My aim with DIY projects around the home is to look for innovative space-saving ideas and save costs on materials by recycling.
How-To Guide on Space Saving Ideas
Based on my own experience of modernising our small kitchen this DIY Step- by- step guide to renovating an old kitchen and dining room describes how we maximised on space by:
- Eliminating dead-space caused by the poor location of the old back door e.g. right in the corner at the far end of the kitchen making the whole back wall unusable for any other purpose
- Building a stud wall at the far end to have a large flat area for installing kitchen wall units; thus making the kitchen smaller in order to make it larger
- Utilising the blocked off space behind the stud wall to make a cloak room; with access via another room, and
- Replacing the existing radiator (which takes up valuable wall space) with a plinth heater; that fits neatly underneath a kitchen base unit.
I also provide other suggestions, tips and ideas for making a great kitchen including:
- Installing a granite kitchen sink rather than just a standard stainless steel sink
- Opting for real wood rather than just laminated for the Kitchen units e.g. solid oak doors and drawers
And I advise on what might be difficult when modernising an old kitchen, when you should get the experts in, and what you can tackle yourself when remodelling a kitchen and dining room.
With you doing much of the work yourself will not only save you lots of money but it will also give you the satisfaction of 'I did that'.
Replacing Radiator with Hydronic Plinth Heater
Great Space Saving Heater for the Kitchen
We opted for this system when remodelling our kitchen simply because unlike the conventional wall radiator it doesn't take up any usable kitchen space. The Hydronic Plinth Heater also known as the hydronic kickspace heater is a great heating solution for small kitchens. Unlike a conventional wall radiator because it fits behind the plinth underneath one of your kitchen cupboards (base unit) it doesn't take up any usable space in your kitchen. When fitted the system has a grill on the front of the kickboard to push heat out, with the aid of a fan, into your kitchen at floor level from where it rises; making it most efficient.
Relocating Back Door and Replacing Radiator
To Create More Space in the Kitchen
The existing kitchen layout was impractical in that the back door was in the far corner of the room creating a large area of dead-space. To make better use of the space we wanted to block off the end wall that led to the old back door with a stud wall and install a new back door in a new location at the other end of the kitchen; except there was an existing radiator where we wanted to put the door.
However, our plumber suggested installing a plinth radiator to utilise spare space under a kitchen base unit; which would free up space on the wall where we wanted to put the new back door.
After doing my research I opted for a Smiths Hydronic (Wet) mains plumbed system; which we are well pleased with. The plinth radiator not only replaced the old radiator but has proved more efficient e.g. with a 40w fan it kicks out up to 2kw of heat from floor level that rises quickly to heat the whole kitchen far more effectively than the old radiator ever did. It runs off the existing gas central heating just like any other radiator making it very cost effective and in the summer months the 40w fan can be used to cool the kitchen.
Removing the old radiator and installing the new plinth radiator in order to free-up the wall for the new back door meant we had to rip-up the old wood laminate floor in the dining room so that the plumber (heating engineer) could have access to the water pipes under the floorboards.
This then gave us good reason to consider renovating the dining room at the same time as modernising the kitchen.
Utilising Dead Space
To Create Usable Space
The simple act of relocating the back door created additional:-
- Wall space to hang kitchen units, and
- Floor space to create a small cloakroom
Having blocked off the old back door we made use of the old dead space at the end of the kitchen by putting up a stud-wall which we then used for kitchen wall and base units; and the area behind the stud wall was then utilised to create a rather handy little cloakroom, with access.from the adjoining living room.
Not only did this create an extra useful utility room (the cloakroom) but also by making the kitchen smaller we effectively made it larger e.g. more wall space to work with.
The New Cloakroom
Created By Utilizing Usable Space, Created From Dead Space When We Bricked Up the Old Kitchen Backdoor
Once this area of the old kitchen was partitioned off with a stud wall with the plasterboard in place over the wooden stud frame, and access knocked through to the adjoining living room, we could then make a start on converting it into a cloakroom.
Access to the living room was easy in that part of the adjoining wall was a wooden stud wall and not a brick wall. If it had been a supporting brick wall we would have had to install a support for the doorway in accordance with building regulations.
Before decorating we added a ceiling light to the existing false ceiling (so fitting the light was easy) and laid floor tiles over the concrete floor. Then all that was left was the decorating and adding the fixtures and fittings e.g. cloak hooks on the sides and shelving at the backwall space to work with.
Additional Alterations Before Reconstruction
Replacing Large Brick Arched Doorway to Kitchen with a Larder and Smaller Doorway
Another consideration for renovating the dining room was that the access-way between the two rooms, rather than being a conventional doorway, was a 4' (1.22 ms) wide brick arch. The brick arch although architecturally pleasing was also a space waster. Taking down the brick arch and replacing it with a more conventional doorway left enough space to custom build a built in larder, thus adding further strength to justifying renovating the dining room at the same time as modernising the kitchen.
