Kitchen Installation Tips - Part 4 - Choosing Your Kitchen Units

Today we look at making your choice of kitchen units, doors and worktops. Then it's just a case of arranging them on your plan - which is super easy with Word!

Kitchen Planning - Section 3

Choosing units

  • Hopefully by now you've had a look at a good selection of kitchens and narrowed down your choices. If you've found a supplier who meets your requirements then check which kind of units are available (the size of certain units can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer).

E.g. some corner base units are 925mm in size, whereas others are 950mm. Likewise you may be able to source an 800mm 2-pan drawer base unit from one kitchen supplier, but it's a 900mm 3-pan drawer base unit from the other.

This is significant because you don't want to create a plan then discover a unit you had thought was available isn't and won't fit in your layout. It's not a problem - it's just better to check the units in the particular kitchen range you like first.

  • The size of your budget and the reason for changing the kitchen in the first place will probably dictate your next decision and that's the material and construction of the cabinets. I'll ignore for now real wood kitchens and bespoke items and talk about chipboard units. It sounds like a dirty word I know, but melamine faced chipboard or MFC is what probably 95% of all UK kitchens are made of and for good reason - it's affordable, stable, durable and plentiful. Choose 15mm board thickness if your budget's tight or it's a Buy-to-Let etc. but choose 18mm construction for every other situation - the units are sturdier and have a solid back panel, not hardboard.
  • Assuming you're buying online or from any other large-scale supplier, expect your units to arrive in flat-packed form. Although it's slightly more work to assemble them there are many advantages: they're cheaper to deliver, cheaper to manufacture, less prone to damage in transit and take up less space in your house prior to installation.

Doors

  • Again, budget may be significant in your choice of door style and material. Unlike the kitchen cabinets, doors are generally not made from MFC, but from either real wood or vinyl/foil covered MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard). MDF doors are normally cheaper than real wood doors as you would expect and come in a wide variety of colours/finishes and styles.
    If you have children, it may be better to opt for a flat panel ‘slab' door or Saponetta style (the same but with a tapered edge - like a bar of soap) as they're easy to wipe clean. Likewise, if you hate cleaning, avoid intricately shaped or detailed doors (like the farmhouse-style rustic doors) as they can tend to gather grease and dirt in hard to clean places.

Worktops & splashback

  • Worktops, floors and the splashback area (between worktops and wall units) are your opportunity to visually tie your design together. Use these surfaces to either compliment or contrast each other in a way that consolidates the rest of your design.
    What do I mean? Say you've chosen an oak door; you may like to go with a black granite colour worktop and a dark floor tile, but balanced with a lighter coloured splashback tile that ties in with your walls. Alternatively you could balance a dark worktop with a light coloured floor-covering or vice versa.
    It's important when choosing the colours of all the surfaces in your kitchen - doors, worktops, floor etc, that you take into account the amount of natural light the room gets. It makes sense that in lighter rooms you can afford to have a darker coloured door (if that's your taste). But there's nothing worse than an already dark room with, say, walnut or mahogany coloured doors - you'd have to balance that off with some pretty good lighting!
  • I talk about worktop types in detail in the kitchen guide but basically you can choose from laminate, real wood, real stone (granite, marble etc) and simulated stone (e.g. Corian®). Modern laminate worktops are very hard wearing, look very like the natural products above and are by far the most affordable. In all cases though and if your budget stretches to it, get a professional to install your worktops - unless you can hire the right tools and know how to use them.

Drawing your plan - it's easy with Word!

  • If you've read the kitchen guide, then you will already know how to draw accurate kitchen plans with Microsoft Word. Forget all those other complicated design packages. You don't need to learn CAD or anything like it. In 10 minutes flat I could show you how to draw amazing plans using this one simple program. Watch the videos at: www.simplekitchendesign.co.uk/videos if you don't believe me.

Start with base units first, then wall units

  • Once you've decided roughly where the appliances are going on your plan, the next thing is to lay out the base units. Hopefully you have a good idea of the units that are available from your supplier and it's now just a case of filling in the spaces between the appliances. If you are installing a larder (or tall appliance housing) draw these units in first - it's often easiest to position these at the start or end of a run of units.
  • Once all your appliances and base units are marked on your plan, start drawing in the wall units. Visually it always looks best if you can place the same size wall unit above a base unit e.g. a 600mm wall unit directly above a 600mm base unit. Alternatively, at least try to achieve a look of symmetry if you can e.g. imagine a row of base units like this:
    150mm wine rack base unit - 900mm 3-pan drawer unit - 150mm pull-out base unit i.e. a total of 1200mm.
    Directly above this I might place two 600mm wall units, again 1200mm in total. It's creates visual interest yet without being haphazard.

Or maybe:
500mm base unit - 600mm base unit - 600mm base unit- 500mm base unit i.e a total of 2200mm
Directly above this I might place:
500mm dresser - 600mm glazed top box - 600mm glazed top box - 500m dresser. A total of 2200mm
If you've followed the kitchen guide you could try drawing these in Word and you'll see exactly what I mean.

Tip: if you're installing free-standing appliances and have two together e.g. a fridge and freezer, you will need to put a worktop support panel between the two. (Also use these panels at the end of an open run of worktop if there isn't a unit to support it underneath).

Flooring & decoration

  • We touched on flooring earlier, but to re-cap you may want to use this to visually compliment or contrast your worktops and walls. We'll cover some of the options here with a brief list of the pro's and con's:

Ceramic tiles - hard wearing, can be cheap to buy, not ideal if you have toddlers (not very forgiving if they fall over)
Real wood - beautiful looks, can be expensive, marks easily (heels and dogs claws are worst)
Laminate - massive choice, affordable (beware of very cheap products though), can look convincingly like ceramic tiles or real wood, doesn't like water - be careful of spillages
Linoleum - cheap to buy, but can look dated compared to more modern flooring options
Carpet - soft and warm underfoot, stains easily and unhygienic in a kitchen environment
Specialist coverings like Karndean®. - huge range of styles with special borders available to accent certain features e.g. an island. Can be costly to buy and lay.

Decoration can often be left until quite late in the project and might not be finally decided on until the kitchen and flooring is installed. If you're on the ball though, it's probably a good idea to get the paint charts out while you're deciding on door and worktop colours for a more cohesive look.