Kitchen Planning Guide
The devil is in the detail when it comes to kitchen planning so give yourself plenty of time to think about what you have, what you want and how you are going to get there.
Kitchen projects can range from simple like for like refurbishments to major building work with a new kitchen as part of the project.
Refurbish an existing kitchen
Sometimes all a kitchen needs is a face lift. Typically this includes new doors and drawer front, perhaps a new worktop and maybe some new handles. This cost effective solution makes a lot of sense when the cabinets are in good condition, you're happy with the layout and have enough storage.
Replacing an old kitchen like for like
This is the most common kitchen project. Your old kitchen has seen better days or perhaps you've moved into a new house and want to put your own stamp on the kitchen. Replacing like for like is another very cost effective way to get the kitchen you want without incurring the extra expense of building work. A new layout often means utilities like gas, water and electricity need re-locating. You should factor in decorating, flooring and tiling into this sort of project as well as new appliances if the current versions need replacing.
A new layout in an existing kitchen space
In slightly larger kitchens there can options to change the layout altogether. Kitchens are typically one of six different layouts often dictated by the size of the room and the position of doors, windows and openings.
If you have a room that offers some flexibility then a new layout is often a great way to create a more workable space for the way you live your life. The most popular addition to a modern kitchen is an island or peninsula. Both offer many benefits from extra work space and storage to an informal eating place. There is also an architectural benefit as an island can form a natural division between the kitchen and living areas.
A new kitchen as part of a 'knock-through'
In older period houses the typical layout is based on a living room at the front with a dining room to the rear and often a very small kitchen adjacent to it. All three rooms are linked by a hallway with doors into each room.
The way we live has changed and families now enjoy more open living with the wall between the kitchen and dining room removed to create a more open kitchen-diner. The 'front room' is then retained as a more closed, quiet space at the front of the house.
This is a relatively straight forward building project although it is a messy job with dust and bricks everywhere. A structural engineer would need to calculate whether the wall is load bearing or not before the job was started but a reputable builder would manage this on your behalf. If you employed an architect to help with the job they would manage this process (at a cost) if you needed them to.
A new kitchen as part of house extension
The biggest of the kitchen projects but also the option with the most potential to create the dream kitchen. This job would probably see some or all of your existing rear wall at ground floor level removed to link the old house with the new extension. The most straightforward extension is a single storey extension to incorporate living, kitchen and dining space in one light filled room.
Things to consider:
Do we need an architect to help?
If there is significant building work or you want to change the way your home flows you might want to consider an architect. A good architect can not only help you deal with building control and planning applications but will also help you to organise the internal space in your home. Architects can take on project management of bigger jobs and help you to organise the relevant trades.
Do we need a kitchen designer?
A good kitchen designer will be able to guide you on a sensible, ergonomic design that suits the way you live and use your kitchen day to day. An independent designer will be able to supply you with working drawings plus visuals that you can take to the retailer of your choice. An in-house kitchen designer will be able to advise you more closely on the range of of kitchens they sell. You need to make sure you end up with the kitchen that suits you rather than the kitchen the designer wants you to have.
Careful planning and consideration of how you use your current kitchen and what else you want to achieve with your new kitchen will give you greater control and input when you sit down with your kitchen designer. Have a read of the Kitchen Design Guide for more ideas.
How long will the project take?
This depends on the scale of the project and any building work. A typical project might take up to a week for the kitchen rip out and first fix electrics and plumbing followed by another week for the kitchen fit. Beyond this there will be a day or two for second fix electrics and plumbing. Worktops can take up to a week to arrive if you are having solid surfaces that need a template creating. Elements like decoration and tiling will need to be finished off once the worktops are in.
Have a think about the reality of this phase. You may be without a working kitchen for up to 4 weeks. Do you want to live out of a microwave and a bathroom sink? Your builder and fitter may be able to sort out a temporary kitchen if you speak to them in advance.
How much will the project cost?
It is impossible to say how much individual projects are likely to cost. It is worth getting more than one quote to give you some comfort that you are paying an appropriate fee for the work. Insist on an itemised estimate for the work.
Who will do the work?
