Top tips for planning your new kitchen

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For many people, the kitchen is the centre of the home, so getting the design right can be crucial.So Renovating your kitchen is an exciting project, and often a costly one. But done properly, kitchens can add value to your home and are a great room to invest in. Focus on what you do in the kitchen. What you have to store? What do you want hidden? What do you want on show? How long will you be at the house? If this is your dream kitchen in your dream house, go all out. If it’s a property you’ll be selling or renting out in a year or two, keep those bespoke extras to a minimum as you won’t be the one using them when you sell up. But where do you start?

Planning : Have plans drawn up for your kitchen.A professional designer will know how to maximise space and can make sure your living needs are met. You can draw plans yourself if you have an understanding of cabinetry and use of space, and many DIY stores will offer floorplans and free advice to work with which could save you money in the design phase. Many kitchen manufacturers offer complimentary advice from those in the know and professional plans will ensure an accurate quote, which could help you stick to your renovating budget and eliminate potentially costly mistakes during construction.

Considerations :

Existing gas or electricity
Bench height (standard 900 mm)
Whether the main user is right or left handed
How many people will use the kitchen
Design and colour
Allow 300 mm beside cook top so pots and pans sit safely
Kitchen cupboards

Kitchens come in myriad styles and designs, but are primarily sold as separate modular units or are custom-built from scratch. Many kitchen companies are flexible and it’s possible to combine both mediums.

Flat pack DIY or DFY (done for you)

Flat pack kitchen units come as a set size and are generally available off-the-shelf from your local hardware store or specialist kitchen shop. The modular units are dismantled and lay flat on the shelf ready for a DIYer or tradesman to build. If you have any doubt about your DIY ability, have a tradesperson install it for you. Your kitchen cupboards bear a lot of weight, as does your work bench.

Remember, your cupboards are used daily and so you need to ensure they’re as sturdy as possible. While installing a flat pack kitchen could be the most affordable option in the short run, make sure you’re confident in your DIY skills to ensure longevity.

Suitable for:

Budget conscious
Straightforward kitchen designs
Experience DIYers, or those looking to learn

Flat pack kitchens are mainly made using moisture resistant particleboard; doors are usually made with medium density fibreboard (MDF) or melamine with PVC edging; bench tops are made from moisture resistant particleboard and can be covered with a range of finishes. Flat packs come with a comprehensive installation guide and some even provide a DVD to give you visual help.

If you decide on a modular kitchen, you can give a more luxe feel by installing quality appliances or spend up on your taps or cupboard handles to enhance the look of your new kitchen.

Degree of difficulty: Competent handy person or leave it to a trades person.

Custom-built DFY :

If your budget is not holding you back then a custom-built kitchen could be the choice for you. Bespoke designs come at a price, but give flexibility to use every inch of space. Plus, you’ll have a choice of materials to create the style you want, from French provincial to traditional timber. Common materials used include timber veneer, polyurethane, solid timber, metallic polyurethane, laminate, stainless steel or stone.But, if you’re in a hurry, a custom-built kitchen may not be the right choice for you, as construction does not start until it is ordered.

Suitable for:

Flexible budget
Awkward/unusual kitchen space
Those who are not in a hurry
A range of materials
Degree of difficulty: Sit back and enjoy the experience while the professionals take care of it.


It’s important to choose your appliances before finalising your kitchen to ensure they fit, and have clearance around them that conforms to Australian Standards. Ensure there’s enough ventilation around appliances such as wall ovens and fridges and check the manufacturers installation guides in case there’s anything a little different about the machine you’ve picked. In most instances, one or two cupboards will need a little modifying at the back to allow for cables, plugs and hoses.

Allow 300mm beside cook tops so pots and pans can sit safely
Avoid placing your cook top/oven next to the fridge; otherwise, it will have to work twice as hard to cool
Think green

With so many choices available for your new kitchen, renovations could be the time to go a little greener and do your bit for the environment, also known as ‘Greenovations’. You can start by switching to water efficient appliances and fittings, which are identifiable by the new national Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme (WELS). The WELS label uses a one to six star rating scale – the more stars on the label, the more water efficient the product is. Many environmental trusts also recommend:

Durable, easy-to-clean, well ventilated gas appliances
Sustainable timber, bamboo, cork, tiles, concrete, stone or timber veneers with zero or low volatile organic compounds (VOC) sealants
No PVC edging tape
Eco-accredited laminates and particleboard
Glass and tile splashbacks with zero or low VOC adhesives
Stainless steel
Plant and water-based paints with low VOC
Tight fitting cabinetry to limit vermin
If you opt for a ‘green’ modular kitchen, don’t forget it comes as a package, so you will have to stipulate which components you want to replace.

Flooring :  If you go to the effort of installing a new kitchen, you will probably want to lay a new floor. There are many options for flooring, and your budget and personal style will be the major factors when choosing a suitable surface. Make sure the surface is hardy and able to withstand wear and tear, especially if you have children. Laying vinyl floors occurs after kitchen installation; lay all other surfaces before installation. Here’s a handy article on wood Vs tiles.

Trade tips : We have all heard of the horror stories about tradespeople who do shoddy work, go over budget or don’t live up to expectations. Those experiences deflate budgets and confidence. Word-of-mouth or recommendations from those who you know and trust are a good way to source reliable tradespeople. Or you could check with professional trade associations such as the Housing Industry Association or Consumer Affairs.

Local knowledge can be key to your contractor getting the best price on supplies so search locally too. You can even save money by sub-contracting your plumber and electrician rather than using your kitchen company’s tradespeople.

A few other things to look at are:

Check whether the kitchen installation company uses its own installers or recommends subcontractors. It should be able to supply their license numbers if required.
Has the manufacturer won any recent awards?
Does your chosen company manufacture its own components?
Companies that outsource may not have control over quality
Check your designer’s industry experience – and ask to see photos of finished kitchens they’ve worked on.

Renovating your kitchen is an exciting change to make to your home so it’s worth spending some time on it, and not rushing in too fast.

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