Tips for Kitchen Design

General

This web page is intended to allow you to explore different design options for your new kitchen and to experiment with materials and styles of furniture and below are some tips and guidelines which might be useful in this process. This advice is provided for information only so always check the current safety regulations which are frequently changed and always follow manufactures' instructions. If in any doubt consult an expert.

When you have produced some design ideas you might want to take the plans and images to a particular kitchen supplier and get their design input. Even if you decide to continue without this you should first get a reputable fitter who will do the whole installation for you and discuss your design in detail with them before buying anything in case there are any practical considerations which you have overlooked.

If you plan to do everything yourself you should follow up all the links and advice you can before starting in order to try and avoid all the pitfalls. Remember that designing and installing all but the simplest kitchen is not an easy task. For safety reasons you will always need professionals to carry out electrical and gas installations and alterations and provide advice where necessary.



Steps to prepare for designing your kitchen

Measure your room

To begin, very carefully measure the space where you are going to install your kitchen, remembering that walls are not always square and floors are not always level. You should take the measurements in millimetres. Remember also to record the position and size of all doors and locations of windows (including their height from the floor). Also note the position of other "fixed" items such as radiators, sockets and switches, gas supply and waste location, unless of course, you plan to completely remodel your kitchen or fit it into a new extension.

Planning your kitchen

Naturally, this depends upon the amount of space you have, how you want to use the kitchen and how much money you want to spend. There are a number of useful web sites on our links page which give excellent advice and design ideas and it is worth looking through these before you start on your own design.

Location of services

Check the position of your services; electricity, gas, waste etc. and that your new units will not obstruct them (for example, can you get to turn off a radiator or is the stop tap accessible). Check that the sink, washing machine etc are within easy reach of the waste outlet, unless you plan to move it.

Kitchen layout

When planning your kitchen you should make sure that areas you commonly access are in easy reach of one another. This is known as the "working triangle" you should check our web links page for example where this is discussed in some detail.



Doing the design

Introduction

If you use our Free Online Design system you begin by drawing your room and putting in windows and doors, locating service etc. At this stage don't worry about the room finishes or the style or colour of the kitchen furniture you are going to use. You can do that in 3D when you have done the kitchen layout.

Next you should layout the units you want in your kitchen. Select the kitchen catalogue. This catalogue contains general types of units which are not specific to a manufacturer but are intended to give you an impression of how your new kitchen will look. When you come to order the parts for your kitchen you need you must first see what actual colours and styles are provided by the supplier you choose.

We recommend that you start by adding base units. If you are designing an L or U shaped layout you should start by positioning a corner base unit and working out from there. This gives you a better idea of how units will fit together.

You can use some of our sample layouts as guides to start or bring in one of our predefined clusters of items to quickly give you the feel of how a particular deign might look. At any stage you can walk through your kitchen in 3D then continue to make changes until you are happy.

Fitting things in

If it is practical and you have enough space to do it fitting a kitchen made from straight runs is far easier than ones where you have to fit around corners to make L or U shaped constructions. Of course this is not always possible but it does avoid the problem of wasted space in corners (and corner units and their accessories often cost more) and the more costly exercise of making joints in worktops.

Bear in mind that corners are probably never at right angles so, when fitting units into a corner, take into account that the units next to the corner may have to be "adjusted" in order to make them fit. In particular if you are fitting units along a wall which lies between two other walls don't fit the units in too tightly. Allow a tolerance at the ends so adjustments can be made and any gaps at the ends taken up with filler panels when everything is finally positioned.

Fitting worksurfaces

All worksurfaces will look better if they are installed by a professional. Materials such as granite are generally measured and fitted by the supplier so temporary worksurfaces are put in place until the supplier can deliver. Laminate worksurfaces can be installed by the DIY enthusiast. If joints are to be made these can be done with a simple jointing strip but a much better and long lasting result can be obtained using a Mason's Mitre which provides a neat, almost invisible joint. A special jig will be needed for this so it may be better left to a professional.

