Kitchen Planning Tips, Designs for Kitchens - Submit your Questions to our Experts
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A thank you to our experts
Answering a wide variety of questions requires the services of a great number of different trades and professions. We are very grateful to all our contributing experts. In particular we are very grateful to Mike Edwards at the DIYDOCTOR web site. http://www.diydoctor.org.uk
Mikes web site provides a wealth of information on DIY along with a suppliers / trades directory if you wish to use professionals to do your home improvements.
Question submitted by Terry
We are about to order a completely new kitchen. We quite like the look of the new aluminium ovens, as they have a softer look to s/s. However we were told recently that this surface could be subject to 'corrosion' from some foodstuffs containing acid, e.g. lemon. If this is true we would definitely not buy this version. Any comments?
||This question answered by John Day of Hammonds Kitchens -
At a recent meeting of the AEG Retail Committee, I mentioned the point regarding the possible staining of Aluminium Appliances with acidic acid. I was assured that the "AlutTec System" by AEG was the Aluminium equivalent to galvanizing and would not result in any discolouration. Furthermore, the complete range of AluTec appliances including America Style Fridge/Freezers and double Ovens and Hobs should be available in the next 3 months.
Question submitted by someone in the UK
We are having great difficulty in choosing units for our soon-to-be new kitchen. I like the real wood finishes but I was lead to think that over time these can absorb moisture and change shape/colour - also I have been given differing advice over its care - one place said you must polish the doors whereas another place said you should wipe with a damp cloth and on no account use polish. I don't like the wood effect vinyl and though maybe a good option was the high gloss white finish - but then a friend advised me that these door are prone to scratching which show up black. I really cannot decide which doors to choose as I really want the kitchen to stand the test of time - any advice?
Our Answer - Choosing a kitchen that is both practical and beautiful is indeed a difficult task. There are two things that sprung to my mind immediately when I read your e-mail. First thing was that I got the idea that you haven't decided yet what colour your kitchen its going to be. You're talking about real wood finishes and high gloss white finish, those two options are miles apart. The second thing was that you haven't decided on a budget yet, as there can be a lot of difference in price between a wooden kitchen and a laminate one. I think you should start there, see what you can afford and then decide what's the best kitchen you can get for that.
Now, the difference between laminate and wood is apparent. Some people swear by wood as it is for them 'the real thing'. Over time, a non-painted wooden kitchen will change colour, but that is just what a lot of people love. It will grow to a rich patina that you will never get with a laminate kitchen. It basically grows with you over the years. Obviously a painted wooden kitchen will not get this colour change, but will still give you the natural feel of wood. The downfall of wood is maybe that it indeed is under the influence of changes in temperature and humidity in your kitchen. I think you should talk to a kitchen specialist to exactly find out how much those changes would be. And as wood is well coated with varnish, I think that a damp cloth would suffice. Don't use scourers though as they will damage the varnish!
Laminate is a complete different animal. It is build up of layers of different material, coated with a thick film of hardwearing plastic. It is easy to maintain, but if it chips, it can look very nasty.
In both laminate and real wood you can get a rainbow of colours. Decide what colour you think would be suitable for your kitchen is very important as you have to live with it for a very long time. Also in laminate you have the possibility to choose textures, and like you said high gloss or matt finishes.
Question submitted by Michaela
We are thinking about doing a loft conversion. We already have a window fitted (to building reg standards for a loft conversion) and solid foam insulation to the underside of the roof tiles. What do we need to consider in terms of building regs, planning permission. Do we need to get someone else to design it for us, (we are both engineers and reasonable competent DIYers, so we can tackle a lot of things ourselves.) What things do we need to consider.
This question answered by Mike Edwards at the DIYDOCTOR web site -
Loft conversions are not just a matter of placing a few floorboards and making a larger hole in the ceiling. They are very strictly governed by a whole series of building regulations, which must be adhered to. The first step when considering a loft conversion is to contact an architect who will provide details of the regulations that will apply to your home.
For an architect in your area go to www.diydoctor.org.uk/locatespecialist.htm
None of the following is designed to put you off having a loft conversion and many roofs are conducive to this kind of project; however we feel we must point out the negatives. To be considering this project you are already aware of the positives!
Points that will be considered when applying for building regulations are:
The new load to be placed on the loft floor and the size of timbers needed to support it:
This item is not necessarily just a case of upgrading the timbers. New supporting structures may have to be added to the fabric of your building to give additional bearing to the old ceiling once it becomes a floor.
Your new roof space will have to comply with all fire regulations that may govern it. The ceiling of the room below may need to be upgraded to provide more fire protection. Composite doors you install or even the existing may have to be self-closing. Any roof lights may be required to "double" as fire escapes and there fore be sited in positions that allow this and not necessarily where you want them and access to these windows has to be available by ladder. There are situations where you may have to provide alternative access to the new unit by means of a separate fire escape.
