A Complete Guide to Kitchens
The thing about kitchens is that every single one is unique. No two kitchens are alike. So although you can get great ideas from magazines and brochures, you will still need to plan your kitchen in detail. If you are planning on carrying out a DIY installation of the kitchen this can seem a daunting prospect.
The first thing to do is to either take a layout of the room to a kitchen planning service or have a kitchen designer come out and measure your home. It’s a good idea to get several to do this so that you will have a number of ideas on layouts, and you may pick up some good hints and tips along the way.
Deciding on the layout of your kitchen can be the most stressful part of the exercise especially if there is more than one person wishing to have an input. It’s always good to remember that the person who uses the kitchen the most may have the best idea of how to get the most out of the kitchen. So sit down and talk about what you want to achieve from the new kitchen and what doesn’t work now.
There are some questions that you need to ask before you draw out the plan of your kitchen. Do you have enough electrical sockets? Does the lighting work well? How well does the journey around your kitchen work? For example, is the fridge presently too far away from the food preparation areas? What type of cooks are you? Do you spend quite a bit of time preparing raw meat and vegetables, or do you use a lot of frozen food?
With so many kitchen companies to choose from it can be quite overwhelming when looking for the kitchen units that you want. Talk to friends that may have had a new kitchen and ask them about their experience. If you have an idea of the style and colour of units that you would like then you are at least halfway there. There is now a vast array of kitchen magazines on the market with examples of kitchens that people have installed in their homes. By browsing through these you at least get to look at kitchens installed in real homes. Cut out the idea you like and engage in a process of elimination. That way you can see how to proceed.
And last but not least, consider your budget. Kitchens vary enormously in price. You can spend £5,000 or £50,000 for a kitchen in the same space, so it’s vital that you work within funds available. This is the point where you can work backwards. Get your layout worked out first and then find out the cost of the other services you need and then see what you have left to spend on the kitchen. If you are planning a DIY project factor that into your costs, as you may be able to put more funds into the purchase of the kitchen itself.
There are a vast range of kitchen worktops to whet your appetite. But it’s important to remember that although it may look beautiful and shiny in the showroom it won’t necessarily stay like that. Laminate worktops come in several guises, from wood effects through granite styles, and the gloss effects will show every smear and knife mark within a very short time. The matt worktops with a strong pattern can be quite practical as they will disguise water and knife marks very well. Solid wood worktops look fabulous, but they will need some maintenance. It’s quite normal for them to need a few coats of Danish oil at intervals, but you can easily find out how to do this yourself. If they receive a lot of use this could be as often as every six months to one year. On the other hand, granite worktops are very durable, but contrary to popular opinion they are not completely impervious to water and they can chip if a heavy object is dropped. Perhaps one of the most amazing and interesting worktops to come to the market has been the Corian worktop. They allow you to achieve stunning effects and you can customize the colour you want, and if it is damaged it is very easy to repair, but be prepared to cough up a large chunk of your budget. If you really want to be out there then you may want to look at have concrete or glass worktops which have become very fashionable in recent years; but always remember that function is just as important as form. Quartz Worktops are an engineered stone. Good quality ones are made from 93% Stone particles the remainder is made up with resin glue bonding all the particles together. Available in many colours they make a very durable product.
Once you have chosen your kitchen you need to organize the services. As mentioned previously, it’s a good idea to outline your electrical and plumbing needs beforehand, and don’t forget that if you have a gas supply and are installing new gas appliances then you may need to upgrade your supply to cater for these.
What is important is that you get a qualified electrician to advise you before you start and make sure that you have the work carried out by a qualified person.
The same is true for a gas supply. The work must be done by a registered gas engineer so it makes sense to get both tradesmen in to look at the work before you start and not after you have ripped the old units out and disconnected everything. These tradesmen are the busiest in the world so the last thing you want is for them to tell you that they can’t come and do the work for another 3 to 4 weeks.
It is most often the case that fitting a new kitchen also includes redecorating and likely retiling. Before you start the work have a close look at the condition of your walls and floors. Planning ahead of time how to achieve the best results at this stage of your DIY project can save a great deal of hassle. Try not to leave deciding what you want to do until after you have installed the new units. The best time to carry out any decorating or remedial work is after the old units have been removed and before you fit the new ones. Painting or tiling will require a slightly different approach so make you mind up ahead of time.
If the walls are particularly bad then they may need to be re-skimmed with a fine coat of plaster. Again, remove any loose material and seal the wall before skimming. Allow the walls to dry out thoroughly before finishing with paint. You will want to make good once you have removed the old kitchen and before you install the new one.
