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Kitchen Renovation: The A-Z Guide to Revamping Your Space

a kitchen renovation project
(Image credit: Harvey Jones)

A kitchen renovation is likely to be high on your agenda when you buy a property as a project. That's because modern kitchen designs are larger, as they tend to be the hub of family life, while in older properties, they can be pokey and dark, designed just as a space for cooking. 

However, a kitchen is one of the most challenging spaces to tackle when renovating a house, especially when planning a multi-functional space that works as a living, socialising and dining space, as well as a place to prep food. 

This guide walks you through the A-Z of kitchen renovation projects, from planning a design to extending your home, heating, plumbing, electrics and more. 

Structural Changes for Kitchen Renovations 

A part of your kitchen renovation, in order to make a small space larger you'll need to undertake some structural changes to your property. This may include building an extension or knocking through to turn individual smaller spaces into a larger one. 

Depending on the type of extension and how complex the design is you're looking for, you'll have some choice in who designs and builds your extension. An architect is a popular choice for a more forward thinking design, while architectural technologists and design and build companies may offer simple but effective house extension ideas

It's worth remembering that even a small kitchen extension can be transformative to a space, allowing you to fit in a dining table or snug where the room was only a kitchen before. The likes of side return extensions are particularly popular for terraced and semi-detached houses. 

a small kitchen extension idea that added just 5 m2

This small kitchen extension idea added just 5 m2, but transformed the use of the kitchen space.  (Image credit: Chris Snook)

Knocking down internal walls will require a builder and a structural engineer if the wall is load bearing. They will calculate measurements for steel inserts to be used to support the weight of the floor above safely, subject to Building Regulations. Sign off will be required by a Building Control inspector. 

Designing a New Kitchen for a Kitchen Renovation

A kitchen supplier is the most common route for your kitchen renovation. By approaching a specialist kitchen company with your ideas, they will usually come up with several designs for you to look at, based on the dimensions of your space and your individual needs. There should be no obligation for you to buy your kitchen from them and there is rarely a charge for these designs. 

However, as part of an overall kitchen renovation, it's unlikely that a kitchen supplier will provide anything other than the kitchen installation, such as any extensions, structural changes required and new glazing. However, you could ask your architect to come up with a kitchen design for you as part of the overall scheme. Alternatively, there are design and build companies, and interior designers, who would be able to do both jobs. 

(MORE: Get a quote for your new kitchen)

a kitchen renovation in a rustic cottage

A British Standard by Plain English kitchen in the home of Lisa Mehydene, founder of online homeware brand edit58. British Standard Cupboards come in a range of standard sizes, starting at £535. An average sized kitchen comes in at around £8,000.  (Image credit: British Standard by Plain English)

How to Make a Kitchen Renovation Brief

In order to get the kitchen of your dreams, you will need to come up with a concise brief, listing all your requirements. Start with the basics:

  • Every kitchen needs a cooker, fridge freezer and sink. Start with these items, and add other features around them.
  • Look at what you already have — are there any interesting architectural details that could be incorporated into your new design, such as old beams or alcoves?
  • Adequate kitchen storage space is a must. Base your storage needs on the size of your household, how much kitchen equipment you own, and how and where to store your food

You will also need to take into account what activities will take place here other than cooking:

  • Will you be using your kitchen only as a room in which to store, prepare and cook food, or would you like it to double up as a room in which you can sit and eat too?
  • Will this also be an entertaining space?
  • Would you be satisfied with a breakfast bar or island unit with stools, or would a full-size table for family gatherings be better?

Assess the dimensions of the room and then make a wish-list — in order of priority.

a contemporary kitchen renovation

Renovators of old houses need not feel restricted to traditional kitchens — contemporary styles work well too.  (Image credit: Dunelm)

How to Remove an Old Kitchen

Remember

The more careful you are with the removal of the old kitchen, the easier it will be to install the new one.

Removing the old kitchen is the first step of fitting a kitchen, but before you begin ripping out the units, bear in mind that there may well be some items worth salvaging.

If you are remodelling your kitchen on a budget then it will be worth taking a look at what kind of condition your unit carcasses are in — whilst the unit doors may be in a bad state of repair or not to your taste, you might find that the carcasses can be reused by replacing kitchen doors.

Order of Works to Renovate a Kitchen

  • Remove wall units
  • Remove worktop and base units
  • Remove flooring
  • First fix electrics
  • Reroute plumbing
  • Lay new flooring
  • Install wall units
  • Install base units
  • Second fix electrics
  • Fit worktop
  • Fit sink and complete plumbing to taps, drains and appliances
  • Install appliances
  • Fit extractor fan
  • Tile and decorate

contemporary-style galley kitchen

The owners of a 1960s semi have remodelled their home and are now owners of a contemporary-style galley kitchen. (Image credit: Ben Morgan)

Installing New Heating in an Old Kitchen

Choosing a new heating system takes careful consideration and planning. Whilst some people choose to have no heating at all in their kitchen, feeling it unnecessary in a room that often becomes hot whilst cooking, those that use their kitchens for more than just cooking, have several options:

  • The cheapest and simplest is to fit a radiator with a thermostatic radiator valve (TRV) so that it can be easily adjusted, but you will need sufficient wall space
  • Plinth heaters fit neatly into the space between the bottom of the base units and the floor. Plinth heaters can be electrical fan convector heaters operated by a switch, or can be linked to the rest of the central heating system
  • You could use heated towel rails, complete with pegs for tea towels — there is a range of radiator companies providing designs that can make the most of the tightest of spaces
  • Underfloor heating (UFH) is another popular choice for even and comfortable heat. Opting for an electric underfloor heating system as opposed to a water heated system means you can tackle the installation on a DIY basis, but it's more expensive to run. 

