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How to plan a kitchen renovation

Adam_W
Valued Contributor

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The kitchen is the heart of a home where we spend a lot of time cooking and gathering with family.

 

Renovating offers the opportunity to create a functional and beautiful space for cooking and entertaining. It can also add significant value to your home. So it’s important to plan well and get it right.

 

Here’s our guide to get you started on planning your dream kitchen.

 

Remodel or renovation?

 

It’s worth determining if your project is a remodel (more of a cosmetic makeover) or full renovation as it impacts the scale of your project, permissions needed, time and budget.

 

Remodel

 

A remodel is a good option if your kitchen layout is well-designed and functional but your appliances, fixtures and/or cabinetry need updating.

 

You wouldn’t relocate services, such as plumbing, and the biggest change might be the location and number of power points, lighting and ventilation. With a remodel, you likely won’t require council permission. In a strata situation, however, Owner’s Corporate permission might be required.

 

Tackling a remodel as a D.I.Y. project can be achievable as you can do a lot of the work yourself and simply get trades in for any plumbing and electrical work.


Renovation

Kitchen transformation by Workshop member 2Belindas.Kitchen transformation by Workshop member 2Belindas.

 

A renovation takes the space back to bare bones so you can start again. You may be looking at changing windows or adding new ones, moving or expanding doorways, or even taking out walls. Relocating plumbing is likely on the cards too.

 

A project of this scale will likely require council permission, so check on this or have your designer do so. If wall or window changes are planned you’ll need to involve a designer or builder who can have the engineering planning conducted. In strata you will most definitely require Owner’s Corporate approval for larger scale works.

 

Projects of this scale fall into the owner-builder category rather than a straightforward D.I.Y. project. You could conduct some work yourself, but you will need to engage professional trades for plumbing, electrical and any structural work such as walls, windows and changes to doorways.

 

The first steps

 

The following steps are the foundation stones of your project.

 

  • Professional help – Decide which work you plan to conduct yourself and then locate and involve everyone from designers to cabinet suppliers to tradespeople at the earliest possible stage, even if it’s just checking on availability. You’ll find many will have long lead times or be booked up months in advance.

 

  • Develop a wish and needs list – Have you always dreamed of a large 900mm oven and cooktop? Do you need a walk-in or pull-out pantry? Have you been eyeing a bigger French-door fridge? Is the dishwasher located in an impractical spot? These are just a few of the sort of things you need to put into a simple list at this early stage so it can become part of the design later.

 

  • Decide on a budget – Kitchen projects can become expensive quickly, so it is important to have a realistic figure in mind. You may find it best to have two budgets, one for the build, and the other for appliances.

 

Evaluate the existing space

 

How well does your kitchen work now? There’s an old principle developed back in the late 1940s called the kitchen work triangle. This is based around the three most important task zones in the kitchen – storage, cleaning and preparation, and cooking. This means you should be able to quickly, easily and efficiently move between your fridge, sink and cooktop.

 

When you start thinking about workflow and work zones, keep your scope broad and consider all associated tasks and functions too, including the amount and location of storage space. It’s important to consider the relevance of the storage space to the tasks being conducted above or beside. For example, the amount of bench space beside the cooktop and sink and the quality of light in the areas you need it.

 

Consider the layout

 

Armed with this information you can start to think about layout possibilities for your new kitchen. The best starting point for this is to purchase or print grid paper that allows you to draw a simple scale plan of your kitchen. You can also draw a scale plan using a ruler by translating 1m on the floor to, say, 5cm on paper. If you are looking at flatpack D.I.Y. cabinets, use an online kitchen planner tool to compare your options and plan the perfect layout.


Here are a few dimensions to consider that will help with your rough design.

 

  • Most fixed appliances – oven, microwave, dishwasher, cooktop – are a standard size of 600mm wide. Larger appliances tend to be 900mm.

 

  • Base or floor cabinets are often 600mm deep. Wall or overhead cabinets are generally 300mm deep.

 

  • Pathways through your kitchen should be at least 90cm wide. Around 105cm is considered the ideal minimum for the cooking zone.

 

  • Allow clear bench space beside appliances. This should be at least 40cm either side of the cooktop and a single landing zone beside the oven, microwave and fridge.

 

Island and peninsula benches

Kitchen island EasyVJ panelling by ProjectPete.Kitchen island EasyVJ panelling by ProjectPete.

 

A kitchen island (a freestanding cabinet and bench) or a peninsula (where cabinet and bench run at right angles extending from the wall) can be a great way to add extra work area. If room allows, this can also be a brilliant location for your cooktop. You may even be able to add an overhang for seating, and you’ll find that this naturally becomes the social hub of the kitchen.

 

One way to see if either idea will work in your space is to put a sideboard in place in your existing kitchen and see if an island or peninsula would work. You’ll want adequate walkway clearances with at least 90cm both sides. You may find that within a few days you are reflexively using the extra space. If so, refine the size and include it in your design.

 

Cabinetry considerations

 

When you are pencilling in your layout, think about how the cupboards will work and what they will likely be used for.

 

  • Make sure doors don’t clash when opened together.

