DIY House

The Kitchen – part 4

Onwards. Dave the Builder has been busy.

I’ve been writing about the destruction and rebuild of our kitchen. In Part 1 I described how the room looked when I bought the house. Part 2 outlined the plans I had to rebuild. In Part 3 we began to knock holes in walls and move things around. Now it’s time to make good and bring the new kitchen alive.

First job for me is the wiring. I need to relocate the washing machine supply, add new power points around the counters, set up new lighting, with additional switches by the new doorways, and most importantly, re-route the supply for the cooker. Unfortunately, I have no photos of the wiring work in progress, for which I can only apologise, so I won’t dwell on the work here. I’ll just show a few pictures of the new lights I fitted.

Disclaimer: rewiring is a significant and dangerous undertaking, particularly in the kitchen. I don’t recommend it to anyone – bring in a professional. Personally, while I no longer carry an up to date qualification, I have had significant and ongoing training and experience with wiring regulations. More importantly I had a good friend, fully qualified, watching my every move, and ready to test and warranty the installation at each point. I did the work, and he tested and certified that I had done the right thing.

For the cupboards, Dave the Builder had given me access to his account with Howdens, letting us get a complete fitted kitchen at trade prices. So, we went to town; new carcasses and doors throughout, and as many fancy gadgets as we could make use of. We chose a light maple colour for the doors to give us a natural wood feel with as much light and air in the room as possible.

We had high cupboards on one side of the room but kept the upper walls clear on the window/sink side. I planned to fit shelves in there, which I’ll describe a little later.

The counter tops were to be made from Corian, which is a very heavy, inert, stone-like substance made from bauxite. It’s bullet-proof and stain-proof, and can be moulded to whatever shape you like. This let us put curves into the counter corners, making it easier to move around the room without bumping anything sharp. Corian is made-to-measure, so a person came round first to create the fibreboard templates you see here, from which the proper counters could be cast.

I had been wondering how best to fit doors into the dining room. We intended for the kitchen-dining doorway to be mostly open, but wanted the option of closing off the gap from time to time. Normal swing doors would’ve been a waste of space, as they would intrude into the room across two walls. However, if I fitted sliding doors, these could be made to tuck out of the way, for instance behind a free-standing cupboard, giving back the space but keeping the utility.

Before fitting the doors, I had noticed that the new gap was not in the middle of the wall. There was room for a sliding door on one side of the dining room wall, but not on the other side. I solved this by building a short stud partition to cover off a little bit of the gap.

I measured this partition to make the new doorway to be the same width as the doorway between dining room and living room. This looked just right from within the dining room, and meant I would have enough space to fit double sliding doors across each wall.

The stud partition formed an additional small corner area in the kitchen. This turned out to be particularly useful. It allowed us to have an extra cupboard at floor level, we could wrap the countertop around into the corner to gain a bit more surface, gave us a nook to fit a radio in, and room to build a cookbook case underneath (more on that later).

The sliding doors were created using rails above the doorways. I found a set of four doors with glass panels at the top, painted them white and chiselled oval holes in the sides to mount recessed door handles. These were then attached to wheels that run smoothly inside the rails. The rails in turn were screwed into wood planks that were bolted into the lintels above the doors.

The wood planks helped to offset the rails from the wall just enough to let the doors move freely. The planks also helped reduce the number of screws that needed to go into the lintel (lintels are seriously solid, steel-reinforced concrete blocks that are bridge the gaps across the tops of doors and windows, and take the weight of the walls above. They are really, really difficult to screw things into!)

The last job for the doors was to create a pelmet to cover the track. For this I used a hardboard panel cut into long thin sections. I wanted this to be secure but easily removable. I achieved this by cutting small blocks of wood and gluing these at intervals to the pelmet strips. I then attached spring clips to these blocks and to the wood planks. The pelmet strips could then be clipped into place, and easily removed if ever the doors needed tinkering.

And so, onto the tiling, which I’ve done a few times now. This time, the hardest part turned out to be in the design. We wanted mostly white with a few light blue and dark blue tiles randomly placed to add a bit of colour. It turns out that ‘random’ is a tricky concept.

Me being me, I decided to use some software to plan out the design. This time I used Excel so that I could make a random layout using a bit of programming. I configured a spreadsheet to have square cells that I could colour to represent the tiles on the wall. Each tile’s cell had a formula that would pick a random number from 0 to 9. Using Conditional Formatting I arranged for cells to be coloured dark blue for a value of 0, light blue for a value of 1 and white for every other value. This should result in about 20% of the tiles getting a shade of blue and 80% of the tiles remaining white.

However, choosing things randomly gives a pretty poor picture. Here are three different random patterns to show what I mean.

Random can result in clumps of coloured tiles and large areas left white. It turned out I didn’t really want Random; what I wanted was a Fake Random, where the colours were nicely spread out across the wall, but with an irregular spacing. I experimented with various formulae and code – such as to only colour tiles if they had white tiles above, below, to the left and to the right – to try and create a better ‘even but uneven’ distribution, but the results were always slightly disappointing. In the end, I took the most reasonable random pattern and then modified it by hand until it looked right. Here’s what I ended up with for the two areas to be tiled:

The tile laying task was then quite straight forward. I talked a lot about the process in the story of The Bathroom. Here in the kitchen, most of the tiles were laid whole and there was not much cutting to do so the work went quite quickly.

The most complicated cuts were to fit tiles around the sockets. Fortunately, I had measured well here (ok, I got lucky…) and most of the sockets sat at the junctions of tiles. So, to create the hole for a socket I needed to cut four tiles as ‘L’ shapes which is easy to do with a tile cutter.

I say most sockets… One light switch fell in the middle of a tile. This meant I needed to cut a ‘C’ shape to create its hole. C shapes are much harder to cut with a tile cutter. The technique is to cut lots of grooves into the tile, stopping before the end each time, leaving lots of thin spikes so the tile looks rather like a comb. If these are thin enough, they can be snapped off cleanly, leaving the C shape. The inside edge of the tile can then be tidied up with a file. Not a bad effort, I think.

I’m out of time again, so that shall do for now. I shall finish off the kitchen story next time, with a talk about the shelves and details I added. So the blog will soon be back onto its main remit: Messing About With Wood. In the meantime, thanks for your patience!

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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