To all my joinery mates out there in the residential construction game, just a heads up: I’m sorry.

I’m about to drop a couple of bombs, which will hopefully save all you DIY-ers out there a few bob on your kitchen renovation.

It’s not uncommon for cabinetry and joinery to make up a large percentage of the overall project cost in a reno. It’s one of the finishing touches that, when specified and installed correctly, separates a nice renovation or build from an absolutely amazing one.

What if I was to tell you there’s a way you can reduce that cost but still maintain a really high-end finish? Good news: You can.

All hail the flat-pack

They say the kitchen is the heart of any home, so believe me when I say flat-pack cabinetry has come a long way in the past 10 years.

For the novice renovator contemplating a new kitchen (or laundry or bathroom for that matter), here’s a little insight into high-end fit-outs Vs flat-pack fit-outs:

  • Unless specified by an architect or client, even the most high-end joinery fit-outs are predominantly made up of a chipboard unit that is dressed up with edge strips, veneered or poly (polyurethane) cupboards, decorative handles, soft-close drawer runners and then a nice benchtop – usually stone, timber or a reconstituted stone commonly known as ‘engineered stone’.
  • Engineered stone is made of marble or granite granules and powder combined with a specialised polyester resin that is poured and formed into counters and benchtops.
  • There are several reputable companies out there that offer quality flat-pack joinery. They’ll provide you with a warranty for their product if it defects – pending correct installation – and this will be at a fraction of the price of engaging a real deal joiner.
  • If you’re feeling handy you can save yourself even more moolah by doing the job yourself, however I’d only recommend this if you know you’ve got it in you: It can get quite tricky once you start bringing the whole thing together.
  • The price to engage a carpenter on an agreed hourly rate will still keep more than a few bob in your sky rocket as opposed to engaging a joiner to supply and install the lot.
  • Flat-pack joinery units are made of the same thing: Chipboard. The only difference is that the modular sizes allow companies to mass produce them. By making them to a nominated size rather than custom sizes, prices can be kept down.

    The key to using modular sizes

    • Carpentry, in general, works with timber lengths that come in 300mm increments. That means, the stock sizes of joinery units come in multiples of 300mm (so a 300mm unit, 600mm unit and 900mm unit).
    • If using flat-pack options you’ll need to make sure your kitchen space works with these increments. Pay close attention as this will allow the space to flow and work efficiently.
    • Allow between 10-15mm between walls to give yourself enough room to get your joinery items in place and fit off.

    So, long story short what do I suggest?

    • If you’re looking at a kitchen reno, spend some time perusing the multitude of flat-pack options out there and see what works for your space.
    • Choose a style and colour scheme that you’re happy with and try and source the whole thing from the one supplier. That way it’s easy to stay across it all – and makes it easy to order any extras you may need.
    • If you have some extra money in the kitty, install an engineered stone bench to make the whole thing pop.


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