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Kitchens / Bathrooms - What you need to know . . .

This section deals with the components and appliances used to fit-out both kitchens and bathrooms. Here you will be able to review all the different options available to you when designing and installing these rooms.

The main components in the bathroom are sanitary ware and bathroom fittings such as showers and baths. Kitchen compoments such as cabinets, worktops and appliances are also featured. Advice on how to plan and budget your kitchen and bathroom is also discussed.

Kitchen Cabinets

The kitchen of your dreams may exude old world charm or contemporary simplicity, but there’s no doubt that the kitchen cabinets play the starring role.

Kitchen cabinets generally represent between 40 to 50 percent of the total price tag of a kitchen. Spending that large of percentage on one aspect of revamping a room requires attention to details and knowing exactly what to look for and how to approach the purchase.

Because cabinet doors are the face of the kitchen, it will be very important that you choose a finish you want to look at for quite a number of years. Keep in mind that, whichever material you choose to use for your cabinets, durability and low maintenance have to be the key to your choice.

Cabinets: Define Your Style

Grab an armful of magazines and brochures from suppliers and really take a long hard look at what’s out there. You may all ready know what style you prefer, but by taking a look at the current offerings you’ll be certain.

Take the architecture of your home into consideration and how you will decorate your home. Is there a dominant wood that was used throughout your home? The last thing you want to do is find that you hate the cherry cabinets that were just installed. Changing them would be out of the question unless money is of no consequence.

Even though you’re sure you just love the new country style, look about at DIY centers and kitchen shops to be certain. Once you’ve defined your style with certainty, you’re ready to move on.

Cabinets: Consider Your Space

How much space do you have to play with? How much space will you need to house your dishes, cookware, and foodstuffs? What cabinets and special options would you like to include? Jot down a true wish list. You’ll pare the list down as you go along.

Once you have a good idea of the space you need, draw up a floor plan. Measure the room and any openings such as doorways, windows, large appliances, etc. Using graph paper, sketch your room. At this time, also pull out all large pots and pans, platters or odd size cookware. Knowing their dimensions will help you plan a place for everything. Having a sketch or floor plan on hand when you head for the stores will be of great help during the shopping process.

Depending on the cabinets and where you purchase them, many kitchen or home stores have designers who will help you plan cabinets that provide what you want within the space you have. A designer or builder may come to your home, take the measurements and work up a design for your unique needs and desires.

Cabinets: Develop a Budget

Cabinets come with more options than can be imagined. Take a good look at what your bank account will allow. Come up with an overall price you can afford for the entire kitchen project.

Figure half of that overall amount will be spent on cabinets. Now you should have a cold hard number that you can spend on new cabinets for your dream kitchen.

Cabinets: Value for Money

The core of any kitchen is formed around the three vital components, cabinets, appliances and worktops. Having the ability of identifying quality of these components is a skill I would strongly advise all buyers to acquire before embarking on their mission.

Kitchens are no different to other industries in that quality products come at greater expense but it pays to have the ability to recognise quality before handing over the money.

The important thing for you is that you receive quality goods and services at a fair cost. The important thing for most retailers is that they win your custom and you then spread the word.

Cabinets: What to Look For?

As you’re shopping in DIY stores and stores that specialise in kitchen design, check out the displays.
  • Open and close doors and drawers; drawers should open smoothly and quietly.
  • Run your hand over the wood surface; if it’s not smooth, look elsewhere.
  • High quality custom made cabinets should have solid frames, doors and drawer fronts.
  • Do not purchase cupboards with no backs.
  • Make sure corners are reinforced for sturdy durability.
The majority of cupboards are constructed with one of these hardwoods: maple, cherry, alder, oak or birch. Ask the designer about each wood and its advantages.

Take a look at the frames of the doors. Frameless doors have a clean line look that compliments contemporary kitchens. The frame is actually hidden by the door and allows for fuller access to the interior of the cupboard.

Doors with frames have a traditional look that blends well with the classic styles. Inset doors or drawers fit on the inside of the opening and are flush with cabinetry. This style isn’t quite as handy, but has an antique look to it.

Cabinets: Consider the Options

If you’re leaning toward semi-custom or custom cabinets, the options are endless. If baking is your thing, you can have a baking center included in the overall plan. Recycling centers can make being environmentally aware much easier.

Spice racks and wine racks can give added flavor and functionality to your kitchen. Your doors can be all wood or some with mullioned glass panes, keeping your favorite china or stemware in full view.

Drawers can hold knives, silverware, bread, or pots and pans. Pull-out chopping blocks and tray accessories for onions, garlic, or potatoes keep everything handy. One of the best options most builders offer is the chef’s pantry, a whole lot of storage using very little space.

