

Because the carcass underneath the door styling is the same, our Best Buy units logo can be applied to all the different kitchen ranges the manufacturer uses that particular unit for. 

How we assess kitchen units 

Every 18 months, we survey kitchen owners to find out what they really think about their kitchen. From this, we calculate a customer satisfaction score for each brand, and star ratings for five important factors: quality of products, quality of finish, durability, customer service and value for money.

This year, we wanted to take it one step further and actually assess the kitchen units themselves in lab conditions. In order to be in with the chance of a Best Buy award, brands needed to meet the following criteria:

  • have a customer score of 70% or more
  • have four or five stars for all five measures

Only four brands qualified to be sent to our lab to be assessed. For each different carcass within a brand, we looked at a drawer unit, a floor cupboard unit and a wall unit, both with shelves. 

For all of them, we also asked the brands to supply the basic, entry-level drawer fronts or doors and handles that would accompany that carcass. We didn't assess the individual doors or drawer fronts.

If the kitchen units were flat-pack, they were assembled in lab conditions by furniture experts. All of the units were then attached to a wall and, where applicable, to each other, as they would be in a normal kitchen. They were then assessed by our experts.

The kitchen units had to achieve a score of 75% or higher to become a Best Buy.

75%The score from our lab assessments needed to be a Best Buy

Our lab assessment focused on a few key questions that will help you to choose the best kitchen for you.

Are the kitchen units good quality? 

To make sure that the kitchen units you choose are great quality - the look, feel and build - we first studied the overall quality of each unit's construction and the quality of its inside. Then, we rated it for specific elements, including whether it had any:

  • sharp corners/edges
  • splinters
  • imperfections

Examining the joins, we assessed whether the method used to construct them (for example, dowels and glue or cam-stud and metal dowels) would have an impact on build quality, and whether any joins were irregular and uneven or had gaps.

We also marked them based on what the units are made of, rating them lower if they were constructed from a material that is known to be less durable and likely to scratch more easily.

Visit our page on kitchen units, doors and worktops to find out more about the different materials used in kitchens, the types of joins and what experts say about which are better.

Will the shelves and drawers withstand heavy use? 

In the average kitchen you're likely to be loading your shelves and drawers with heavy pans, bulky bags of flour and sizeable gadgets.

So we looked at how well the drawers, shelves and hinges dealt with force being placed on them. 

To do this, we applied pressure to all of the shelves and base of the units, as if someone was using them to stand up. We did the same thing to the base of the drawers, and separately the drawer fronts, once when they were partly open and again when fully extended. 

This allowed us to see whether the drawers themselves, and the runners that keep them in place, will hold up under pressure. 

We also noted whether the shelves could be easily displaced by pulling them forward or lifting them up.

Lastly, while doing these assessments, we paid particular attention to whether the joins seemed to be under any particular stress.

Shelves, drawers or joins that flexed considerably, or came off their runners or shelf supports, scored less. 

Is opening and closing the drawers smooth? 

The last thing you want is jerky and awkward drawers, or ones that easily come off their runners, clattering cutlery everywhere.

So we checked how smoothly they ran in and out, whether the drawers could be accidentally knocked or pulled off their runners, and how easy they were to remove and replace.

Can the door hinges withstand lots of use? 

If you counted the number of times you open and close your kitchen doors over their lifetime, the number would probably reach into the thousands. So you want to know that your kitchen hinges will do the job of keeping the doors safely in place. 

To examine their sturdiness, we put force on the open doors, as if someone was leaning on them or attaching a heavy rack. Those that flexed considerably were rated lower.

Standard and soft-close hinges and drawer runners 

Some brands have soft-close hinges and drawer runners as standards, but others offer these or standard fittings.

For each unit (drawers and shelves), if two versions were available, we examined everything based on standard hinges and drawer runners, and then for soft-close versions.

We were surprised to find that they didn't make any difference to the overall scores and, across the board for all of the different elements, the marks were identical, too.

This doesn't mean that you shouldn't pay extra for soft-close or premium features, as these can give a kitchen a more luxurious feel. But it's not essential to make the kitchen units work better, so you could save money.

Kitchen assessment scores 

Once all of the kitchens were inspected, the ratings for each assessment were collated into groups to give overall scores for the unit quality, loading of the shelves, drawers and doors, movement of drawers and runners, and hinges. 

These scores were then weighted based on which are most important when finding the best kitchen - see below. This allowed us to calculate the overall score.

  • Unit quality - 40%
  • Loading of drawers, shelves and drawer runners - 40%
  • Drawers and runners - 10%
  • Hinges -10%

Kitchen installation 

As well as looking at the kitchen units themselves, we also looked at how easy they were to build (if they were flat-pack) and install. 

We noted the clarity of the instructions, how simple it was to build the units and attach the handles, how easy they were to fix to the wall and each other (if instructions and the right equipment was provided), and how secure the fixings were. 

Because installing a flat-pack unit is quite different to installing a pre-built one, and because there are a number of different ways in which a kitchen can be installed - by the company you bought it from, by and independent installer or by you - we didn't include the installation in our overall score. 

However, within each brand page, we have detailed what we found so that you have a clear idea of whether a kitchen is going to be straightforward to install, or a pain.