I just want to say a huge thank you for all of your lovely comments and best wishes on Bea’s birth. It has been heartwarming to read them all from our new family bubble. We are still all doing well and enjoying time together but I have some prescheduled posts running for the next few weeks, so keep stopping by, (including some pregnancy/birth and beyond updates.) And of course I’ll be keeping an eye on things and commenting/replying here and on twitter or Facebook when I can. X
I got asked on twitter recently if I had any tips for a kitchen/living area re-design and realised there’s a whole post on that and it’s certainly longer than 140 characters. I’m by no means an expert and this was my first kitchen project so I’m sure any professional kitchen fitter would have better advice, but we have learnt a ton by planning it ourselves and I definitely have advice to pass on. I’ve interspersed this post with Instagram snaps of the progress of our kitchen work and a timeline is at the end.
Before you even start find out if you need planning permission and an architect or just drawings (your builder may do this, ours didn’t) and structural calculations. We started off with an architect who was slow, didn’t listen to us and basically just drew a set of plans that didn’t even have measurements on them and we were £1300 worse off for it. In retrospect we just needed structural calculations doing for the steel and builders drawings.
Our old kitchen layout
Consider what you use the space for (or want to use the space for if it’s not functioning as you would wish at present,) and what you can realistically do with it. We wanted a huge kitchen diner/living area. However we weren’t able to do that with the space available and the fact that we couldn’t extend. As we found this out at the purchase stage, we had to consider if the house was worth completing on, or were we going to have to try too hard to change it. No house is perfect but you also have to consider if what you are going to do to it is worth it in terms of increased value – will you out-spend what it can eventually be worth?
The old windows being taken out and made into new full length slim openings
Figure out your budget and marry that up with your expectations and what things really cost.
How much can you spend (or save) and how much do you want to spend? Some people couldn’t consider spending more than £10k on a kitchen, and others will do what it takes to get the kitchen of their dreams – this very much depends on personal income and the stage of homeownership you are at – there’s no point putting your dream kitchen in a 5 year house for example.
An example of what we wanted versus what we got would be our bifold windows – we originally planned to have floor to ceiling frameless glass including the corner of the kitchen, but for a variety of reasons, structural and cost related we ended up with window panels and bifolds. They cost about ⅓ of the first glass quote we had! I also thought as our kitchen wasn’t that big that we could look at more expensive brands and custom kitchens but quickly realised they are still VERY expensive and we compromised with the ex-display one we have now (which wasn’t much of a compromise but about a 50% saving.) Lastly, I wanted parquet look herringbone vinyl floor. Amtico do correctly sized tiles for that purpose, but were top of the range and priced to match. We compromised with a less expensive brand and range (Karndean) and had the planks cut in half – the result was a large scale herringbone but I love it and again it saved us about £1000.
The old chimney breast just before we knocked it out – sadly we had already planned the kitchen and couldn’t incorporate the old brickwork.
Work out your style and go for it. (Ie spend a lot of time on Pinterest!)
You can’t choose a kitchen without knowing what you want and it’s such a huge decision that I recommend doing this over a long period. I had this board on Pinterest for probably over a year before we even started looked or moved and I was able to look back over the evolution of the board and my tastes, and pick the consistencies out to help me see what I wanted and could live with longer term. Some of the things I liked (for example open shelving,) but wouldn’t be able to live with whereas others were key and consistent for me – I was desperate for marble despite the impracticalities. Also, use the Ikea website for kitchen design – there’s a great tool which can help you plan layouts as I found kitchen designers (at the lower end of the budget range) useless and lacking in imagination in this area.
Long window panels done (more were later put in where these two doors are) and the structural supports before the steel went in.
Work out the luxuries you want – You won’t be doing it again quickly so get it right
We wanted a hidden bin, to be able to hide small appliances and I wouldn’t compromise on a double sink, and 2 ovens. Our bin situation hasn’t fully been resolved and it is annoying not to have to that final detail nailed down.
Looking out of our new long windows from the building site!
To compromise or not to compromise?
Think about where you are willing to compromise. For me it was not on marble, but yes to the floor. Don’t compromise because you are tired or fed up of making decisions. Wait another day, or remind yourself it is worth getting right. It’s much better to delay work or finishing touches than regret things you’re stuck with later or rip them out in a few years for more money and hassle.
The bifold opening knocked through
Be prepared to make every single decision yourself.
