Kitchen Wizardry

We’re gearing up to start a kitchen refurbishment and that always means I’ve made a list and I’m checking it twice. Ok, it’s not as much fun as Christmas, but the checking of that list is vital to the ease of the project and when someone else is picking up the tab, I take it seriously.

installing base units

installing base units

On the checklist today, do all the units fit into the run? That sounds pretty obvious, I know, but recently the guys have been fitting a kitchen for a client who was adamant she didn’t need help because the supplier ‘had done all of that for her.’ She ended up with units missing – simply not ordered – and other units that were too big for the space. Who had actually checked this? This type of oversight causes delays that mean your workforce will be left with nothing to do. A workforce with time on their hands will leave site and go on to other jobs! If you’ve commissioned the kitchen yourself and there is no project manager on the job, you MUST make sure that someone (you) knows what is on the order and that the measurements are correct for your space. You will need to know this because the workforce will be asking you questions throughout the fit out and they will need answers.

Have you ordered a plinth? This is the strip of wood/kitchen unit that goes under the base of the units to cover the legs of the carcasses. If your kitchen is free standing, you won’t have a plinth. In that case, have you ordered decorative legs?

positioning end panels

positioning end panels

And what about end panels? If your kitchen has an exposed end – and doesn’t run from wall to wall – then you will have the end of the run showing. This will need covering with an end panel otherwise it will likely not be the same finish as your kitchen doors.

Have you ordered drawer frontals? The drawer units don’t include the panels that cover the mechanism. Check how many drawers there are in the unit and the sizes of their frontals. And do they have handles? Check the type of closure mechanism too.

Have you ordered a sink? And does it fit into the sink base unit?

kitchen elevation

kitchen elevation

Al these things need considering and if you can’t take that sort of time when you’re at work, employ a project manager. It isn’t an extravagance to know that you have someone on site regularly who has first hand knowledge of the order, who can chase suppliers and who will direct the workforce. A project manager will refer any pressing concerns to you but keep everything else on track without you having your boss breathing down your neck. This is not only about piece of mind if you haven’t done a kitchen refurbishment before, it’s about using someone who has the right skills for the job – who is used to working with building contractors and suppliers – and this means that errors are more likely to be caught before they become full blown disasters.

It’s only when you have this level of detail covered that you can start to think about gadgets, but firstly let me say that ‘American’ style fridge/freezers need water supply and modern regulations require good extraction/ventilation. The basic purchase price doesn’t include the costs you will incur from running pipework and electrics to accommodate the appliances themselves. These are not hidden costs, but the appliances will not work without additional preparation being done to make your space suitable for their installation. You will have to factor this into your budget.

choosing finishes

And when additional work is undertaken to accommodate appliances, there’s usually a bit of ‘making good’ (replastering etc to walls, relaying of tiles) to get the space back to a finish that is suitable for decoration. This too is not a hidden cost but you will have to allow for it in the budget.

Which brings me to lighting. It is almost impossible to work in a badly lit kitchen without injuring yourself, so consider very carefully where you will place your lighting. Under unit lighting works well when you want to reduce the shadows created by wall units, but these too will need to have electrical supply taken to them. Down lighters provide great overall lighting, but you need to remember that you will cast a shadow on the work surface when you stand directly under them. Consider therefore, installing a lighting circuit that is slightly shallower than the depth of the work surface. (If the work surface is 650mm deep, take your lighting wiring circuit 550mm from the wall.)

under unit lighting

under unit lighting

Layer your lighting and have different types of fittings in different areas, this will allow you to have a more flexible level of light – after all if you have a table in the kitchen area, you may want to dim the lighting to eat.

And a final word about the kitchen fitting process, most kitchen companies do not have plumbers and electricians as part of the installation team. This means that when your kitchen is fitted, none of the services will be connected. The kitchen will look beautiful, but you won’t have any gas, water or electrical supply! This is a hidden cost because most people assume that having a kitchen fitted means it is ready to use. Unless you use a team of general contractors – who can do all the work, from running pipes and wiring to plastering, tilling and decorating – you will need to find a firm that can connect up the services. You will also need to find someone to tile, lay flooring and decorate. These are all separate trades that the kitchen company generally will not provide – and which will cause you sleepless nights to schedule.

But don’t let that put you off. Getting your kitchen the way you want it, is absolutely worth the chaos – just like Christmas.

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