DIY Kitchen: everything you need to know – Pt 2

Well, hello there fellow kitchen DIYer and welcome to part two of my mini series on the subject. I’m so glad so many of you have found this helpful. In Part one we discussed how to measure up and find out what you really need in your kitchen. Now I’m going to tell you in full gritty detail how easy it was to build our own cupboards and fit them. I’ll also be talking about the island/peninsula dilemma and much more. Creating your very own DIY kitchen can be so rewarding, but it’s important to do your home work and get things right, before you start.

Our DIY kitchen from Classic Kitchens Direct

Island or peninsula?

If there is room, then I’m telling you from experience it’s peninsula all the way! I know it’s much more popular to go for an island, but that’s because the people that go for them haven’t had one before! I’ve had many kitchens and the couple where we had a real bonafide island was the most annoying! I know that’s going to be a very unpopular thing to say, but I speak as I find.

Islands look so glamorous and really do give that top end look to a space, but they just aren’t that practical and they can drive you to distraction when guests come by! Because you can walk all the way around an island, guests tend to find themselves moseying on in where the action is. If you’re the cook then that means the guests are the same side of the island as you. All of a sudden you have the mother-in-law right next to your face while you’ve got hot fat in a pan in you hands, telling you about the problems she’s been facing with her nether regions. Not fun, although perhaps, after that the fact, quite amusing, when you’ve got a hot pan in your hands!

Don’t get me wrong, I love being sociable and I love cooking with friends around, just not right next to me. STEP AWAY FROM THE JP! By creating a barrier at one end of your island so that it becomes a peninsula, you give a very clear directive as to where people should congregate. I’m very happy to chat while I chop, stir and titivate, but woe betide the guest who decides to muscle in on MY SIDE of the kitchen without permission!

Ok, so let’s get down and dirty on a DIY kitchen!

First of all, I’m presuming you have already read part one and understand the importance of measuring things out and walking the space so that you know your kitchen journeys aren’t too laborious. If that’s the case, then you’re ready to hear the truth about a DIY kitchen.

Can you actually build the units yourself? Well, if you’ve built and Ikea piece of furniture, then yes you can! I’m not saying it’s the most fun job in the world. In fact, it’s entirely dull, but you will get huge satisfaction from doing it yourself. A DIY kitchen is one of the very best ways of upping your ego. But, with our supplier Classic Kitchens Direct, they offer the option of flat packed, which gives you a massive saving. That means there’s more money for all the lovely finishes! It really is something to think about as it’s the finish that matters.

It’s no harder than an Ikea piece of furniture.

In today’s reel on my Instagram page, I show you how easy it was for me to build one of their cupboards. Do watch it if you can and while you’re there give it a like and a save! One person can build the smaller cupboards by themselves. The much larger units, like the 1.2 metre pantry we have, require two people. That’s if you aren’t in my life that is! My hubby, Mr C, was ridiculously busy with work when I was building our units, so I didn’t have a second person to help me. I had to use walls, grips, rope and anything else I could lay my hands on to hold other parts of the unit, while I fixed another part. It also took every part of my strength to lift the unit by myself. However, I prevailed and I have to say, I am rather chuffed to bits with myself for doing it alone.

The process is slightly different than building an Ikea piece of furniture, in that the quality is so much better. So, you are going to be adding dowels and wood glue in a lot of places. But, I can build one of Classic Kitchens Direct smaller cupboards in about 20 minutes, or so. They have really thought hard about keeping the quality high, but making it easy for you to build.

I would set aside two days to build all your units. The most important thing is to make sure that everything is square and sound. Do not, under any circumstances, let the glue dry before you have checked that everything is level and square. Believe me, I know!

But, what about fitting? Am I out of my mind?

Ok, so here I am going to be completely honest and say that if you have never done this before, then think hard! It is not easy and some of the finer details, like my devil of an integrated fridge door ( see last week’s post), can be an absolute nightmare with no experience.

Now, I have loads of experience, but I still struggled beyond belief with that wretched fridge door and a number of other issues. However, I am all for being positive and giving things a go and the actual basic fitting isn’t too complicated.