Once you have the knowledge you need from dealers and designers, go home and think about the many options.

Cabinets: What should I ask?

There is no substitute for educating yourself on the various components available to the buyer. Here are some points to consider:
  • Check the credentials of the company you buy the kitchen from - ask for contact details of previous customers. Don’t be swayed by adverts - be swayed by previous work
  • To ensure longevity of your kitchen - go for quality cabinets -this will prove more cost effective- choose cabinets of 18mm/19mm width and solid backs.
  • Drawers should be metal-sided with solid base back (avoid hardboard in both cabinet and drawers - they will warp in time). Anti-slam drawers are an innovation currently proving popular.
  • Research on some facts - there is no substitute for speaking with a knowledge of the criteria you are looking for.
  • Try to make a personal contact within the company - who will visit at least once during the course of installation and again on completion.
  • Collaborate with the designer on your visions and requirements so they may be incorporated into the plans.
  • Avoid cold sales techniques they may end up burning you
  • Verify that all kitchen items arrive undamaged before allowing commencement.
  • If installation is included in your package, withhold at least 20% of the fee until everything is complete - this will ensure that any missing items will be fitted before final payment is made. If a company disagrees with this – don’t use them
  • Draw up a works schedule to ensure synchronisation - make sure everyone involved works follows this, i.e. all building works completed to a schedule before installing your kitchen.
  • Speak to your allocated kitchen fitter before the installation to discuss the time, date and key arrangements (if appropriate) and of course brewing facilities.
  • Raise any concerns with the kitchen fitter whenever they appear rather than waiting till completion

Cabinets: Types

The amount you’ve set aside for cabinets will tell you which direction to go when it comes to the various types of cabinets. There are basically three kinds of cabinets:
  1. Stock Cabinets. These cupboards are available in standard sizes and shapes, with few design options, less function specialties, and not as many wood and stain choices. They are, however, less expensive, and delivery time is relatively short.
  2. Semi-Custom Cabinets. Semi-custom cabinets offer more options and extras such as divided knife drawers. Manufactured in standard sizes and designs, they are the middle of the road way to go. You’ll find more woods and stains to choose from.
  3. Custom Cabinets. These will run much higher in price, but they should be well made with dovetailed drawers and mortise and tendon construction. The options are as broad as your imagination. Construction usually takes place in a workshop or on-site.

Cabinets: Materials

As most of the cabinet carcasses nowadays are made of chipboard, the only thing you have to worry about is the finish of the cabinet doors. First of all it is important to choose which material you want to use for the cabinet doors. In this section, the different finishes and their possibilities will be explained.

Wood: If you choose for wood, will you go for solid wood or wood veneer? The latter is cheaper and is less under the influence of weather conditions. The humidity and temperature outside have an effect on your solid wooden kitchen doors, but the biggest influence comes from the changes in temperature and humidity due to your kitchen activities. Besides that, veneer will also give more uniformity, as a piece of wood is cut in thin strips to cover all the doors.

Wood itself is available in all kinds of colours, but it can also be glossed, painted, colour washed or waxed to give it the finish you prefer.

Laminate: Even more than wood, laminate cupboard doors have endless possibilities in colour, texture and shine. You can go for a soft look with creamy colours and a matt finish or, if you want to make a real statement, choose for the Italian style with shining fronts and bold colours. Especially in this style the choice of handles and other finishes will really set the kitchen off.

A great advantage of laminate cupboards is that they are virtually maintenance-free. Wood needs a lot of love and attention as it is a natural product and prone to changes in temperature and humidity, but laminate only needs the occasional wipe or two and it is clean again. Whereas laminate worktops might not be the best choice in the long run, laminate cupboard doors suffer from a lot less wear and tear and will stay fresh for a good number of years.

One type of material can look a bit monotonous in a large kitchen. Use glass for part of your cabinets for protected display of your crockery, or use frosted glass for a concealed, but still open look. Glass will look beautiful in both traditional and contemporary kitchens, whereas frosted glass works best in contemporary kitchens.

Stainless steel is another material used for kitchens, but mostly for worktop and appliances. It gives its own character to your kitchen. It looks clean, shiny and professional. It is easy to keep clean as well and is very durable, but can be very costly. If you choose to use stainless steel for your cupboards, make sure your kitchen doesn't get a clinical feel about it. Try to combine it with wood or a warm colour on the wall.

Worktops

You'll need to give careful consideration to your choice of countertop materials. Your countertops will be the one of the first things that people notice about your kitchen, and they can set the tone for your whole design scheme.

