Where do I start?
Having decided that your kitchen is in need of a revamp you now have to plan what features it will have. It may be that you require more work and cupboard space. Your existing appliances may not offer you the specifications you require and your lighting may be inadequate. Whatever your needs you need to identify the design that best suits your needs and here we’ll attempt to assist you with our view on how best to achieve this.
Kitchen layouts fall into four categories:
- Galley or corridor – For narrow rooms with an entry and exit point at opposite ends.
- One wall kitchen – More popular in apartment dwellings where space is at a premium
- L-shaped – If the existing room is interrupted by doors entering on two adjoining walls but wide enough to accommodate corner cabinets, an L-shaped kitchen is the most appropriate configuration.
- U-shaped kitchens are suitable for rooms uninterrupted on three elevations and in some cases, if the room is wide enough, the U shape may return as a peninsular or against the fourth entry wall
Add to the above the ability to incorporate an island configuration in your room and you have ability to determine which style of kitchen best suits your room. Most importantly in the order of priority, recording the dimensions of your room is the first task.
Measuring up for your kitchen
Proceed as follows
- Measure ceiling heights – Cabinets come in a variety of heights and your floor to ceiling height will determine which height cabinet is best suited to your room.
- Measure up your windows and doors – in addition measure the distances from each side of the aperture to the adjacent walls, from the lower sill to the floor and from the ceiling to the upper reveal of the window. The rules here also apply for any protrusions such as boxing in or pillars.
- When measuring lengths between walls hold the tape measure 600mm from the each end to simulate how the cabinet fronts will sit. This, of course, is easier if you are measuring over existing cabinetry and a centre mark will provide more accuracy if you measure to it from both sides and add the measurements.
- Check for plumb (vertical level) – It is advisable to rectify any defective plastering prior to the installation of cupboards and where a right angled corner wall cupboard is being installed it is essential that the relevant plastering is square and plumb to ensure a satisfactory alignment of the cabinets. You risk affecting the correct alignment of extractor and hob if attention is not given to out of plumb walls.
- Check floor levels – use a long spirit level to determine the level of your floor and, using the “600mm rule”(measuring this distance from the wall to simulate the plinth), will determine if any rectification or floor-levelling compound is required prior to installation. The criteria for an acceptable finish is in your own hands but I would suggest that a difference in level of more than 15mm will require pre-levelling before installing cabinets.
- Services – determine the dimension of any services that are sited in your kitchen such as mains water pipes, soil pipes or mains electricity/gas supplies. Again, measure their relative distance from both elevations and detail these in your plan before commencing design. Transferring them to your plan will avoid any complications with appliance obstruction. Cabinetry can always be altered to accommodate services but appliances can’t.
- Checking your corner for square – As the standard worktop size is 600mm, a square template approximately this size will give you the best indication of a whether your corner is square. A shelf or purpose made square placed against the corner will determine any rectification work required before installation. Of course worktops can be scribed to suit the contours of the wall but it is advisable to achieve as square as possible a finish for aesthetic purposes.
Replacement doors and worktops
Of course, some of the above can be ignored if you are simply replacing doors and worktops but you will need to detail the position of existing hinge holes to make for easier replacement.
Here are the rules to make for easier installation.
- Measure the centres between hinge holes on your existing doors. To make this easier, mark a pencil line at the back of the hinge inside the cabinets using a straight edge to ensuring each line is central to the hinge. Measure the distance between the points and record this in millimetres.
- Next you will need to measure from the bottom of each door to the centre of the bottom hinge. Again, use a straight edge to mark the centre line of the hinge, this time on the door itself and measure from the bottom of the door to the marked line.
- Measure the door size in mm and record it’s opening configuration – left hand or right hand hinge. Compile a list of your doors, detailing the door as a base, larder or wall unit fascia.For example:
If a door is integrated measuring will be difficult without removal of the appliance but a pattern may emerge showing that all the doors are consistently equidistant between hinge holes. If this is the case then it’s more than likely that integrated doors are bored similar and record it as such. An integrated dishwasher or built under fridge or freezer will not require hinge holes bored.
A good tip when measuring hinge hole centres is to commence measuring from the 100mm mark on your tape measure. Align it with the pre-marked pencil line and measure to the line marking the next hinge. This will offer a greater accuracy but don’t forget to subtract 100mm from the measurement before recording it to paper.
Worktops will present less of a problem and all that is required is to detail the size in width, length and depth.
