“ Kitchens. „
I bought my flat a couple of years ago, and I have always intended to do up the bathroom and kitchen. The bathroom is a mess and the kitchen has always looked a bit "tired", with 70s fittings and no cabinet space on the wall, ensuring that my work surfaces were always covered with junk. So finally, I got around to doing something about it.
Having read a few of the previous reviews they mostly seem to be either quick reviews by satisfied customers or rants by one who've been ripped off. I aim here not so much to tell you what I bought, as the specific products themselves are much of a muchness and probably of similar quality, but what the process was from beginning to end, what the potential pitfalls are during ordering and installation and how to combat them without losing your rag or sanity.
The first thing I would say is that no job of this nature will be without issues during installation and the key is to stay calm, don't take it personally, don't annoy the installers and be polite yet firm with Magnet.
To make sure I was getting a decent price on this, I got three separate quotes, from Magnet, Homebase and Moben. Homebase was cheapest, but I'd heard things about our local Homebase that put me off, and the salesman from Moben treated me like a fool, trying the hard sell from the off, so I didn't trust them. Instinct told me that the more expensive Magnet would provide the best service, and so I plumped for them.
THE SOFTISH SELL
As the local showroom is near work, I went in one day and arranged an appointment with a "designer" (or, more accurately, "salesman"). I was given a sheet of squared paper and asked to take dimension measurements from my kitchen so that they would be able to show me what was possible.
We sat at his plush desk with a big LCD screen behind it and he used this to show me several designs via Computer Aided Design (CAD) based on the requirements I gave him. The ones I liked, he printed out on glossy paper and they looked great. I guess it's touches like this that result in you paying extra but the design of the kitchen comes across better. Homebase had the same program but cheap paper, and the result didn't look convincing. You might not think it that important but you'd be surprised on the effect on your psyche.
The impression I got was that the designer wasn't putting any undue pressure on me, and that in giving me the glossy drawings with no obligation he was helping me to think about things and make up my own mind. In contrast, Moben, who also had a similar program, wouldn't give me the drawings. Advantage Magnet. It didn't take me too much time to decide to go with them after this initial meeting.
I had another meeting with the designer to make some minor changes and close the deal. Interestingly enough, the sale that I'd got my original quote from had ended but another one had started. As a colleague pointed out to me, "they always have some sort of sale on" and I think he's right, I've never seen that showroom without one on. It also seems to me that the designers have discretion to provide whatever discount they fancy, as he threw one or two in for "goodwill" when I pushed him a bit.
The deal I got was for them to put pretty much everything in bar painting and tiling the walls, I wanted to get this done afterwards once I'd seen what the kitchen looked like. So they would be installing new flooring, a new cooker, extractor hood, sink, wall cabinets and worktops with upstands around the edge. They would also be adding some elctical sockets as I was short of these. Interestingly, they don't provide any white goods that aren't integrated.
THE ORDERING STAGE
At this point I'd paid a deposit and the contract arrived in the post. I phoned Magnet and they told me not to sign it until the subcontractor's surveyor had been round to check that the dimensions I had given were correct and that there weren't any other unforeseen issues they would have to deal with. I then had a letter saying what needed to be paid and that it had to be paid by such and such a date.
Magnet subcontract the building work out to companies who seem to work almost exclusively for them, and I found a lot of the issues I had were a result of Magnet being the middle men. The surveyor called a week before they were due to come and said he'd call back to confirm what time he'd come on the day agreed but he didn't. I had to call Magnet who supplied me with the number to call him on.
THE HIDDEN EXTRAS
For those of you who've had building work done, it will come as no surprise that the quoted price wasn't the one I paid. When I had my quote with Magnet I was assured this included the cost of any electrical work needed. However, due to new regulations, I needed a new RCD which would cost an extra £500, payable directly to the subcontractors! It also appeared that whoever had wired the kitchen originally made a bit of a mess, as the cooker was on the same circuit as some of the electrical sockets, and this also needed to be remedied. I asked around my friends, and one who was actually getting a kitchen put in by another company said he'd needed a new RCD this too, so fair enough.
THE LACK OF COMMUNICATION
They also seemed to want to start work a week earlier than that agreed, as the scope included removing a partition wall (which they wanted a grand for, no thanks I thought). But still it wasn't clear when they were coming in. I tried to phone and email the subcontractors and pestered Magnet. I only got a reply the Friday before they were due to start early, when they said due to the wall not being done they could proceed as originally scheduled, giving me another week. Not great communication then, with Magnet assuring me the subcontractors would call, but with my main designer contact away, it didn't seem to me as if the others were that interested in resolving the issue. Not an auspicious start.
I had to pay in full a couple of weeks before delivery, as they said that things couldn't be ordered until this happened. I would have been happier paying in full after completion but I guess this isn't how Magnet work. However, I did pay an optional £100 extra for insurance with a third party, such that if Magnet went bust I'd get my money back, so I was covered.