Before installing your new kitchen you will want to decide which floor covering you want. This can be more important than many realise as the thickness of the new floor will affect the height at which the units will be placed. A real wood floor, for instance, may be 20mm thick, whereas a floor tile is more likely to be 8-10mm thick. So be very sure about what floor covering you want and stick to your choice as it can mean a lot of work if you change your mind.
Here is a basic schedule of works for installing a new kitchen.
- Remove old units
- Install new gas, electrical and plumbing services
- Paint and/or plaster walls/ceilings
- Tile floor
- Install kitchen units
- Fit kitchen worktops
- Tile walls
- Install new appliances
Let’s have a look at each of these stages in more detail.
Removing the old units
This may sound like the easy bit of your DIY project, but this is where the most injuries can occur and is fraught with potential dangers. The first thing to do, once you have cleared out all of the cupboards, is to isolate the gas and electrical supplies to these areas, not forgetting the water supply. You can do this yourself but make sure your electrician and gas fitter have clearly identified these for you beforehand. If you are unsure then arrange for them to pop in and do it for you.
Once that is done you can get to work. First remove the worktops from the base units. While a bit of brute force is going to come in handy, it’s worth removing as many screws and fixings as possible to make the job easier as this will cause less damage to anything that is remaining, such as you walls. Then remove the base units, taking care not to rip cables or pipes from the walls. It’s handy to have an old saw and perhaps a jigsaw available at this point, as removing parts of the units can make it much easier to get them out. Now remove the wall units. It’s best to leave them until last as they can now be reached safely by steps and not by kneeling or standing precariously on the worktops. This is usually a job for two people and saves injured knees and hands by someone else holding them securely.
Installing new services
We have mentioned the importance of allowing plenty of time for the plumber, electrician and gas fitter to come and install the new services. Now it’s time to think about how you schedule that. Just remember that if these guys are working for you on a fixed price then they will want to get their part of the work done as quickly and as efficiently as possible. They may be good friends with their fellow tradesmen but the last thing they will want is someone in their way. So as much as you want the work done, discuss with them ahead of time how to best schedule the work, and if possible get them to communicate with each other so they can coordinate their work. Believe me they will be grateful for your efforts to make their job easier. The old adage of more haste, less speed is never truer in this instance. You will also need to obtain certificates for the gas and electrical works and keep them with your house records. Besides being a legal requirement, these can be very important when it comes to selling your property.
You will need to think about sockets for new appliances also, and if they are integrated there will need to be isolation switches above the worktops. If you are installing a new electric oven or hob you need to check if you have an existing supply to cater for these. Some of the new range of electrical cooking appliances will accept a normal supply with 2.5mm cable, but many will not and may need a larger cable. Your electrician will advise you the best way to proceed, but you do need to give him as much information as possible.
Painting and plastering walls
Once you are ready to decorate make sure the rest of the house is isolated from the area. This may mean taping gaps around doors or by hanging plastic sheeting to prevent dust from travelling. Remove all loose material before filling any holes and rubbing down ready for painting. It is a good idea to seal the walls with a watered down coat of PVA before painting. This is particularly a good idea in a kitchen, which is subject to steam and smoke and cooking.
If you need to plaster the walls then follow the procedures mentioned to prepare the walls but unless you fancy using your walls to practice a new style of art it may be better to get a plasterer to apply the finishing coat. It is one of those jobs that requires a lot of practice and experience, and definitely looks easier than it really is. If you do fancy stretching your DIY skills and having a go at the plastering, then the best of luck; you may surprise all of us.
When painting, work from the top down and paint just into the areas that are to be tiled. If you have plastered the walls or ceiling then allow a couple of days for the plaster to dry out before you paint. If this is going to hold up your schedule then you could fit the units without doors and make sure you cover them well.
Tiling the floor
The best time to tile the kitchen floor is before you fit the new units, as this will involve less cutting of the tiles. Remember to tile into the areas where the appliances are freestanding and make sure that the tiles will go beyond the plinths. And don’t forget that they are set back under the fronts of the units. The type of floor you have will dictate what adhesive you use so you will need to read the labels carefully. For instance, you will need a flexible adhesive for a wooden floor.
If you have old floorboards that are uneven it would be a good idea to screw 6mm sheets of plywood to the floor and lay the tiles onto that. This kind of work would definitely need to be done before you fit the units because, as mention before, this will affect the height of the units.
If you have a concrete floor then remove any high points when preparing the floor and seal the floor with a concrete sealer to prevent any tiles from lifting at a later date. Draw a line along the centre of the floor and adjust either way to allow for cuts into the walls and lay your tiles from the centre to the outside edges. Don’t be stingy with the adhesive and always lay the adhesive on the floor and not the back of the tiles. Don’t be surprised if you have to buy one more bag of adhesive than recommended by the suppliers. In these days when you can return goods it is usually a good idea to get an extra bag, because you can guarantee that you will run out just after they have closed.