For a basic refurbishment or like for like project you will need a kitchen fitter and qualified tradesmen for any electric or gas work. For larger jobs with building work involved you are going to need a suitable builder. The builder may be able to handle the whole project for you including the kitchen fit.
Make sure you do your research at this stage. Once you are clear about the scale of the project and have some plans you should seek to get quotes from at least three building firms and/or fitters. Remember that the cheapest is not always the most appropriate quote to go for. Take recommendations from friends and ask to see previous work.
How do you use your kitchen?
This is a surprisingly over looked point in quite a lot of new kitchens. In the excitement of planning and designing a new kitchen it is possible to get carried with away with lay outs and gadgets that don't really suit the way you live. Before you even speak to a designer or kitchen retailer have a good think about the way you use your current space and what more you want to be able to do. Do you long for a more sociable space for example?
Typically, you should think about the practical considerations first - basic layout, the working space between sink, hob and fridge, and storage. Cover the basics and then think about the other functions of the kitchen next - homework, casual dining or an informal bar area for example.
Kitchen Design Guide
A well designed kitchen should work well as a cooking space first and foremost. How it looks and feels should be the icing on the cake.
Whether you design your own kitchen or hire a professional you must be involved to make sure you get the kitchen you want. Online design tools have made it easier for us all to create our own dream kitchens but sometimes you want the guidance of a professional to tell you it will be okay. Most retailers now offer a free design consultation as part of their standard offering.
Most common approaches to kitchen design:
Hire a professional kitchen designer
You have two choices. Hire an independent kitchen designer to work with on your dream kitchen or pick the kitchen retailer of your choice and take advantage of their design service, usually free. The independent designer is going to cost you but will offer you an unbiased kitchen design with no sales targets driving his ideas and solutions. At the end of the process you will hopefully have a set of working drawings as well as some visuals of the design. You are then free to find a kitchen retailer or joiner capable of supplying you with the appropriate kitchen components.
Alternatively, you can start with your local kitchen showrooms and hopefully identify the kitchen you like the look of before working with their in-house design team to create a design you like. This service should be free and you will benefit from a design that is based on an actual range rather than a generic design. The downside is that you are at the mercy of their design approach and possibly their sales targets.
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The second option is more straight forward and is the most common approach. You are not tied into their design but some retailers will not release the plans if you do not commit to the kitchen with them.
The secret is to do your research in advance - think about the sort of kitchen you like and ask some questions.
Design your own kitchen
A quick search online for a 3D kitchen design tool will tell you that more and more people are now designing their own kitchens. The key is starting with an accurate plan of the room including all measurements. This can be seen as a major hurdle but by following a few simple steps it can be quite a straight forward job.
The beauty of these tools is that you can play around with the design from the comfort of your own home at a time to suit. You can get some very realistic visuals as well as a shopping list to work with. Some design tools are linked to online retailers allowing you to not only design your kitchen but to also get an instant price and buy online.
Layout, door style and colour are likely to dominate your thinking as your kitchen project progresses. There are almost limitless ways in which you can put your final design together but you can simplify this process by adhering to a few simple principles.
Your kitchen is likely to follow one of these basic layouts - most do. If you start with this in mind you can then start to consider the breakdown of kitchen cabinets required in line with your personal requirements.
Single Run Kitchen
Single Run with Island
L Shaped Kitchen
L Shaped Kitchen with Island
U Shaped Kitchen
Depending on the period and style of your house you may find it very easy to pick the door style and even colour. Classic styles like Shaker are probably the most flexible option with door finish and accessories drastically changing the overall feel.
For a simple, timeless kitchen it is very hard to beat a white kitchen and this continues to be the most popular option despite the increasingly wide range of colours available. Matt finishes are very popular now and help add to a more understated approach to kitchen design.
Sample doors can help you to really visualise the end result. It is worth getting hold of samples of the colours, finishes and door style you like and seeing them in your own home. Light plays a really important role in the finished look of your kitchen. It is really important to see how the doors you prefer look based on the light in your own home, not the showroom or website.
Kitchen Purchase Guide
If you've done the hard work and planned carefully you should be able to enjoy picking the kitchen you want and making that purchase.
Depending on the route you have taken at stages one and two, you may have your kitchen picked out form the start and have already committed of the idea of a particular retailer. Alternatively you may have a great design on paper, a clear idea of what the kitchen will look like, but no idea where to get it from.
