Buying a kitchen is probably one of the most expensive purchases you’re ever likely to make and something you will only have to do perhaps two or three times in your lifetime, it can also be one of the most bewildering experiences if you don’t know where to go, what to ask and what to expect. Good research is therefore paramount and will help you find the kitchen that is perfect for you, your family, your house and your budget. There are three main ways to buy a kitchen and, to a large extent, where you go will depend on how much money you wish to spend. Usually the more expensive the kitchen, the better level of service and better quality furniture and fittings you should receive. However, even if you are buying a flat-pack kitchen from a DIY store, you should still be able to avoid substandard goods, shoddy workmanship and poor service. All kitchen manufacturers have to meet rigorous standards set by the industry and you could also investigate warranties that cover you against defective materials or workmanship.

The larger-than-life extractor fan pictured protrudes over the entire length of the island. A brave design move, it adds an unexpected industrial element to what is a modern version of the country kitchen. The preparation area here is made up of everyday utility adjustable glass shelving and a plain white worktop is offset by a map of the world used as wallpaper and a length of tough, yachting rubber pulls across to conceal storage beneath. The emphasis in this kitchen is on inexpensive efficiency, practical good looks and hard wearing materials.


Don’t be put off by the do-it-yourself Label. These days, large stores offer a huge range of styles and design options that echo these at the top end of the market, from cool, contemporary to the more traditional, country look. Most also offer quality brand-name appliances plus sinks, taps, worktops, lighting and flooring. A free design service is usually available although you may need to take your own measurements into the store, as site visits aren’t always on offer. Don’t forget to enquire about computer-aided design so you can see your kitchen as a colour, 3-D plan and then get a printout to take home with you to examine at leisure. DIY kitchens are likely to be of the flat-pack variety for home assembly, although certain stores do offer the option of a rigid, factory-assembled version.
Unless you are a trained kitchen fitter or an accomplished amateur, it is wise to call in the professionals. Most DIY chains have an in-house installation service or can recommend fitters in your area. Don’t forget to ask for a written quotation for the installation service before you agree. While the price of the kitchen may seem good value for money, extra charges, such as installation and delivery, can easily double the total cost of a new kitchen. Also check what kind of after-sales service the store offers, including helplines and insurance backed guarantees.

The High Street

If you have a larger budget available, an independent kitchen showroom will offer a large selection of brands including German, Italian and French kitchens. Most showrooms will be able to work within a set budget se don’t be put off by pricey-looking window displays. They should also offer the same level of service to each customer regardless of how much the kitchen costs. The high street specialist should be able to take care of the whole job for you — from ripping out your old kitchen to installing lighting, flooring, appliances and cabinets. Ask questions and establish what the service includes, for example, home visits and planning. Nearly all showrooms require a deposit of some kind, but the amount they charge can vary dramatically. As a guideline, expect to pay around 25 per cent of the total cost.

The Bespoke Kitchen

This is the haute couture of the kitchen world, a design tailor made to suit your ideas, needs and space. A bespoke designer will begin by showing you examples of his designs, then discuss colours, materials and finishes to create a one-off kitchen. This will inevitably require a lot of input from you at the design stage, so make sure you have a fairly firm, but net inflexible idea of what you want from your kitchen before you make any appointments. To a certain degree, every bespoke manufacturer will specialise in a certain style of kitchen, so avoid the company that is known for its rustic, country look if you want a sleek, modern design. As with any one-to-one service, expect to pay a premium for a bespoke kitchen, so advise them of your budget before you begin work. However, that’s not to say this type of kitchen is completely out of your price bracket even if you are working within a restricted budget. Once the designer has presented you with a plan, you could ask about replacing some of the more expensive materials with cheaper alternatives to keep costs down. For example, substituting solid wood cabinets with a wood veneer or substituting granite worktops with a good-quality laminate. As bespoke companies offer such a personal, one-to- one service, you are likely to form a very good working relationship with your designer, and the after-sales service is usually second to none.