Kitchen Design Matters
How to choose a design for your kitchen and things to take into consideration when you are choosing doors.?
Will they be in keeping with your existing house design? A traditional design may not sit well if the rest of the environment is modern and vice versa
Colour is important and if you aren’t planning to redecorate your kitchen, you choose should a colour to contrast well with your existing décor. Darker door finishes may require increased lighting and should be contrasted with lighter worktops or flooring.
If you want to minimise the cleaning of your doors choose a plain design that can be wiped down easily with a cloth. A slab styled door design is a popular choice and requires less maintenance than a panelled door.
Consider the implications of pets or children and choose a hard-wearing exterior to avoid potential damage. Softer wood finishes, for instance, would be a mistake if your dog has a tendency to use the doors as a scratching post while your filling it’s food dish.
Handles can radically alter the design of your door and, like doors, they fall into many categories. Although there are no hard fast rules it’s better to choose modern designs for contemporary doors and traditional designs for classic style fascias.
Now more than ever, you have an immense choice of work surfaces and in selecting one you will, no doubt, view cost as a consideration. Laminates still provide the most popular choice but an increasing number of people are considering alternatives such as ceramic, granite, engineered stone, seamless solid surfaces, stainless steel and even glass. In any case it is advisable to use a protective board when cutting on any surface despite the claims made by some retailers.
How do I choose where my cabinets and appliances fit in my kitchen?
Many of you may have heard of the kitchen triangle. The kitchen triangle is simply the importance of the proximity of your three main functional kitchen components – sink, cooker and fridge.
This isn’t to say that they should be fitted as close as possible to each other but within comfortable limits is the criteria most designers aim for.
With the increasing popularity of range cookers and American style fridges, it is becoming more of a challenge to designers wishing to incorporate the triangle in a kitchen.
This is due to the larger sizes required to incorporate these appliances. Increased appliance space reduces the amount of storage space in a kitchen.
To retain the aesthetics of certain kitchens it may be necessary to forsake the distance factor particularly if you are intent on buying the appliances you want.
Consideration must be given to waste services and sinks, waste water appliances such as dishwasher and washing machines are best sited on a wall with an exterior elevation.
One rule of design, unless it isn’t possible, is to locate your sink below a window. Should this not be possible consider a bridging unit or flyover with an integrated light source to brighten the sink area.
A dishwasher is always best located next to a sink for service and drainage reasons as well as convenience.
Again, there are no hard fast rules and if you really want to incorporate an appliance that enlarges the triangle it doesn’t render your design as bad, as long as it suits your needs it is your own work of art.
Where do I start placing cabinets?
Design should always begin in a corner of your room. You have a large choice of cabinet sizes and corner cabinets are available in three configurations L-shaped, diagonal and conventional cabinets with a hidden corner. For diagonal and L-shaped corner cabinets you must allow 900mm on both elevations.
Conventional corner cabinets are fitted to the elevation of your choice and extend 570mm from the chosen wall. As standard size worktops are 600mm deep, the door size you choose will ensure that the cabinet fitted is relevant to the worktop depth. Therefore a left-hand corner base unit with a 400mm door will extend 1000mm or beyond (Dependent on the corner fillet size required), from the corner to its outer gable.
A 500mm door will extend 1100mm or beyond from the corner, a 600mm door will extend 1200mm or beyond from the corner and so on.
This rule will change if your worktops are deeper, so if using a 650mm worktop the measurement increases by at least 50mm and a 700mm worktop increases the measurement by at least 100mm.
Your design software will automatically configure distances for corner cabinets yet the above details are relevant if you are one of the increasing number of people who have decided to install their own kitchen.
You may have noted that I have not been fully precise in detailing the distance that a corner unit should be sited from the adjacent wall and there is good reason for this.
The variety of handle designs available can differ greatly in their distance from the front of the door and if installing a kitchen with deep handles, extra care and preparation must be afforded in the corners.
The result of fitting a standard corner fillet may mean that the corner cabinet drawers will not open fully due to the opposite cabinets handle infringing on an adjacent drawer. This can be compensated for by the construction of a wider corner fillet that allows full extension of the drawer.
To avoid a problem it is advisable to allow sufficient planning space if your design may present you with a similar problem.
Do you need design assistance?
Do you need more storage and workspace? Are aesthetics your main concern? Better traffic flow? A quiet, bright, morning breakfast spot? What bothers you about your existing kitchen? Is eating in the kitchen important?
