In a special guest post, independent kitchen designer Pat O’Connell of Kitchenplans.ie talks about kitchen planning and the ideal time to start. Pat talks about the importance of early planning and how you can avoid costly and time consuming mistakes quite easily. This article is a must read for anyone about to make a start on a new build or extension.
Does it make sense to plan the kitchen before starting work on a building project?
In my experience, many people having a house or extension constructed give little or no thought to a kitchen layout until the structure is in place, thinking that there is plenty of time to figure it out. This is the first big mistake you will make & can also be a very expensive one.
When plans are drafted by an architect they are drafted with the purpose of getting planning permission. Some thought will be given to the kitchen but usually only to its location in the house & not in any great detail of what can be achieved with the space. Many people give no thought whatsoever until the electrician is looking for positions for service points, then the rush is suddenly on to come up with a kitchen layout. Many have found to their cost at this stage that they cannot fit in items like the American fridge or range cooker with overmantle because space does not allow. In most of these cases, maybe moving a doorway a few inches or resizing a window could have made all the difference & that will now either be impossible or very expensive to alter.
I have come across cases where walls had to be knocked down & in some cases rebuilt. Also where doorways or window ope’s had to be blocked up & relocated or resized. Add up the cost of that, blocks, mortar, labour to build it, labour to knock it down again, disposal of rubble, more blocks & mortar & more labour to build it again. Sounds dramatic? It is & makes a dramatic dent in the budget. And that’s if it is possible to make the changes. Many new builds are leaning towards concrete upper floors which make most if not all of the ground floor walls load bearing, meaning that moving them is not an option or very expensive. Planning the layout of your kitchen with an experienced kitchen designer before a sod is turned will help you to avoid any of these nightmare scenarios & other cost overruns. Paying an architect to alter plans will be a lot more cost effective than paying a builder to make changes to the structure. Measure twice, cut once as the tradesman’s saying goes!
Other things that can have a dramatic effect on your layout are services & the positioning of them. Many people don’t realise that one of the first trades on site in a new build project is the plumber. Once the base of the house is in position the plumber is deciding where all service should be positioned. In the absence of a proper plan they will usually work from the architects plan & more often than not the position of the pipes may not suit the actual kitchen layout when it is planned. In some cases they can be moved but again its extra cost. If underfloor heating is being used it will be in position before the floor is poured making opening the floor impossible again. This is where I have seen a lot of frustration & disappointment with kitchen layouts. Many people now want to put sinks or hobs into the island, but again I have come across cases where no thought was given to services for these. Bringing services out to an island is usually not possible if underfloor heating is in place. Again it is unnecessary extra work if it can.
On the subject of underfloor heating, I have come across so many times anger & frustration of those who left it to late to plan. In the absence of a definite kitchen plan, underfloor heating elements have often been put down under the entire floor. So now all your cabinets with foodstuffs & your floor based appliances are now sitting on top of a heater. Not a good idea for the appliance, especially the fridge. Then you wonder why the fridge burns out after a few months & is not covered under guarantee. That’s a problem that’s difficult to solve.
Where hobs are being put into an island, an extractor is also needed so consideration needs to be give to that. How are you going to secure a heavy steel & glass hood with a heavy motor from the ceiling? What extra support will be needed & how will it be vented out? What size ducting will be needed & where will it be positioned as the position of the hood will be dictated by the position of the hob? What hood options are there if the ceiling is extra high or vaulted as is often the case? This is where guesswork will let you down. Remember an experienced kitchen designer will have come across all these problems before & will best know how to get around them.
Electrical points also need to be given careful consideration. Having sockets & switches positioned correctly for appliances is important. They should to be accessible as they may need to be found easily in an emergency. They also need to be planned with safety in mind, like not having a socket or switch over a sink or hob. An electrician will need to certify his work so good planning will avoid this. Lighting is also very important in a kitchen. Lighting in cabinets, under cabinets, in plinths & even in drawers or glass wall shelves are all possible design options but need planning with regard to positioning of wiring & also for switching options. Once a structure is in place the electrician will want to prepare for first fix by chasing walls. Having extra chases added later or one done unnecessarily in the first place will cost you more & can be avoided by good planning. Positioning of the fuse board also needs careful consideration as often it can have an impact on the cabinet layout if it is badly positioned, even in a utility room.
Finally the other big design issue is the overmantle (if applicable) & believe me I have seen some horror stories in kitchens here. Like for instance, timber cabinetry sitting down onto a worktop right up against a gas top range cooker. Apart from being a fire hazard, it does not allow you any room to turn the handle of a pot away from the flame. There are many ways to create an overmantle or feature look over a cooker without compromising on safety. An overmantle can take over a wall & the wider the cooker the wider the mantle. Remember that safety is the most important factor to be considered when planning a kitchen. There may only be adults using the kitchen today but life changes & at some point children or grandchildren arrive on the scene.
So there really is a lot to think about when planning your kitchen. Engaging the services of an independent kitchen designer will be money well spent & they will save you more than their cost. They are only interested in creating the best possible layout to suit your needs, while being eye catching, functional & safe to work in. They will work with any budget & will have an extensive knowledge of all the products available to get you the best value for your money. They can also make the most of any space no matter how awkward it is. Having a definite plan in your hand when you approach a kitchen manufacturer will save you money on the price of the kitchen. Having a definite plan in your hand before building starts, will save you money & avoid any unexpected extra charges.
Either way you save!
To talk to Pat O’Connell about planning and designing your kitchen, or to arrange a free consultation, you can contact him in any of the following ways!
- Visit his profile page on Kitchenindex.ie at Kitchen Plans
- Visit his website at www.kitchenplans.ie
- Email Pat at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Call Pat direct on 087 2653896 or 021 4888813