Installing the units
Once your units are ready to install it’s good to have a plan of attack. Once you have read the ‘how to install’ details, fit the tall units first and adjust them to the correct height. You can then fit the wall units as these run at the same height as the top of the tall units. By doing this you avoid damaging the base units by climbing all over them. Then fit your base units, setting them all in place before fixing. You can then check heights/levels and spaces for appliances. Do not fit the doors until everything else is in place.
Fitting the worktops
Once all of the units are in place the worktops can be fitted. If you have ordered granite worktops then these will arrive ready to install with cut outs for sinks and hobs having been done at the factory. With laminate worktops you will have to fit them yourself. They can be ordered in various lengths to avoid waste. You can buy edge and corner strips to cover the cuts or they can be cut with a router tool and jig to shape the corners for a tight, almost invisible fit. It is possible to buy a jig with instructions on how to do this yourself but it’s not for the fainthearted, so you may want to have this part done by a professional carpenter/fitter.
Tiling the walls
If you are tiling the entire wall then make sure that the surface is sound and that the tile adhesive will have a good key. That may mean removing any loose or flaky paint or plaster.
When tiling the walls it is best to start away from a corner and allow for the tiles to be cut into the corners. This will take care of the problem of walls being out of square. Place only enough adhesive on the walls to allow for five minutes of tiling at a time, and always rely on a spirit level and not the walls to check whether the tiles are running square.
Fitting the new appliances
At this point the sink and hob units can be fitted by the plumber and electrician so it will be time to call them back in. As eager as you may be to get the lovely new appliances in place, just make sure that all of the decorating, tiling and fitting are finished. There is nothing more disheartening than seeing a large scratch on you new stainless steel oven before you have even used it.
Kitchen Work Tops
Kitchen work tops are more than just functional surfaces. They are the surfaces that essentially define your kitchen and the character of your home, while doubling up as your kitchens most important feature. They will come into contact with everything from hot saucepans to kitchen spillages, and will be the basis supporting a wide range of household appliances. Because of the important role that kitchen works tops play and the fact that they are seen as a long term investment, it is essential to make the right decision when choosing one. There are numerous options available, all with different advantages and disadvantages. So to help you make this important choice, this guide will outline the main characteristics of surfaces typically used for kitchen work tops.
Granite – Granite is an extremely hard wearing stone that instantly makes a statement. It is typically dark in appearance, but as it is a naturally occurring material there are no two granitite surfaces alike. The variation of its appearance depends on the region that it’s sourced from, and will include countries such as Italy, Brazil, China and the US.
There is no denying that granite is one of the more expensive options available, but with this price tag comes a whole list full of benefits:
- The variations of this beautiful material mean that there will be an option to suit everyone and every home
- It is a material that can compliment any existing aspects of a kitchen including flooring and cabinets. From an atheistic point of view granite is extremely versatile
- Granite has extremely high levels of heat resistance, meaning that you won’t have to worry about placing hot objects onto its surface
- Minimal maintenance is required. All that is needed is a quick wipe down every so often with a damp cloth
- The polished surface that granite is typically available in will ensure that its character and appearance is retained for years to come
- Arguably the most appealing kitchen surface available
Hardwoods - Like granite, wood is a natural material that has many variations. Different types have different characteristics, but on the whole hardwoods are seen as solid and durable. Common hardwood types that are used for kitchen work tops include teak, oak, cherry, bamboo, walnut, mahogany and maple. The advantages and disadvantages of these will differ, but as a group, hardwoods often have the following attributes:
- As wood is a natural material its appearance will be totally unique. There are no two wooden surfaces that are exactly the same anywhere
- The wide range of options available means that there is bound to be a style to suit any home
- Easy to clean and maintain due to its durable and robust nature
- Although cutting directly onto its surface should be avoided, when doing so the blades used won’t become blunted or dulled
- Surprisingly high levels of heat resistance
Corian - “Corian” is actually a brand name given to a material that is made up of acrylic polymer and alumina tri-hydrate. It is a synthetic material that was originally intended for use in laboratories and hospitals, but due to its amazing attributes it’s a material that simply cannot be overlooked for use around the home. Increasingly seen on bathroom vanity tops, it is now a solid choice for kitchen surfaces. The advantages are listed below.
