There is a strange misconception about fitted kitchens: that the more you pay the better the kitchen you will end up with. That would seem to correspond with that old saying in the trade “You get what you pay for,”. I do agree with this in general, but kitchens I think are one of the exceptions. Stripped bare, a fitted kitchen is just a series of different sized boxes fixed to each other, and screwed to the wall; very much like a house, whose rooms are simply a series of boxes within a much bigger box. It’s an interesting concept how all our lives, most of our time is split working or resting, whether in an office or factory, eating, watching T.V. or sleeping, this is all carried out in a box, or series of boxes of one form or another, with the final irony that when we eventually expire and are finally free of our worldly boxes, we are sent on from this world incarcerated in the most claustrophobic box of all! Anyway enough of the philosophy and back to kitchens…
I’ve just fitted a nice new white kitchen, I bought all the carcasses from Ikea, all the appliances from a Euronics Independent supplier (Harris Electronics in Clapton, London) and the granite worktops from the Granite Trade Centre in Fyfield Essex. By splitting the main elements of the kitchen in this way, I’ve created a great looking kitchen that would cost anywhere from £10k to £15k from a kitchen specialist, that has cost me less than 5k. These are some useful “Tommy’s Tips” if you are fitting a new kitchen. Remove all remnants of the old kitchen, ensuring that all plumbing gas and electrical supplies are capped off. Ensure all tile splash backs are removed and walls are in a sound condition, in effect, creating a blank canvas! Most of the big shed suppliers like Ikea, B&Q Wickes, Homebase, have “in house” designers, who will create a kitchen layout for you, as long as you give them accurate measurements (you’re not obliged to purchase your kitchen, from any particular supplier, just because they have done the design!) Transfer that design onto the walls if your kitchen, by careful measurement, using a spirit level, and physically drawing the units onto the wall. Most importantly, first draw a datum line on the kitchen walls with the spirit level and permanant marker, rotating the spirit level each time, to give you an accurate level line to work from, approx 1 meter from the floor. All your measurements most be made from this level datum line, so that any inaccuracies in the floor or ceiling levels won’t influence or compromise the fitted kitchen. When assembling flat pack kitchens, put a blanket over the dining table, and assemble the units at a sensible height, rather than kneeling down on the floor, (you always seem to lose some screws, dowels, or fixings in the carpet, only to find them again when painfully indented in your knee!) When the carcasses are all assembled (excluding doors and shelves, they are the very last thing to be fitted!), place them in position, corresponding to the drawing on the wall, adjusting the legs up or down, to match the cabinet height line drawn on the wall, taken from the datum. I always fix the units together, with counter sunk screws (30mm x 8’s) behind the hinge brackets, so they won’t be seen. Use wooden packers, to negate any variations between the wall and cabinets, to keep everything plumb before fixing back to the wall with brackets, plugs and screws. When fixing top units to the wall, I always plug and screw a temporary batten, to the wall level position taken from the datum, to sit the units on, enabling me to fix them easily. Finally if you have to drill out doors, and drawer fronts for handles always make up a template (pattern) to ensure the handle positions are accurate and consistent, also clamp a piece of waste timber behind the hole position before drilling, which will prevent break-out in the laminated finish when drilling the new holes.