As far as DIY projects go, a kitchen installation is within the reach of most people. The quality of the finish is down to knowledge and experience. An average person can hardly expect to complete the project to the same level as a professional installer, but they can do a reasonable job for half the price.
The aim of this article is to lift the mystery that veils kitchen installations so that anyone can have a go at fitting one. You can work safe in the knowledge that there are professionals out there who you can call in if things go wrong or if you get stuck.
Do you think you have what it takes? Here are my DIY design and installation tips for the complete novice.
There are computer programs that will make the design process easy; if you know how to use them. Mere mortals who do not want to waste time learning how to use them can do the same job with a pencil, paper, and ruler. Here’s how:
- Draw the floor plan of the room to scale. It is easy to do; just divide every measurement by a number to come up with the scale. The number must always remain the same for all calculations. Remember to include the doors and windows on the plan.
- Using the same scale, draw the shape of all available cabinets within your chosen range on a separate piece of paper.
- Cut out the cabinet shapes and arrange them on the floor plan until you are happy with the design. You can do the same for the wall cupboards too.
You must not interfere with the circuitry of the house for safety reasons. Use an electrician to make alterations to the wiring. You must consider:
- The position of socket outlets.
- The cooker circuit.
- Under cupboard lighting.
- Main lighting.
- Under shelf lighting.
- Baseboard lights.
Mark all of the items on the plan and take advice from your electrician.
One tip is to install socket outlets above the wall units but out of sight. You can then fit low voltage strip lights and LED tape below the cupboards yourself and plug them in. You could use five-amp socket outlets and operate them with a light switch. Five-amp plugs have round pins instead of the familiar rectangular ones.
If you buy from the expensive ranges of cabinets, they will come pre-assembled. All you have to do is mount the adjustable legs onto them. Attach them with three or four screws that go into pre-drilled holes. You adjust the level of the cabinets by screwing the feet in or out.
Cheaper units come as a flat pack that you must assemble. I advise you to buy a cordless drill or screwdriver for this job because it is hard and repetitive work. When you have correctly assembled one unit and understand the construction, the rest will be easy.
You must align and attach the cabinets to the wall. Low-quality units will not have adjustable feet so you will need to use small wedges underneath the sides to make them all level with each other. Clamp them and use screws to fix them together. When they are in line, drill and fix them to the wall.
There is a vast range of work surfaces from which to choose. If you fit stone counters, you should have already worked out the measurements from your plan and have them on order; you cannot cut them yourself. If you buy standard laminated chipboard worktops, you can cut them using a hand saw, jigsaw, and circular saw.
The circular saw is best for straight cuts, but you must not use it freehand. Clamp a piece of wood in the appropriate place and run the tool along with it for a straight cut.
Use a jigsaw to cut a hole for a recessed sink. It isn’t as hard as you think because the manufacturer will usually provide a template that you tape to the worktop before you cut. Follow the lines on the template for a perfect finish.
Whether you must assemble the wall units or not, the method for mounting them is similar. They come with adjustable brackets that you fix to the wall first. It is vital that you measure and mark the wall accurately so that the brackets go in the right place. Laser levelling tools are available for under twenty pounds these days, and they are a wise investment. When the brackets are up, lift the wall cupboards onto them and adjust the levels with a screwdriver. The brackets make the job easy.
You should familiarise yourself with compression pipe joints before you attempt to alter the plumbing. The good news is that it will only take a few minutes to do so. They consist of the main body, an olive that looks like a wedding ring, and a large nut. Undo the nut first and slide it onto the end of the pipe. Slide the olive on next and wrap it with a couple of layers of PTFE tape. Then put the main body on the pipe and screw the nut onto it. As you tighten the nut, it crushes the olive to make a watertight seal. You can use these fittings on hot and cold copper or stainless steel pipes.
Make alterations to the waste pipes using push-on joints. They are simple to use and need no special tools. Cut the plastic pipes with a hacksaw so that everything fits together perfectly.
There are other joints such as those that connect the pipes to the taps, but the way they work is obvious.
Doors And Drawers
The last job is to hang the doors and fit the drawer fronts. The cordless screwdriver will come in handy here because there will be many screws to insert. Kitchen cabinet hinges are adjustable, so keep working until everything is level.
I hope you can now see that a kitchen installation is nothing to fear. You will bump up against unforeseen difficulties as the project progresses, but that is half the fun. Have a go yourself, you will be surprised at what you can accomplish.