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Choosing The Best Kitchen Cabinet Design For Your Lifestyle

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By Author: Gary Nealon
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Save Thousands of Dollars by Designing your own kitchen
Since the kitchen can be the one of the biggest investments you make into your new or existing house, a lot of people look for ways to scale back the cost. On average, a new kitchen can cost anywhere from $20,000-$40,000 depending on the grade of cabinets and countertops that you use. One easy way to reduce your costs is to cut out the architect or interior designer. By following the simple steps below, you can measure and layout your own kitchen and save thousands of dollars on your kitchen. I also make some recommendation to reduce your investment on the cabinets that you use.

How to get started:

Once you have decided that you want to try to design your own kitchen, it is important to figure out what you like and don't like about your current kitchen. Not enough countertop space? Need more seating area? Don't like where the refrigerator is located? Write them down so that you have notes to refer back to.

Start visiting your friends... I know that sounds like a strange step in the process, but it is important to get ideas anywhere you can. Check ...
... out DYI magazines, Home Improvement books, and search the internet. It is important to have a good idea of what you want your kitchen layout to look like before you get started.

Think about the kind of kitchen cabinets you want. Are you going to try to do it yourself, or are you going have them professionally installed? Do you want customized cabinets, or are you looking to save money and use RTA cabinets? Do you want Painted or Stained? Oak, Maple, Chestnut, Alder, or Cherry? While you may have some pre-conceived ideas about what kind of cabinets you want, it is important to research all your options. With improvements in quality and design, (RTA) Ready-To-Assemble Cabinets are now a great, cost effective alternative to spending thousands of dollars on custom cabinets.

Research your Countertop materials. Do you want Laminate, Ceramic Tile, Solid Surface, or Granite? Concrete countertops are now an option, and there are also some great resources out there if you are looking to do your countertops yourself. While cost is always going to be a factor in which type of countertop you select, you should also consider how heavily it is going to used, and what kind of abuse it is going to take.

Look at appliances. Decide what types of appliances you need. Get accurate dimensions of size and rough openings for appliances you plan to use. Remember, before you can order cabinetry or finalize your kitchen design, you must have these dimensions to know what size cabinets you need.

Take accurate measurements of your kitchen (there is a section on taking measurements below). Draw a floor plan of your existing cabinetry & one showing items you would like to change. It is very important to accurately measure where water lines, gas lines, etc are located.

Study the "Work Triangle". Below you will see a section on the work triangle which will help you decide what kind of layout you will need. Galley style? L-Shaped? Do you need a kitchen island?

The Work Triangle

For years kitchen designers have used the Work Triangle as a guide for measuring the efficiency of a kitchen. The Work Triangle is the distance between the three primary work centers of the kitchen drawn in the form of a triangle. The work centers consist of the food storage center (refrigerator area), the food preparation center (range area), & the clean-up center (sink area). The total footage of the three sides of the triangle should measure between 12' & 26'. Less than 12' means your appliances are too close together & you may have a cramped kitchen. More than 26' means you may be wasting time & steps walking between the work centers. Where doors are located, and traffic flow will also play a major factor in your kitchen layout. While there are countless ways you can lay out your kitchen, there are 6 basic designs that we will focus on for this discussion. There are advantages and disadvantages to each of the designs, so use the notes you wrote down in the prior section to select the layout that will best fit your specific needs.

1. The Straight Kitchen- The Straight Kitchen is the simplest of all designs & is usually found in smaller homes, apartments, or office applications. All work centers are located on one wall. It is difficult to provide ample countertop & storage space with this type of design. Use it only when space is limited

2. The Galley Kitchen- The Galley Kitchen with two walls of cabinetry is a vast improvement over the straight kitchen. There is much more valuable counter space & the distance between work centers is reduced, cutting down on wasted footsteps. Aisle space should be at least 48" for one cook. If there are two cooks aisle space should be increased to 60" to avoid bumping or running in to each other. Heavy traffic flow can sometimes present a problem in this type of kitchen.