I was totally overwhelmed at one point as our builder was amazingly hardworking and great but NOT a project manager and that basically fell to us. Trying to catch up and make daily decisions on top of a full time job was exhausting. Tiny thinks like the sockets and electric locations, plumbing, light fittings, types of socket cover, appliances, sink, worktops, wall colour, height and width of windows, door styles all impact on each other so need thinking through. Even our bifolds involved multiple minor decisions – the seal colour, frame colour, handle type, track colour, sills or no sills… and there is a lot of responsibility when measuring for things yourself, or for example making sure you order the bifolds at the right height so the frame was level with the floor that was being installed afterwards, and had to allow 11mm thickness to make it level inside and out.
The new windows finally in and the house sealed!
Make a time line of contractors and where they all interplay with each other.
You may not be able to do this until work has started and if you’re not bothered about rushing you may not need to, but (if you are lucky) in general no-one will come from when you ask them to for about 2 weeks which if you don’t plan ahead means multiple delays through the build/renovation process. On the other hand if you do it like we did, it means chasing everyone to finish daily so the next person can start when you asked them to.
Decorating – sealing the new plaster
Think about the outside – In our case this meant a deck or we would have stepped out from our beautiful new bifolds and kitchen to a 1m drop and a building site, so we moved straight from the kitchen work onto the outside. We also planned outside lighting when the electrics were replaced in the kitchen so it didn’t disturb the plaster and had the alarm company in throughout the build to remove and then later replace the sensors.
Admiring the new floor
Don’t forget to budget for furniture. Do you need a new kitchen table, or bar stools for the island, or a statement piece of lighting? You might well be prepared to live with old ones for a while but it’s worth thinking ahead on those things to get a really lovely finished result if you can afford it. (We still have our old bar stools!)
First breakfast in the new kitchen – still unfinished but usable!
Our building work started when we ripped out the old kitchen on April 21st and the kitchen, sink and cooker were plumbed in as the last things that made it useable (not complete) on June 20th. The outside was finished and our builder finally left on the 10th of July, although we did get some work done in one of the attic bedrooms in between that, that took about a week away from the kitchen/outdoors space. That’s pretty swift I reckon and only felt like it took so long because we were without the kitchen for all that time, whereas if you can have the kitchen taken out later for a like for like swap, it would be a lot quicker.
This is a timeline of the progress for us…
- Start work 21st April – took old kitchen out.
- 28th April Kitchen door to the house boarded up – only access was through the garden for the builders!
- Windows were taken out and the holes elongated and partially bricked up to make the long openings.
- Support structures were put in place, then the steel in for the bifolds.
- Exterior walls were taken out so the bifold openings could be measured and ordered (10d turn around time)
- Chimney breast taken out and steel inserted to support chimney breast above.
- Steel boarded in with plasterboard and first fit electrics were done.
- New door way to the hall was put in and the old tiled floor taken up.
- Windows were fitted (24th May) but the wall had to be reinforced below the bifolds so they were delayed.
- Replastering was done around the new windows.
- Kitchen was fitted 29th May over 4 days and the bifolds done during that week sealing the exterior of the house. The fridge/freezer went in at this point.
- More plastering was done to finish the last bit of windows and the hallway brick work around the door and where the old door was.
- The second fit electrics came later (to actually put fronts on the wiring for sockets, plugs, fit under cabinet lighting and pendants.)
- The floor had to go in after the cabinets as we weren’t flooring underneath them, but the Range had to go in after the floor as that is freestanding and needed to be floored underneath.
- Appliances – the hob went in after the kitchen but before the oven. Dishwasher was plumbed in witht the sink which was done after the worktops went in.
- We finally did the decorating ourselves
- The marble was one of the last things to go in on June 18th as they had to take a template (one week before) once the kitchen was fitted and I then had to choose the slab which delayed us a little – more on that later.
- Lastly the kitchen units were repainted (some were originally brown as part of the ex-display and we rejigged them as part of the new layout.) This was after the worktops in case there were any knocks or scratches during the other stages after fitting.
I hope you enjoyed this post and found it useful or at least interesting. This was a huge learning curve for us and if it helps anyone else think think through problems before they happen it will be worthwhile. Obviously the kitchen is still not quite finished – we’re waiting for a few pictures and the central light fitting is missing some bulbs but as soon as it is I’ll take pics and show it off!
PS I haven’t named all suppliers but will do another post on the finished kitchen with all of them in there. In the mean time, here are a few of the key ones involved in this stage. They are all people I would personally recommend.
Previous Kitchen posts: