A kitchen renovation can be a daunting undertaking, especially for a first-time buyer. As well as the myriad of decisions about materials, finish, colour and layout, unforeseen challenges can delay works and add cost.
Whilst there is no precise science for how you should spend your money – if you’ve dreamed about marble countertops or a real herringbone floor then you can budget accordingly – there are areas of a kitchen that will need a little more investment than others.
We’ve asked a kitchen expert to share their advice on the essential steps of a kitchen renovation – where you need to invest and where you can afford to save.
“If you’re trying to save money, it goes without saying that, although it’s a lot more work to source and order different components of your kitchen yourself, it’s far cheaper,” says Cara Yates, kitchen expert at Toolstation.
Most retailers will offer a free in-person design consultation or online tools to help you with floor plans, choosing the depth and height of cupboards as well as mapping out the general flow of the kitchen.
SPEND: Plumbing and electrical work
“Although it can be tempting to watch a couple of YouTube videos and cut costs by attempting to do everything yourself, some work should be left to the professionals,” says Cara. “In fact, plumbing is one of the most-commonly botched DIY jobs. Ensuring wiring and plumbing is done properly will save you stress and expense further down the line.”
“Unless you want a particularly unusual kitchen cabinet colour or design, flatpack or readymade units are the perfect cost-effective solution. The quality these days is truly brilliant,” says Cara. “You can also inject some personality and elevate inexpensive cabinets by choosing your own handles.”
The traditional Shaker-style cabinetry is a great example of this – you can purchase Shaker cabinets in classic colours like a forest green or off-white that look a great deal more expensive than they are.
SPEND: Internal storage
Extra storage in a busy family kitchen is invaluable, and worth the investment. We’ve seen the rise of pantries in recent years, and modern-day equivalents are invariably floor-to-ceiling units with lots of integrated storage like door-mounted racks and pull-out cubbies.
“Spend the money you’ve saved on cabinets on clever internal kitchen storage solutions,” says Cara. “Pull out shelving units, carousel half circles and pull-out baskets can help maximise your cupboard space and give your kitchen that high-end, bespoke feel.”
“Expensive designer kitchen lighting isn’t necessary, as long as you’re clever about weaving different modes of lighting into your kitchen space,” says Cara. “As well as standard ceiling lights, under cabinet strip or spot lighting will help add depth and versatility to your space.
If you’ve got an island, pendant lights overhead can look premium too. I’d also suggest choosing dimmer switches where possible. Not only will this save you money in the long run, but it will help create a multifunctional space that will work for all occasions.”
SAVE: Splash back tiles
“When it comes to tiles, there’s not a huge difference in quality between high-end and budget options,” says Cara. “Laying metro tiles in a creative pattern can achieve much the same effect as designer ceramics. Plus, these sorts of tiles are incredibly durable.”
When buying affordable tiles, try for an encaustic finish – unlike a glazed tile, where the colour and pattern sits on the surface, in an encaustic tile the colours run through the tile itself, so they won't wear off over time.
Worktops undergo a lot of wear and tear in a busy kitchen, and it’s always worth buying the best quality you can afford.
“When choosing a kitchen worktop, a key design tip is to go for something similar in tone to your flooring,” says Cara. “If natural stone is outside of your budget, a stone or concrete effect laminate is a great option. I also really like wood effect laminate as an alternative to natural wood which requires a lot of maintenance with annual oiling.”
“Sinks are one of those things that can get immensely expensive, but it’s somewhere you can save your pennies,” says Cara. “When you walk into somebody’s kitchen, you rarely notice the sink. Whether you go for ceramic, stainless steel or composite, high quality kitchen basins can be picked up relatively affordably.”
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