3. The L-Shaped Kitchen- The L-Shaped Kitchen is a great design, providing ample counter space, room for two cooks, good access to work centers, & better traffic flow. This layout allows the unused corner (lower right hand area of drawing) to be used for a dining table. This layout is good for medium sized kitchens.

4. The U-Shaped Kitchen- The U-Shaped Kitchen is also a great design, especially for larger kitchens. Lots of counter space, good access to work centers, & plenty of room for two cooks. This layout eliminates household traffic through the kitchen giving the cook plenty of room to work within.

5. The Peninsula Kitchen- The Peninsula Kitchen is also a good design, for larger kitchens. Similar to the U-Shaped kitchen it provides lots of counter space, good access to work centers, & plenty of room for two cooks. This layout eliminates household traffic through the kitchen giving the cook plenty of room to work within. A wide bar top can be added to the peninsula providing an ideal kitchen seating & eating area or a large work & serving area.

6. The Island Kitchen- The Island Kitchen takes the L-Shaped kitchen a step further. Notice how the placement of the island helps define the perimeter of the kitchen, while providing extra counter space& storage. The island offers possibilities for positioning the sink or cook top in the center of the room. The addition of a wide island top provides a seating & eating area.

Measuring Your Kitchen: Ensuring You Have Accurate Measurements

By following the simple steps below, you will be able to sketch an accurate depiction of your kitchen space that you can take to your local Home Supply Store or one of the many internet sites for a 3-D Drawing of your kitchen. For the DYI home owner, you will be able to take the sketches, and using the specifications supplied by the cabinet maker, you can select the individual cabinets that you would like for your kitchen. In order make your layout easier, I have included links to a layout template, sample layout, and layout instructions. Just go to RTA Kitchen Cabinet Store - Resources to print out the documents. Now let's move onto the steps:

1. Draw a rough sketch of your kitchen on the template page

2. Measure every wall, beginning at the left corner, to the far right corner. Write down the total measurement in inches.

3. Go back and measure from the left corner to the edge of any opening, such as as a window or door.

4. Measure across the opening from outside edge of trim to outside edge of trim.

5. Measure from that trim edge to the far wall. Go back and total the measurements from steps 3, 4, and 5. They should equal the measurement in step 2.

6. Mark on your sketch, the exact location of the sink, water & gas lines, wall switch & receptacles, & any other obstructions in the room. Be sure to measure to the center of these & not the edge.

7. Measure from the floor to the bottom of your windows & mark it down.

8. Then measure from the bottom of the window to the top of the window. Always from outside edge of trim.

9. Measure from the top of the window to the ceiling & mark it down.

10. Measure from the floor to the ceiling. Total the measurements from steps 7, 8, and 9. They should equal this measurement.

11. If you haven't already, measure the width of any doors, from outside of trim to outside of trim.

12. Indicate on your sketch how each door swings.(In to or out of the room & which side the hinge is on).

13. Measure all other walls in kitchen following steps 2 through 12. Measure all walls even if you do not plan to put cabinets on them. (This is important if you are having someone else actually design the kitchen).

14. Measure all appliances including stove, refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher & sink (You should already have these measurements from the first sectiono of the article).

15. Double check your work. These measurements must be 100% correct for your new cabinetry to fit correctly.

At this point you should have a good idea of how you want your kitchen to look, the layout you want to use for your kitchen, a rough idea of the style of cabinets you want to use, and the measurements needed to order your cabinets.

If you have decided to do everything yourself, including installation (which even novice DYI home owners are capable of doing), you should have a time line of when you want to have the project completed. If you are using custom cabinets or ordering them from a home supply store, you could be looking at 5-7 weeks before delivery. A lot of RTA Kitchen Cabinet companies warehouse their cabinets, and can deliver in 1-3 weeks, so that may factor into your decision. By doing some extensive research, I have been able to save thousands of dollars on kitchen cabinets for my investment properties.

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