Questions to Ask

  • What does the price include? Make sure you get a detailed quotation that covers every aspect of the job, including fitting, tiling, flooring and any structural alterations you have discussed. Only when you have get an overall price for everything you have asked for, will you be able to make a fair comparison with ether quotes.
  • Is there a free design service? Most showrooms offer this as a free service but check to see that an extra charge isn’t added en to your total bill. Some bespoke designers will charge you for plans because they are extremely detailed and can include hand-drawn and computer-designed images.
  • How long will the job take? Ask how long the kitchen will take to arrive and how long the fitting will take — get a written estimate for extra reassurance. Be prepared to wait some weeks especially if the kitchen has to be ordered from abroad, if it is an unusual size or specification or if you are having made-to-order features.
  • How strong is the kitchen? Ask what the doors are made of and hew sturdy the furniture is. Unless you go for a bespoke kitchen, the carcases will usually be made from melamine covered chipboard or MDF. These will vary in thickness depending on quality — from 16mm at the budget end of the market up to 15mm for a mid-range kitchen. Bespoke kitchens may have MDF (medium density fibreboard) carcases faced with a matching veneer. Check drawers and hinges and, if possible, choose metal as opposed to plastic. Ensure that the bases are firm — a piece of chipboard stapled to the frame won’t last, and if units are in MDF, check that it is water-resistant, chipboard isn’t. Installation

Now that you are more knowledgeable, if you want a new kitchen fitted the kitchen fitters Belfast use are some of the very best.


Have you ever thought about which style suits your tastes best? I personally love traditional kitchens with a rustic aged feel to them. I just find this environment so comfortable and I have added a pic below as an example.


Sometimes it is necessary, or at least desirable, to replace existing windows. Adding windows is a job that anyone with basic carpentry experience can usually handle. However, the process can get difficult at times. Ductwork, a plumbing vent, or a chase-way for electrical wires may be located in the same place you want to put a new window. Local code requirements might insist that new windows be added as the use of space is changed.


There are a wide variety of window styles from which to choose. Double-hung windows are the most common type; single-hung windows are not used very often. Casement windows, awning windows, bay windows, fixed glass, and bow windows are some additional types.

Bow installation

Cutting in the rough opening for a new window can be a little tricky. However, once the wall is opened up, framing the window opening is pretty simple. Examine the structure of the wall before including major wall changes. Some windows are held in place with a nailing flange. The flange is set against the exterior wall sheathing and screwed in place. The wall studs of balloon-framed houses carry the load of the second floor and roof cutting into them may be best handled by a subcontractor. Siding is installed over the flange. Not all windows have nailing flanges. Some windows are made so that they are nailed into place through their sides. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when installing any window.


When preparing to cut in a new window, it is important to remember to start on the inside of the building. If you work from the inside and discover something that could prevent the window installation, you need to only patch interior wall, but if you start the work from the outside, you have to fix the siding and sheathing, which is a much larger project.

Since the window hole has been cut out on the inside wall, you can see if there are going to be any problems installing the windows in the desired location. If there is no reason to change plans, you can continue with the process.


