Before the move began, the old boiler had been removed and a new one installed in the garage. I also had my gas-safe engineer install a spur off
the gas supply in the intended location of the hob. The inbound supply pipe for the sprinkler system (the thick orange pipe at the bottom of the
wall) had previously been installed. All of this would be hidden behind the kitchen units so needed to have happened first.
Although in this photo it is very dusty and not looking its best, the floor had also just been tiled with hexagonal ceramic floor tiles which were very kindly donated, along with quite a few other building supplies, by my Cousin Mark.
The original kitchen was installed back in 1999 by a kitchen fitter named Paul, and he did a very good job of it. Whilst I didn't help with that
job at all myself, I had learned much from him at the time, and the quality of his work was now my target and benchmark.
As it was so well installed, having first removed all the fixing screws and jointing bolts from below it was still necessary to (rather creatively I thought) employ a trolley jack to lever out the first section of work surface. The work surfaces would not be re-used, so it didn't matter greatly if they were damaged a little in the process.
Given the dependencies, the respective amounts of time needed for joinery and plumbing, and the fact that I was mostly limited to working evenings
and weekends, the plan was that the sink unit and dishwasher would be moved last. There was a period of a week or so therefore where the cooking
facilities were downstairs but the sink was upstairs, which was obviously far from ideal.
Here you see one of the large corner floor units that has just been removed, before it is carried down the stairs to its new location. The holes in the top of it allow access to the jointing bolts which pull together the separate sections of work surface on top.
Clearly the first priority had to be getting the hob installed so that we had some means of cooking other than the microwave. Also pretty important, some sort of work surface for food preparation. Given that installing the new work surfaces would be a time consuming and painstaking task in itself, and could not be done until all the carcases underneath were fully fitted, as a temporary measure I placed the old work surfaces loose on top of the newly fixed units.
Given that units generally come in fixed widths that are a multiple of 300mm (you might get something like a wine rack that is 150mm), and given that your room is very unlikely to be an exact multiple, inevitably you will need to fill the odd gap with filler panels. So long as these are not too large and are thoughfully placed, they will not be noticeable or detract from the overall look of the kitchen. In this part of the installation just one was used, at the far end between the last cupboard (with no door) and the corner unit.
My intention was to install a brand new sink and mixer tap when I installed the new work surfaces, but in the meantime we had to have a sink, so I temporarily plumbed in the old one, in its original spot in the old work surface which was again just slung loosely over the carcase. This carcase was somewhat water damaged at the rear by a longstanding and largely unnoticed leak from the tap when it was in the old kitchen. Had I realised how bad it was before I ordered the new carcases I would have probably ordered an extra one to replace it, but as it was I repaired it by removing the rotten parts and replacing with new MDF. As this was the back of the cupboard under the sink, it would not be on display so the colour did not matter.
With the oven and fridge moved down, connected to the power and hence useable but not yet properly installed, the next priority was to get the extractor hood and a minimal set of wall cupboards up. Handily, this corner unit had previously been installed in front of the soil stack and so did not really need any extra cutting down to fit around the extractor duct and other pipework located in that corner. The corner and gallery end unit did not reach quite as far as the wall on the left so I fitted a post between the floor and the ceiling, which I eventually built out as a proper stud wall, full-height behind the gallery unit dropping to half-height above the sink.
The next wall unit in the row had in the old kitchen been located between the fridge housing and the wall. As fridge housings are the same depth as floor units (600mm), which is much deeper than standard wall units (300mm), this was very deliberately specified at 450mm deep so as not to look strange. Unfortunately, in its position in the new kitchen this would have meant it stuck out by 150mm, so it had to be cut down to size. This was a complex joinery task, not as simple as just running the circular saw round it. Instead the back panel had to be carefully removed, the excess cut off the top, bottom and sides, then the necessary slots for the back panel re-cut using a router before the whole unit was reassembled.
The third corner floor and wall units also needed to be customised due to an annoying but very important brick pillar which protrudes slightly into the corner of the kitchen. These were an even more complex joinery task, each having not one but two back panels which had to be carefully removed before the excess material was sawn off, the slots re-cut, and the units reassembled. In the case of the wall unit, one of the mounting fixtures also had to be relocated. These units are not really designed to be disassembled and reassembled in this way, so this was a difficult and time consuming job.
Worktops, done properly, are the most difficult aspect of kitchen fitting, and the ones in this kitchen were more complex than some
because firstly there is a lot of worktop, and secondly I had designed 45 degree sections rather than 90 degree angles at the three corners. In
a simple, cheaply-fitted kitchen, sections of worktop may well be joined with a visible metal covering strip. However, the gold standard is what
is called "butted joints". In these, the edges of the two sections are butted tightly together so that the join is practically
invisible. Worktop bolts fitted into specially shaped cutout slots on the underside pull and hold the edges together, and if really done properly then
so-called biscuit joints additionally prevent any possible vertical movement betwen the two.
If you are going to achieve invisible joints then first of all the cuts have to be absolutely clean. Any chips made to the laminate surface along the edge will show up badly and ruin the effect. In order to cut laminate this cleanly, you need first to ensure that you have a decent quality, brand new and very sharp TCT (tungsten carbide tipped) circular saw blade. Always turn the worktop over and cut it from underneath, and also into the piece from the bevelled edge at the front towards the back. The shape of the teeth and the direction that the blade spins mean the laminate is much less likely to be chipped if you do this.
Specially shaped recesses are cut in between the slots using a router and a template as shown in this picture. Copious quantities of clear
silicone are then smeared all over the cut ends of the work surface. This will further stick them together and ensures that they, and
particularly the join at the surface, are impervious to moisture. If any moisture were to work its way into the joints then over time the chipboard
would swell, and the joint would gain an uneven profile and become very visible.
The two sections are placed in position (the already-joined section shown here was the first, and small, so was done not in final position) and the bolts fitted into the recesses and tightened, pulling the sections together horizontally, during which operation they must be held in perfect vertical alignment. This can be a bit fiddly !
You also need to plan carefully and take care that none of the joins fall in or near an area that will eventually be cut out, for example for
the hob or the sink.
I initially worked round the kitchen in an anti-clockwise direction from the tall fridge enclosure. However, in this picture I am preparing the left hand side of the long section into which the new gas hob would be cut. The total run was longer than a single 3m piece (the length in which they are supplied), so the shorter right hand portion was done second, meaning that I could get the difficult angle right first and then the final join was a much simpler straight cut i.e. the angle was known to be an exact 90 degrees. This allowed just a little margin for re-cutting the angle on the short section if necessary.
Another job that very much affects the final look of the kitchen is the fitting of the cupboard doors. For the existing units it was just a case of reattaching them, and the new carcases had come with hinges already attached to them, but it was then necessary to drill suitable recesses into the doors in order to fit them. Most kitchen cupboard hinges give you a little adjustment in terms of the horizontal position of the door over the front of the cupboard, and how far out from the cupboard they sit, but there is no adjustment in the vertical dimension and the recesses need to be cut in exactly the right position. I did hire this jig from the kitchen door company, although it came with half the pieces missing and was only of limited use. It effectively allows you to precisely position a router blade of the correct diameter for the hinge to fit into, you then apply your electric drill to the hex slot at the top, it spins the blade and makes the hole in the correct position.
Cornice is the trim that runs along the top of the wall units, and pelmet is the trim that runs underneath. These will ideally be single pieces which span multiple separate carcases, bringing them together and making the whole installation look like one single item rather than a collection of separate ones fitted next to each other. Plinth is the board that runs under the edge of the floor units and fills the gap between them and the floor, hiding the adjustable feet and providing a similar unifying effect.