Remember that worktops are heavy and awkward to handle and especially granite and stone which need special equipment and skills to install. Laminate worktops are usually supplied in 3 or 4 meter lengths and will need to be cut to fit. You should allow at least 20mm waste at each end of a worktops length to account for manufacturing imperfections or damage in transit. Laminate worktops can be cut with a fined toothed saw but for best results the cut ends should be finished with a router and sealed. Laminate worktops are usually supplied with a length of edging strip which you should glue (with contact adhesive) onto any cut edges which can be seen. All cut edges should be sealed with PVA adhesive or tape to prevent damp penetration.

Remember also that access for delivering worktops can be a problem. In some cases, for example, it may be physically impossible to manoeuvre a long length of heavy material through a confined access to a kitchen, especially if stairs are involved! In this case it may be necessary to cut the long length into more manageable sizes and joint them when they are in place. When designing your kitchen you should bear this in mind when thinking about a long run of units.

Island units

Island units can be a great design idea providing that you have space to get around them. In practice you probably need at least 1 meter space on all sides. If you plan to include sinks or hobs in the island make sure that you have access for services and waste to get to the island which is probably not easy unless you plan an extensive refurbishment.

Safety regulation

All Electrical installation must comply with "Part P" of the regulations and must be certified by a qualified electrician. http://www.partp.co.uk/householder.aspx. Electrical sockets must be a minimum of 150mm above a worktop.

All Gas installations must be carried out by a "Gas Safe" registered gas fitter. See for example http://www.gassaferegister.co.uk/ (formally C.O.R.G.I.)

For safety reasons, cookers must not be positioned under windows or behind inward opening doors. Cooker hoods must be a minimum of 650mm above an electric hob and 750mm above a gas hob. Some large range cookers stipulate a minimum of 800mm. A hob should have a minimum of 200mm workspace either side and current building regulations stipulate that adequate air extraction is in place too. Sinks should be a minimum distance of 600mm from your hob.



Choice of material

Worksurfaces

Worksurfaces are available in a number of different materials such as laminate, granite, wood, composites and plastics. Each has its own benefits and there can be a dramatic cost difference. You should consider your requirements, budget and intended use before deciding on which to use (you can also mix and match them within your kitchen). Laminates are a good general worksurface and are relatively inexpensive. Granite on the other hand looks fantastic but needs to be looked after carefully - it is quite difficult to keep looking sparkling but this can be helped with a microfiber cloth. Wood surfaces may need periodic maintenance to keep them in peak condition. All worksurfaces should be protected from direct heat of pots and pans and you should not cut directly on them.

Tiling

Tiles provide an attractive and easy to clean surface for walls behind worktops and for floor coverings. Remember that most walls have power sockets and switches on them so tiling these areas may involve quite a lot of cutting.

Upstands

This is a material which is run around the back of a worksurface where it meets the wall to take up any unevenness in the wall and provides a seal to prevent dirt and liquids running down the back of units.

Splashbacks

These are panels of material which are usually placed behind hobs to protect the wall and provide an easy to clean surface. They can be tiles, glass, granite, stainless steel etc.

Floor coverings

Kitchens get heavy traffic and need a robust and easy to clean floor covering. Tiles provide a robust surface but can be cold, so under floor heating may be advisable. Also bear in mind that anything which falls on them will probably break or cause them to chip. Vinyl provides a good easy to clean surface but it can be damaged fairly easily. Laminate flooring is another option to consider. Carpet tiles provide a warmer surface but are not so easy to clean but individual tiles can be lifted and washed or, in extreme cases, replaced. Obviously cost can be a major consideration and all these points should be very carefully considered before making a final choice.

Dampness - protecting your cabinets

Remember that a kitchen is a very damp place and kitchen units are usually made of chipboard which absorbs water very efficiently. For this reason all cut edges which expose chipboard or MDF should be sealed either with tape or a PVA adhesive. This also applies within cabinets where shelves are often cut to fit and if water penetrates the unit the material can very quickly swell. Once this happens nothing can be done and the material should be replaced. In units close to sinks the inside joints should be protected with a bead of silicon sealant to protect it against water splashing.