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How to renovate a kitchen in 10 steps

The hub of the home, the kitchen is a big room to renovate in terms of budget and convenience. Getting the jobs done in the right order will save both time and money. Here's how it's done.

Guest Author
Words by: Matilda Battersby

Contributor

The installation of a new kitchen, including the cost of materials and tradespeople, can cost anywhere from £3,000 to £30,000 and upwards. 

The average cost of a kitchen renovation is currently £10,550, according to Checkatrade.

That includes the cost of units, worktops, flooring, plumbing and electrics.

And the good news is, a new kitchen could increase your home's value by 5.5%, according to a recent study by Magnet

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How do I update my kitchen in 2023?

Whether you're planning a structural overhaul and a complete redesign or some smart adjustments on a small budget, tackling the jobs in the right order could save you a whole load of cash, stress and time.

Let's get cracking.

1. Structural changes 

If your kitchen is small or a typical galley shape, you might consider knocking walls down, doing a side return extension or extending out into the garden.

If the work is extensive, you may need to go through your local authority to get planning permission, which can take several weeks.

Find your local planning authority

Some extensions can be done without planning permission under what’s called Permitted Development Rights, but they will still need to meet building regulations and be signed-off by a building inspector. 

Home improvements that don't need planning permission

That includes knocking down load-bearing internal walls, so make sure you hire a trusted builder and a structural engineer who can advise you on securing building regs approval.

An architect or a design and build company should be able to help you develop the plans for your extension, or any other structural changes, and will advise as to whether you need to apply for planning permission. 

Either way, it’s always wise to give your local authority planning portal a ring to double-check, as going ahead without permission could end up being a costly mistake.

Read more about Permitted Development Rights

2. Designing the kitchen layout 

Once you know what the floor plan of your kitchen will look like, it’s time to plan where to put everything. 

First, make a list and work out what you need to include.

Decide where the appliances will go first, such as the cooker, washing machine, fridge, freezer and sink, as this will dictate where your plumbing and electrics will need to be.

Then you’ll need to decide how you’ll use the space, how many people will need to sit at a table, for example, and the optimal storage you’ll need.

Kitchen layouts are personal and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. 

Your kitchen should reflect your life, how you live it and your practical needs as well as design aesthetic.

How versatile does it need to be? If you want to repurpose the space often, for example as a home office by day and dining area by evening, maybe a gigantic kitchen island isn’t the way to go. 

Start by approaching a specialist kitchen business with your ideas.

They will usually work up several design options for free, using software to show the location of fitted units, fixtures and furniture, as part of their quote for the work.

You can then decide whether or not to go ahead.

If you’re after something bespoke, you could ask your architect to come up with a design for the kitchen layout as part of a more comprehensive extension. 

Alternatively, if you’re looking to save on costs and are happy to take all the measurements, you can design the layout yourself.

IKEA lets you upload the dimensions of your kitchen to mock up the position of units and then work out the cost of buying them online.

Another option would be not to have a kitchen that is totally fitted.

For example, once you’ve worked out where things that can’t move around will go (like the sink or cooker) you can buy butcher’s blocks and other pieces of furniture that can function like fitted units.

Whatever your budget, once you’ve decided on the units you want, it’s worth checking with your fitters that they’re happy installing them.

Some specialist kitchen companies recommend their own fitters, while others simply sell the units. 

3. Removing the existing kitchen 

Dismantling your existing kitchen might be included in your quote from your builders or kitchen fitters. 

If you’re looking to save some money by removing the kitchen yourself, you need to read up on what to do in advance.

Gas appliances and supplies must only ever be disconnected or moved by a qualified professional.

But if you're confident with turning the water and electrics off, it's best to dismantle in the following order.

