How to renovate a kitchen: Here’s what to do first

Planning to renovate a kitchen? If you’ve begun your research (good place to start, if you’ve started here, by the way), you’ll find that there are several things you should consider before beginning. Yes, I know the temptation to go full throttle and get going is strong, but a little patience at the start of a project to renovate a kitchen goes a long way. Here, I’ve broken down everything you need to know to guide you through the planning process and beyond…

Before you start

So you’ve had an idea about how to update your property, but where to begin? For my renovation, it was all about getting rid of the very dated, and slightly disgusting, wallpapers and carpets before anything else! After this, we then measured up and assessed our space – a great place for you to start. For our art editor Hannah, the first thing she did was contact an architect, as she knew the property was listed. 

If you plan to renovate a kitchen there's lots to consider

The homeowner’s brief to designers at Fraher and Findlay was to maximise the space. To do this, they installed a loft conversion and rear extension.

If you’ve lived in your home for a while, consider what it is you want to achieve, from functionality to aesthetics. Does the layout work as it is or does it require a total overhaul? If you are moving into a property to renovate, make sure you live in it for a good length of time before starting any work. This will help you get to know the space, where the light falls during the day, etc. 

It’s also important to consider what the knock on effects will be as a whole. For example, if you plan to renovate a kitchen, how will the rest of the space be affected?


When it comes to budget, carefully consider what you can afford to spend. Include a healthy contingency – it should be at least an additional 10% of your budget – to cover any unexpected costs. (Thankfully we had a pot to dip into when our building works became more complicated than first expected.)

Renovate a kitchen or loft to gain more space

Praminthra and Wendy Chitsabesan had a full-width extension, which replaced a conservatory, as part of their plans to renovate a kitchen.

When discussing your spends, be open and honest and, above all, remember to be realistic – and overestimate costs, if anything. Prioritise areas you can’t compromise on but identify others where you could cut back. Be sure to not only include fixtures and fittings in the budget, but labour, installation, and VAT – currently 20% – as well.

Also don’t feel like you have to commit to the first person you get a quote from – you should always get at least three quotes for all the work to contrast and compare prices – but remember the cheapest is not always the best (in terms of the quantity of work, and the quality).

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Changing your mind in the middle of construction can prove costly, so ensure you actively look into what you want beforehand. Go online, buy magazines, or visit friends’ and neighbours’ houses to gather inspiration Or, why not look at local planning applications to find similar properties in your area and see what others are doing. 

A warehouse renovation

Homeowner Lmina Sbiti enlisted the help of Dransfield Architects to redesign this converted warehouse.

A way to keep photos is to have two folders: one with things you love, the other with things you don’t – you’ll soon have a good idea of your style and what you want to achieve. And remember: have fun and don’t overthink it.

Is it possible?

Once you have an idea of what you want your renovated home to look like, it’s vital to check it’s allowed. You’ll most likely need planning permission from your local authority if you want to build something new, make a major change to your building, or alter its use. You can find out more about planning via the government-endorsed Planning Portal  or seek information relevant to where you live on your local authority’s website, where you can also submit your application. You will need to provide supporting documentation, including the detailed plans – which can be drawn up by your architect or construction company – a completed application form, and the correct fee (check your area for costs that apply there as fees differ in England, Scotland, Wales at Northern Ireland, but expect to pay around £200).

The homeowners of this kitchen renovation waited and saved up and invested in a good quality kitchen that would last.

However, you can perform certain types of works without needing planning permission – for example if you plan to renovate a kitchen, certain things are covered under permitted development rights (PD).

Under these you would be allowed to build a single-storey extension, 6m in length from the back wall of a terraced or semi-detached property, and 8m from a detached house. For proof that your building work is lawful and covered under PD, it is advised you apply for a lawful development certificate (LDC) – although it is not compulsory.

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Bear in mind there may be limitations to what you can do if your property is based in a conservation area, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or is a listed building. Your builder or architect should also be able to advise you on what is needed for the project.

(Featured image kitchen) The homeowners of this kitchen worked with an architect to make the best use of their space. Photography: Jemma Watts

Finally, research building regulations. They set standards for the design and construction of buildings to ensure the safety and health for people in or about those spaces. If you’re thinking of having work done to your home that will require structural changes or extensive alterations, regardless of whether or not planning permission is required, it must comply. 

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Always use approved professionals from reputable bodies – but be sure to call and check whether they are a member before signing on the dotted line. If you require gas or heating work, use a Gas Safe registered tradesperson. For electrical work, use an NICEIC or ELECSA – who provide assessment and certification services – for a registered electrician; for contractors, contact the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

If you’re hiring an architect, it’s the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA); for chartered surveyors you’ll contact the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), and structural engineers are registered with the Institution of Structural Engineers; for plumbers, it’s the Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors (APHC), and for kitchen and bathroom designers your point of contact is the Kitchen Bathroom Bedroom Specialists Association (KBSA).

This total house renovation included removing a bedroom to create a dramatic double-height space on the ground floor.

It’s also worth speaking to family or friends who may have recently had some work done, as well visiting and talking to previous clients who have used their services before. Ask all contractors how long they have been trading and what experience they have in the work you require. Also, go and meet them – it’s important to have a good working relationship. Once you have a shortlist, obtain quotations – get full details, in writing, of what’s covered and what’s not.

What to expect

Geraldine Tan’s kitchen renovation included updating her cabinets to a colour palette that connected her scheme to the rest of her house.

Knowing what will happen once construction starts is important for a smooth and stress-free project. Delays can occur for a number of reasons, for instance if you change your mind and alterations need to be made, if building materials don’t arrive on time, or through natural causes such as bad weather.

Workers may need to access other rooms in your house, so think about whether you need to move out during the project and take into consideration the impact it may have on your daily routine. To keep on top of it all, ensure you get everything agreed from the outset about what is expected from both yourself and everyone involved.

Remember, it’s easier and cheaper to change plans before any work begins than it is to alter the scheme once it is being implemented. Put the time and effort into getting the design right and avoid making changes during the build, which will typically increase costs and timescales.

Feature image: A stylish and contemporary open-plan kitchen design for a home near Chobham in Surrey, by Brayer Designs

Post updated on: 29/06/2021

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