The kitchen and bathroom combined, can easily make up to 10% of the cost of a new house. There are so many companies fighting for your attention in the kitchen and bathroom market that it is easy to not see the wood for the trees, so here we concentrate on helping you decide what you really want and need, rather than accepting what a salesperson persuades you to buy.
The trend of recent years has been to accentuate the kitchen and to make it the best room in the house — certainly the most expensive to build. The amount spent on a kitchen fit-out is often around twice as much (per floor area) than the rest of the house, and the modern move towards open plan kitchen/dining areas also adds to costs. Rather than hiding functions away in utility rooms, everyone wants to put them on display in cabinets and under worktops.
One effective route for limiting the budget here is by not having a huge kitchen: in fact, you can save a lot of money by hiding much of your storage and cupboard space in cheaper utility areas. It’s a modern variation on the old upstairs/downstairs routine. What the guests don’t see, they don’t know about.
As a self-builder, you have the freedom to do this sort of financial engineering just by reconfiguring a wall or two.
What do you cook with?
This is a subject that a lot of people feel strongly about. Some people want touch-ofa- button functionality — typified by the near-instant induction hob. Others want only the slow cooking of a cast-iron range, especially an Aga. Many people end up with both included in the one kitchen. Cast-iron stoves, in particular, can be difficult to incorporate into a new, well-insulated house, as they produce enough heat to keep the entire house warm in winter and a huge surplus of heat during the rest of the year. An alternative approach is to fit a cooker that has some of the looks of a range, coupled with the speed of a gas stove.
Also consider cooker hoods. Unless you have a whole-house ventilation system installed, you will be required to fit some form of extract over your hob area. Prices vary enormously from under £100 to over £1,000 for a stainless steel canopy.
There are plenty of kitchen appliances out there to tempt the discerning buyer, but after the essentials – oven, hob, sink, fridge and dishwasher – most of them can be said to be aspirational at best. Do you actually need a waste disposal unit? Or a coffee maker? A steam oven? An ice maker? An instant hot water tap? A plate warming drawer? Undoubtedly not, but that doesn’t mean they’d not be fun to have. Work out what you want to incorporate early on in the design process, rather than adding as an afterthought. You also have a choice to go fitted or unfitted. Fitted appliances look cleaner and are hidden from view, but are usually considerably more expensive.
Sinks and Worktops
As with everything else in the kitchen, there has been a move towards integration. The traditional kitchen had a butler’s sink and a series of tables or sideboards. In contrast, the contemporary kitchen sees sinks welded seamlessly into worktops, both wrought from the same material. As recently as 15 years ago, almost all kitchen worktops were made of synthetic materials like Melamine or Formica. Today, there is a wide choice of natural materials – granite is now especially favoured – and several ranges of synthetic stone materials which can be welded.
Kitchen Layout Do’s and Dont’s
There are a number of pointers to be aware of when working on a kitchen layout: some of them relate directly to the Building Regulations, meaning you have no choice in the matter, while others are just good common sense. These include:
- DO locate sinks and plumbed-in appliances where waste pipes can get to the drains. Usually this means placing them against an outside wall.
- DO locate cooker hoods against an outside wall where exhaust fumes can be evacuated. You can run ducting to get around this problem but it is a fiddle best avoided.
- DO leave worktop space either side of both the sink and the hob (or cooker top).
- DO keep the sink, the hob and the fridge reasonably close to each other.
- DO plan for waste disposal and rubbish recycling. Gone are the days when a simple bin under the sink was adequate. Sorting glass, plastics, organic matter and general waste is best done once, and it’s a good idea to incorporate the storage into your kitchen or utility area.
- DON’T place a hob or a sink in a corner unless you consider an angled corner arrangement (which is expensive); corners tend to make poor working/ storage space.
- DON’T place a fridge or freezer next to or under a heat source (hob, cooker, radiator).
- DON’T forget to consider the boiler if it needs to be in the kitchen. Not only will it be hot but there are rules concerning just where you can and can’t place boiler flue terminals.
- DON’T put wall cupboards over the sink; conventionally, sinks go under windows and for most small- or medium-sized kitchens this will always be the most practical location.