A week before the cabinets and goods were due to be delivered, I received a call to confirm delivery, and was sent a letter regarding this. The day before delivery, I was called to confirm the driver would arrive between 8am and 10am. On the day the driver called about 8:20am, reiterating they'd arrive between 8am and 10am
I found the delivery guys to be very friendly and helpful. They even brought their own milk as I had run out! They bipped each item on a bar code reader and made sure it was all OK and all the items were there. They found one damaged cabinet carcass and took it back with them, which they guessed had been damaged by a forklift truck in the warehouse. An order was placed for a replacement but they advised me to confirm this with my designer.
Installation started on a Monday. I made sure that I got off on the right foot with the installers and made sure there was plenty of tea and milk around for them to help themselves with, which I encouraged them to do. They were also friendly and helpful, and I was in general pleased with their progress. I left them to it as I didn't fancy hanging around and looking over their shoulders, although perhaps I could have ensured one or 2 things were done exactly the way I wanted had I done so.
On the Thursday the Magnet installation co-ordinator called me to make sure I was happy with progress and if there were any issues I could call him. I thought this was a nice touch and a very handy number to have. It would prove to be the case.
The work was scheduled to take a week, but it overran by 3 days. This seemed to be due to the wrong ducting being ordered for my extractor, and my floor being on a slope which they didn't expect, causing the tiling to take longer than predicted, but I thought that was fair enough, and of course I wasn't charged for this. They left a lot of bits and bobs lying around, such as off cuts from the work surfaces and the kitchen was covered in dust, although you can't really blame them for that, it's the nature of the work so something to be aware of.
THE SNAGGING LIST
Apparently when you have work done like this you should make up a snagging list, i.e. minor issues that need to be fixed by the builders before you accept the work as completed. In my case this was missing screws in electrical sockets, plastering being smoothed over and washing machine issues.
One good thing was that the tiler spotted some water behind the washing machine and called the plumber in, who replaced a pipe. This still leaked when I used it however, and it was found to be originating from the washing machine. Now, the white good came with my flat and a quick google search revealed my washing machine to be fairly cheap and nasty. They might well have damaged it by moving it around without the drum supporting transit screws in, but I wanted a new machine anyway so I didn't make a big deal of this.
Some other issues came to light with this though. When I bought a new machine, I found that they had moved where the plug was and the lead barely reached. The waste pipe was also too short for the new machine and leaked a bit. There was also a problem with the hot water inlet, now not used in the new washing machines, which leaked a bit. I noted that they'd not replaced the plumbing and some of the older pipes leaked, but seeing as they weren't replacing the washing machine that's probably not really their problem. Also, they hadn't left enough of a gap between the washing machine and cabinet, so vibrations from the machine shook the unit.
To their credit, the subcontractors sent their man in again after I pestered Magnet, and he fixed the leaking valve. He also adjusted some screws on the washing machine so that it sloped with the floor and didn't touch the side of the cabinet anymore - very smart. I still think they could have left a bit more clearance though, but it's fine now. A mate of mine had already fixed the waste pipe. You could even say they fixed things that weren't their problem without complaint, which I would count as a big plus.
One other thing I noticed was that under the cabinets, behind the fake fronts, they hadn't tidied so much and some debris such as paper and plaster was under the cabinets. I'm not sure if this is usual but maybe you never know as you wouldn't see this unless you had plumbing issues like I did.
THE FAULTY OVEN
The cooker I bought has two ovens, a main one and a smaller one with a grill. I thought I'd tested everything but a few weeks later I found that the main oven didn't work! The hob and small oven did, so it seemed everyone had missed this. The unit is Electrolux, and Magnet advised me to call them as it seemed to be a problem with the cooker itself, not their installation. It was lucky that I'd registered the hob and ovens for the manufacturers guarantee. The Electrolux guy came and found it was a factory fault; someone hadn't connected the internal wires properly! No problem though; it was under guarantee and thus didn't cost me anything.
THE FINAL INSPECTION
Before the final inspection, Magnet head office called me to ask me how it had gone and for me to give marks out of 10 for various criteria. I mentioned th faulty oven and they made a note of this. My designer came round to check if everything was OK a few weeks later, and the aforementioned issues with the washing machine were raised then, and resolved as described.
As gas and electrical work had been done (gas hob, electric oven, new electrical sockets), it's a legal requirement for you to have a Corgi certificate for the gas and Part P certificate for the electrical work, particularly important for a HIP should you want to sell the property. The installer copy of the Corgi report was left in a drawer for me, and Magnet had a signed guarantee which my designer appeared to think was enough regarding the electrical and gas works - it isn't! I pushed this and asked the subcontractors, who confirmed to me that the Part P had been applied for and would be sent to me from the appropriate body. I received this 6 weeks after completion of the work, which is about the time you'd expect it to take. The same applied for the Corgi certificate, which arrived 7 weeks later. So in each case you'd expect the installers report and later on official certificate.
