How to Remodel a Kitchen

kitchen with dark cabinets and white worktops
(Image credit: David Barbour)

The kitchen is now seen as the most important room in the house by many. Somewhere not only to cook, but also to eat, entertain, hang out with family, work from home by day and oversee homework by night.

No wonder then that a kitchen remodelling project is high on the list of priorities for many homeowners.

So, whether you are wondering how to remodel a kitchen, build a kitchen extension or relocate your kitchen entirely, we’ve got you covered.

The Kitchen Rip-Out and Replace

With the services and electrics you need already in place, this is usually a pretty straightforward project

For many people wondering how to remodel a kitchen, their first task is to rip out the existing kitchen, whether it is falling to bits, is rather old-fashioned or has a layout that no longer works (if it ever did.)

In some respects, replacing old with new is fairly straightforward — the pipework and wiring that goes hand-in-hand with kitchens will probably already be in place, for example.

Of course this scenario also has one extra job that the other routes to achieving a new kitchen do not — you have to get rid of what is already there before you can begin. You should take care when taking out the old kitchen, so here are some things to consider:

  • Ripping it out, damaging walls and potentially pipework and wiring will only mean more time and cost afterwards.
  • You may find that there are some items worth salvaging and if you are on a budget, reusing the existing unit carcasses if they are in a reasonable state of repair could save you money.
  • Most of the ripping-out stage, including removing old units, can be carried out on a DIY basis.

The most disruptive element of this type of project is going without a proper kitchen for a period of time. If you are not planning on decamping during the kitchen remodel, you will need to set up a temporary kitchen elsewhere.

If you have a utility room that offers a sink and space to locate your fridge and freezer then you can make use of these. You will also be at an advantage if your cooker runs solely on electricity as it can be moved to a temporary location more easily than one that runs on gas.

You should also bear in mind that a rip-out and replace will not simply be a case of replacing like with like. A new layout will likely mean a new lighting scheme too, additional electrical sockets and new flooring.

two tone kitchen from Wren with concealed lighting

Even when replacing old units in your kitchen with new, consider  a new lighting scheme to make the most of your new units. This two tone kitchen from Wren Kitchens benefits from concealed lighting to highlight the worktops and tiles (Image credit: Wren Kitchens)

Don’t forget that a larger cooker will require a higher spec extractor hood — in fact many old kitchens lack adequate means of extraction leading to condensation.

On the plus side, you should have a good idea of where the natural light enters the room, how you use the space and what does and doesn’t work with the current layout — meaning you can get your new design spot on.

spearmint kitchen from Wren

Sometimes, ripping out an existing kitchen and replacing it with new units – or even retaining the existing carcasses and just replacing the doors – is all that is required for a kitchen update. This spearmint kitchen from Wren Kitchens is simple yet modern (Image credit: Wren Kitchens)

Redesign tips from Graeme Smith, Senior Designer at Second Nature and Metris Kitchens:

  • Don’t assume you have to stick to the same layout and configuration of units.
  • There is always scope to enhance a layout, be it replacing a table with a multifunctional island or a run of fitted units with a freestanding dresser — this opens up the space and creates a bespoke design to reflect your personality.
  • You may wish to review the key appliances in the kitchen, perhaps opting for a range cooker in place of separate oven and hob, or a statement fridge.
  • If you are planning to relocate appliances or the sink, ensure that the services will work with the new arrangement.

Key Issues

  • Water supply pipes, waste and wiring may need to be moved;
  • Additional sockets will need to be put in place;
  • A new lighting scheme will be necessary;
  • Your new kitchen plan will be constrained by existing windows and doors;
  • You will have to be without a kitchen sink, cooker and dishwasher for a (hopefully) short period of time.

Building a Kitchen Extension

A new kitchen extension means a blank canvass in which to create your dream entertaining space

white galley kitchen from Wren Kitchens

Extending a kitchen and opening up the space to existing rooms within the house can bring in lots of extra natural light. This white galley kitchen from Wren Kitchens features a breakfast bar that acts as a divide between the cooking and dining space (Image credit: Wren Kitchens)

One of the main reasons people build an extension is because they want a bigger kitchen — the side return extension or rear single storey extension are a couple of favourite ways of gaining this new space.

It is likely that an extension will require the services of an architect or other design professional, along with a builder, although it is not unknown for homeowners to undertake the planning and build themselves.

The beauty of this type of situation is that you get to plan a new kitchen completely from scratch, rather than having to work around what was already there.

Kitchen extensions also present the perfect opportunity to improve existing spaces elsewhere in the house. Opening up a middle room (often the dining room in many typical layouts) to become one space with the new kitchen, or using your new kitchen as a way of drawing light into otherwise dark spaces, are popular options.

white and grey country-style kitchen from Wren Kitchens

This white and grey country-style kitchen from Wren Kitchens features a huge roof lantern to drawn in natural light and a large island unit for food preparation and around which guests can congregate (Image credit: Wren Kitchens)

Open plan spaces are a good case in point. While they have many good points – allowing you to be part of the action while cooking – there are also drawbacks.