Good ventilation will ensure your kitchen is a pleasant place to be, removing smells and steam and keeping the temperature even.

The size and strength of your cooker hood or fan will largely depend on the floor area and how much cooking you do.

(MORE: Get a quote for your new kitchen)

Installing New Electrics in an Old Kitchen

how to renovate a kitchen

Keeping items such as the sink and cooker in the same place means wiring and plumbing work will be simpler. This sleek white kitchen is from Wren Kitchens.  (Image credit: Wren Kitchens)

Before your new kitchen is fitted, first fix electrical work needs to be carried out. Your electrician will need to check the existing system, as in many renovation projects a complete rewire is called for anyway.

Give your electrician a plan showing the quantity and the position of all electrical switches and sockets. You will need sockets for all your appliances and even then it is best to have some extra.

Although a qualified electrician will carry out the majority of work, you can save money by doing some jobs yourself. Chasing out the walls for the new metal boxes and casing for sockets and wiring will cut down the amount of time an electrician will spend on the job.

The electrician should return to carry out second fix electrics, such as connections to plug sockets, before the worktops are fitted. When purchasing your sockets, bear in mind that some appliances, such as your cooker, will require a breaker switch which allows you to turn it off without having to pull it out and reach a socket.

Fitting Kitchen Plumbing

The plumbing in your kitchen needs to perform two functions — providing a water supply and taking away waste.

You will need a hot and cold water supply and there needs to be a waste pump from the sink to outside and a hot and cold water supply feeding the kitchen tap.

If you have a washing machine in the kitchen, this will need to be either connected to the hot and cold water, or just to the cold water, whilst most dishwashers only require a cold water connection.

Ask a plumber to take a look at your pipework and decide whether it is worth saving it or starting again.

Your main consideration will need to be whether the existing arrangement of the pipes is going to get in the way of your planned layout for the new kitchen — unless you are putting everything back in the same place, you are likely to find that pipework will need to be rerouted.

Check old pipes for kinks and dents and inspect the joints, looking out for green marks, which indicate leaks.

how to renovate a kitchen

The kitchen, from Higham Furniture, is flooded with natural light thanks to a huge new roof lantern located above the useful island.  (Image credit: Higham Furniture)

Kitchen Lighting for a Renovation Project

Dorchester kitchen from Optiplan

Low-level pendants work well over island units, whilst under-unit lighting and recessed spotlights add useful background and accent lighting. Dorchester kitchen from Optiplan (Image credit: Optiplan)

Good kitchen lighting ideas are essential — this is a space where a multitude of tasks are carried out.

  • Look at how much natural light there is in the room. If there is very little, consider ways of getting more, such as a rooflight or with a set of bi-fold patio doors
  • Avoid central pendants. The light they produce is not targeted enough and they tend to cast shadows around the sides of the room. Several pendants set a lower level over island units and breakfast bars work better
  • Downlights and track lights that can be adjusted are the best option, but think through their position and talk it over with your electrician, as these can be affected by shadow unless located correctly. Recessed fittings are practical as they will not get covered in dust or grease as with some other forms of lights
  • Use under-cabinet lighting to highlight worktops and, if your extractor hood does not incorporate lights, ensure there is sufficient lighting over your hob
  • Dimmable lights are best for kitchen diners, allowing you to vary the mood to suit cooking and entertaining alike

Which Flooring is Best for Kitchens?

kitchen renovation from deVOL

Re-using certain items and combining them with new elements is a nice way to inject character into a new kitchen (Image credit: deVOL)

Base your flooring choices on practicality and durability. You new kitchen floor needs to be able to withstand moisture and stains.

Smart types of flooring to choose include:

  • natural stone, such as slate or limestone (both of which will require sealing)
  • linoleum
  • vinyl
  • ceramic or porcelain tiles
  • engineered timber can be used, but it will need to be properly acclimatised before being laid and can be more prone to moisture damage that other hard flooring

(MORE: Kitchen Flooring Ideas)

It might be that you already have an existing floor that simply needs restoring. Quarry tiles were popular in Victorian and some Edwardian houses. They may well need insulating and cleaning.

Small Kitchen Renovations

a small galley kitchen idea with contoured work surfaces

(Image credit: Life Kitchens)

If you only have a small space, consider whether certain functions, such as the laundry, could be carried out elsewhere, and think about whether it may be worth knocking down internal walls to create an open plan kitchen diner or living area to create a greater sense of space.

Get a Quote for Your New Kitchen

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Simply answer a few questions on what you need from your kitchen and we’ll put you in touch with a suitable partner.

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1. Enter your details below. Tell us a bit about your project and what you are looking for, and leave some contact details.

2. We search our database. We'll match your requirements with the products and services that our partners offer.

3. Partners will contact you. Don't worry about being bombarded - only the suppliers that match your requirements will contact you.

Natasha is Homebuilding & Renovating’s Associate 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. She has renovated a terrace and is at the end of the DIY renovation and extension of her Edwardian cottage. She is now looking for her next project.