The free diy home improvement guide with answers to your questions on a wide range of do it yourself projects.

Custom Joinery

custom made cupboards and shelvesIs your house full of nooks and crannies, most of which could never be properly fitted out, even from weeks of looking around Ikea? Sometimes off the shelf furniture items are just not right for our homes. They might be too big or small, made out of the wrong materials or even not of great quality. Every once in while we need to go custom and most of us will need the services of a craftsman (or lady) to help us to get it just right.

At least when you buy something off the shelf you can return it if it doesn't fit or just doesn't look right. But the same cannot be said for custom built furniture. Whether it is a wardrobe or a specialist bookcase, you are pretty much stuck with what you get. It is clear that it is doubly important to have a clear idea of your needs before you start, but how do you ensure that the process of going custom works smoothly?

  • Your first step is to decide the style of what you need built. Use magazines to inspire you and have a go at drawing your design. Think about the colour, the type of material and the dimensions.
  • You need to be very clear about how the piece of furniture is going to be used. If it is a bookshelf, you need to know your tallest book and your smallest. A wardrobe will need to house how many pairs of shoes and how long are your dresses? While the designer should be able to help you with these questions, you need to have thought of the answers.
  • Get some quotes and see some examples. Any craftsman will have photos of work he has done and will be willing to allow you to visit his clients. Make sure that you do this and ask them about time scales and how they found the process.
  • Make sure the quote is clear and that there are no hidden extras such as installation or accessories. Some designers may charge you for their quote. This is fairly common because doing drawings can be time consuming. But they will tell you this in advance.
  • When you have the design (which may include a computer image of how it will look) check the details including the measurement to ensure he has got it all correct.
  • You are likely to be asked to pay in advance for the materials, especially if they are expensive such as hardwood or metals. You should agree payment terms in advance as well. You are within your rights to hold back 10% at the end to cover any snagging issues.
  • Never accept anything you are not completely happy with. Custom furniture is supposed to be perfect. There is no compromise as this is why you went custom in the first place. If you wanted something less than perfect you could have gone for a cheaper mass produced item. So live with the furniture for a while to make sure it works the way you want it to and how you expected.

Bear in mind that some bespoke items will be unique and due to the materials used they may not be 100% uniform in every way. In some cases this is a feature of the product, but should not affect how well it performs.