If you have done your sums correctly, measured up properly and made sure that all your DIY kitchen units are square and level, then it isn’t too hard to fit them. Obviously, you will be following your kitchen plans created by the company you are using. Don’t forget though, that those drawings are based on your measurements!

You’ve decided you aren’t crazy and you will fit your DIY kitchen!

First of all, huge congrats on not being a total fruit loop, but also kudos to you for having the guts to do this! You need to start at one end of your kitchen and fit the first unit. Ours was the pantry. All you are really going to do do is fit it close to both corner walls. The feet on these units can be heightened or lowered to make them level. Remember, your unit might be level and square, but that doesn’t mean your floor is! Once you’ve manipulated the feet to make the unit level, you’ll need to check that it is truly so with a spirit level. That’s front and back and from left to right, by the way. Once you are sure, you can then secure that unit to the wall behind. Most kitchen companies provide fixings for this, but if not you can find simple kitchen unit wall fixings from diy stores. Also, I would use a laser spirit level for the whole wall you are fitting, but have a handy old fashioned spirit level for everything else.

The second unit

Once you’ve done this correctly, you know you are on the home stretch, as getting this right is the most important thing. We have a tall integrated fridge unit next to our pantry. Follow the same steps to make sure the unit is square and level. If it’s not lining up with your first units perfectly, then you’re not done. Keep adjusting till they are totally in love with each other.

The next thing is to fix the second unit to the wall and also to the first unit. In lower premium kitchens they tend to use a fixing than goes straight through one unit to the other and they are quite noticeable. For our kitchen, we used screws, but they were sited behind where a door hinge was going to go. Our kitchen uses traditional butt hinges, so before those fittings are installed, we can screw the two units together in the centre of the hinge, knowing that the two screws for the hinge itself will be either side. I love this, as it means all the fixings are hidden. I’m a stickler for small details.

Onwards and upwards

If you’ve got this far then you are a true kitchen genius and I must applaud you. All you have to do now is keep going till you’ve fitted all the units. Make sure that not only is each unit level, but the whole line of units is level too. Honestly, if you get to the end of this and it’s all level and secure, you deserve a medal, or at the very least a glass or three of your favourite tipple and perhaps an IOU for some much needed rumpy pumpy! It’s really not easy and you haven’t even started on fittings the doors, cornices, kick boards and pull out drawers etc yet!

Drawers are king in 2023!

Gone are the days of the baseline cupboard. Drawers are so much more accessible and you utilise the space better. No more clambering around to try and find that barely used ice-cream maker or that last tin of beans. Drawers are a game changer and something you should definitely convert to. What you also want is soft close absolutely everywhere! All our drawers are dovetailed solid oak. They were easy to build and they look amazing. We even have a hidden drawer inside our larger drawers for all the cutlery and utensils. A little note on costs: generally the larger the unit the more you will save. Very small 300 and 400mm units can cost almost as much as the larger ones. Also, the larger units will have more usable space, so if in doubt go large!

What about utilities?

Ok, so this is the bug bear. The problem is that most people don’t know how to plumb anything in and also, it’s illegal to fit your own electrics now in the U.K. Well, actually, that’s not entirely true. You can fit your own electrics if you know how, but they need to be inspected and certified by a registered professional afterwards. Luckily, Mr C is trained in all of the above, so he was able to do all of our work and then we had it inspected and certified. But, if you can’t do this yourself, then this is where kitchens get really expensive. So, if you can save by building your own units and possibly fitting them, then you can pay for the experts to do the electrics and plumbing.

Ok, that’s part two, but next week is all the good stuff!

Well done for reading this far. Next week, I’ll be finishing off this mini series with all the finer finishing details. This is where it gets really fun!

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  1. Penny Albertella
    March 5, 2023 / 9:39 am

    My son fitted his own kitchen. I’m not sure he knows but I’ve got his name down to do my next one!

    • JP Clark
      March 19, 2023 / 2:34 pm

      That’s so funny!

  2. Chriss
    March 5, 2023 / 2:50 pm

    Very informative and written with a touch of humor🤔😂
    Can’t wait for the next blog!!! You’re the best JP!!!🤩😘

    • JP Clark
      March 19, 2023 / 2:33 pm

      Chris you are so lovely.

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