Cabinets are, of course, the most common storage area, but there are many possibilities for imaginative and practical storage in the kitchen. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Use the walls. The space between wall studs is great for storage of many varied common household items—ironing board, shelves for canned goods, cleaning materials, etc. Leave open, close with bi-fold doors, curtains, or window shades. A full 24-inch (61-cm) depth is not necessary for pantry and broom closets.
  • Plan around obstacles. Do not let the chimney, clothes chute, heating ducts, or pipes interfere with storage plans. Locate a cabinet to house these necessary things, but let it also be just a bit larger for valuable additional storage—a broom closet, tray rack, or liquor cabinet.
  • Add an in-between cabinet. The space between wall and base cabinets is often wasted. Shallow cabinets with sliding doors are available from several sources, Many of these fine units have lights built into them for even better value.
  • Use roll-around carts. Such carts can slide under a counter and provide extra storage space, as well as an additional work surface.
  • Use sliding doors. Cabinets with sliding doors may be installed between the underside of the wall cabinets and the countertops, to store the appliances close at hand. A heavy appliance, like a mixer, may be set on a rolling stand, making it easy to pull out and use.
  • Use display shelves. Open shelves can be used to display attractive dishware. Use walls to hang utensils, a spice rack, or a cutting board.
  • Free-standing cabinets. If the kitchen adjoins another room without a separating partition, such as a kitchen-dining room, additional storage can be obtained by installing sections of free-standing cabinets, which could include a peninsula or island base cabinet and a ceiling-hung wall cabinet.
  • Add an island centre. An island activity centre can be used as a work surface (cooking, mixing/baking, preparation clean-up or serving) and as an area for storage. Ideally, the island should’ contain everything needed in that activity—work surfaces, appliances, and storage for foods, utensils, and supplies. For instance, if the island is to be a real “cook’s table,” by all means design a ceiling rack above it with hooks to hold pans and large cooking tools. Add storage facilities for other basic utensils and supplies and perhaps a wooden, marble, or ceramic glass top section.
  • Install a drink or wet bar cabinet. Entertaining is fun and much more convenient when the drink ingredients, glasses, and the rest of the necessary supplies are right at hand in a single storage unit. This area would also be a nice place to put a wine rack.
  • Pull-out worktops. If the kitchen is short on counter space, add pull-out work tops just above the drawers to solve the problem.
  • Soffits. The soffit area, the space between the top of the wall and the ceiling, can be utilized as extra space. It can be left open for plants. Add shelves or rails to display china, or close it completely, either with drywall or more cabinets. Many soffit areas are closed to hide duct work. Check to see if that is the case before tearing them out.