All this forward planning, along with costings and time scales, were compiled into a now detailed project plan, along with all the other details to complete the project over the next eight months, on time and more or less to budget.
Sequencing Your Tasks
The Order of the Day in the Kitchen
After several months of completing the tasks mentioned above, and with the new kitchen units on order, we were then ready to start on the kitchen proper.
The order of the day is getting the sequence right. Obviously you don't want to lay a new floor until most of the other works are completed. And in our case as we wanted to place the kitchen base units on top of a new tiled floor I didn't want to do any of that until I could take a few weeks off work; obviously because when we remove the old units and kitchen sink the kitchen would be out of commission until the new sink is installed. Therefore a phase of the project you don't want to do on weekends only.
With this in mind we put the finishing touches to the built-in larder e.g. DIY and carpentry, prepared the kitchen walls for decorating, other odd little DIY jobs in the kitchen; and once the kitchen units arrived we put up the wall units.
Making the Built in Larder
Creating the larder to fill an 18" gap was an enjoyable and very rewarding part of the project.
The designed was based on an old 1950s freestanding larder that belonged to my grandparents and I even used the enamel bread board from the original larder. The caucus was built with 18mm exterior plywood and the shelves, doors and drawers constructed from pine. Below the pull-down worktop on the left are spice drawers (used for anything but spice, they're ideal for storing all those little things that get lost or get in the way in other more conventional drawers. And bottom right are the vegetable drawers made from pine with vent holes and coated in varnish for easy washing; each of the three drawers is designed to take the weight of 10kg of potatoes. I did evaluate commercial vegetable racks but they were all poorly designed, they wouldn't have taken the weight of potatoes, would have been top heavy if we tried, and they would have been ill fitting for the space.
Floor Tiles and Kitchen Base Units
With All Else Done, On the Home Run to the Final Phase
With everything else done, all that remained was the Floor tiles, kitchen base unit, worktops, sink and appliances, and wall tiles.
The old wall units where ripped out of the kitchen, the water turned off, the old sink removed and the old lino taken up; followed by a good clean and sweep.
The water pipes and fittings were re-plumbed ready for the new sink and other appliances; all to be in different locations to previously. The concrete was repaired and levelled (to within 3mm) in readiness for tiling.
It took four days to lay and grout the new floor tiles and one day to install the kitchen base units. The kitchen units we chose was the usual 18mm chipboard for the caucus (MDF strut supports for added strength where desirable) with solid oak doors and drawers, drawers base and sides being solid metal rather than flimsy wood.
Real Wood. We opted for real wood (solid oak) not just for the kitchen doors and drawer fronts but also for the new dining room floor. Replacing the dining room floor with solid oak wood rather than wood laminate, and buying kitchen units with solid oak doors and drawers added to the cost a little (almost double the cost of using fake wood) so we did go a little over budget; however, fitting the kitchen units myself saved a lot in labour costs so it was still a lot cheaper than if we paid to have cheap kitchen units installed professionally.
Fitting the Granite Kitchen Sink
Once the base units were in place I could then fit the worktops and sink. The sink we chose was granite rather than stainless still; and a very pleasing choice too.
The granite is a composite of 85 granite and 15 resin, enabling it to be moulded to shape and also retaining the qualities of granite e.g. a very tough material that doesn't scratch, crack or stain; and in fact the only way you can damage it is by taking a hammer to it.
Once the sink and appliances were in place, and the water to the kitchen turned on, it just left the wall tiles as a splash-back, which took two days, and the final finishing touches.
The Dining Room
Designing and Making a Built-In Welsh Dresser
With the initial major works completed in the kitchen e.g. the old radiator is removed, the new backdoor installed and the brick archway replaced with a new doorway and built-in larder.
We had some time to spare between these major alterations being completed in the kitchen and while waiting for the electrics to be done including relocating the electric sockets to their new positions. We spent this spare time to renovate the dining room, except for the new floor which obviously you don't want to lay until all other major building works and the redecorating are complete. This part of the project, which took a couple of months to complete, was quite straight forward, I continued with the work on weekends to build a welsh-dresser into the alcove and to re-decorate the dining room.
The new built in Welsh Dresser replaced old bookshelf's above an existing built-in cupboard. Firstly, after ripping out the old shelves and taking careful measurements of the space available, it was to the drawing board with a list of requirements e.g. what we wanted to use the Welsh Dresser for. The main requirements being cook books on the centre shelves with storage jars and dishes etc. stored out of sight behind doors, and drawers for table cloths etc.
The carcass (shelves and sides) were constructed from exterior plywood and the doors and drawers from pine. The glass used for the doors were recycled from when we modernised the front porch.
Once the carpentry was finished the whole unit was wood stained to match the original cupboard underneath.
Creative Design Solutions for Your Home
Looking for ideas and inspiration for revamping your kitchen then this book packed with inspiration should be a great start to what could be a most satisfying DIY project, and one you will be proud of.
