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In this series, we follow a Christchurch couple in their bid to turn their 1960’s fixer-upper, from a retro rental to a modern home.

If you’ve ever considered buying an older home but have lacked the confidence to tackle something totally outdated, this guide is for you. It’s a whole lot of fun, and not as hard (or anywhere near as risky) as you might imagine.

In the previous chapter, Jason, owner-operator of Jason Ward Painter Decorator, gave the whole house several coats of fresh paint, and attended to additional details like the garage doors and spouting.

With the painting done, and the house looking ultra-fresh, it was ready for an equally fresh new kitchen and laundry. Kitchen concepts had measured and designed Jeremy and Alana’s kitchen and laundry several weeks ago – and with the manufacture now complete, it was time to install!

Before we get into the install, can you talk a little about the manufacturing process?

  • There was zero input required from us during the manufacturing process. The manufacturing process involved taking the plans we’d signed off on and creating the kitchen and laundry from those plans.

    That is why the design and measure stage is so critical, to ensure the completed kitchen & laundry fitted perfectly.

How did the kitchen and laundry arrive, and what challenges were there?

With their kitchen and laundry spaces freshly painted and ready for the install, we talk through the initial delivery and challenges faced.

  • The kitchen and laundry were delivered on-site in their various parts. The parts were made up of:

    • Cabinets
    • Drawers
    • Shelves
    • Benchtops
    • Doors
    • Appliances (dishwasher, oven, hobs and extractor unit)
    • Sinks
    • Faucets
    • Trims and Toe Kicks
    • Fixings and Hardware

    Specialist installers were to assemble the parts not only into a working kitchen and laundry, but had the task of making them seamlessly fit the imperfect spaces they were being installed into.

    Working with a nearly 50-year-old house means things have settled. Even in brand new homes, the tolerances aren’t nearly as tight as they are with kitchen/laundry joinery. The walls aren’t perfectly plumb, and the floor isn’t perfectly level. Even only a few millimetres out means the precision manufactured joinery isn’t going to sit flush up against walls, with level benchtops.

    Joinery manufacturers know this, and both Kitchen Concepts’ designers and specialist installers ensured that an imperfect space wasn’t going to impact on a perfect finish.

How are imperfect walls and floors handled to achieve a perfect finish?

Before beginning the installation, it is clear that there will be fine tuning required to have the cabinets and benchtops sitting level, as well as everything sitting flush against the floor, ceiling and walls.

  • Firstly, there are hidden, adjustable feet built into the base of all of the basic cabinets. This allows the installer to set a precise height, and tune the surface of the cabinet level.

    The cabinets are typically clamped and fixed together to form the final set of cabinets and adjusted from there.

    Various edges of the separate cabinet faces are trimmed using an electric planer and other hand tools to achieve a flush finish against the surfaces they sit against, before fixing to the cabinet carcases.

    Benchtops are trimmed, so they are flush against the walls they sit against.

    Toe kicks are also trimmed, to sit flush against the floor. As we were going to be installing vinyl plank flooring after the kitchen was installed, there was a bit of tolerance there.

    In some cases, several millimetres of material is removed to achieve a perfect result.

What other trades were needed to complete the install?

  • The kitchen installer did a faultless job installing the various cabinetry and associated panels. Now things were ready for our plumber and electrician to come back and connect up the appliances, sinks and faucets.

    First up was Justin, our electrician. He would install the oven, hobs and extractor unit. While he was on site, he’d also take the opportunity to wire up and install the new sockets, switches and lighting around the rest of the house. This was a relatively quick job, as all the planning and wiring had already been completed, covered in Chapter 7.

    Nick our plumber, would then return to plumb in the dishwasher, washing machine, sinks and faucets. This was also a relatively simple job, as the pipework was already installed and ready as previously covered in Chapter 6.

Were you happy with the result?

  • It’s interesting how, with all the imagination, thought and design that was put into our kitchen and laundry – only once it actually manifested in real life could we truly appreciate what we’d created.

    The result was incredible. The space was so easy to move around, so spacious and interconnected with the living area. The kitchen we’d created wasn’t just functional – it was a joy to be in, and we were still a couple of weeks from moving in!

    The laundry was a real bonus. We’d treated it as a bit of a tag-on, however, it stood strong in its own right. With floor to ceiling pantries along the whole rear wall and an ultra-functional benchtop and built-in tub, it housed a little larder as well and providing a space for washing to be stored and done.

    Kitchen Concept’s experience, investment of thought and care in the design phase meant what we achieved was “just right”. There wasn’t a single element which appeared out of place, or anywhere we felt should have been done differently.

    Full photos available in the reveal, to be published 19th November.

Lessons learned from the day

  • Sit back and relax! – In most cases the install stage will be totally managed by your kitchen maker.

  • If you’ve opted for a flat-pack solution – don’t under-estimate the improved quality of install a professional can achieve. You can find independent kitchen installers on Builderscrack.

  • Issues with floors that are slightly out of level and walls slightly out of plumb are not usually a problem – but if there are any serious issues with the house – you should have a builder remedy first.

  • Work with your kitchen maker to secure good pricing on appliance packages. Many kitchen makers are able to discount appliances, making their prices better than retailers.

  • Plan with your sub-trades; electrician, tiler & plumber, before install date and line them up within a few days of the install for maximum time efficiency.

Gallery (click to enlarge)

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