Well as you can see it was quite an eventful time. I've never had work done on a flat before, so this was all new to me, but I think it went OK in the end. I'm really pleased with the kitchen. The units fit together well and they have messed around with the adjustable legs so that the units don't slope so much with the kitchen. The floor also has less of a slope, the tiler explaining to me that it was better to go with the slope than try and level the floor, which would have resulted in a couple of inches of drop from the kitchen to the hallway! I'm quite happy with the tiles and the way they've been laid. The hood works well, the cooker is nice and the drawers are those fancy soft closing ones. I also have magic cupboards, where the shelves slide out right from the corners, ensuring you use corner space well. Wall cabinets have given me much more room to store stuff. In fact it looks pretty much like the glossy pictures they first showed me so you can't really say fairer than that. The stuff seems like decent quality too, but time will tell whether it just looks good or whether it is decent. This may be as much about me taking care of it as anything. Note though, that the cabinets, taps etc are exactly the same as those in Homebase, they use the same supplier! If you get a quote from one, it's worth comparing with the other, as Homebase are cheaper. My kitchen cost me over 8 grand so be aware this isn't the cheapest option.
Based on my experience, make sure you take the following actions, which could be applied to any kitchen retailer:
- Get at least 3 quotes from different kitchen suppliers for comparison.
- Don't sign any contract until a surveyor has checked your design is feasible.
- Ensure any extra costs can be justified, preferably get these quoted at the initial stage. Some may be necessary due to ever changing building regulations.
- Make sure everything works!
- Register all new appliances for their manufacturers guarantee.
- Make a snagging list and ensure that everything on it is fixed to your satisfaction
- Always hassle Magnet politely until you're happy. Use threats only as a last resort.
- Make sure they don't damage your washing machine if they're moving it.
- Make sure you get all the safety certificates from the appropriate bodies (Corgi and Part P).
- Make sure you carefully follow their post care leaflet otherwise you won't be covered for damages.
Website : http://www.magnet.co.uk
Here`s an interesting idea. Rather than look around every single page on the internet one by one to try to find the piece of information or data you?re looking for, why don?t you just put some words into a programme that will then go and look all over the internet to see if it can find those words, then come back and tell you where it?s found them. Yes, this is a search engine. I?ll admit, it?s quite a good one, it?s quick and intuitive and it can can tell you where to find ?.gif? or ?.jpg? files of whatever it is you?re looking for, but then so can lots of free search engines. Most people have a favourite search engine that they use all the time. If you?re not one of them, and you really want to find something that you?ll be more comfortable with, I suppose I can see why this might appeal to you. For everyone else, there?s simply no point paying £20 for this.
The Magnet showroom is beautiful. You immediately have visions of a perfect made to measure kitchen that will last you for many years. Planning and choosing colours and textures is simple too until you stop and work out exactly what it is all going to cost. My kitchen is an odd shape so I didn't think it would be easy to fit an 'off the peg' kitchen. I set aside £3000 for the kitchen of my dreams and soon discovered that it couldn't be done at that price. It was going to cost at least £1500 more to get what I wanted. I was quite disappointed as I hadn't asked for anything too upmarket. I ended up paying a joiner to fit a kitchen which he helped me to chose at B&Q. He 'tailored' all the units to fit exactly and advised on quality of workmanship, etc. The total cost was £2800. So get your ideas from a Magnet Showroom but shop around before you decide to buy from them. It could save you money.
Think again.....Yeah they have beautiful colour brochures, smart enough showrooms...staff are really friendly and helpful....but what happens once they have your money? well in far too many cases not quite what you expected, I for instance, had to wait 3 days to get my sink , gas oven and hob fitted after the rest of the kitchen was fitted, due to the plumbing heating engineer being unavailable, it's now a month later since the instalation and I am still waiting for cornice to be delivered and fitted, one kitchen unit door which the fitter scraped fitting the sink....I had bought different handles for the units....so was going to get a £30 refund for my original brass ones....but they myseriously dissapeared...with the fitters. UPDATE: Since I wrote this opinion, I have had too get emergency gas engineer out as the hob was leaking, which I had reported too magnet at the beginning too which they replied, this is quite normal open a window for a few days. Once the emergency gas team came out and put a sticker over the hob saying dangerous do not use, Magnet sent someone out to fix it straight away.......It is now a year since I had my kitchen installed and I am still waiting for a piece of cornace too be fitted, and my £30 for stolen handles,I have phoned their customer service, Magnets local showroom, that many times I have forgotten, there is someone coming too get this job done every other week....yeah right. On my first opinion I suggested still buying from Magnet but getting your own fitters now I can only suggest stay clear of Magnet altogether