Fitting a kitchen – Preparation
The first step towards your new kitchen is removing the old one. Wear the appropriate safety equipment, gloves, goggles, etc.
Remove all the doors, drawers and shelves first, then remove any screws that are fixing the worktop(s) to the base units.
If the worktop edges are under tiles you may have to remove some, if not all of them to ‘free up’ the worktop. Some old kitchens have the worktop glued to the base units so the only removal solution may be a lump hammer and crowbar.
The units themselves should be relatively easy to remove and come apart fairly easily, especially with one’s trusty lump hammer, but watch out for hidden cables and pipes – an indoor pool is not always appreciated.
Once the water is turned off, the pipes cut and the sink unit removed, it is a good idea to fit in-line / gate valves to the remaining pipes, at least this enables the water to be turned back on, and fitting new pipework should hopefully not have to interrupt the water supply.
Try and get some assistance when removing the wall units as they may be heavy or simply awkward to handle by yourself.
If you are disconnecting any electrical supplies, switch off the consumer unit and remove the fuse / miniature circuit breaker as well, this reduces the chance of the circuit becoming ‘live’ if the consumer unit is switched back on by accident.
Double check the supply is ‘dead’ at the point of disconnection, if in doubt use the services of a qualified electrician as electric shocks can be fatal. Don’t attempt to disconnect any gas supplies, the law says this can only be carried out by a Gas Safe registered plumber / engineer.
So now the kitchen area is cleared, any repairs to the existing walls and floors can be carried out, holes in walls for air extraction and waste pipes can be drilled / knocked through, electrics and plumbing can be installed to suit your new kitchen.
Don’t forget electrical supplies for wall unit lighting and the extractor fan if they aren’t already in position (read: how to fit an extractor fan), usually when an oven and separate hob is installed the oven comes fitted with a 13amp plug top and may require the installation of an extra socket outlet, the electric hob is then connected to the cooker switch, as this can have a much higher current demand.
Fitting a kitchen – Where to start?
Your new kitchen units have been delivered and the kitchen area is ready for the install, but where do you start ?
The first job to do is check the level of the floor, wherever the highest point is measure up 870mm and mark the wall, this measurement allows 720mm for the base unit and 150mm for the plinth.
From your mark draw a level line using your spirit level across the wall(s), this is the guideline for all your base units. Now measure up from the 870mm mark to the bottom of your wall units (this measurement is down to personal preference).
I would suggest 400 – 440mm. From this mark draw a level line across the wall(s).
Finally, measure up from the mark to the top of the wall units i.e. 720mm, and once more draw a level line across the wall(s).
Now double check your lines are all level.
Fitting a kitchen – Assemble the units
Create a space where the units can be assembled. Some of the unit flat-packs can be very heavy, so get assistance when lifting them. Use the cardboard packaging to cover the floor to stop the units from getting scratched and keep all the hinges and coloured blanks in a box for later.
Assembling the first unit using the instructions can take a while (read the post on assembling flat pack furniture), but once you have an assembly method the rest will go together quite quickly. If you are using a battery drill / driver without torque control take care not to over-tighten screws, it is sometimes safer to use a screwdriver for the last one or two turns.
If your kitchen is in a ‘L’ or ‘U’ shape start fitting the units from the corner working out in both directions.
Before fixing the wall units I prefer to place the first base unit levelled up and in position, then I mark the wall with a vertical line from its edge so I have guideline for the wall units so they will line up with the base units.
Wall units usually come with two fixing brackets each. When you have assembled the wall unit, measure where the fixing brackets need to be in order for it to ‘hook on’. Transfer the measurements to your wall and fix the brackets securely – I normally drill the fixing(s) at a slightly downward angle as this reduces the chance of the fixing ‘pulling out’.
For peace of mind on a plasterboard wall I always fit additional angle brackets between the wall studs and the top of the wall unit so I know I have a good fixing. They may be a little unsightly but they are usually out of sight and can be painted or papered over: at least you know the wall unit won’t become a base unit overnight!
Mount each wall unit checking them with a spirit level and making sure the edges are flush as you go along. They are adjustable via two screws inside either top corner of the wall unit, one screw raises or lowers the unit, the other pulls the unit tight against the fixing bracket and locks it in position. At this stage don’t worry about any small gaps between the wall unit end and the wall itself.
As I explained earlier in this post, start installing the base units from the corner ( if you have one ). Make sure each unit is level before moving onto the next one, use your 870mm level line as the guide.
Fix the units to the wall until they are all in position and you are sure they are all level.
Most flat-pack kitchen units come with two male / female bolts that can be fitted between each unit, these usually require a hole drilling (read drilling a hole) of approximately 5mm diameter through the sides of the units, but when fitted hold the units together and keep the edges flush (drill new holes for the bolts, don’t be tempted to use existing ones as they may be for drawer runners etc).