10 things you need to know when starting a kitchen extension

A kitchen extension is a big undertaking, but if done right can transform your living space and way of life while also increasing the value of your home.

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If you've never done an extension before then there's a lot to take on board; but if you go into it with your eyes open and armed with as much information as possible, you’re much more likely to come out with the kitchen of your dreams.

Doing what we do has given us a unique inside view into the process. We’ve seen it all in our time making and fitting kitchens - the good and the bad. We've compiled a list of our top ten tips when planning a kitchen extension.

1. Start planning your kitchen at the beginning of the project

Your kitchen will be what makes or breaks your extension. 

You need to ask yourself: Is it just going to be a kitchen or dining area, or do you want it to be more than this? Is this where you will spend your time with guests? and if so, how can you design the space to meet all those needs.

The earlier you plan your kitchen, the better chance you have of getting it right. It’ll also be much easier for your preferred kitchen company to be able to work to your timescale and make any suggestions with regards to how to make the best of your space, which may involve making small changes to the build.

Good kitchen companies will liaise with the builder, during the build, to help ensure that everyone is on the same page. Sometimes they can be a useful second pair of eyes. We should know. We've seen a lot of extensions, and we know what to look out for - we can tell if there are any red flags.

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2. Get lots of quotes

The more quotes the better, but we’d recommend a minimum of 7 or 8. Happily, quotes are free so, if you can spare the time, meeting multiple builders is an invaluable safety net.

Every builder you see provides context for the other builders, both in terms of price, and also personality (do you like them?), expertise, ideas etc. They may bring completely new ideas to the table. Even informal chats with a contractor can be illuminating or suggest things that you or your architect may not have previously thought of. 

The more quotes you get the more you find out the true price of the build. If you get 7 quotes and there are 3 quotes of similar price in the middle then that is a good indication that that is the real cost, whereas if you only get 3 or 4 then you are none the wiser. You’d be surprised how much quotes for a single project can vary! 

3. Make decisions early

There are a surprising number of decisions to make when planning a kitchen extension. From floor finish, kitchen, worktops, taps, toilet, basin, colours to appliances, glass doors and lights. It goes on and on.   

This is why it pays to be organised and think about these things in advance, or risk endlessly rushing to buy supplies throughout the build. 

Your kitchen is the heart of your home, so the earlier you start planning out the details, the better chance you have of getting it right. Speak to your preferred kitchen company as soon as possible so you can start budgeting immediately and set an achievable timescale.

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4. Be realistic about cost and timescale

This is a simple but important one.  

Make sure you’re being realistic in terms of the cost and time frame of the project, and make sure your contractors are being realistic too. 

The single biggest reason we see for problem builds is when clients go into the project with unrealistic expectations and choose the builder who says he can meet them. Only after the build is well under way and there is no turning back do the costs and time frame begin to escalate, and you’re left unprepared, which leads us to our next point... 
 

5. Be cautious about contractor recommendations  

Recommendations can be useful, and are a great starting point, however never rely on recommendations alone. Do you own research too. Recommendations are often based on one positive experience alone. How long ago was it? How big was the job? When building firms grow they can struggle to find enough really quality trades, so a firm that were brilliant 5 years ago when they were a small operation may not be so good now they’re much larger. 

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6. Don't be afraid to ask questions

People are worried that builders will get annoyed with them if they ask too many questions, and the work will suffer as a result. In fact, the opposite is true! No self-respecting builder will have a problem with you asking questions, and the more you’re involved in the build, the more you’ll know what's going on and the better the outcome is likely to be. 

If you spot that the tiling doesn't look quite right, don't be afraid to point it out and make them do it again! Don’t feel intimidated to ask why things are being done a certain way (or not being done a certain way) or point out mistakes and ask for them to be rectified.

You should have a good rapport with your chosen designer and make sure they understand exactly what it is you’re looking to achieve. It’s ok to demand and expect perfection. Any contractor who has a problem with that is a problem contractor. 

7. Budget wisely

The budget doesn't stop with the build itself. You need to leave room for finishes, as well as a contingency. If you don’t, you may have to cut costs on the floor, kitchen, taps, tiles, etc, and these are the things that you will notice more than anything else. So, work your costs out for these items in advance, and make sure you’re sticking to the budget.

Also, expect costs to rise! You've all seen grand designs - need we say more? 

It’s sensible to set a healthy contingency to cover any unexpected costs or price rises. It’s amazing how often work on an extension project uncovers underlying problems with the existing house that need to be addressed.  

We recommend a contingency of somewhere between 10-20%.

beautiful minimalist london kitchen

8. Use your space wisely

When designing your extension, it’s easy to get caught up in looking at it in terms of square metres instead of the overall value it’s adding to the house. The truth is there are a number of clever ways you can create the feeling of more room without adding extra floor space to your extension. 

Intelligent design goes a long way towards maximising the potential of a new extension as well as improving what’s already there. 

The extension will be where people spend most of their time and is often the best space in the house, the lightest and often the most social. As a result, you should really be considering ways to integrate comfy seating into the design. A kitchen extension these days is not just a kitchen, its a kitchen, diner, social space and daytime sitting room. Make sure your space fits around the everyday and aspirational functions of the room.

A kitchen extension is a significant investment, so you want to make sure your new space will deliver. In order for it to do that, you can’t just look at what’s required right now. Consider the changing dynamics of your family and ways in which you can future-proof your kitchen to be a space that continues to offer long-term value. 

9. Let there be light 

Light is an amazingly simple way to give the illusion of added space and can make a significant difference to the overall atmosphere of a renovation. 

How much natural light will be available in your extension? Answering this question reveals how much artificial light will be needed, which in turn may affect the entire layout of your kitchen and the positioning of the main workspaces.

10. Combining old and new  

Lastly, take some time to consider how your new extension will sit alongside your original property, and whether or not it will complement or contrast with the main building. 

This could have a big influence on the materials you choose, as well as the entire design of the project. In the long run, you want something that will fit in with your home and your lifestyle. No matter how good your new extension looks, it needs to be liveable - first and foremost! 

Are you planning to build a kitchen extension? We can help get you started with projects of any shape or size.