DIY House

The Kitchen – part 2

A few years ago, I (well, with some help) rebuilt our kitchen. This is the story of the decision-making processes I went though, and the new design that resulted.

Getting ready to cover that dark floor, 2002

In the previous post I talked about the original layout of the kitchen, and how it looked when I moved in. As soon as I could, I made some remedial changes that helped to make the room workable, then left it to go and oversee some of the other, fundamental things the house needed.

Lots of things then happened over the next few years and the rebuild got put to one side, but it wasn’t forgotten. The major work was eventually triggered by misfortune; in January 2006 we came back from a holiday and found the boiler had failed and the hot water cylinder had sprung a leak. Fortunately, the cylinder was above the garage, and the damage was limited – some ceiling plaster had come down, but the joists and floorboards were sound, and the water had drained down the concrete floor and out of the garage door.

The old boiler was a floor-mounted monster of a box. It sat in a metre-squared room between the kitchen and garage. Adjacent to this was another metre-squared area which had doors to the kitchen, the garage and the outside. I suspect this area was originally considered to be outside the house – the kitchen door was a proper, lockable fire door while the door to the outside looked like it had been added later, and did not have a lock.

The strange inside/outside area and the boiler room, 2001

Anyway, this area looked useful. A new boiler would be considerably smaller, and could be mounted on the garage wall. That would give us two square metres of extra floor space to add to the kitchen. So, a plan formed to take down a section of wall and the kitchen door. We would need to fit a lintel to support the upstairs wall, swap the radiator for a narrower (but more efficient) one, upgrade the garage and outside doors to be proper, secure fire doors, and re-work the floor to make it level, but the extra space would be very handy.

The boiler room wall, 2002. This wall will go…

This gave us a trigger to make the most important change; to do something about the light levels. We wanted a new window. The obvious place to put this was in the corner next to the dining room, where it would catch the morning light and bring it right into the room. A new window was added to the plan. (Oh, and we would move the shed that was just outside, but that was another story.)

This building work would require a professional builder. Enter Dave, who helped site manage all these projects. He was good with bricks and concrete, and knew the right people to come in and be good at fitting windows and doors.

Adding a window meant losing cupboards. I took down all the units from the end wall while the work was done. Immediately the room felt lighter and more spacious. It introduced a problem for us though; work expands to fill the space available, and every cupboard was filled with important stuff. We would need to make judicious use of the dining room to offload the less frequently used utensils, and would have to become a little more selective about what we thought we needed. In the meantime, out in the hallway, the old desk I did my school homework on proved its value once again.

Now there is a more substantial piece of work to plan. Given that we’re about to knock down one wall, and make a big hole in another, it is clearly time to plan the most substantial move: to knock through into the dining room, and turn that huge serving hatch into a doorway.

First view of the serving hatch, before buying, 2001

One thing stands in the way of knocking through to the dining room: the sink…

A little while earlier, I had rebuilt our Bathroom. Admittedly there was no structural work there, but I had managed all the plumbing work myself. I felt confident I could lay the pipes and reposition the kitchen sink. First, I would need to decide where it was going to go.

Time for some scale drawings (in PowerPoint, naturally) of the current kitchen layout, that I can experiment with.

And as I looked, I realised, it wasn’t just the sink that stood in the way. The dishwasher and washing machine would have to move too. Really, everything was up for grabs; no reason for the fridge and cooker to stay where they were. Why not find better positions for everything?

Straight away, the location of the fridge was obvious. With the boiler moved, we had opened up that extra area by the new back door. Room for a nice tall fridge-freezer. That was an easy call.

Next, why hang on to the long-in-the-tooth electric cooker? We both preferred cooking on gas rings, and we really fancied a double oven! Thinking about it, why not get a big double sink too? If everything is up for grabs, lets make the most of it.

Back to the plans. Where could these things go? One awkward fact about the kitchen is that it’s square. It has a lot of space in the middle compared to the lengths of the walls. We would gain a bit of extra wall by moving the boiler, but knocking through to the dining room would lose more wall space than we had gained.  How do we make use of the space in the middle?

My first designs considered building an Island in the middle of the room. We quite fancied the TV Chef look, working at a nice big counter with a wall of cooking things behind us.

Unfortunately, the space just wasn’t quite big enough. The island would need to have walkways down each side but I couldn’t fit these in without compromising the island itself.

Next thought: a spur. The previous owners had built a breakfast bar into the kitchen. The cupboard underneath was useful, but the surface always felt like a waste of space. It was hard to stop this bar getting permanently covered in clutter. It also made the kitchen feel very narrow. However, thinking about it, the narrowness came from having the sink where it was. With the sink moved, that feeling of narrowness would be gone. How about if we build a spur into the kitchen and put something functional on there?

I tried the idea with the sinks, keeping the cooker where it was. It sort-of worked, and I could be creative with how the sinks were arranged. However, at this point I thought of another problem. The hot and cold supply pipes would be easy enough to lay, but the waste pipe would somehow need to go through the floor to get to the foul water drain outside. I would need to do some serious digging through concrete to enable the sink to drain.

What about the cooker then? Could that be relocated? It would require a new electrical point, which was do-able, and safe access to the gas supply, which was more tricky. I had a chat with a neighbour, who lives in the same style of house as us, and happens to be a building surveyor who was mid-way through rebuilding his own kitchen (extending theirs through into the garage.) He gave a valuable pointer. The gas supplies to our houses served the boiler, the kitchen, and a gas fire in the living room. There was a big iron gas pipe running right through the middle of the house. I pulled out the fridge and took a look behind the cupboards. Sure enough, there was a gas outlet in the wall, ready and waiting for connection. I could move our cooker across and power it all from the other side of the kitchen.

So, we had our finished design. A nice big cooker goes on a spur into the room. The fridge moves to the space gained from the boiler. The sink moves round to look out of the new window, its counter stretching a little further across the room thanks to the relocated back door. It was looking good. Here are my architectural plans of the work to be done:

I seem to have written loads, planned everything, but not yet done any of the work. Sorry about that. Next time, I shall get onto the construction…


By nickcnickcnickc

I spend my working life staring at computer screens, so in my spare time I look for things to do with my hands, preferably involving wood. It's a little ironic then that I've now starting writing a blog about my woodworking, and thus introducing computer screens to my main hobby..!

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