Worktop Materials

Naturally, when you are choosing a kitchen countertop, the material of which it's made will be your first, and most important, consideration. To find the ideal material for your kitchen, determine how it will be used and how much you have to spend.

Worktop Materials: Stone

Natural stone is a beautiful worktop choice, bestowing an air of quality and permanence on the kitchen. Granite is particularly sought after for its incredible durability and heat resistance. It is available in a massive range of colourings, either as a block tone or incorporating natural characteristics such as veins of quartz, mica and feldspar trapped within. Granite is, however, very expensive and contrary to popular opinion not indestructible - so look after it.

Deep-toned slate is also an excellent choice and costs around half the price of granite; if it has a high quartz content it will also be incredibly durable. Polished slate is less porous, so more resilient than honed.

Marble, Limestone and Sandstone can look fantastic on worktops but are damaged easily by alcohol, sugar and acids, such as lemon juice. You can still happily opt for these stones, but treat with due care. All stone must be treated with a sealant, and the kitchen units must be sturdy enough to take the weight.

Worktop Materials: Wood

Enduringly popular for its ability to bring instant warmth and homeliness to any kitchen, wood will continue to look better with age. Most damage can simply be sanded away, but the timber will require regular oiling.

The wood also needs to be kept fairly dry else you risk rotting — surfaces surrounding sinks should therefore be gently sloped or have drainage detail carved in.

Oily hardwoods such as iroko and teak are perfect, but many other timbers are suitable, including oak, maple, cherry, wenge, walnut, ash and birch.

Worktop Materials: Laminates

Laminates are available in any colour and finish imaginable, even reasonably realistic wood and stone effects, and are also easy to fit. Unfortunately, any scratches and burns are usually irreparable. Laminates are understandably popular with the budget conscious.

There is a lot of snobbery about laminate, but the truth is, when looked after and protected with chopping boards and heat mats, it can look great for many years to come. For a little extra, invest in one of the better quality, high-pressure versions.

Worktop Materials: Composites and Acrylics

There is currently a huge market for stonelook composite worktops, usually made from crushed quartz and resin. They offer fantastic durability and heat resistance, a more streamlined look and can even have antibacterial properties added to the mix.

Corian, an acrylic compound, is also a very popular choice. It can be cut to size without joints, so is perfect for seamless designs. It can also be moulded to any shape, so it is possible to have a sink integrated, and it can even used on cabinet fronts for a complete look.

Worktop Materials: Tiles

Tiles are an easy way to give colour to your kitchen and are not extremely expensive. Costs mainly depend on whether the tiles are handmade or factory produced. Tiles themselves are highly durable, but the grout in between can sometimes cause problems. Try to obtain epoxy grout or similar that keeps the surface clean and complete.

Worktop Materials: Stainless Steel

Stainless steel has long been popular in professional kitchens for its durability and hygiene, but over time it may develop scratches. If this is a concern, opt for a slightly matt finish. For a sleek finish, install a one-piece sink and worktop.

Worktop Materials: Contemporary Trends

For cutting-edge kitchen designs, consider using toughened glass for both worktops and splashbacks. Available in a range of colours, it is heat and acid resistant, although will break if heavy objects are dropped onto the surface. Recycled glass is also an option.

Concrete is perfect for adding a touch of industrial chic and is very durable, assuming it is correctly sealed. It can be set on site or ordered to size. Different finishes are available, from smooth polished to rough.

Worktops: Colour

Once you've decided on a surfacing material, you'll need to choose a colour. If you think that resale value may be a consideration at some point in the future, you'll want to keep your choice fairly low-key. However, if your only goal is to have your kitchen reflect your personality, choose any colour you like!

If you choose a countertop in an unusual colour or create a boisterous ceramic tile mosaic, make that the focal point of your kitchen and keep other furnishings neutral. Also, consider whether your kitchen is visible to other areas of the house.

Although a kitchen with bright red countertops may make a bold design statement, this may not be the first thing you want visitors to see when they enter your home. Then again, it may be exactly the tone you want to set - just make that decision before the countertops are installed.

Worktops: Other Factors

Other factors to consider when choosing a countertop are how well they will blend with your cabinets and flooring and how appropriate a choice is compared to the style and architecture of your home.

For instance, even if you love the look of stainless steel, it probably won't blend in well in your traditional, farmhouse-style kitchen, and turquoise-blue laminate countertops will never look right with your dark cherry cupboards.

Before you make a final decision on any kitchen countertop, inspect the exact piece that will be installed in your kitchen. Natural stone, especially, can vary widely in colour from one piece to the next.

This is also the only way to determine that a piece is undamaged before it's installed. Choosing a countertop is an opportunity to let your personality shine in the kitchen you've designed, so remember to enjoy the process!