If like me you are a DIY enthusiast then Renovating or Remodelling your Kitchen is one of the most important and probably largest DIY tasks you will tackle in your own home. Therefore one that shouldn’t be taken lightly but approached only after you have taken sufficient time to contemplate, design and plan your project, taking time to resource your materials and satisfy yourself of the budget restraints and what within your budget and available time is feasible. Also, before tackling such a DIY project you need to consider the temporary disruption it will cause to you and your family and take provision to cater for this. Once you have taken time to reflect on the task in hand, planed and prepared everything then you are ready to make a start on what not will save you a small fortune by doing the work yourself but also a project that when done will be most satisfying.
Kitchen Storage Organisers
Makes Better Use of Space and Gives Easier Access
Space, especially in small kitchens, is always premium so anything, such as these reviewed items below, which helps to save space, organise storage and give easier access has to be a bonus.
DIY vs Professional builder
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2008 Arthur Russ
Scott H from Sioux Falls, SD on November 06, 2019:
Nicely done for a DIY! Lots of creative solutions for storage and to use the space efficiently.
-Hjellming Construction, Sioux Falls Home Remodeling Contractor
Arthur Russ (author) from England on June 13, 2017:
Thanks for all your feedback, since writing this article I've done a makeover of our kitchen, which is featured in another related article on this topic.
ChristyZ on March 12, 2013:
It looks amazing! Great job on the kitchen and on the lens too!
anonymous on March 05, 2013:
That was one big job, well done
anonymous on March 01, 2013:
i love how you take us to the bare bones of kitchen renovations and give us the processing you did while deciding on directions to go in to get use of every possible inch of useful space...wonderfully presented with plenty of pictures and detail! :)
golfgpswatch lm on November 23, 2012:
I pretty much always give jobs a try myself first. I have a growing tool collection
DebMartin on October 29, 2012:
What's a cowboy builder? Sounds like fun.
Heidi Vincent from GRENADA on October 03, 2012:
Another great DIY project!
Lynda Makara from California on August 23, 2012:
Nice renovations. Angel blessings.
FrankMalvyn on August 08, 2012:
Really well done! Kitchens are such an integral part of our homes that a simple redesign can make a huge difference in feel and mood. Thanks for a great post.
Toronto Bathroom Renovations
Pam Irie from Land of Aloha on May 30, 2012:
I just finished this page...you guys did a great job and it loks like you had a LOT to contend with. Yay! Bravo for DIY! :)
portabledishwashersonsale on July 02, 2011:
Great lens with lots of useful DIY information. One thing to keep in mind when you are designing your new kitchen is that you can always make space for an 18 inch dishwasher to help with keeping your dishes nice and clean.
waterfulflorida on April 30, 2011:
When you kitchen gets renovated, make sure that the plumbing is well done.
matthew1968 on January 21, 2011:
Excellent lens thanks for sharing this with us.
anonymous on December 12, 2010:
Cool post. Check out my website about kitchen cupboards.
JJNW from USA on October 31, 2010:
I love it and thanks for the inspiration. My kitchen needs major help!
rmstouffer on September 23, 2010:
Great lens. I do a lot of the home improvement stuff around my house, even installed kitchen cabinets in my new kitchen. I did need a permit for the wiring and the plumbing and was glad that I checked into it before I started.
samholborn on September 10, 2010:
wow like it fella,,, hope i can be as good,,,,
good luck with it all
envy666 on May 23, 2010:
I bookmarked this on Mister Wong and Digg for you. Nice page!
copper apron sink
projectcreate on April 23, 2010:
Good informative lens.Really good lens. I agree with must back to your lens.
Thanks for sharing a useful lens.
CinivaKat LM on April 21, 2010:
Nice lens. Going to feature it on a plumbing one I'm building.
Shari O'Leary from Minnesota on October 21, 2009:
This is a very useful lens. Nice work! Great information.
Optimist1 LM on September 20, 2009:
Thanks for the advice in this lens...
religions7 on June 02, 2009:
Great lens - you've been blessed by a squidoo angel :)
Laraine Sims from Lake Country, B.C. on March 28, 2009:
My hubby has always renovated everywhere we have lived. When we rented it usually caused our rent to be increased so we quit that and bought our 1st home. We have had several since then and Will loves to fix them up. No botch jobs to tell you. This is the second time I have visited your lenses. I have enjoyed this one also. 5*s
anonymous on February 10, 2009:
Very helpful tips....5*
mistyblue75605 lm on December 03, 2008:
I really like your lens! Very helpful!! Thanks! 5*'s
JAV010 on November 21, 2008:
Pretty interesting lens you have :) nice photos 5 stars from me good luck :)
Arthur Russ (author) from England on November 15, 2008:
Come on lets here your DIY experiences, good or bad; and your run in with cowboy builders.