How to fit a kitchen (part 1)

It’s the heart of your home and the place where friends and family congregate. So, it needs to be solid, hardwearing and good looking. In this article we look at how to assemble and install a kitchen to be proud of.

How to fit a kitchen (part 1)

How to fit a kitchen


  • Screwdriver
  • Silicone sealant
  • Cordless drill with masonry bits
  • Spirit level
  • Tape measure
  • Clamps
  • Base units
  • Wall units
  • Corner posts
  • Cabinet doors
  • Drawer fronts
  • Drawers
  • Brackets
  • Wallplugs
  • Plasterboard fixings

Also check out How to fit a kitchen part 2.

Time to complete job: Give yourself two weeks of solid work
Approximate cost: Good units, etc, from about £1,000

  • Hire qualified tradespeople to install water, gas and electricity supplies and appliances. If you don’t you could invalidate your home insurance.
  • Fitting a kitchen is a job for the competent DIYer
  • Preparation is the key to success! Rush it and regret it
  • Remember hinges! They’re usually sold separately
  • You need a helper when removing or installing wall cabinets

    Planning your dream kitchen
    Take a tape measure and a large piece of graph paper. Now measure your room's dimensions. Draw the plan of your room to scale on the paper, remembering to add in the location of doors and windows (with opening space) and also radiators. If you want to keep your existing utility points, ie, gas, electric and water, then mark them in too.

    You can now start planning your kitchen. The most common method of planning is to create a work triangle of fridge, sink and cooker. This means that each of these appliances should be at the point of a triangle, with roughly even length sides, where ever possible...

    But you also need to bear in mind the following rules, to make your kitchen as safe as possible:
  • Keep your cooker at least 600mm from your sink and allow 300mm either side of your hob to allow for long pan handles. Avoid putting your hob beneath a window, and never site it next to a tall unit.
  • A sink beneath a window will give you a view while washing up.
  • If your boiler is in the kitchen is it possible to move it to free up space? Don’t box it in without advice as it needs airflow to run safely.
  • It makes the plumbing and work a whole lot easier if the dishwasher and washing machine are near a sink.
  • Allow opening room for unit doors on your plan - make sure cabinets will fit beneath windows and always position tall cabinets at the end of your worktop.
  • Don’t put a fridge or freezer next to a hob or cooker.
  • Too many electricity sockets is better than too few. Sockets should sit a minimum 150mm above worktops and always be installed by a qualified electrician.

    For more advice read our article on Planning a kitchen.

    And don't forget, most DIY stores offer planning services for free, when you buy one of their kitchens.

    Deciding on the aesthetics
    Once you’ve got the layout sorted now’s the fun bit. You've now got to decide on:
  • Drawer and cupboard fronts. Carved oak and glass cabinets say traditional, glossy MDF says contemporary.
  • Worktops. Granite, wood, Corian, stainless steel? Check out the options in our article on Kitchen work surfaces. Most laminate and wood worktops can be fitted by a competent DIYer, but granite and specialist finishes will require a professional.
  • Handles. Try them out in your hand to see which feels most comfortable, and how they tie in with the drawer and cupboard fronts.
  • Splashbacks. It will protect your walls and keep them easy to clean.
  • Tiles. Large format tiles make a really striking impression and are easier to fit than their smaller counterparts.
  • Lighting. It’s important to get it right first time so carefully consider how your key work areas (hob, sink and worktops) will be lit.

    Dismantling your old kitchen
    Wear safety gloves and goggles and begin by taking the drawers and doors off. Now remove screws and fasteners from the worktop to ease it away (you may need a crowbar if it’s been glued on). Remove base cabinets next so you can more easily access the wall cabinets to remove them.

    Tip: Only start dismantling your kitchen once ALL your new kitchen parts and appliances have arrived.

    You will need to get professionals in to disconnect any gas, water, or electrical appliances, before you remove them. If you are moving your utilities around, then get the pros to put all the water/gas pipes, and wiring in the right place, before you fit any units. And then make good any mess the pros have made.

    If you are hanging cabinets on plasterboard walls, now is the time to take down the plasterboard and fix in battens to the wall studs to screw the cabinets to, and take the load of the cabinets when you fix them to the walls.

    Tip: Now is the time to do preparatory decorating work on walls, ceiling and floor. Then a first coat or two of paint can also be applied to the walls and ceiling, too.

    Fitting base cabinets
    Assemble your base cabinets. With a pencil and a spirit level draw a horizontal line on the walls to mark where the top of the cabinets will sit in alignment with any existing appliances. Make sure you’ve allowed for the height of the cabinet legs.

    Starting with the corner unit move the cabinets into place adjusting the legs so the height aligns with the pencil guideline on the wall. Use your spirit level to keep checking they’re level. Now fix the cabinets together, first by clamping them then using your drill to screw together with the screws supplied.

    When the run of cabinets turns a corner you’ll need to fit a corner post to conceal the gap. Screw brackets at the top and bottom of the inner face of the post and fix screws through them into the corner post. Now do likewise on the outside face of the adjacent cabinet.

    Now you need to secure the cabinets to the wall using brackets making sure you’ve checked you’re not drilling into pipes or electrical cables. If you’re drilling into masonry use wallplugs and masonry bit on your drill; for plasterboard use the appropriate plasterboard fixings.

    Fitting wall cabinets
    Take your spirit level and pencil to draw horizontal lines where the base and the top of the cabinets will sit. Next draw vertical lines where the cabinets will sit. Now fix two brackets in each top corner of the unit then hook the cabinets on to the brackets.

    If you have plasterboard walls you’ll need to use a stud detector to locate the stud and fit a length of timber in the cavity. Drill through the back of the cabinet and timber to fix it firmly into the stud. Keep checking with your spirit level that the units are sitting flush both horizontally and vertically.

    Adjacent cabinets are secured in the same way as with base cabinets. Now fit the shelves using the supports in the pre-drilled holes.

    Fitting drawer fronts
    Screw together the back, sides and metal sides of the drawer box. Now screw the drawer runners inside the cabinet and slide in the drawer box.
    Screw the clips to the back of the drawer front and line up with the drawer box. Fix screws into the sides of the drawer box to fit the drawer front. Check the drawer box is aligned and operating smoothly on its runners.

    Fitting cabinet doors
    Push the hinges into the large pre-drilled holes in the back of the door and fix with screws. Screw the hinge plates in to the cabinet with the pre-drilled holes.

    Now clip the hinges on the door on to the hinge plates, fixing the top one first then the bottom. Tighten the fixing screws and the adjustment screws on the hinge plate to get a flush fit. Check the door opens and closes easily.

    Part two
    Now read How to fit a kitchen part 2.