- It’s extremely durable. Even when surfaces are only 13mm thick (standard installation size), they can’t be damaged, chipped, burnt or cut
- As Corian is a synthetic material, there are hundreds of colour options available and more are being generated
- A 10 year warranty is typical, but this will depend on who installs it
- The versatility and malleability of this material means that it can shaped to meet almost every design
- It’s completely waterproof and easy to clean and maintain
- Unlike other materials seams and joints are not needed. This provides a smooth and slick appearance that can’t be rivalled
Marble – For a look that really stands out, marble is a striking option with a price tag to match. Like granite, it is a naturally occurring stone meaning that these two materials will share a number of similarities, but there are some differences. Firstly, marble is more susceptible to scratching and staining but this can be prevented by using some basic maintenance techniques. On the more positive side of the coin, marble offers the following benefits.
• A beautiful material that is guaranteed to add elegance and class to any home.
• Excellent levels of heat resistance.
• If looked after and maintained properly it will last for generations.
• Can add value to your property.
Overall, there are numerous kitchen top surfaces to choose from, but this guide has only covered a few of the more popular choices. All of these options will vary in terms of practicality and price, so ideally you should assess your own needs before committing yourself to a long term decision. Even the sub categories in these options will vary dramatically (i.e. some woods will be more expensive than others), so it is vital to incorporate additional elements into your decision making.
Overlaying kitchen Work-tops
Overtime kitchen work surfaces can become faded, damaged or simply outdated. Replacing these completely will fix the problem at hand, but will be expensive and out of budget for many. However, there is a way to achieve similar results at a fraction of the price. Instead of having an entirely new kitchen fitted, it is possible to simply lay a thin layer of granite overlay onto your pre-existing kitchen work surfaces. This will give it a completely new look, whilst adding to its levels of durability. This article will analyse the benefits of granite overlay, whilst comparing it to the real deal.
Granite overlays will be lighter than solid granite surfaces mainly because they are only a few millimetres thick. But despite this relative level of thinness, they are very similar in terms of looks and appeal. This is because as the name suggests, granite overlays are too made of granite. They provide the strength, durability and elegant finish associated with solid granite work surfaces, but as less material is used they will be more accessible pricewise. In fact your kitchen will be able to receive all of the benefits associated with granite a work surface. It will be easy to clean and maintain, while having the added advantage of complimenting your pre-existing flooring and cabinets. This is because granite is a material that goes with anything, especially as there are a wide variety of styles and colours to choose from. To emphasise the aesthetic appeal of this material, granite is naturally sourced meaning that it is not mass produced. This in turn will mean that there are no two pieces of this stone that look exactly the same, giving it a unique appearance that is hard to match. For many people this look is highly sought after.
We can see then that granite overlays possess the same characteristics as their solid counterparts, but they are fitted in an entirely different way. Whereas purchasing new kitchen work-tops will involve removing the old work surfaces and installing an updated version, granite overlays involve fitting thin slabs of this material over the existing kitchen units. Doing this will make the need for constructing completely new countertops redundant, which not only saves money but makes the installation stage a lot faster.
To ensure a perfect fit, a professional will take the necessary measurements and then tailor the granite overlays solely for your kitchens requirements. This means that granite overlays are more than simply large pieces of granite that are spread across your existing work surfaces, but are custom designed sections of art that are fully compatible with the dimensions of your kitchens countertops. Creating a snug fit will guarantee that no movement takes place, whilst ensuring that it can withstand some pretty heavy duty treatment.
When it comes to cleaning and maintaining granite overlays they need to be treated in the same ways as regular countertops. This means that non-abrasive cleaner needs to be used, while oily spillages should not be left unattended for long periods of time. In addition to this, it is good practice to refrain from any direct chopping onto the overlays surface. Doing this will not only blunt the knife that you are using, but it could also damage or mark the finish. Having the finish damaged in any way is rare, but it’s better to treat your kitchen surfaces with the respect that they deserve. Likewise, leaving hot saucepans onto the surface probably won’t have any immediate impact, but its best avoided all the same.
Granite overlays can be installed on any pre-existing material including tiling, wood, glass, Corian or even granite itself. They require basic maintenance and can instantly transform a home, combining the best of beauty and practicality. They offer a cheap alternative to solid granite countertops, but offer the same benefits. In fact, due to the rapid installation stage that is associated with them they actually offer more benefits, which is why more and more people are choosing them over their expensive counterparts. In a nutshell, granite overlays mimic granite work surfaces and do so successfully. They are a solid option for those interested in revamping their kitchen.
And there you have it. Your DIY project has been a success. Having read how to install your new kitchen and followed the process successfully you are ready for the topping out party.
What’s a topping out party, you ask? Well that’s where you invite all of the tradesmen and best friends around to admire you new kitchen and lavish them with creations of from your new oven along with lashings of good wine and beer. We are free next Wednesday.