Sometimes it’s difficult to visualise what you require from your deign and the assistance of a designer to bring out these elements would be of great benefit.
Often, designers will ask you to describe your daily routine to determine the best design solutions to achieve your objectives, in and around the kitchen area.
Should design not be your forte and you would like others to bring your ideas to life then a number of designers now offer their services independently, a growing number of them offer their services over the internet.
Are your existing electrical and plumbing services adequate for your new kitchen?
As the kitchen houses a number of appliances, it is imperative that your electrical supply is sufficient to withstand the demands placed on it. The same is true of water, waste and gas supplies and it is strongly advised to undertake a pre-installation check of all services.
A plumbing and electrical layout correlated to your final design is well worth consideration. This will shorten installation time, allow you to hire your own contractors if you wish and, most importantly, offer you peace of mind in the knowledge that future service problems can be averted.
Should you require a services dimension plan it is advisable to arrange for one on ordering your kitchen to allow you sufficient time to schedule and complete the preparation before installation commences.
How to choose an installer
At present there are no industry standards required to ply your trade as a kitchen/bathroom installer and the plain fact is that you are taking pot luck by contacting an unknown quantity who has decided to title him/herself as one.
There are, however, a number of steps you can take to avoid the possibility of your new kitchen looking worse than your old one.
- Use your judgement of character when speaking to a candidate to install your kitchen. It’s important that you liaise with your installer whilst the job is in progress and difficult if you can’t communicate with each other.
- Use the conversation to find out how long they have been in business
- Determine a guarantee period offered for the work undertaken
- Ask to view a previous installation.
- Discover if they have any relevant qualifications and memberships (Gas Safe Registered, Approved by a regulatory body to undertake electrical work etc)
- Are they insured for public liability?
- What tools do they carry? Do they have a worktop jig, router and mitre saw – essential kitchen fitting tools and a good indication of credibility
- Determine their plumbing and electrical knowledge, experience and qualifications.
- Arrange a site visit two weeks before the installation. You will learn a lot more about the person that you are about to employ
- As with any trade, good kitchen installers are worth waiting for, so contact one well in advance of your project commencing.
When you’re happy with your choice of installer there are a number of other issues to discuss with him/her and this is best achieved when contacting the installer to let him know you wish him to undertake the installation.
Below is a list of further considerations you should discuss with an installer.
- Vehicle access – How close can a vehicle park to the work area?
- Vehicle parking – Once unloaded, where can a vehicle be parked? Will it be safe in the space you suggest?
- Rubbish removal – Will a skip be required?
- Door size/restrictions – It’s often a problem trying to fit a large cabinet through a tiny porch and certain cabinets may need to be delivered as flat packs if access is a problem.
- Work area – allocate one to the installer during the site visit, and reserve it as his/hers on commencement day. It also helps to mention that certain trades (painters or floor finishers) will have a difficult time working in the same room while the kitchen is being installed.
- Furnishings/belongings removed – A day or two prior to installation remove all furniture and belongings from the room and empty the cupboards.
- Floor protection – If the flooring has been completed before installation it will need protecting.
- Dust protection – the homeowner will never fault you for being too careful about dust protection. Sheets taped to house entry points will minimise dust spreading throughout the rest of the house.
- Power – How many outlets are there, and how far away? There are a limited number of trades that can share a power circuit.
- Keys – It’s difficult have a kitchen fitted if your installer can’t gain entry.
- Job noise – In a large refurbishment noise levels can reach hair pulling proportions so be prepared and if your neighbour works a night shift it’s good advice to let them know of your project prior to commencement of the work.
- Working hours – Give the installer an indication of start/finish times
- Plumbing/electrical – These are critical areas. Check box heights and plumbing preparation. If preparation hasn’t been completed, go over the information with your installer should he be completing the work.
- Room lighting – Look for conflicts between lighting locations and cabinet placement. Recessed ceiling lights may be positioned in such a way that they end up directly over a refrigerator.
- Appliance details – It helps to give your installer a list of appliances to be fitted and, if possible, their specifications
- Children/animals – As your installer will be using some heavy machinery you will need to make sure that children or animals cannot gain access to the work area.
- Bathroom privileges – Ensure your fitter knows where to go
Well, I hope this information proves useful in assisting you to achieve a trouble free and satisfactory installation and if you feel competent enough don’t rule out the possibility of saving yourself a substantial amount by having a go yourself but remember the health and safety issues above all else.
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© Tim Foley 2016