99% of the time a staircase will need to be installed (as opposed to a loft ladder) which complies with all of the regulations. For example you are not allowed to install a staircase, which has open treads unless the gap between them is less than 100mm. This also applies to the handrails. All windows at the bottom of staircases have to be protected and there are rules to govern how this staircase is terminated in the roof as well as how much headroom there is when climbing the stairs.
In short there is a lot to be considered and it is all designed for your safety so please do not ignore it. The building regulations are a legal requirement for many forms of construction and alteration.
Question submitted by John
We wish to replace our current Cherry wood kitchen which is getting a bit
edgy - varnish beginning to strip etc. Depending on who quotes we are told
that new film laminates (over MDF) are better than real wood - tougher,
harder wearing, easier to clean and look just like the real thing. No
varnish to strip over time. Apparently they'll replace wood in a few years
time. Any opinions please?
Our Answer -
This is totally a matter of personal opinion. In my opinion laminates of any
kind will never "replace" wood. Wood is too traditional and we are a nation
traditionalists. Wood, despite its slight vulnerability, can be treated,
stained, varnished, painted. Any effect can be produced with it and it holds
character for ever. Chips can be repaired and notches and cuts sanded.
With laminates however, we know of no one who cannot tell the difference
between a laminate and real wood and once it becomes damaged it stays
damaged. Invisible repairs are almost impossible. That's where I
stand. The rest is up to you !
Question submitted by Sarah Jane
I have rather out-of-date oak kitchen units and would like to change the colour, but when I tried the paint peeled off. I used Paint and Grain. Can you please advise the best way to do this myself, and do I have to remove the unit doors to do so. I also want to change the handles. How do I fill the holes that will remain from the old handles?
Our Answer -
All decoration depends on preparation. Whatever the surface you have, either natural oak or a melamine finished laminate, you will have to abrade it with a light sandpaper, then degrease and dedust (?!) with a rag dampened with white spirit. When that has evaporated, the paint and grain should stick...The reason it is not at the moment is because the surface you are applying it to is in some way rejecting it.
We would suggest that above is best done with the doors off. The handle holes can be filled using some " 2 part wood filler" which is available at all major diy stores and builders merchants. The filler is mixed with a hardener and the whole lot sets like rock in about 10 minutes so don't mix up too much, leave it a little proud of the hole and sand it down afterwards.
The front can be painted with the rest of the units, but if you are leaving the back of the doors and drawers, you can apply a little wood stain to the filler to match the colour.
Question submitted by someone in the UK
I have a 800mm wide cupboard and would like to convert it into a set of three deep drawers for food storage. (i.e. heavy duty) We've seen 900 wide drawers at Woodfit but we can't find anything at 800. We aim to make the fronts ourselves so all we need are the frames and runners. Do you know any possible sources? Any help much appreciated.
Our Answer -
Cheapest and most efficient place we have found for such things is Screwfix Direct. They do draw runners for about £4.00/pair. contact them on 0500 414141 for a brochure, or order direct at www.screwfix.com They deliver very quickly too.
Question submitted by Kim
I want to re-tile my kitchen. Is it better to re-tile over the existing tiles therefore creating a sound base. Or should I remove all and start fresh, bearing in mind the state of the walls when cleared.
Our Answer -
If you are happy that any exposed edges will be two tiles thick (which you can cover with some timber moulding) then the easiest and less messy way is to tile on the existing. Make sure you de-grease the tiles with some white spirit first and make sure that the joints of the new tiles are staggered from the old.
Question submitted by Robert
We are in the process of fitting a new kitchen (4.5mx3.5m), and we need your advise on 2 issues: We have the option to have a U shape table (135cmx80cm) extending from the
wall at 75 cm or 90cm height (opposite to the working counter including sink and cooking top is at 90 cm); which height is advisable.
The second question is relating to the design of the cupboard doors; we agreed on solid maple wood but what is your advise on plain solid panels with curved or filed down edges in comparison with 10 cm solid frames with middle panels (the cost is the same).
Our Answer -
Its difficult to advise on something that is of a personal preference, however I would give you the two major factors that may influence your decision. Seating is set to a standard 75cm height and if you go for 90 you will need special chairs/stools. Units and appliances are set to go under 90cm tops, so if you want to install either at a later date then 90 is the one. My own personal preference is to keep everything at the same height, people who work in the kitchen often place things on
surfaces, when busy, without looking because they know it is there. If you have differing heights, it is easy to mis-calculate and either bang the side of the object or falter when you think something is there that isn't!
I would always go for solid doors when given the choice; they are stronger and easier to clean than panelled doors.
Question submitted by Deborah
I have a dark kitchen, with good quality oak units. I need to change the worktops and rather than a laminate I would like to use a limestone or similar. Granite is too dark and expensive and tiles are not an option. Have you any views or ideas?
Our Answer -
Nice idea - a very attractive alternative. Do note however that whichever stone you choose will have to be treated with some kind of sealer against dust and obviously germs. We suggest you really do need the advice of a stonemason on this one. You will find a stonemason for your area at the following directory: http://www.diydoctor.org.uk/directory/gloucester.htm