  1. At least two work counter heights should be offered in the kitchen, with one 28 to 36’ (71 to 91 cm) above the finished floor and the other 36 to 45” (91 to 114 cm) above the finished foot. Varying counter heights will create work spaces for various tasks and for cooks of varying stature, including seated cooks.
  2. Countertop frontage, small kitchens—under 150 sq. ft. (14M’)—allow at least 132’ (335 cm) of usable countertop frontage. Countertop frontage, large kitchens—over 150 sq. ft. (14M2)— allow at least 198” of usable countertop frontage. Countertop frontage—Counters must be a minimum of 16” (41 cm) deep, and wall cabinets must be at least 15” (38 cm) above their surface for counter to be included in total frontage measurement. (Measure only countertop frontage; do not count corner space.)
  3. There should be at least 24” (61 cm) of countertop frontage to one side of the primary sink, and 18” (46 cm) on the other side (including corner sink applications) with the 24” (61 cm) counter frontage at the same counter height as the sink. The countertop frontage may be a continuous surface or the total of two angled countertop sections. (Measure only countertop frontage, do not count corner space.) For further instruction on these requirements see
  4. At least 3” (8 cm) of countertop frontage should be provided on one side of secondary sinks, and 18” (46 cm) on the other side (including comer sink applications) with the 18” (46 cm) counter frontage at the same counter height as the sink. The countertop frontage may be a continuous surface or the total of two angled countertop sections. (Measure only countertop frontage, do not count corner space.) For further instruction on these requirements see
  5. At least 15” (38 cm) of landing space, a minimum of 16” (41 cm) deep, should be planned above, below, or adjacent to a microwave oven.
  6. If two work centres are adjacent to one another, determine new minimum counter frontage requirements for the two adjoining spaces by taking the longest of the two required counter lengths and adding 12” (30 cm).
  7. No two primary work centres (the primary sink, refrigerator, preparation or cooktop/range centre) should be separated by a full-height, full-depth tall tower, such as an oven, cabinet, pantry cabinet1 or refrigerator.
  8. Kitchen seating areas require the following minimum clearances: 30” (76 cm) high tables/counters: Allow a 30” (76 cm) wide by 19” (48 cm) deep counter/table space for each seated diner, and at least 19” (23 cm) (48 cm) of clear knee space. 36” (91 cm) high counters: Allow a 24” (61 cm) wide by 15” (38 cm) deep counter space for each seated diner, and at least 15” (38 cm) of clear knee space 42” (107 cm) high counters: Allow a 24” (61 cm) wide by 12” (30 cm) deep counter space for each seated diner, and 12” (30 cm) of clear knee space
  9. (Open) countertop should be clipped or radiused; counter edges should be eased to eliminate sharp edges.
  10. In an open-ended kitchen configuration, at least 9(23 cm) of counter space should be allowed on one side of the cooking surface and 15” (38 cm) on the other, at the same counter height as the appliance. For an enclosed configuration, at least 3” (8 cm) of clearance space should be planned at an end
  11. The plan should allow at least 15” (38 cm) of counter space on the handle side of the refrigerator or on either side of a side-by-side refrigerator or at least 15” (38 cm) of landing space [that] is no more than 48” (122 cm) across from the refrigerator. (Measure the 48” [122 cm] distance from the centre front of the refrigerator to the countertop opposite it.)
  12. There should be at least 15” (38 cm) of landing space [that] is at least 16” (41. cm) deep next to or above the oven if the appliance door opens into a primary traffic pattern. At least 15” (38 cm) by 16” (41 cm) of landing space [that] is no more than 48” (122 cm) across from the oven is acceptable if the appliance does not open into a traffic area. (Measure the 48v—122 cm— distance from the the front of the oven to the countertop opposite it.)
  13. At least 36” (91cm) of continuous countertop [that] is at least 16” (41 cm) should be planned for the preparation centre.
  14. Controls, handles, and door/drawer pulls should be operable with one hand, require only a minimal amount of strength for operation, and should not require tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist (includes handles/knobs/pulls on entry. and exit doors, appliances, cabinets, drawers and plumbing fixtures, as well as light ‘and thermostat controls/switches, intercoms, and other room controls).
  15. Wall-mounted room controls (i.e., wall receptacles, switches, thermostats, telephones, intercoms, etc.) should be 15” (38 cm) to 48” (122 cm) above the finished floor. The switch plate can extend beyond that dimension, but the control itself should be within it.
  16. Ground fault circuit interrupters should be specified on all receptacles within the kitchen.
  17. A fire extinguisher should be visibly located in the kitchen, away from cooking equipment and 15” (38 cm) to 48” (122 cm) above the floor. Smoke alarms should be included near the kitchen.‚
  18. Window/skylight area should equal at least 10 percent of the total square footage of the separate kitchen or a total living space [that] includes a kitchen.
  19. Every work surface in the kitchen should be well-illuminated by appropriate task and/or general lighting.





New home construction is mostly supplied by large kitchen retailers that have a huge range of stock. This stock is mostly off the shelf but they also stock various semi-custom options. These retailers often act independently to the manufacturers who supply them but sometimes they behave as a liaison between clients in the area. These retailers will set-up vast showrooms to display their products and they also provide an ‘in-house’ design service. The approach to kitchen installation in new build homes has evolved over the last ten to fifteen years, with most designers abandoning the utilitarian approach. Kitchens in new homes have been designed from the standpoint of the kitchen acting as a social hub for the entire household.


Designers of new kitchens are starting to pay more attention to the appliances and features installed in the room which in turns makes the home more desirable to potential buyers. Today’s kitchen cabinets have many built-in features that require specialist skills to install competently. In recent years there has been a trend where building suppliers are expected to supply products install ready which has led to an increased demand for specialist kitchen fitters. Contractors who use carpenters to fit kitchens save money initially but end up losing money overall as the project goes over time and budget. It has been proven time and time again that the employment of a specialist kitchen installer for such jobs is more cost-effective. Over the past few years, kitchen buyers have acted as middle-men (contractor or developer) between the kitchen suppliers and their clients. In these cases the dynamics of liaising with the client has changed greatly.