Kitchen buyers tend to fall into two broad categories:
Picked the kitchen and supplier first
There is no right or wrong way to go through the process of planning and buying a new kitchen. Falling in love with the dream kitchen and then working backwards from there in terms of planning is perfectly normal and a common occurrence.
It is important that style does not replace substance and the range you have selected must offer all the elements you need in your kitchen. It would be a shame to end up with compromises in the finished product.
Got a design and shopping around
This profile has become more common, particularly with the rise of the internet. There is always another kitchen company offering you a comparative product and price. It is certainly worth taking your ideas and plans to a selection of retailers to see how they can help and at what price.
Depending on time and your commitment to the process, this stage could take up a lot of your time. It is worth reviewing potential retailers online before committing to a visit or online purchase. All reputable companies should be publishing previous work as well as customer feedback via an independent platform such as Trustpilot.
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When you do decide to visit your chosen showrooms it is worth asking a few key questions. Most kitchens are superficially the same and confusing pricing policies can make it difficult to decide where the real value is.
Questions to ask:
How are the cabinets constructed?
Ideally, the cabinets should be rigid built and come with solid backs. Most cabinets are made from MFC (Melamine Faced Chipboard) but on cheaper kitchens this might not not include a solid back with a thin piece of plywood used instead.
What are the doors made from?
Doors can vary massively in quality. You need to consider what sort of look you are hoping to achieve and how hard wearing you need the doors to be. Other than solid wood doors, most are made from MFD (Medium Density Fibreboard). The front is then either a laminate or vinyl wrap. As a minimum you should be looking for doors that are at least 18mm thick.
For a popular handleless door make sure the doors you select are at least 22mm thick. The thinner handleless door is not practical due to the reduced depth of the finger grip.
What sort of drawers and hinges do they supply?
The industry leading supplier is BLUM. When you are gathering quotes, check that you quote includes BLUM components as standard without hidden upgrades for soft close hinges and drawer runners.
How long will delivery take?
If you are working to a tight deadline you need to know that the kitchen you select can be delivered in time. It is common for the cabinets to come from one manufacturer and the doors from a specialist. It is not unusual for the doors to arrive late. Check with your chosen kitchen supplier.
Kitchen Installation Guide
Choose your kitchen fitter carefully. A good fitter can make an average kitchen look amazing. Unfortunately, a poor fitter can make an amazing kitchen look average.
Depending on the approach you have taken to your new kitchen, you may not need to hunt down a good kitchen fitter. If you have put all your faith in a full service kitchen retailer then you can sit back while they arrange the kitchen fit. If you are unsure about how you will manage this final step then there are a few pointers to consider.
Managing the installation process:
Finding your own kitchen fitter
If you are managing each step of the process then you will need to find the best kitchen fitter you can. It is highly likely that the kitchen retailer you choose may have a preferred list of independent tradesmen. You need to know how much they are likely to charge and how good their work is.
Before making any decisions you should expect the fitter to pay you a site visit. This gives them a chance to familiarise themselves with the project and your plans. Without this they can't really give you an accurate quote for the work. You should expect to pay between £800 and £1500 depending on the size of the project.
If your kitchen retailer is 'supply only' with no recommendations of fitters to help then you need to source your own. Personal recommendation is the best solution to this challenge. Ask around, can anybody recommend a good kitchen fitter? Failing that, there are several useful trade referral websites online. You should have all your kitchen plans to hand and expect potential fitters to come and see the project and site prior to quoting for the work.
How long should the installation take?
A typical kitchen fit will probably take between three and five days. You will need to make sure it is clear what the fitter is doing for you. On top of the cabinets and appliances you need to cover the following:
- Sink and taps (plumbing)
- Gas connections
It is unlikely that your fitter will cover all aspects of your new kitchen. If the kitchen is supplied by a retailer that offers a full service then they will manage the project from end to end. If you are project managing then you will need to consider the specialist trades (plumbing, gas and electrics) as well as a joiner to help with floors, window sills, worktops (possibly). You will also need a decorator to finish the project off.
These elements of your overall plan need to be covered prior to committing to the kitchen purchase. See Section 1 on planning.