Kitchen Project - The Full Story...

How can a kitchen project take over a year?  Well, here's how it went...

Claire and I knew that we would like a new kitchen and, inspired by many of the TV makeover programmes, we realised that bricking up the back door and fitting French doors overlooking the garden would give us a much better layout.  We'd need a new window and fancied something traditional - a mock sash constructed in timber, maybe even two.

In May of 2006 I contacted a joiner who had been recommended to me.  A few phone calls and faxes later and we'd finally come up with a design that we were happy with; a large window would replace the existing one and a small window would provide some more light and would also restore the old pantry window lost in previous modernisations.

Big window Little window

In June, we got two builders in to quote us for the work.  Both were personal recommendations but one quoted almost twice the price of the other!  Suffice to say we went with the cheaper one and booked them in for August Bank Holiday week.

In July the order was placed for the windows and we bought some nice hardwood French Doors from All Doors of Bromsgrove.  The windows arrived on August 23, just in time for me to prepare them before the building work started on August 29.  The results of this phase can be seen here.  But this is what it was like as the work progressed...

With the work done, we could now consider how we'd like to organise the kitchen given the extra space we had.  I'd told Claire that I would only allow a kitchen company into the house if she could get a personal recommendation from someone.  Almost everyone she asked said, "No!", probably because most companies use contract staff so you never know who you're going to get.  However, one colleague recommended Pineland and gave us a brochure.  We were impressed - hand made pine cupboards might be a bit OTT but they weren't that expensive and would be very in keeping in our Edwardian home.  I came up with a rough layout before visiting Pineland's Cleobury Mortimer workshop at the end of September.

Pineland is amazing.  You take your measurements and sit down with the designer, bouncing ideas off each other.  I had a pretty good idea what I wanted so was a bit resistant at first but was happy with the outcome.  Plans are drawn with a pencil and amended with a rubber - no computers here!  At the end of the process, you take the plans away to make sure you're happy.  They also tell you the exact date they can deliver as all the work is carefully scheduled.  After a couple of weeks you let them know you want to go ahead - no contracts, no deposit!  The units are delivered on the date promised and you pay on delivery.  Almost unbelievable in this day and age.

October and November were the months when procurement took place.  We had plenty of time to source all the items we needed and purchase them from suppliers offering the best value - compare that with ordering to Moben or B&Q!  The cooker hob and hood came from Screwfix, the built-in oven from Appliance Deals, the ceramic sink from With Knobs On, worktops from B&Q (10% off) and the paint for the cupboards from Homebase (20% off).  We stored all the big things at the in-laws.  This also helped spread the cost of the project.

December 14 2006 was the big day when the kitchen arrived.  Since the units come pre-assembled, we found much of the lounge was now occupied.  A plumber friend was due to start work on the 16th but he didn't turn up until 3pm on the 17th.  By the time he left late on the 18th, we'd managed to move the gas pipes, do the plumbing and fit all the base units on one side of the kitchen.  The next day I had to install the sink, cooker and hob but it all went well.  It may have been a mess but we had a working kitchen almost straight away.

Lounge full of kitchen!
Blank canvas in corner
Blank canvas by sink

After 2 days work
A working sink after 3 days...
...and a working cooker!

Over Christmas, the base units on the other side went in and I made a start on chanelling the electrics and sinking sockets - a truly thankless task, especially in an Edwardian house with very solid 9" brick walls!  The wall cupboards went up on January 10 with the help of my friend Malcolm - it transformed the kitchen and gave us back the lounge at last!

Blank canvas other side of kitchen
Base units in
High level cupboards up!

From then on, progress became very s-l-o-w and my weekends became DIY weekends.  Initially, I tried to have one Saturday off a month and not work on Sundays if I could help it.  This just wasn't practical so April and May saw me working most weekends.

The cupboards, though lovely to look at, were a lot of work.  The insides had to be stained and given two coats of Danish oil.  Outside, caulking the recesses was recommended to give the best finish so I had to do that.  Then it was knotting, priming and painting.  It took a long time to finish all that.

I took three days off work to complete some of the more time consuming work.  More chanelling and chasing and the fitting of a cooker hood, vented to outside.

Other time consuming jobs were the wall tiling and floor tiling - neither of which I'd ever done before.  All the fiddly bits around sockets and windows take a suprising amount of time when it comes to wall tiling.  The floor tiling just took an age, basically because I'd insisted on old fashioned, small (6in square) quarry tiles; there were over 400 of them!  Still it was all worth it.

Finished cupboard on what became known as the 'posh side'!

Even the skirting and architrave caused problems due to strange angles and un-level walls and floors.  Nothing was simple!

Finally, at the end of May 2007, lining paper went up and transformed the room.  There had been bare plaster in a large part of the kitchen since the French doors had been fitted 9 months earlier.  Over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend, painting took place and the kitchen was 'finished' (* see below).  A year had gone by before we knew it but, standing there looking at the results of our labours, it had all been worthwhile as we now had the kitchen we'd always dreamed of.

* 'Finished' excluding:-
    Spot lights in the ceiling
    Sealant around the worktops
    Quarry tiles cleaned and sealed
    Gloss paintwork on the windows, architrave and most of the skirting
    A second coat of paint on all the cupboards!

BUT - I'm not going to be a slave to the kitchen any longer!!!!