  1. Order a skip for the old appliances and cupboards (can anything be sold or given away?)

  2. Turn off the utilities: water, gas and power at the mains

  3. Clear the space so you have plenty of room to work

  4. Disconnect the plumbing - and prepare for residual water flowing out of the pipes

  5. Remove the cabinets one panel at a time for easy skip stacking. Start with the upper cabinets first, as you'll need the lower ones to rest things on

  6. Unscrew the worktops - they can be very heavy and may need to be cut down

  7. Turn the water valves off at the sink, but you may want to leave the waste pipe if it's staying in the same position

  8. Take up the flooring if it's being replaced

4. Getting skilled tradespeople in

Plumbers, gas safe engineers and electricians may be needed to turn off the supplies.

They'll need to lay new water and gas pipes, or chase in new electric cables and sockets, before the plaster work is done and the new floor is laid.

Water

Even if you’re not moving anything, it’s a good idea to get a plumber in to check over the waterworks and make sure that everything is sound before you start installing a new kitchen.

If you're moving the sink, dishwasher or washing machine, ensure new pipes are in the right positions for the new appliances.

Ask your plumber if the existing pipework can be saved or if it needs replacing. 

Gas

You’ll need a certified gas engineer to take out your old oven and ensure the gas is off and safe once this has been done. 

If you’re moving the oven, new pipes will need to be laid to reroute the gas.

First fix electrics

Work out your plans for new lighting and socket points well in advance.

The chasing of wires needs to be done now, so you don't damage your new plaster later.

Do you want soft lighting, spotlights with dimmers, under cabinet lighting or LED floor lights?

Let your electrician know what appliances you need and the ideal socket locations for them. You’ll also need breaker switches for the oven. 

In older houses, ripping out the kitchen might be an opportunity to identify faulty wiring and could lead to much-needed repair work that will help keep you safe.

Whatever you do at this stage, your electrician will need to return after the kitchen units have been installed to do second-fix electrics, aka adding the plug socket covers and light switches.

5. Plastering 

In the case of a kitchen renovation, get the walls and ceiling plastered first before you work on the flooring.

If your walls are in good nick, you might only need to fill in the holes where the old kitchen came out and smooth out any cracks.

You might also consider whitewashing the plaster and doing an undercoat, as this will make painting easier once the rest of your kitchen is in.

6. Laying the flooring

The key to a great kitchen floor is durability.

Your floor needs to be able to withstand high traffic, appliances being dragged across it, and to look clean and fresh.

New flooring, whether it's tiles, flagstones or treated wooden floors, should be installed before the kitchen units are fitted.

Lino might have been all the rage in the 1970s, but the modern stuff is in a different league. Check out The Colour Flooring Company for some excellent options.

It's a good idea to floor the room wall-to-wall, rather than stopping at the front of the kitchen cupboards, as it gives a neater finish and allows for flexibility if you want to change the room layout in future.

Once your floors are laid, it's worth fitting skirting boards and architraves before the rest of your kitchen goes in.

8. Fitting new units

The most exciting stage!

Once the carcasses of the fitted units have been constructed, put into position and doors screwed into place, your kitchen will start coming together.

Worktops are usually the last bit of a fitted kitchen to go in. These usually need to be cut to size on-site, depending on the material you’ve chosen.

9. Installing appliances

Now it's time to call back your electrician, plumber and gas engineer to install your appliances.

Ovens and sinks can only go in once the units have been built and put into place. Your washing machine and dishwasher can now be connected.

Your electrician can now conduct the second-fix electrics, connecting your plugs and light sockets and checking everything's in order.

10. Finishing touches

Now all the major work has been done, it’s time for the fun stuff: the decorating.

You can get a tiler in to sort out your backsplash or if you’re feeling confident you could install it yourself. 

The final coat of paint can then go on the walls and any marks left through installation concealed.

Now you’ll just need to remember where you stored your plates and bowls, put your furniture into position and find some great paintings for the walls.

The only thing left to do is try out all those new appliances, cook up a storm, and invite your friends and family over for a meal.


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