To be regarded as a kitchen specialist you will need to have the following:

  • A rudimentary knowledge of kitchen design.
  • A working knowledge of renovation and construction terms specifically for the kitchen fitting industry.
  • An extensive knowledge of carpentry skills and techniques.
  • Thorough knowledge of cabinet and worktop construction and fitting.
  • Knowledge of how to install finishing materials.
  • An extensive knowledge of all the latest appliances and equipment used in kitchens.
  • A rudimentary knowledge of mechanized systems.
  • Techniques for constructing floors and ceilings.
  • A general mechanical ‘knowhow’ and understanding of how to maintain tools.
  • An understanding of the need to attend pre-installation conferences.
  • Strong customer service skills and the ability to communicate well with others.
  • The ability to manage a work site efficiently.
  • The ability to employ stringent site and safety recommendations.
  • Familiarity with the legalities involved with fitting a kitchen.

If you possess these skills you will be adequately prepared to work as a kitchen fitting specialist. If you have some but not all of these, try to gain experience by working with a professional kitchen fitter.

Kitchen Layouts

Don’t be alarmed if your new kitchen is the size of a shoebox; efficient use of space depends more on how it is laid out, rather than how much there is. There are six basic layouts that, keeping within the work triangle, will create an efficient, practical kitchen. The SINGLE-LINE kitchen is best utilised in narrow rooms and is suitable for one or two people to use at once. For this layout to work as an efficient kitchen, you ideally need 3m of uninterrupted wall space. Use built-in or built-under appliances to exploit all available space and allocate as much worktop as possible — the longest stretch should be between the oven and sink. Sliding cabinet doors may be more practical than hinged ones while extra storage can be provided by narrow glass shelves between the worktop and wall units. If it is part of an open-plan space, consider screening off the kitchen with sliding or folding doors, to contain cooking smells or hide dirty saucepans.

The Galley kitchen with two facing lines of cupboards provides the most efficient use of space, and is the layout most coveted by professional chefs. A galley is comprised of counters on both sides of the room with a corridor down the middle. There should be at least 1,200mm of space between facing units to allow comfortable access to base units; a pull-down table can incorporated at one end. Try to add as much natural light as possible, especially if the kitchen is located in the dark or narrow corridor.

Beyond the Triangle

Don’t feel you must adhere rigidly to the work triangle rule. It is a good basic principle of organisation, but today’s kitchens function very differently from those of 50 years ago. The human element is equally if not more important than scientific principles. Only you will be able to identify your cooking habits, your storage requirements and where you like to eat, and if these conflict with the work triangle, you can choose to ignore it. It is better to get the correct layout for your needs than sticking rigidly to a rule. For instance, if you consider cooking to be an inclusive activity, it may make sense to widen the work triangle and add a second sink and work area so that family and friends can join in. This is also a good way of encouraging children to get involved with cooking from an early age. However if you want to prevent guests helping with the cooking, the kitchen should be laid out so friends are given subtle spatial clues about where they can or cannot linger. The easiest way to do this is to incorporate an island with seating at one end, away from the work area. Parents may also want to situate the hob so that they can keep their eyes on the cooking and on the children in an adjoining room at the same time.

The fridge is the most flexible of the three activity centres in the work triangle. You may choose to move it out of the optimum triangle, since many cooks prefer to take all the ingredients out of cold storage at one time, before they start cooking. The island kitchen is only suitable for large rooms with a lot of available floor space. An island can be introduced into a large U-shaped or L-shaped kitchen to give a more compact work triangle. Islands create a separate working area and can be used for storage, a hob or a sink, but bear in mind that plumbing and electrical connections will need to run under the floor. Guests can chat to the cook working in the kitchen but will stay out of the way seated on the other side of the island. An island unit can be another way of creating a compact kitchen area in a large room. The jutting out worktop can be used as a breakfast bar or to house one of the key activity areas.
Relaxed and comfortable, the full-length windows in the kitchen instil a sense of eating outdoors and provide a backdrop of natural colour. Seating at the far end of the work surface encourages guests to linger as you cook, but keeps them out of your way. This also creates a feeling of openness, although careful planning is needed to prevent wasted journeys around it. At its simplest the island may just be a wooden table around which several people can gather to do the peeling, chopping and slicing.