  • To avoid cooking smells escaping into the rest of the house,   efficient extraction must be incorporated.
  • A separate utility is a must if your mealtimes are not to be ruined by the noise of the washing machine resonating throughout the room.
  • Kitchen clutter needs somewhere to hide too.

Choose an quiet running extractor hood and, whilst on the subject of noisy appliances, consider a boiling water tap over a kettle and an integrated dishwasher.

Aim for a breakfast bar or island unit with a raised section sitting at the dining side of the space to act as a visual barrier — it will provide somewhere to conceal all the mess that goes hand-in-hand with cooking and preparing food.

This Rational kitchen is sleek and handle-less

An open plan layout calls for quite-running appliances and sleek storage solutions. This Rational kitchen is sleek and handle-less (Image credit: Rational)

Kitchen Extensions: The Rules

The key issues here lie more with the extension than with the new kitchen itself. Once you have found an architect or house designer and chosen a design, you should have a good idea of whether the proposed extension falls under Permitted Development

Bear in mind that regardless of whether or not you need planning permission, you will still need Building Regulations approval. You can choose between a local authority inspector or private approved one which may be quicker.

If you live in a terraced or semi-detached property, you may also require approval under the Party Wall Act. Not only does this refer to work that may affect a wall that stands on either side of a boundary of land belonging to two or more owners, but also to works with foundations within certain distances of said walls.

Key Issues

  • Unless your extension falls within Permitted Development, you will need to submit plans and wait for approval before you can begin work;
  • Open plan spaces need careful planning if they are to work well;
  • A structural engineer will probably be required if you are opening up spaces and removing load-bearing walls.

Relocating a Kitchen

Sometimes it can make sense to move the location of your kitchen from one room to another — for example, to take full advantage of a particular view or a larger space. You may want to move it to one that receives more natural light during the day or perhaps swap it with a living space that would benefit from a greater level of privacy.

“If there’s an integral garage which tends to be a dumping ground, rather than used for parking the car, then this may be just the space to create your new kitchen,” suggests Graeme Smith, Senior Designer for Second Nature and Metris Kitchens.

This white galley kitchen is from GoodHome Kitchens at B&Q.

Relocating the kitchen from one area of the house to another often makes sense — perhaps you want to take advantage of a view or the quality of light in a certain space. This white galley kitchen is from GoodHome Kitchens at B&Q (Image credit: GoodHome Kitchens at B&Q)

Although the common solution for those looking to add space to their homes is to create a rear extension and house a kitchen, dining and family room within the space, have you considered moving the kitchen to the front of the house instead?

Perhaps you live on a busy road where traffic noise is an issue while you are trying to relax in the living room, or maybe you get passers-by peering in while you are watching television. But there are practicalities involved in this type of kitchen relocation.

grey Shaker kitchen from Brayer Design

This grey Shaker kitchen from Brayer Design has been design to fit the long narrow space it sits within (Image credit: Brayer Design)

The main expense here lies in bringing the utilities – the water, the waste, and maybe the gas – to a different area of the house where there has been none before.

Bringing water in should not be too much of an issue — plastic plumbing is flexible so it can be run through voids in the floor and around corners in a way that can be harder or more time-consuming to do with copper plumbing.

Relocating waste pipes tends to be more problematic. Not only will you have to consider your sink, but also a dishwasher and perhaps a washing machine too. Where your drains are located will play a large role — in semi-detached houses they are often to the side of the house, but if they are at the rear and your new kitchen will be located at the front of the house, then getting a large pipe to and from the right points can be tricky.

If you need a gas supply, floorboards will in all likelihood need to be lifted, or channels made in concrete floors. None of this is impossible, but will undoubtedly add to costs that would not be incurred if you chose to keep your kitchen in the same spot.

Scandi style kitchen from Brayer Design

An extra deep workspace within the breakfast bar of this Scandi style kitchen from Brayer Design means it can act as a multifunctional element — to cook, eat and work at (Image credit: Brayer Design)

Key Issues

  • This option usually causes the most disruption to those living in the property — you will temporarily lose two rooms of the house, rather than just one, and it can be hard to contain the mess;
  • Utilities will have to be brought into the kitchen;
  • Getting the waste out to the drains from an area where it was previously not an issue can be tricky, messy and expensive.
Natasha Brinsmead

Natasha is Homebuilding & Renovating’s Associate Content Editor and has been a member of the team for over two decades. An experienced journalist and renovation expert, she has written for a number of homes titles. Over the years Natasha has renovated and carried out a side extension to a Victorian terrace. She is currently living in the rural Edwardian cottage she renovated and extended on a largely DIY basis, living on site for the duration of the project. She is now looking for her next project — something which is proving far harder than she thought it would be.