 

  • Pull-out wire baskets inside a cupboard or full slide-out pantry units can make good use of smaller spaces. They’re perfect for bottom and top shelves in tall cupboards and doing away with dead-zones at the back of shelves.

 

  • Corners modules can be fitted with in-built rotating and pull-out units.

 

  • Consider over-sized pot drawers underneath the cooktop.

 

  • Conceal recycling and waste bins by using a slide-out module concealed behind a cupboard panel front so you don’t lose floorspace to unsightly bins.

 

  • For smaller kitchens think about using open shelves rather than traditional cupboards for overhead cabinetry. This helps the space feel larger. Consider frosted glass panelled doors if you need enclosed cupboards.

 

  • Settle on appliances before finalising the design of cabinetry so that appliance sizes can be accounted for. Check your design with an in-store kitchen expert to make sure your appliances are compatible with your chosen cabinetry.

 

Plumbing and power


Whether remodelling or fully renovating, you will need the plumber and electrician to disconnect and reconnect all services.

 

  • Think about where you will be using your toaster, kettle, coffee machine, blender, mix master, sandwich press, electric frypan and all those other gadgets and that you have a power point positioned where needed.

 

  • Include as many power points as possible with built-in USB sockets for conveniently charging portable devices.

 

  • If you are planning an island or peninsula bench, you may want to consider concealing a power point on the side or beneath an overhang.

 

  • If you are considering an induction cooktop, talk with your electrician early as these require a dedicated, higher amperage circuit and may need a special isolation switch in the kitchen.

 

  • Consult a plumber at an early stage if you are considering moving water and gas connections. In some cases, you may not need to relocate the water and gas inputs and waste outlets as pipes may be able to run inside your wall or cabinets, but relocating waste outlets may be complex and expensive as it could involve dropping new pipes through the floor.

 

  • If your home is on a concrete slab, it’s prudent to design around the existing waste outlets. Talk with your plumber during design stage to see what is achievable, practical and, importantly, most likely to keep you within budget.

 

  • Don’t forget the fridge. Many modern fridges have icemakers and water dispensers. These need to be connected to a water supply. Generally, they only connect with a small 5mm line, but this will still need to run through the back of cabinets.

 

Lighting

 

Kitchen renovation with large island by Workshop member cupofchloe.Kitchen renovation with large island by Workshop member cupofchloe.Think of your lighting as being two types – functional and designer.

 

  • The aim of functional lighting is to provide balanced, shadow-free light to critical work areas. The simplest way to do this is through LED downlights. These energy-efficient lights are discrete, and you can use as many as you need. You may want to consider having zones on different switches so you can light as required.

 

  • Designer lighting is where you add a flourish with light. This type of lighting supplements your functional lighting and should be separately switched, possibly with a dimmer. Examples include a row of drop pendants over an island bench, light-strips concealed beneath overhead cabinets or lights inside glass-front cabinets. You may want to use smart lighting or globes that allow you to change colours and moods.

 

Ventilation

 

A renovation is the perfect time to get ventilation right. Take the time to look at the variety of rangehoods and extractor fans. You’ll find there’s everything from discrete slide-out models to the big and bold. Whenever possible aim to have the extractor hood vented to the outdoors, not back into the room. If you do have to vent back into the room, select a model that has filter systems that can be easily removed for cleaning, preferably just by throwing it into the dishwasher.


Island or peninsular cooktops can pose a design problem for ventilation. You’ll find there are now cooktops with down-draught extractors that draw downwards through vents in the cooktop. Talk about this option with your appliance specialist. These type of units will mean that cabinets need to accommodate the ducting for the output.

 

Design considerations

 

When it comes to style, colours, shapes, patterns, it’s often based on personal preference. However, keep in mind some basic principles as you complete your design.

 

  • Never fall into the trap of form over function. First design your kitchen to be functional then decide on the designer elements to overlay without making any functional compromises.

 

  • Consider textures and patterns. A kitchen is a space that the eye takes in in one sweep. This means that if there are too many textures (such as tiles with contrasting grout, patterned benchtops, flooring and patterned door panels) the space can be too visually cluttered. Think carefully about how all your various textured and patterned elements will work together.

 

  • Limit features. If you plan to have a feature wall of tiles, make sure the impact of this isn’t distracted from or diluted by other colours and textures.

 

  • Cosmetic kitchen reno using paint by Chaks_DIY.Cosmetic kitchen reno using paint by Chaks_DIY.Colour really matters. A kitchen should be a welcoming and clean-feeling space. You may decide on dark benchtops or cupboard panels but aim to keep your base colour, the painted walls and ceiling, in basic whites.

 

  • Choose timeless styles. A splashback is often used as a main feature point. The temptation may be to use something dynamic as a statement piece for this element. A fluoro green splashback glass panel may seem funky now but such features can date quickly and are expensive to change in a few years’ time.

 

  • Avoid boring blocks of cupboards. Floor to ceiling cupboards in one texture and colour can look bland and can also make a space feel smaller as they tend to tower over you. Break up these areas by having overhead cabinets with frosted glass fronts or introduce open shelves, such as a wine shelf and display shelves.

 

Need help with your kitchen renovation project? We’re here to assist. Hit the start a discussion button and share as much detail as you can, including what your goals are for the project and the dimensions of your space.

 

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